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Untranslatable Words in Korean and English

November 10, 2014


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It’s time to get learned. In this episode we cover phrases and words in one language that don’t exist in the other, the complicated world of Korean kinship titles, and which British word we completely botched in the last episode of DICKS. Check out the video to see our favourite un-translatable words, and check out our words below for a little more insight into Korean family titles. Tally ho!

가족 호칭 or Family Titles

Instead of calling one’s name, Korean people address another person with 호칭. In English, “aunt” and “uncle” are kind of like 호칭, only in Korean these titles get way more specific. Sure there’s “aunt,” but there’s also “maternal aunt by marriage” and also “husband’s bigger brother.” Someone’s 호칭 tells you how close you are in the family tree and what kind of relationship you have with that person. If you know which title the other person is to you, you instantly know who their parents are, who their children are, and if you are higher or lower than them. You can have numerous 호칭, depending on who is addressing you. This is true in English too. For example, your mother’s brother is your uncle, so you call him “Uncle.” But to your mother, he’s “Brother.” And to your grandfather, he’s “Son.” So to me, my mom’s is “엄마” but to my cousin, she’s “이모.” Confused yet? I tried to make a basic family tree and title name that you call for each family member. 

We have specific titles for older and younger siblings in your immediate family, and of course for your parent’s siblings. 언니 and 오빠 are very common, and not just for family. They could be your own older sister or brother or it could be someone who is a close friend but older. Mostly we put 큰 for older sibling, and 작은 for younger one. Remember how I said there were a billion 호칭? Believe it or not, there are few people missing in these trees, including the spouses of your uncle and aunt. Here are few more that were not in the tree.

Dad’s brother’s wife = 큰 어머니 / 작은 어머니
Dad’s sister’s husband = 고모부
Mom’s brother’s wife =  외숙모
Mom’s sister’s husband = 이모부 
As if that wasn’t enough, I have also prepared a tree for married couples’ family names. If you guys ever marry a Korean person this will come in handy.

촌 / 촌수 aka: bridges

촌수 is way to calculate how close you are as family on a family tree. The closest relationship is as a married couple, which is 0 촌. You and your parents are 1 촌, and you and your siblings are 2촌. This is where 삼촌(uncle) comes from, since he is 3 bridges away from you. Also cousins are called 사촌 because they are 4 bridges away. 

Family can be extended and 촌 can be calculated as many as you want, but come on now, if they are over 10 bridges away they are practically the same as a stranger. Koreans think within in 8 bridges people and spouse family as family so outside of we don’t count as family. That is why we say “사돈의 팔촌” when we barely know a person. It means you’re 8-bridges-away cousins of a spouse’s family, which is extremely far. You might as well be strangers.

If you have any questions about this kinda confusing episode or know of any words that you wish translated into other languages, let us know in the comments section below. Hopefully our silly ramblings made sense and maybe you even learned something?



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Korean Slang


Untranslatable Words in Korean and English


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  1. The family tree is EXTREMELY complicated in Chinese as well! We also have specific names for each of your relatives. Here’s a youtube video that will explain it all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1HaZ4WLo50

    5 years ago
    • yeah this comes to mind. its funny how people find the chinese family tree extremely complicated, but to most chinese people (like myself), we find that since the western culture do not have such titles, its hard to understand the relationship of certain distant relatives when we meet them.

      5 years ago
  2. One of my favorite untranslatable words from German is ‘Kummerspeck’ (lit. “grief bacon”), which means “excess weight from emotional overeating”. I think ‘Zeitgeist’ is also pretty untranslateable. I found a nice gallery about similar words:


    5 years ago
    • Grief bacon! That’s BRILLIANT!

      5 years ago
      • Zeitgeist and Schadenfreude are such excellent words that we have “adopted” them into common English usage. Now, whether we use them the same way as the Germans, remains to be seen. Same problem with French. We’ve adopted many words that are not used the same way in French, leading to serious communication problems. Believe me, I’ve run into those.

        5 years ago
  3. Yay for the family tree diagrams; thank you for all of the wonderful videos. Although I would like to point out that the font is so tiny! I am a total noob at Korean; may I request bigger font and possibly a video with the words pronounced?

    5 years ago
    • Right click on the pictures, choose “Copy Image Location”, then open a new tab and paste it there. Erase the part at the end after .png and hit Enter to go there, and it’ll be full size. =)

      5 years ago
    • Yes, and also if next to the korean spelling you could write out the way you say the word in western letters as well? I still don’t read korean so this would help me in the process of learning.

      5 years ago
  4. Jo

    Oh my gosh, the family tree thing is so confusing in Chinese too x_X You guys probably wouldn’t understand this video, considering how it’s in Mandarin Chinese, but just to give you a sense of how discombobulated everything is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCFRoILS1jY

    Also, for terms in one language that don’t translate to another…in French, there’s a phrase, “l’esprit de l’escalier.” Directly translated, it means “spirit of the escalator,” which doesn’t really make much sense. However, you ever have someone diss you really hard or someone had such a witty comeback that you were literally left speechless and you were just like, “…well damn, you won that one.” But then later, you come up with THE perfect comeback and then you’re like, “DAMMIT, BUT I CAN’T USE IT NOW!” “L’esprit de l’escalier” is the phrase for that exact feeling you get in that situation.

    5 years ago
  5. In Denmark we have the word ‘hygge’ (which we always talk about to foreigners because it can’t be translated and it’s more or less actually the ‘essence’ of being Danish)
    ‘Hygge’ is close to cosy – it’s a feeling but it’s also something we do – we sit down watch tv and eat candy with the family, or sit and talk with hot chocolate, tea or coffee and eat cake. it can be anything as long as it’s nice, with people you like, or alone, and you’re having a good time. (but it’s not shopping or anything that can be a bit stressing or hectic)

    and also in denmark we have two words for love- one for falling in love (forelskelse) and one for being in love (at elske) – cuz the two is very different
    and only one word(gender-neutral) for a boy/girlfriend (kæreste) and an entire different word for friends (ven(m)/veninde(f) (gender-specific)) – which prevent the awkward situations you always see in television: “He’s my boyfriend, but not my boyfriend, he’s my friend who is a boy” and it’s also more specific if you’re homosexual instead of trying to explain to people: “She’s my girlfriend, but not as a friend, but as in we’re dating” you just present her as you ‘kæreste’ :)

    5 years ago
    • I’m glad you wrote this post, then I didn’t have too! I have always been very fascinated by forelskelse, there really isn’t any word for it in english! In Norway, hygge would be koselig – and that’s just this wonderful word there is no way to explain 100%. My boyfriend even used this word in an university assignment he had. Frog in the fjord is a really cool blog, and I think the lady there explains “koselig”. She’s french, but lives in Norway ^^

      5 years ago
  6. Hi Oxford Student here!
    Thought i’d share the few bits of slang that i’ve picked up since i’ve been here. They’re usually quite specific to Oxford traditions and practices and aren’t used outside of the university typically.

    Scout – Your floor/accomodation’s cleaner. Very wise to befriend them.
    Rusticate – To take a year out. Refers to the olden days of being sent to the country to regain health.
    To be deaned – Verb. To be sent to your college Dean for breaking a rule.
    Hall – The dining hall. A source of good cheap food. Also..
    Formal Hall – A slightly more expensive three course meal served in hall where students must dress in formal wear or gowns (see below)
    Sub Fusc – Your formal gown and cap. Worn to exams and ceremonies (and formal hall in some colleges)
    Battels – Your termly bill to be paid to your college.
    Bop – A disco/party in your college. Usually themed and requires fancy-dress/costumes.
    Bop juice – Cheap punch like drink for sale at a bop. Often vodka mixed with various juices.
    Sconce – The Oxford version of ‘Never Have I Ever’.
    Parents/Brothers/Sisters etc. – Each new student (or fresher) is assigned a set of college “parents” who are “married”. This means you also have “siblings” and “grandparents” and whole family trees. Use of these terms without airquotes can lead to interesting conversations such as “Saw my mum in the club last night. She was wasted and getting off with random guys”. Awkward.

    5 years ago
    • Oh and my British word which is hard to explain is ‘cheeky’. It means to be annoying or rude but in an endearing or tolerable way. Very useful for describing younger siblings and small children. :)

      5 years ago
  7. A great but untranslateable Dutch word is “gezellig”. It’s an adjective that describes a cozy, comfy, nice, warm, fun, friendly atmosphere. It’s really hard to try and say all the things it could mean but it’s good and positive. When you liked a party, it was “gezellig”. When someone says they’re going on a holiday to Italy, you could tell them: “oh! gezellig!” Not sure what the origin of the word is, but “gezel” is an oldfashioned word meaning ‘companion’.

    5 years ago
    • I wanted to comment about “gezellig” but I saw your comment so I guess I’ll just put my “addition” to your explanation over here. ^.^

      I just want to add that you can use “gezellig” also as an adjective. For example a “gezellig” person, is a person that’s nice to be with, has a warm personality and the like. (sometime though, it’s used (sometimes sarcastically) to imply that a person is a little big/round/short, because it would be rude to just say “she was very fat”)

      You can basically call anything “gezellig”, even if it sounds a little weird, most Dutch will understand what you’re trying to say. A “gezellig” house, a “gezellig” jumper, a “gezellig” road trip, and more, more and more. It’s a very useful word in my opinion!

      5 years ago
  8. I think in the Netherlands it would be the word: Gezellig.
    Because its meaning greatly depends on who you ask, because it greatly depends on a feeling. You can feel like hanging out with a big group of friends is gezellig, others feel that it isn’t and find hanging out with only a few people is gezellig. Even furniture can be seen as gezellig. Or being together in the face of danger can be gezellig because it brings you closer. A big party with thousands of people can also be gezellig.
    It basically means that something gives you a good feeling. And it can be used in all kinds of situations and even ironically/sarcastic.
    And because it is really about a personal feeling it is really hard to find a correct translation in English for it, convivial comes closest but doesn’t come close to the many things we use it for. Because what one person finds gezellig another person might find ongezellig (which is the negative form of it). Some Scandinavian and Germanic countries have words that are similar or come close.

    5 years ago
    • I agree! Gezellig says so much and yet so little. :’) It’s a word we abuse to great lengths.

      5 years ago
  9. So… this is my first comment. In Gujarati we have specific designations too.
    Mother’s sister= masi
    Mother’s sister’s husband= masa
    Mother’s brother= mama
    Mother’s brother’s wife= mami
    Father’s sister= fai
    Father’s sister’s husband= fua
    Father’s brother= kaka
    Father’s brother’s wife= kaki
    Mother’s mother= nani
    Mother’s father= nana
    Father’s mother= dadi
    Father’s father= dada
    And so on and so forth. If you have an exteded relative you join two words. Sorry for the long comment!

    5 years ago
    • Gujarati has a lot of similarities to Marathi :)

      5 years ago
      • Yeah, I live in Mumbai right now so I know a bit of marathi but not that much

        5 years ago
  10. There are two words I can think of from Sweden that are hard to translate:

    The most famous one is lagom… lagom is mostly translated as “just enough”, but it is used so much in our language. Lagom kind of comes from the idea that there shouldn’t bee too much or too little, but this mid-setion which is perfect. In which, the temperature can be “lagom” the spicy food could be “lagom” spicy, the weather could be “lagom” sunny. It is kind of the soul of a huge part of our culture, which says that we shouldn’t want too much, but same time we should be allowed to have a piece of the share.

    The second word is fika. Fika is kind of a coffee break or like the British afternoon tea. The thing with fika is that we do this, a lot. People who move to work in Sweden react to the fact that we have 2 breaks, one between morning and lunch, and one after lunch and before we end work. This is usually accompanied with the idea of drinking some tea/coffee and maybe eating some bun or cookie.

    But fika can also mean meeting. We have a lot of cafés in Sweden, which is a common place to meet. If you want to hang with your friend, the simplest thing is to suggest a fika, if you want a date you can go to fika. Being out in town you can take a break by fika… literally, it’s an allround word.

    Another abbreviation of fika is to meet up at someone’s home. Here your friend/host will have made coffee/tea and hopefully homebake.

    Fika is something we can do many, or just you and a friend. In short, I cannot really describe it well because it’s just too big for vocabulary. but, since I am in China I really miss it. The cafés here are more like bars, and it’s not the same. And I miss my oven too, but that’s another thing.

    5 years ago
    • There’s this place underneath the Mirae Asset Building in Jong-ro in Seoul called “Fika” and not only does it look super cozy, but it’s also got a really cool design aesthetic. Now it all makes sense! I have to go find out if it’s actually run by Swedes…purely for science, of course.

      5 years ago
  11. Another word from Dutch/German that cannot be translated into English is ‘Pechvogel’. Pech = bad luck, vogel= bird. It refers to a person that experiences and attracts a lot of bad luck.

    5 years ago
  12. In Sweden we have some interesting words.

    The first is that we have a similar system to give every family member a title, as Soozee talks about.

    Swedish (english)
    Mor/Mamma (mother)
    Far/Pappa (father)
    Mormor (mothers mother)
    Morfar (mothers father)
    Moster (mothers sister)
    Morbror (mothers brother)
    Farmor (fathers mother)
    Farfar (fathers father)
    Faster (fathers sister)
    Farbror (fathers brother)
    Gammel mormor (mothers mothers mother or fathers mothers mother) (literally “Old mothers mother)
    Gammel morfar (mothers mothers father or fathers mothers father) (literally “Old mothers father)
    Gammel farmor (mothers fathers mother or fathers fathers mother) (literally “Old fathers mother)
    Gammel farfar (mothers fathers father or fathers fathers father) (literally “Old fathers father)

    Kusin (cousin) and/or Tvåmänning (Second men’s)
    Syssling (Parents cousins children) and/or Tremänning (Third men’s)
    Brylling (Parents “sysslings” children) and/or Fyrmänning (Fourth men’s)
    Pyssling (Parents “bryllings” children and/or Femmänning (Five men’s)

    Thats all for the family tree!

    We have some pretty words in Swedish too *_*

    Fika – A must for swedes. Its the word we use when we are out drinking coffe and eating cookies or other sweet stuff to it. We do tend to “fika” a couple of time a day. If you work in the industry you have “fika rast” (like a break from work) 2-3 times a day + lunch break. You can also have a “fika” with friends, nomather the day or place you can always have fika. Eat some cinnamon buns and drink some coffe/tee/lemonade. It’s never wrong to have a “fika”. And a fika can be from just 10-15 min up til several hours depending on the situation.

    Mångata (literally moonstreet) It’s the moons reflection in the water (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/m%C3%A5ngata#mediaviewer/File:Bj%C3%B8rnafjorden_in_moonlight.JPG)

    (as people as said below)
    Lagom – It’s a word you can use in almost any sentence nomather the subject and it’s meaning is “just enough”. you can have “lagom” many cakes or “lagom” with ketchup on your food, you can be “lagom” full after dinner. You can have lost “lagom” much money on gambling. You can have “lagom” fun when your out partying, or had “lagom” with alcohol, you can also be “lagom” drunk.

    Thx for an interesting shooow!
    Peace :>

    5 years ago
  13. Speaking of scarves and winter stuff, I was looking through the new winter products and I noticed Martina’s keyboard. I thought that it would be awesome if you guys sold keyboard stickers with EYK stuff and/or Korean syllables key placements for both PC and MAC users. I know I would totally buy something like that.

    Thank you so much for reading this.

    5 years ago
  14. Lei

    I love the idea of words that are unique to a specific culture!
    In Hawaii, we use a lot of local slang that makes us sound kind of different from mainlanders (<— could possibly be another word we invented to describe the people living in the states on the North American continent). We call people of mixed races "hapa"; I think it was originally meant to be derogatory and ethnically specific, but most people use it pretty casually to describe anyone who's mixed (ex: caucasian and korean, Hawaiian and Caucasian, African American and Japanese). Hapa people are also known for being really pretty. Fun fact: when we mix brown and white rice together, we call it hapa rice (because it's mixed). We also say "da kine" a lot, when we forget what the thing we're talking about is actually called (ex: "Oh I went fishing at da kine yesterday"), it's basically like a brain fart word ("You know da kine!") Another pretty common term is "brah" or "braddah", which is what you might call your friends. It's pretty much a local equivalent to "dude".
    Loved this episode of… Well, you know!

    5 years ago
  15. You know that feeling you have when you miss someone? how is it called? how do describe that? ooh yeah, English doesn’t have a specific word for that… in Portuguese we call it “saudade”, it’s a feeling like love, happiness, sadness… but it doesn’t translate in English or others languages that I know… it is so frustrating, my English friends can never fully understand what I mean…

    5 years ago
    • Indeed! I always feel frustrated when I try to say “eu sinto saudade de…” in english, because “to miss” sounds so shallow. “Saudade” is so much more, like you said, love, sadness and also melancholy…

      5 years ago
      • “Yearn” in English would come closest. To yearn for someone.
        Many old English words, which are sadly no longer in colloquial use, would be great to see back in everyday use.

        5 years ago
  16. My favorite word that English doesn’t have an equivalent for is schadenfreude. That joy or relief you feel when something bad happens to somebody not you. Everyone feels it at some point and the Germans gave us a word for it :)

    5 years ago
    • I believe the word Schadenfreude is also ‘widely’ used in English as a loan from German. :) Dutch also has this word, leedvermaak. (and this doesn’t sound like German/Norwegian at all.. but the meaning is exactly the same)

      5 years ago
    • Since Norwegian is very similar to German we also have this word. Skadefryd!

      5 years ago
      • I usually experience Skadefryd if i told someone to not do something and they end up doing it anyways, and then it ends horribly :)

        5 years ago
    • Arabic has a word for it too “shamata”

      5 years ago
  17. First! Yay :)

    Most Indian languages have the same family-title system as Korea. For example, in my mothertongue Marathi:

    Mom: Aai
    Dad: Baba
    Older Brother: Dada (similar to Oppa I’m guessing?)
    Older brother’s wife: Vahini
    Older Sister: Tai (similar to Unni)
    Mom’s sister: Maushi
    Mom’s brother: Mama
    Mom’s brother’s wife: Mami
    Dad’s sister: Atya
    Dad’s brother: Kaka
    Dad’s brother’s wife: Kaki

    Grandfather: Ajoba
    Grandmother: Aji

    Usually when you address someone (except your parents) you say their name and then the title, eg Nima Atya or Preeti Maushi.

    5 years ago
  18. I’m french, but I’m currently living in Dublin for few months and I ‘ve find a french phrase that has no equivalent in English. And it gets me very frustrated and awkward in some situations.

    It’s “Bon appétit”. We usually say that as we start eating our meal (like “itadakimasu” in japanese). But you don’t say anything in English ! And it makes me feels so weird when I start eating with someone here, but that’s not the worse.

    Because you can also use it when you see someone else eating, even though you’re not eating at the same time. Like for exemple if you’re entering a room and you see your friend/co-worker eating you would wish him “bon appétit”.
    I think this use could be translated to “have a nice meal” or “enjoy your meal”, but I feel like this is not really used apart from a waitress in a restaurant serving you… (Correct me english speakers from all around the world if I’m wrong)

    And this use gets me being so awkward when I bump into someone at work eating, because I will start staring at him feeling that I need to say something, but then realise I’ve got nothing to say in english. And I always end up saying a weird “Heeeeyyyyyyy”.

    5 years ago
    • You’re totally right, in English we don’t say anything! For me, when I visit my friend’s for supper and her fam begins the meal with praying, I feel super awkward too… As for what you could say in those scenarios, you could always ask ‘how’s your lunch?’ they’ll prolly reply with ‘good’- and that’s the most I can think of what you could say at that time…

      5 years ago
    • you can just say “enjoy your meal.”

      5 years ago
    • lol I have seen americans just use the french saying sometimes, but I think that is usually when they are trying to sound posh. But in portuguese we have that phrase too its : Bom apetite.

      5 years ago
      • I was actually thinking about using my french word for this situation but don’t want to sound posh ;-;

        5 years ago
    • In Polish we say ‘Smacznego’ and it also means ‘have a good meal’ or sth like that. :)

      5 years ago
  19. I’ve check your family tree titles, and I found no branch for the grandmother (dad’s mother or mom’s mother).
    How do you call them ?

    5 years ago
    • For grandmother, it’s 할아머니 (hal aw mah ni) (grandfather is 할아버지 (hal aw bah ji)), then you add the titles to express which side you mean. 친 증조 is denoting father’s side (친 cheen being father’s) then 외 증조 denoting mother’s side (외 being mother’s). Also, to an extent because Korean culture is patriarchal, I don’t know if this the way they would just naturally draw the family tree, or if it was left out simply because it has a clear equivalent to grandfather on my father’s side… Fun fact you might not know, Korean families also have a book of their family trees and relatives and typically first born sons need to study it… this is what my Korean bf has told me and many others have said so too… Knowing family is important I think…

      5 years ago
      • Ok thanks a lot ! I guess if you get how the different terms are build, it gets easier.
        I get the patriarcal thing, but still found that a bit sad for the grand mothers ! :)

        5 years ago
  20. I have some words that I feel like translated wrong from Korean into English. I’m an English teacher here in Korea for reference.
    These words are hyung 형, unnie 언니, noona 누나, oppa 오빠 and lastly hagwon 학원.
    In English they would be “brother sister sister brother” and “academy.”
    Now I work at a hagwon. And it’s not an academy. In English academy is just another word for school, interchangeable like university and college are. A better word for it would be cram school or prep school. I still prefer to call it hagwon more than anything.
    As for the the other four words the problem is not with their literal translation–that is correct. My older sister Jessica is my unnie–but so is my cousin Dede and Jenny. they are my unnies too. That’s where the problem is. I have many children telling me about their ‘cousin brother’ like. … no. in English you can’t have a cousin brother you just have a cousin. This man here isn’t your brother, he’s your older male friend. It’s a cultural thing. So I try to explain to my students.. yes you have your brother. and then you have your hyung/oppa. Different types of things.

    As for an English word that doesn’t translate as well into Korean. For me it’s “excuse me”. When I need to get through a tight space, even though I know the slight Korean equivalent to ‘excuse me’ (don’t ask me to spell it, I have no idea) it’s a different kind of concept. So I still just say it in English. It’s much more effective.

    5 years ago
    • “Excuse me” can be translated to “실례하겠음니다”. It’s not used very often but it’s exact equivalent.

      5 years ago
  21. I live in southern Louisiana(in the Acadiana region) and many people around here use Cajun French slang in daily English speech, which can be really confusing for people not from around here lol. The most common word we use is “cher”(pronounced “sha” with a short “a”), and literally translated from French means “dear.” We call everyone cher–people we know really well, people we don’t know at all. It’s basically just a term of endearment to us that’s often used to make a conversation seem more casual. Another one we use often around here is “couyon”, pronounced “koo-yawn,” but with a nasally and almost inaudible “n.” Its meaning can range from mild connotations like “silly” to cruder connotations like “idiot/dumbass.” It can also be used as a noun or adjective. There’s a funny thing about couyon, though. According to my grandmother, our slang word “couyon” comes from the French word “couillon,” which means “testicle.” But, she also said that in standard French “couillon” is used as slang too, but it means something more along the lines of “asshole/dickhead.” I find this really funny because around here, it’s really common to call children “couyon” whenever they do something silly or nonsensical. I always imagine this situation in my head of a person who speaks standard French coming over to southern Louisiana, hearing us call kids “couyons”, and freaking out because they think we called a five-year-old an asshole. XD

    5 years ago
    • Wow that’s funny and very interesting ! As a French, I admit I would be taken aback if I heard a person call a kid “couyon/couillon” haha ! The word “couillon” is definitely rude in French (although sometimes used between friends as a sort of joke).

      5 years ago
  22. I don’t have much to say, but When Leah was talking about the Word “sorry”, for having a bad time, I couldn’t help but to think in teh south we say “Bless your heart.” I have heard this mentioned Many times meaning “im sorry that happened”, “poor guy”, “wow he’s an idiot”.

    Hey Leah, I know your from Texas, but how about some Southern slang?

    5 years ago
  23. In N.Ireland/Ireland, we have the word ‘craic’ (pn: crack) and it’s mostly translated as “fun” but that’s not the real meaning. It’s difficult to explain because it can mean “to have a good time” so you can say things like “It was brilliant craic.”, “The craic’s ninety!” and so on.

    However, it can also be used in a negative way, when someone does something you think was maybe quite sly or just a dick thing to do, you can also say “That’s bad craic.” The third usage is asking people “What’s the craic?” or “Any craic?” which is like asking if they have any news to tell or if there’s anything going on in their lives at the moment worth knowing about. It’s quite a diverse word, no doubt haha :)

    In Chinese they also have this family title system. I’m here in Shanghai at the moment learning Mandarin and it’s one of the things that makes my head hurt >.<

    5 years ago
    • Hey ! I’m urrently living in Dublin, but I’m from France, and I heard this word “Craic” all the time ! It took me so long to realise what it actually means (and I think I still learn new way to use it every day).
      I have the same problem with the world “grant” that seems to be also used in so many ways in Ireland !

      5 years ago
      • Ah, you mean “grand”? You can take it to mean “fine”. You’ll probably hear “I’m grand.”, “That’s grand.”, “It’ll be grand” <— this last one is used even when the situation is absolutely hopeless, haha.

        "Craic" is one that might take a while to know how to use it correctly, it's quite rare that I hear people who aren't from Ireland using it properly. However, the longer you stay, the better feel you'll get for when and how to use it – soon enough it'll come naturally :3 Hope you're enjoying living there!

        5 years ago
        • Oh yeah I mean grand ! (I only hear it here so didn’t really knew how to spell it)

          And yeah it’s a good “craic” living in Dublin ! xP (Am I right ? Tell me I’m right please xD)

          5 years ago
  24. MLE

    So the actual linguistic term for the problem you’re referring to is “lexical gap(s)” where words in a language have no direct equivalent in another. One example I like from Japanese is “komorebi”, which refers to sunlight filtering through trees/light dappling. In Cantonese there’s a word (I forget what it actually is D:) that refers to the heavy feeling you get when you eat something that’s very fatty/buttery/rich. It isn’t the same as being full, it’s specifically feeling heavy and gross from eating too much of/something that is really rich. It’s so frustrating to not have an equivalent in English!

    5 years ago
  25. Some portuguese words that I find lacking in English are “saudade” which is the emotion you feel when you miss/long for someone, that can be used like the expression “I miss you”, but really you just need the one word and people will understand; another is “cafuné”(which is read Kah-foo-NEH) which is the act of rubbing someone’s head/hair gently, like on a lover or a loved one (i.e. a kid when you put them to bed might ask for a cafuné).
    As for English to portuguese yeah the word “sorry” i agree, we have the same issues too. it is just so much more convenient in English lol. There are probably others but I cant think of them right now.
    though I do find amusing the times when verbs have split meaning like “to be” in portuguse you have two verbs for it “ser” and “estar”, and conversely the verbs “to make” and “to do” can be balled up together into the verb “fazer”…. languages are very interesting. lol I love these kinds of things

    5 years ago
    • Oh! I lived in Brazil for a year and learnt Brazilian Portuguese! I totally know what you mean by saudades- though I found it odd that my classmates used it every Monday to express they hadn’t seen me all weekend, lol. It is a very sentimental and emotional word to be used like that.. And I remember hearing cafuné before, but I never really fully connected it til now! One time I was really upset and my lil host cousins (5-6 years old) came over and patted me on the head, and I remember their mom using the word. Also about Portuguese- I love being able to drop pronouns all the time- having all the crazy conjugations are in a way quite useful!

      5 years ago
  26. In Arabic there’s the word “yaa” which is basically a work you put before someone’s name to call them, and just using it, the person knows you’re calling them, and I think it’s such a useful word. So if I want to call “Soozee” instead of saying “SooooooZeeeeee,” I just say “yaa SooZee” and SooZee will know that I’m calling her.
    The closest translation to “yaa” in English would be “Oh” but it’s too old fashioned of a word and so it really doesn’t retain the same meaning haha :)

    5 years ago
  27. We also have specific words for (mother’s sisters & brothers) and (father’s sisters & brothers) in Arabic.

    Mother’s sister = khala (خالة).
    Mother’s brother = khali (خالي).
    Father’s sister = aama (عمة).
    Father’s brother = aami (عمي).

    We do have many Arabic words that can’t be translated to English but I can’t remember now.

    5 years ago
  28. I’m Danish and especially in the start of learning English it confused me when american/english people said cousin, in Denmark i’ve grown up with Gender specific words for cousin, if it’s a girl “kusine” and a boy “fætter”, so i didn’t understand how one words could be both.

    we have
    Aunt: tante
    uncle: onkel.
    fathers sister: faster
    Mothers sister: moster
    fathers brother: farbror
    Mothers brother: Morbror.

    I personally only use uncle instead of farbror and Morbror.
    but with the female words I differentiate.

    5 years ago
    • Omg in Indonesian, we say tante for aunt too :)

      5 years ago
    • The distinctions did exist in old English or Anglo-Saxon times but died out sometime in the transition to Middle English or Early Modern English; so it would have been níedmáge for a close female cousin and níedmæg for a male.

      5 years ago
  29. I am going to apologise for this being about Japanese words and not Korean T__T As someone who is living in Japan, I’ve often been asked how to translate some of their phrases into English. But it becomes difficult because it also depends on the situation. Is it the same in Korean, too?

    For example “よろしくお願いします/Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu”. It can be said when introducing yourself as a way to say “Please look after me”, but that is a very loose translation. However, when some of my Japanese teachers have asked me to do something special like marking worksheets or doing certain activities during a class, they will also say it at the end.

    Another one is “お疲れさまです/Otsukare sama desu”. This is used a lot around some of my schools. I think its a way of saying “Good Job or You’re working hard”. but most of my students will say this to me as a kind of greeting in the hall ways. Yet, before you leave the office/staff room/work place, you will say this loudly to everyone there as a way of saying “goodbye” – “お疲れさまでした/Otsukare sama deshita”, which means “Thank you for working hard”. I wish there something as polite as this in English, rather than just saying “I’m going, bye!” (which we really mean – HAHAHA suckers! I’m going home!!! *evil laugh*).

    5 years ago
  30. OMG I love this topic! I am a Malaysian (Chinese/Eurasian background) who studied in Melbourne, Australia and currently residing for the last 6 months in the Netherlands with my Malaysian (Indian background) husband. I love how cultures and languages mesh together and when you understand the culture, you understand the language so much more!

    A friend in my language class said that she once heard from her Dutch friend that her aunt passed away and so in English said “I’m so sorry for you.” the Dutch friend then said “Oh its not your fault so there’s no need to apologize.”

    The word sorry in Dutch is only for apologies in wrongdoing and I don’t know what the appropriate Dutch phrase would be (teach me, I am learning!).

    My favourite word in Dutch is “lekker”! It means tasty but its used in so many contexts. Its much like the English/Australian usage of “lovely” which is sort of a blanket word for anything you want to describe as amazing. So you can have a lekker meal while having a lekker sitting in the sunshine while enjoying the lekker weather!

    Something else I found interesting is that saying in the Dutch language someone is independent sounds weird. You could say it but it sounds strange and no one ever says it. I often wondered if this has got to do with the culture itself where everyone IS independent and an un-independent person is unthinkable? But that’s just my two cents. Its so interesting to me since I come from a culture where dependence is not considered a bad thing, taking care of one another (especially in family) is considered to be a more desirable quality then being completely independent.

    In the Malay (possibly Indonesian too) language there are many one word phrases/figures of speech that are used to express an emotion which I find so handy. They seem to be a little dated to be still used but the older generation or villagey places its still used. The key is in the intonation and I don’t know any other language that does the same (yet).

    Amboi = response to something beautiful or adorable (Eg: Amboi, cantiknya baju! = Amboi, you are wearing nice clothes!) or it can also be used insultingly (eg: amboi, banyak cantik muka engkau! = you think you’re so pretty!)

    Alamak! = Exclamation when something unexpectedly (negative) happens but its not so serious (Eg: Alamak, saya lupa bawa kunci! = I forgot to bring my keys!)

    There are a few more that I had to learn in school but I have forgotten them now because they are not commonly used.

    There’s also something called “latah” in the Malay language which the closest translation in English is “going into hysterics”. Its basically uttering gibberish when something startles you or dropping something you are holding. Both my grandmothers did this and its always the same string of gibberish and/or combination with some old school swear words! The closest thing I can compare it to is saying “oopsy daisy” when you drop something. Mostly only the older generation does this but somehow I managed to pick this habit up too since I was raised by my grandmothers.

    5 years ago
    • Dutch person to the rescue! First of all, if someone passes away in English the correct phrase would be “I’m sorry for your loss” right? I think that the “I am sorry for you” was translated in the Dutch person’s mind into “het spijt me”, which would indeed be weird to say when you’ve lost a loved one. The correct phrase in Dutch would be “Gecondoleerd” which is the word for “I’m sorry for your loss”. It’s just one word, nifty right? I hope you can use this. ^^

      5 years ago
    • Oh and I forgot to mention the all famous “lah” used all over Malaysia and Singapore.

      Its another word that is hard to define but so good to use for emphasis in a sentence. Its used across every ethnic group in this region whether it be the Malay/Chinese/Indian languages.

      Don’t go there LAH! — Seriously, don’t go there.

      Come LAH! — You are taking too long! or please come coz its so much more fun with you there!

      Mai siao LAH! – Don’t be crazy!

      OK lah. – said in a low tone it means OK but I don’t really want to or I’m not sure about this decision.

      OK LAH! – I’m saying OK because I want you to be quiet :p

      The intonation is so important! :P

      5 years ago
  31. I really enjoyed this video! such interesting facts about the family titles… in German, we pretty much just have the standard ones you would find in English— but we do have a couple of untranslatable words ^^ most of them describe a very specific feeling, like “Wanderlust” (feeling a need to see the world and travel) which I think has been adapted into English by now, or “Weltschmerz” (a very complex emotion of feeling the `pain of the world´, or melancholy over the amount of desperation in the world which we cannot change). But then again, I was also able to learn many English words which we don’t have- like being “sorry” for someone (so useful!) and my fav “petrichor” ^^

    5 years ago
  32. When I was growing up, my family would have close friends that we were taught to call them uncle/aunty, even though they were not related to us. It was kinda like a respect thing as well as a sign of them being accepted into the family. I’m not sure where my family got it from but I was wondering if there was something in Korean, like I know that you call someone your aunt or ajjummas as a sign of respect to someone older, but is their something special fro close fiends of the family?

    5 years ago
  33. Oh my God, I got mentioned!

    I did some rooting around and I found this: http://www.lmh.ox.ac.uk/Student-life/Jargon.aspx Seems legit. It comes from one of the Oxford college websites and most of it matches up with stuff my friend says that I don’t understand.

    Speaking of French and untranslatable English words, apparently one English word that doesn’t translate into French (don’t know about other languages as French is sadly the only language other than English that I can actually hold a conversation in), is “awkward”. I was over in France with a friend and his family and the situation got really awkward for some reason (and in part because I didn’t totally understand everything that people were saying around me, which led to a few excruciating misunderstandings), and later on I was trying to explain to him in French that it had been really awkward, and I found myself stuck. So I asked him what “awkward” was in French, and he just shrugged and said “we don’t have that concept.” He said that, if anything, since he’s been to the UK enough times to understand what I was getting at about awkward situations, he’d probably say “c’est awkward” with a French accent to francify it. Made me laugh.

    Cracked.com had a couple of fabulous articles on words the English language badly needs to adopt because we have no equivalent for them. Just thought I’d link them.

    (The writer of this one didn’t know about butterface but had the Japanese equivalent, so it’s okay.)

    I know a few pochemuchkas and pilkunnussijas and now I know what to call them, and they’ll never know WHAT I’m calling them unless they happen to understand Finnish or Russian or read articles on cracked.com

    5 years ago
    • I really wish we would have a french word for awkward! I’m french Canadian (from Québec) and the closest word I can think of to describe something awkward is “malaisant” it pretty much means uncomfortable, if I didn’t speak english I guess that’s the word I would use to describe something awkward, but it’s not quite the same thing, and I don’t know it’s used in France. Personally I always end up saying awkward even in a french conversation.

      5 years ago
  34. In russian we have the word “toska” wich has no translation into English. The meaning of carries someting along the lines of deep spiritual anguish or/and an unexpressible longing for something/someone. Pretty depressing, right? :p

    In America, middle names are chosen for a child, while in Russian culture you’re middle name derives from your father’s name. For example, a fathers name is Leonid, so the daughters middle name will automatically be Leonidovna, and the sons middle name would be Leonidovich. It is basically taking the dads name and adding an ending to it to nake it feminine or masculine :) when you speak to your teachers or people older than you, instead of saying Mr/Mrs”last name”, or aunt/uncle, we call them by their first and middle name to show respect (so like: Nataliya Leonidovna. Order is first name, middle name). You also use formal speech, sort of the equivalent of adding the “요” in korean :) if you dont know them personally by name, you can adress them as man, or woman but still use formal speech if they are older than you.

    5 years ago
    • Even in some Indian cultures, for example mine (I’m Maharashtrian) the middle name is your father’s name. So my first name is Ruchi, my last name is Sawardekar and my middle name is my dad’s name, Nitin. So my full name is Ruchi Nitin Sawardekar. Similarly my dad’s name is Nitin Narahar Sawardekar (Narahar being his dad’s name). And a slightly sexist tradition that women are now choosing to not do is that when a woman gets married, she takes her husband’s last name and his name becomes her middle name. For example, my mother’s name is Mohini Nitin Sawardekar.

      5 years ago
    • To some extent, English culture does maintain the whole ‘passing down names’ thing, but it’s a lot less formal or structured than Russian, partly because of its history. So for example, my grandfather is named John Alexander, my dad is called John D. (his middle name is Donald), so kinda like the whole ‘John Jr.’ thing, then my cousin’s name is John Dylan (who we just call Dylan…). So apparently in my grandparents’ days, their parents would name multiple siblings the same name, with middle names being the difference: John A(lexander), John G(raham), John M(urdoch), etc. and so with the high mortality rate of children, then at least one son would be likely to pass on the name…

      5 years ago
  35. One thing that I always found very interesting about English is that there isn’t a word for “enjoy your food”. In Hebrew, the word is “beh teh-avon”. So when you sit down to a meal everyone would say “beh teh-avon” to each other. I think it is also a way to give thanks to the cook before the meal because it literally means “in good taste”. I would always feel awkward at dinner with Americans because I would not know what to say. Do other countries have this word?

    5 years ago
    • In the UK we use the french ‘Bon Appetit’, but that’s usually said by the person serving or cooking. We just give the cook a direct compliment, eat everything on the plate or asking for the recipe. Just making ‘mmmm this so good sounds’ or if they are coking ‘it’s smells so good’. We definitely prefer the direct compliment.

      5 years ago
  36. In Spanish we have a softer phrase for “I LOVE YOU”, since i love you it’s considered to be the ultimate form of expression about your feelings for someone a couple in their “early stages” will say “te quiero” , “te quiero mucho” o “te quiero tanto!”. It is a way of building up the actual intimacy you share with your partner. OR!!!
    you can use it while taking to a close friend or family. It’s really frustrating to try to express that soft, kind, not so intense or strong feeling in other languages because “quiero”,”querer” it’s literally translated to want, so it doesn’t actually mean I want you (although I guess you can use it in a pervert kinda way and still mean it in the romantic way … DON’T).

    5 years ago
  37. Since I’m living in England there are so many occasions where I’m trying desperately to explain an expression from Norwegian to English and it just doesn’t really translate well. But of course the only one that I can remember right now is the expression : å skjenke noen. It is to try and get someone drunk without them noticing. Basically just keep giving them drinks or topping up their glass while distracting them or despite their protests. Mostly used in innocent ways among friends to get someone to loosen up or stay longer at a party. It is not something you would say you are doing but it could be used as a way of describing a situation mostly.
    See. Difficult to explain properly….

    5 years ago
    • ‘Topping them up’ is the phrase we would use in the UK, everyone will know what you mean when combined with sly smile.

      5 years ago
  38. There’s a great tumblr that is devoted to words that don’t have exact translations in other languages. They do a really good job. It’s at other-wordly.tumblr.com. Also the blog word4that.com.
    I think my favorite example from English is “valleity”:a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.
    In this week after the American elections, it seems terribly appropriate.

    5 years ago
    • As an English speaker, I am not sure what word you are referring to here. Valleity is not a word in English.
      I am trying to think of the word the fits your description.
      Is the word ‘Valiantly’?

      5 years ago
      • It’s real, I just put an a in where an e should be. I’m a native English speaker, but my spelling doesn’t always show it.

        5 years ago
  39. The English word I’m most frustrated that we don’t have in Finnish is “to ignore”. The closest ones are “olla huomioimatta/olla välittämättä” but it’s not the same.

    On the other hand the Finnish word I have often wished had an English equivalent is “myötähäpeä”, the feeling of embarrasment you get from someone other’s stupid behavior or endeavors. Webdictionaries translate it as “shared sense of shame” or “second hand shame” but those feel somehow too lukewarm to be proper equivalents. Oh how many times have I almost had to stop watching Korean dramas because of the intensity of myötähäpeä I have felt because of them. :D

    Other than that Finnish have many nature words that don’t have translations at least in English, not sure if Swedish or Norwegian have those. “Kaamos” is the dark time of the year when sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, “ruska” is the natural phenomenon during autumn when leaves turn to bright colors, “hankikanto” means the piled up snow that has frozen enough to carry a person’s weight and you can walk over it and imagine you’re an elf :D. We also have bunch of words for snow but I think some Inuit languages have more of those.

    4 years ago
  40. In the Netherlands we have the word “Gezellig” which means something like cozy, warm-hearted and you have fun to be at that time at that place.

    5 years ago