World languages never cease to amaze me. They are so uniquely expressive, and while many share similar alphabets or grammatical features, the vocabulary in one language can capture concepts that another cannot. Here are a few of my favorite terms from this post that’s been circling the web lately, about 23 words that aren’t lexicalized in English. (“Lexicalized” means that you have one word for a concept. Of course we can express these things in English—as the captions do—but these other languages have created one specific term.)
Most avid travelers can relate to this one! I have Fernweh for every small village in France. (But there’s a fine line between Fernweh and wanderlust.)
Story of my type-A life.
I learned this word when I was studying abroad in Granada, where my hands were permanently freezing in winter. Except my first time trying to use it, I accidentally said, “Soy fregadero,” which means, “I am a kitchen sink.”
Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan—indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego).
Also known as the common mating ritual in Basque Country, and why relationships take five years to get off the ground here.
Ilunga (Tshiluba—Democratic Republic of Congo).
This one is the most fascinating to me. It is SUCH a specific concept, and yet the language created a word for it.
Many languages have actually invented words for this concept, with the rise of Smartphones and technology. In Spanish it’s called a “toque,” and Monica mentioned that in Lebanese Arabic they have a verb for the same idea.
Jenny Marshall studied Language, Culture, and Society at the University of California Santa Barbara, and now teaches English in Spain. Here she writes about the intersection of language and culture, and lives a life translated by travel.