Japanese words with no translation
I’ve been quiet for a while because, in short, I’ve been working very, very hard. I mean, not to say that I don’t always work hard, but I’ve been working as a Senior Copywriter in a busy design agency in Clerkenwell, London – and as you’d expect, as a working mother with full membership to the sandwich generation club, it hasn’t left me much spare time.
But I’m here now.
So what have I learned on my copywriting travels? Well, I’ve been working on a Japanese beer brand. It’s a culture I thought I knew a fair bit about. Turns out, I was wrong! But one of the main observations is that there are lots of words in Japanese that have no direct translation in English.
Most copywriters are curious souls – or the good ones are, anyway. So on further investigation, I discovered there are several interesting words across many different languages that have no translation into the English language. Here are some of my favourites:
- Fargin (Yiddish) – this means to be genuinely happy for someone when they achieve something for themselves. It is the total opposite of begrudge, which is a word that does exist in our language. Anyone would say we aren’t a positive nation…
- Shouganai (Japanese) – this word means something that cannot be helped, so therefore it isn’t worth worrying about. It’s connected to fate, and as a natural born worrier, it feels like we’ve only just learned this concept in England recently, thanks to mindfulness.
- Tsundoku (Japanese) – for all the book worms out there, this is a word we really need in English. It’s when you buy a new book but don’t get round to reading it and leave it to pile up with all the other unread books you have, as they sit unloved on a bookshelf. I try not to be this person, but there are always too many books and too little time, right?
- Schadenfreude (German) – I’m surprised to note that the English language doesn’t cover this one, but it’s the feeling of enjoyment you get when you hear about other people’s troubles. Clearly this is one for the other juggling parents out there who are often faced with playground smugness, and does not reveal a mean character. GOT THAT?!!
- Komorebi (Japanese) – this a word that describes the sunlight that filters through the leaves of a tree. It’s when the light catches and sort of dances around you. Something I can appreciate being a big countryside lover. No wonder the Japanese race are perceived as being so clever when they have such lovely words in their lexicon.
There are lots more foreign words with no direct translation in the English language. It’s quite fascinating, whether you’re a copywriter or not. Right, back to the marketing copywriter stuff – and namely, flogging Japanese beer. TTFN.