These Beautiful, Untranslatable Words Don't Exist In English

Aside from sneakily listening in on good-looking tourists' conversations on the subway, the joy of learning another language comes with a whole new perspective on expression and articulation. The more dialects you explore, the more you come to realize that there are certain emotions and phenomena that — while common feelings amongst all humans — manifest themselves particularly well in a certain language.
Lost In Translation, a thoroughly fascinating new book by Ella Frances Sanders, opens up that world of "untranslatable" words for even those of us who flunked out of freshman-year French.
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The book began with one simple blog post, and morphed into a final product that Sanders calls "beautiful, manic, incredibly interesting...actually, I might need to write another book to explain the process of making this one." Over the course of three months, she put together a list of words that simply can only be said one way, accompanied by beautiful illustrations you almost want to rip out and hang on your wall (which would be totally blasphemous to do to this endearing little tome). Sanders and the good people of Ten Speed Press graciously allowed us to republish a handful of our favorite words and illustrations here, for your polyglot pleasure.
Check it out, then pick up a copy of the book for yourself!
(You can also follow Sanders on Twitter and Instagram @ellafsanders, or explore her website here.)
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
What's your favorite word in your native language?
"We’d be here all day if you really wanted me to pick just one, but right now I really like the words ‘effervescent’, ‘wilderness’ and ‘sponge.'"

"Kabelsalat" is a German noun that refers to a mess of tangled cables — literally, a "cable salad."
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Is there a sentiment that you feel doesn't have a word in any language, that you have yet to see expressed in one precise term?
"Honestly? Nope. I’m sure that if I rummaged through the 6,500 or so languages that cover the globe, I’d find a word that expresses how a human being feels when they stretch from head-to-toe first thing in the morning in filtered rays of sun, or a word that encapsulates coming back to the place where you’ve lived after a long time away, just to find that home is actually where you’ve left behind."

"Karelu" is a noun in Tulu, spoken mainly in southwestern India, for the mark left on the skin after wearing something tight.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
What's your favorite place you've ever travelled to?
"Morocco. It’s a relatively easy question, at least for now. I lived there for most of last year, and although I was working and didn’t manage to see all of its dusty corners, I love parts of that country to pieces — I’ve never been so settled and content for such a prolonged period of time."

"Kilig" is the word for that tingly, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. It's from Tagalog, a prominent language in the Philippines.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
How many languages do you speak? "Before the book? One. After the book? One very well, and two others at different degrees of terrible. I find that you can have extraordinary conversations with people without really using any words at all. Although saying that, I’d like to be able to call myself trilingual in the near future. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s damn useful when you’re traveling."

Sanders describes "Mamihlapinatapai," a word in the indigenous Chilean language of Yanghan, as "the silent acknowledgment and understanding between two people, who are both wishing or thinking the same thing (and are both unwilling to initiate)."
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
How did you come up with the idea for this book, and what was the process of making it?
"Lost in Translation...grew in a unforeseen and bizarre way. I suppose you could say that I only had the idea for the book after I was emailed by the editor of a publishing house, because it wasn’t something I was consciously thinking about, and it certainly wasn’t something I thought was within reach (or reality) at the time. "

"Razliubit" is the Russian word for the bittersweet experience of falling out of love.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
"I had to turn around the entire thing in only three months, and while perhaps in hindsight I was a little enthusiastic in the beginning, it meant that we could publish the American version this year, which is great. Ten Speed has been delightful to work with, truly. So much so that I’d quite like to make the publishing world home for a while longer."

"Trepverter," a Yiddish noun, articulates that annoyingly great comeback you think of only when it's way too late.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
"Pisan-zapra" is a wonderfully specific word denoting the time necessary to eat a banana, from Malay.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
"Wabi-sabi" means "finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death" in Japanese.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
In Icelandic, "Tima" means feeling not quite ready to spend time or money on something, even though it's within your means.
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Image: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press.
We're definitely stealing this Swedish noun for that third cup of coffee — a "threefill," if you will.
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