Off topic: Nine untranslatable Swedish words
Thread poster: RominaZ

RominaZ  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 5, 2012

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In this video by The people are challenged to translate 9 untranslatable Swedish words into single English words.


Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:57
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
How true! Jul 6, 2012

And there is another one: lagom = not too much or too little, but just enough.

How about "untranslatables" in other languages?



Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:57
Hebrew to English
Lack of a one-to-one equivalent.... Jul 6, 2012

....does not mean it is "untranslatable".
This is a linguistic myth perpetuated by non-linguists.


madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:57
Swedish to English
+ ...
Very funny Jul 6, 2012

I know this was posted in the "off topic" section of the site, but what we have here is a promotional video posted by The Local (Swedish news site published in English).

So one of their guys goes out for a walk in Stockholm and asks ordinary Swedes (who of course all "can English") to translate terms/concept he already knows do not have exact equivalents in English.

Totally ignoring the distinction between word and term and the fact that Swedish compounds are written together whereas English ones are not. For example, badkruka, bad = bath, kruka = vase/planter, would be two words in English (if, and only if, you use GT or similar to translate this term)*

Or that English does not need a word/term for a tradition only applicable to the northern parts of Sweden? "Surströmmingspremiär" = the first day (in August) that you are "allowed" to eat fermented, and reeking, herring.

Why didn't he just try that famous false friend "gå" (walk)? I bet at least 75% of respondents would have answered "go". That is how well Swedes in general "can English" if you put them on the spot.

*Badkruka roughly translates as "loser". Example: "Sisten i är en badkruka" = "The last one in [the water] is a loser".


matt robinson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:57
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Two points Jul 6, 2012

I work for a Swedish multi-national every week, and in my experience the level of English of all speakers is between intermediate and upper-intermediate. For a second language that is fantastic (Cf. England) but not native speaker level, and why should it be?

My second point relates to translation in general. There is nothing which cannot be translated. The most complex of ideas expressed by a single word in one language for whatever reason can be translated using however many words are necessary in the target language. What's the problem?


Local time: 01:57
For more untranslatable words in other languages... Jul 17, 2012

Here's a list of 20 untranslatable words from around the world.


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Nine untranslatable Swedish words

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