Lost in translation

Language is amazing. The human ability to communicate complex ideas and lessons to each other is one of the key distinguishing traits between us and animals.

What is also interesting about language is how it shapes the way we think. This is called linguistic relativity. For example, put both your hands in front of you. The position of your hands signifies today. Where is tomorrow?

If you are from a Western European culture, you will have chosen a spot to the right of your hands. But if you were Chinese, you would have chosen a spot vertically below your hands. This is because our language influences the way we think about these concepts. For Western Europeans, the future is ahead and the past is behind. The Chinese visualise time moving from top to bottom.

Where things get really interesting is where certain languages have particularly descriptive words or phrases which are not found in any other language that also give us an insight into the national psyche. We are all familiar with schadenfreude. But what about jolie laide? Or insha’allah?

Check out more brilliantly untranslatable words behind the link.

Lost in translation…

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