There’s a running debate among translators about what word is hardest to translate. Obviously, the challenges vary from language to language, with languages that have less in common creating more elusive word to word translations. Let’s acknowledge that determining the hardest word to translate is more of a game than any sort of realistic exercise. That said, here are a few contenders that make the hypothetical list.
Jayus is an Indonesian word that conveys the awkward humor behind a joke delivered so badly that you can’t help but laugh. In English, we sarcastically say, “That’s so funny I forgot to laugh.”
One of the hardest English words to translate into other tongues is gobbledygook, meaning “jargon-filled language that is difficult to read, maybe intentionally confusing.” It’s based on the onomatopoeic sound of a turkey’s gobble. Given the confusion that language learning students face when deciphering new words that would be a handy word to have available to describe what a poor translation looks like.
Can you think of any other words that would be difficult to translate into English? Let us know.
* Special thanks to Maria and Manny at Alta Language Services www.altalang.com
Back to Top