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Seven Words Which Don’t Translate (Easily) Into English

While we at Certified Translations UK know that there are plenty of words which can be easily translated from one language to another, there are some which just can’t! Translation is all about making sure a new text makes the same sense as the source. This means that not all words and phrases are ever going to be used in the same way through both channels. There are some fantastic words and phrases out there which, while simple in some languages, can’t be summed up so easily in English. However, if any of them come up in your certified translation, we’ll do our very best to get their meaning across! Here’s our pick of six which have interested us the most.

Ta’arof (Iranian)

While it can’t be translated into English as a word, it does refer to a situation we’ve probably all come across! “Ta’arof” refers to a slightly awkward position of politeness – for example if you were to refuse a cup of tea two or three times before accepting one! It’s that awkward scenario all English people are familiar with – offering something out of politeness until it is taken!

Polderen (Dutch)

The Dutch verb “polderen” is perhaps a reasonably fitting one for the modern age. It traditionally meant to work together, cooperatively, to make sure that the land was kept dry from the rising sea. It’s often used nowadays to help define situations where people come together to work towards the greater good whatever their politics, backgrounds or religious beliefs.

Aware (Japanese)

The Japanese have a bittersweet word for a bittersweet feeling. “Aware” defines that feeling of enjoying something even though you know it is fleeting. Maybe like enjoying that last drip or two of wine in the bottle, or time you have left on holiday. It’s self-awareness of a pleasurable experience coming to an end.

Toska (Russian)

“Toska” is a word which is a bit less positive! It roughly refers to a feeling of ‘spiritual anguish’, which may also be interpreted as a feeling of intense boredom. No doubt we’ve all felt a little “toska” in our time!

Abbiocco (Italian)

“Abbiocco” is probably something we’ve all experienced after Christmas dinner! It refers to the sleepiness we feel after eating a big meal. It’s a genuine physical phenomenon – and the Italians went and beat the English to it by defining it in one word!

Sobremesa (Spanish)

Similarly, Spanish has a word for a period that takes place after drinking and eating. The “sobremesa” is a stretch of time where people digest their food and drink and take time to talk (a lot, in my experience), and laugh and share stories.

Utepils (Norwegian)

As if the Norwegians couldn’t get any more laid-back, the word “utepils” refers to drinking beer and relaxing in the sunshine. A wonderful feeling and the Norwegian language has one-upped the English vocabulary by defining it.

As you can see, the world is full of wild and wonderful words and phrases! These are only a few of them. Here at Certified Translations UK, we work with thousands upon thousands every day.

For an accurate certified translation you can rely on, email our team today at

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