Word choice (or expressions) compared to your native language

I realised recently that there are words in my native language I use all the time without thinking that don't carry over well when using another language.  such as the words "okay cool", this I tend to use in a response meaning "okay then" for instance:

Person: I'm going to the beach  

Me: Okay cool

Though I've noticed in some languages "cool" which is translated in the sense of "wow that's cool" or "he's cool" doesn't work in the sense I use it in.

My point is you can't translate directly into the language you are learning. So, have you found any words or expressions that don't translate well into the language you are learning or is there any in the language you are learning that you just really like?

I know that each language has its unique features and I find learning these things fascinating. 

Please note, this is in English as a general option. 

Apr 25, 2019 8:42 AM
Comments · 9
Some languages have softening and politeness particles on the end, like in Cantonese there's La and in Filipino there's Po... Not sure how that would translate into English, the best example I can think of is when Yoda says "That's good, it is!" it's like a way to soften the more abrupt "That's good!", which is a similar usage to how Cantonese would say "That's good La!" - it's almost like a quiet friendly smile on the end of the phrase. Then there's lots of other particles that get added on the end of languages in China, India, Indochina and Africa, which carry slight meanings like a question mark, or a suggestion mark, or past-tense mark, etc - such as Le, Ge, Na, Ha, Ba, Ma, etc - translating them word-for-word into English is a nightmare - many people just say these words have no equivalent and omit them from English versions.
April 25, 2019
Some words are hard to translate into other languages, like "frustrating" or "charisma" into Chinese, if you make a direct translation it can sound weird. Maybe this means speakers of different languages have different ways of thinking, or they are just sensitive to different things. This is one reason why learning a new language is good for your brain I think.
April 25, 2019


That's true, that is what I think makes each language fascinating and unique. The little things that make up the language.


Yeah, it can work most the time. Maybe I worded things wrong but I just meant that some things and not always, can't translate directly. I find the little things that make up a language interesting and culturally speaking, how people choose to use it.  Maybe I should have said, "you can't always directly translate". I get this told to me from teachers and I thought it would be worth sharing and discussing.

April 25, 2019

I am wondering why this thread got downvoted...

Yes, Casey, I agree with you and just want to add that even when sometimes direct translation works pretty good it doesn't mean that jokes would sound the same if we tried to put them as they are. It is not about translation but the sound of a language and it is fascinating, like you said. 

April 25, 2019

Similar to jokes, poetry is also often impossible to translate with all its double meanings and dynamic etymology.

For example:

* In Arabic "La il Lah" is the start of the Shahada ... Here the first La means "No" and the next La(h) means "God"

* In Mandarin "Dao ke Dao" is the start of the Dao De Jing ... Here the first Dao can mean "God", the next Dao can mean "Know" (zhi dao)

* In English "No one Knows" has the same kind of pattern...

These 3 phrases are impossible to translate literally without losing their essence, although they all share the same spirit by using different word combinations, so is switching between them a better way to translate instead of using a boring word-for-word translation? I guess it varies depending on the purpose of the translation.

April 26, 2019
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