|Translation is literally just a way to give non-speakers a way to understand the other language superficially. Have you ever read a poem in your native language that had been translated from another language and thought something was missing? The rhythm, feeling and energy were lacking. Imaginably, you did not feel captivated. This is what it feels like when you try to translate words that do not exist in other languages. If you truly want to understand the secrets behind the superficial façade of a directly translated word you need to learn, understand and live the language.|
10 Spanish words that do not exist in English | Language is exquisite down to its core. There are so many subtleties, hidden meanings, and cultural references. Language is simply a mishmash of sounds, gestures, facial expressions and movements that, when coming together, are powerful.
Language can make us laugh hysterically, cry, full of rage or feel things beyond expression. The more languages you know, the more you can understand anything that has to do with humanity and the millions of little worlds circulating you.
One of the best things about learning a new language, like when you take online Spanish classes, is that you can find new ways to express yourself. You can open your mind to new ways of thinking that may not be possible in your native language language. Some Spanish words simply don’t exist in other languages, and you may never find the correct words through translation.
10 Spanish words that do not exist in English
In this blog, we show you just a few Spanish words that do not exist in English. While there are translations for these words, you either have to use a mouthful of words to try to catch the idea, or there is not even a word that comes close in English.
Do they exist in your language?
The Spanish word, sobremesa, literally translated as, over the table, refers to the conversation that flows on at the dinning table long after the meal itself has finished. Sobremesa is the art of conversation and savoring the company of your guests over drinks.
If the conversation is good, be prepared to stay for a few extra hours after your meal. This is especially true in Spain were late dinners are followed by additional hours of discussion – lighthearted or deep.
Estuvieron un buen rato de sobremesa, hablando.
They spent a long time after dinner, talking.
Tal vez la cena y el champán, tal vez la larga sobremesa.
Maybe dinner and champagne, maybe the long after-dinner conversations.
Como era tarde, a la llegada al hotel no hubo sobremesa y fueron retirándose a sus habitaciones.
As it was late, upon arrival to the hotel, there was no after-dinner conversation and they retired to their rooms.
Estrenar has many different connotations that are difficult to communicate in English, and you can’t explain this Spanish word with just one English word. Estrenar can mean, to wear for the first time, to use for the first time or to break in. In English we need to give a deeper explanation and a literal explanation of what we want to say.
Estoy estrenando novio. But, you definitely can’t say you are breaking in your boyfriend in English!
Estoy estrenando un nuevo corte de cabello.
I am wearing my hair like this for the first time. / I am debuting a new hairdo.
Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no word to express, Estadounidense. And! They really need one! Generally, people from the United States call themselves Americans. But many Spanish speaking people are offended when they say Americans because, well, Americans are technically from all the Americas, not just the United States.
There are a few ways to avoid this problem by evading the word American by saying, I am from the United States, I am from the US, or state what state you are from. For example, I am Californian. This doesn’t always work for all of the states, for example, I am Oregonian, doesn’t sound great.
I am from the United States.
A los Estadounidenses les encanta la comida Mexicana y fútbol Americano.
People from the United States love Mexican food and football.
In English, we could say something like external, someone else’s, unconnected, unaffiliated, unaware, oblivious, indifferent or out of touch with reality. These words come close, but they don’t really capture the meaning, so to say.
Ellos no entienden esto, ya que es ajeno a ellos.
They do not understand this; it is alien to them.
Vergüenza Ajena — To feel embarrassed for someone (even if they don’t feel embarrassed themselves); “secondhand embarrassment.”
Anteayer is the perfect example of a very concise, precise and fast word to express such a simple Spanish concept, but in English we need four words, three spaces and 21 characters to express the same idea.
In English, we have to say, the day before yesterday. When you think about everything we have to say to express the same idea, it just makes you laugh; I mean, couldn’t we make it shorter in English?
Anteayer hice una torta de chocolate.
I made a chocolate cake the day before yesterday.
In English, we would say that someone is cold-blooded, someone that gets cold easily or someone that is prone to getting cold. Again, there is no concise way to explain the word, friolento in English.
Soy muy friolenta para entrar al mar en esta época del año.
I am really cold when I enter the sea at this time of year.
Soy tan friolento que incluso en primavera llevo bufanda.
I’m so cold-blooded that I even wear a scarf in spring.
Convivir can mean that you share the same house as someone, or that you are living together with another person. Some translations include: to live together, to get along very well or even to hang out with someone.
Me encanta convivir con ella.
I love to hang out with her.
La pequeña ardilla y el gato siamés han aprendido a convivir y se han convertido en amigos, comenta la dueña de ambos.
The little squirrel and the Siamese cat have learned to live together and have become friends, says the owner of both.
Everyone is waiting for the quincena!
Quincena used to be (or still is, in some Spanish speaking countries), the bi-monthly payment that many employees receive: Once on the 15th of the month, and once at the end of the month.
It is almost like saying “a fortnight,” but Spanish speakers use 15 days as a marker and not 14.
Quincena — A period of 15 days
Empalagar has so many definitions when translated, but a lot of them don’t really make sense. Some of the closer definitions we found were, it tired me out, it made me sick or nauseating.
Basically, empalagar means when you eat too much of something, especially something that is really heavy or with a strong flavour. You just can’t eat anymore of it.
For example, you eat a whole slice of rich chocolate cake, and you can’t have another bite of the cake without feeling like you will throw up. Your body starts to reject the food. You can even use empalagar to refer to a person, if you have seen someone too much, but this is less common.
¿Te gusta la torta? – Sí; está dulce pero no empalaga.
Do you like the cake? – Yes; it is sweet, but not too sweet.
There are so many words or phrases that come close to atinar, but they don’t quite hit the nail on the head, so to say. We could translate atinar as to nail something, hit the bullseye, hit upon, come up with, find, manage to or succeed, pero ninguna le atina.
You got it!
Que atinado eres con tus comentarios.
Your comments are really accurate.
El tuvo una atinada acción durante la crisis.
He made a wise move during the crisis.
Through this article about 10 Spanish words that do not exist in English, we learned that although we can come close to a definition or translation in English, it does not always come right or have the same context, meaning or pizazz, as we would like.
It is like when someone says a joke in Spanish and the whole room bursts into laughter, and someone translates the joke for you to make sure you understand correctly, and the translation, they say, is actually not that funny at all.
The only way to truly get ahold of these words’ secret context is to live the Spanish Language and the culture of the Spanish speaking world.
If you like to learn Spanish, the best way is always with a native Spanish speaker through online or in-person Spanish classes. Apps and excises can certainly help, but never replace Spanish lessons with a native speaker.
Online Spanish lessons a great way to make a kickstart, improve, or fine-tune your Spanish.
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