12 untranslatable words in English and in Spanish (I)

A sobremesa with the consuegros can be a real nightmare, most of all for a translator. An encounter with spam or with a packed lunch box can have the same effect. And it’s not because our professional translator doesn’t get along with the family, or because receiving spam makes then sick, it’s just that sobremesa, consuegro, spam and lunch box are among some of the untranslatable words in English and Spanish. At Okodia, we´ve prepared a list of a dozen of these words, to follow:

Sobremesa with the consuegros is a real nightmare, most of all for a translator. Tweet!

Start with sobremesa, this after-dinner conversation we, the Spanish, love so much and that enriches our social life. However, in English, there is no such word to define this Spanish habit.


The British also have consuegros, obviously, but they haven’t yet created a word for the parents of their son/daughter´s in-laws; we imagine that they referred to them as “Alison and Chris” or as “Tom/Sarah’s father-in-law and mother-in-law”. Phew! What long-winded way of saying the same thing!


The British don’t know what they’re missing by not being able to enjoy a puente. They happen to be very organised by properly arranging their bank holidays. We tend to forget such strictness in our culture and we will make a long weekend out of any midweek holiday. How considerate we are!


We also have the ability to tutear (addressing someone by using the informal pronoun “tu”) to someone of our age, or to our friends and family. But how is a literary translator supposed to express it, for example? It’s impossible by using one single word. No doubt they would have to resort to using colloquial words or tags so that it clearly understood.


Another untranslatable word in Spanish is duende (which can also mean goblin), not the little creature with big pointy ears, but this power of attraction or gift that artists are said to possess, especially in the world of flamenco.


Estrenar is the last on our list of… (CONTINUE READING)