A lot more than you might think! In every language, there are words that sum up what a whole sentence would have to do in another language. For this reason, these words are often untranslatable.

Writing in a blog post for Maptia, a new community-built worldwide map, Ella Frances Sanders lists a handful of words for which there is no direct English translation. Words like the Italian ‘culaccino’, which describes the stain left on wood after a cold glass has been placed there without a coaster.

More poetic words include ‘komorebi’, which is a Japanese term for the effect of sunlight as it shines through the gaps between the trees. You might see this in a forest – and if you’re alone in the woods, you may also feel a sense of ‘waldeinsamkeit’. This is a German word that describes exactly that scenario; the connection to nature and solitude that comes with being alone in the woods.

Any parent will have some understanding of what a person described as ‘pochemuchka’ is like. This is a Russian word used to describe someone who asks questions all the time – which anyone with a young child will be all too familiar with. Meanwhile, a more grown-up conversation might be referred to as ‘sobremesa’, which is a Spanish word that refers to after-dinner chat between a group of friends who have just shared a meal.

Ms Sanders lists plenty more untranslatable words – like the Indonesian word ‘jayus’, which means someone telling a joke that is so unfunny it actually makes you laugh – but there are countless more in addition to these.

One of our favourites is ‘kummerspeck’, which is German for ‘grief bacon’. Confused? Well the actual meaning of the word is the weight-gain the brokenhearted often incur after turning to excess eating as a way of coping with the blues. These extra pounds might also be the result of a period of ‘shemomedjamo’, which is the Georgian word for the act of continuing to eat long after you feel full.

Ms Sanders cites Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher as being a particularly useful source for learning more of these untranslatable words. However, Mr Deutscher is by no means the first to tackle the issue of why words exist in certain languages and not others.

For instance, The Guardian points to the work of former British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone, who wrote extensively about the Ancient Greek poems The Lliad and The Odyssey. The politician wondered whether, because the ancient language had only a limited number of words for different colours, the people themselves may have perceived fewer shades than those who spoke other languages.

Deutscher is certainly familiar with the way languages differ in the way they are used. Although his book is written in English, his own mother tongue is Hebrew. This would suggest he is well used to thinking and communicating in two different languages; both of which he knows inside and out.

Yet despite it being a topic people have debated for decades, it seems we are still no closer to discovering how greatly the language we speak effects our world view. Certainly our culture and surroundings explain why our language may have certain words and phrases and others don’t. However, international travel means there has always been crossover, and digital communication means this pattern will only continue. That might be why almost every language features loanwords from another – and it’s a trend that will certainly continue. For example, us English-speakers could do with a word like ‘kummerspeck’ in our vocabulary!

What are your favourite untranslatable words?