German words you can't translate

German words you can't translate


German is a rich language that resembles Dutch in many ways. The grammar is of course a bit more complicated, mainly because of the cases and grammatical gender, but on the other hand, the sentence structure and many words can be understood by a Dutch person.. In fact, many words just seem to be the Dutch word with a German spelling, such as "Brot" as German translation of "bread'. Also, of course, some German words are so well established in Dutch that we hardly recognize them as German anymore, 'sowieso' and 'überhaupt' being the best-known examples. But some words stand out in another respect: they do not translate well from German. Below we will single out three slightly less well-known but very interesting words that are so specific to German that they can really only be described.

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The first word comes from German Romantic literature and is sometimes used untranslated in Dutch. Weltschmerz is a compound of the German words "Welt" (world) and "Schmerz" (pain) and is best described as a kind of melancholy sadness, caused by the feeling that the world does not meet one's expectations and hopes and actually cannot. As such, the word became best known through the Romantic writers of the 18th century, who often wrote about characters who did not feel at home in the (then) modern world and thus experienced "Weltschmerz" because of it.


The second word we chose became 'Kummerspeck'. If we translate that literally from German, you get something like 'problem fat'', but in German it has a very specific meaning. For there it stands for the extra pounds a person sometimes gains when he or she has had some setbacks and due to an emotional time eats a little more. It does not necessarily have an unsympathetic connotation, but rather is often seen as something compassionate and something that is just accepted because it is explainable and temporary. Kummerspeck, then, also comes not so much from Weltschmerz, but rather from more mundane setbacks.


Finally, we have chosen the counterpart of 'Heimweh': 'Fernweh'. Homesick, of course, is a known word, but its counterpart, unfortunately, is not. The meaning can perhaps be guessed if you think of it as the opposite of homesickness. Namely, it is a kind of restless, unpleasant feeling where you want to be just far away, a kind of wanderlust or perhaps a desire to be in a certain other place. Fernweh is one of the biggest drivers of making vacation plans, but it can also occur when you're back home and looking back on your trip with great pleasure. So it's a bit of a bittersweet feeling at times, but that's precisely what makes it such a beautiful word.

So translating German is not so easy!

These three words show very well how difficult German can sometimes be to translate. The fact that the language is closely related to Dutch does not mean that there is an equivalent word for everything. Indeed, all three of these words are a compound that clearly gives the meaning of their separate parts a much larger connotation that you just have to know. If you have to deal with that yourself because you need to translate a piece of text, but still get stuck on these kinds of challenges, we can fortunately help you with that. The fact that we are not a German translation agency makes this even easier: you can simply ask your questions in Dutch and we will make sure that our translators translate your text correctly into German! Please contact us  if we can help you with anything or request a quick quote if you would like us to start working for you right away.

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