Can You Say That in English? Not Really . . .

Do you have enough “hygge” in your life? Are you a “kyoikumama”? Have you ever smacked your forehead when you thought of that “esprit d’escalier”?

Unless you live in Denmark, Japan, or France, you probably don’t know what we’re talking about—because “hygge,” “kyoikumama,” and “esprit d’escalier” are all terms that appear on Listverse‘s top “10 Words That Can’t Be Translated into English.”

Actually, they can be translated . . . but only with several English words. According to Jamie Frater, founder of the website, “hygge” means a “complete absence of anything annoying, irritating or emotionally overwhelming, and the presence of and pleasure from comforting, gentle and soothing things.” A “kyoikumama” (literally translated: “education mother”) means a mother who pushes her children too hard about schoolwork. And an “esprit d’escalier” (literally: “spirit of the staircase”) is that snappy comeback you think of once you’ve already left the scene.

Sharing such terms with our students is a great way to sensitize them to other cultures because such terms provide revealing glimpses into those cultures’ special values.

You may know of other expressions that have no real equivalent in English. Share them with your students (and with us!) and invite them to think of words that may be unique in their own language. It’s a fun way to enrich a lesson on cross-cultural communication.

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