Follow Us -

Why other languages can be better than English

Here at Panoramic, we find this fascinating.

People (well, Brits) are always telling us how it isn’t important to learn another language, as everyone speaks English (which, by the way, is untrue) and that it is by far the best language to know. If that’s the case, why does English not have words for many ideas but other languages do? Imagine if one of the following came up in your next translation, how would you tackle it?

Some of these phenomena occur so frequently, we are shocked that we don’t have a word for it!

Some that I thought deserve a mention, but haven’t gone into much detail:

A few of my favourites


For example, last week on holiday, I personally experienced shemomedjamo – when you are full but can’t stop eating because your food tastes so good. I was at Hard Rock Café, enjoyed my starter and had my main course during which I became a bit full. The food was so delicious I just could not stop eating it! I practically forced myself to lick the plate clean as I could not not eat it! But I had no way of succinctly describing what had just happened to me oxycontin high. (I then proceeded to have a dessert because I knew how amazing it would be!).

So why don’t we have an equivalent word in English? We are all surely culpable of this! Especially when you bear in mind that, in the USA, shemomedjamo is celebrated annually in November (Thanksgiving) and, here in the UK, in December and Spring (Christmas and Easter).


Another experience frequently endured is Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu or when someone gives an answer completely unrelated to the question asked. Mostly seen within the political world, the rest of us can be just as guilty. Sometimes, when I ask which shirt a friend prefers, the blue or the white, for example, the reply I receive is “Yes”. This is one annoying example of Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu (literally “giving a green answer to a blue question”).


That prank that we’ve all played as kids (or still DO play..?) when you tap someone on the opposite shoulder to make them turn the wrong way. What do we call that in English other than “the trick where you tap someone on the opposite shoulder”? In Indonesia, this is simply mencolek.


The French have two that I enjoy: seigneur-terrasse and l’esprit de l’escalier. Literally “Lord Patio”, seigneur-terrasse is s/he who sits at the coffee shop with the dregs of one cup of coffee in front of him/her for hours on end. L’esprit de l’escalier, “stairwell-wit”, is a nice way of summing up those times when you think of a retort too late, once you can no longer give it.


Do you have any anecdotes?

Do you have any other words with no English equivalent?

How would you deal with this in a translation?

We’d love to hear your stories and comments!!

Leave a Reply