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Identity

People from foreign countries share their 15 favorite words with no English equivalent

There are some thoughts and feelings that are lost in translation.

A group of friends discuss linguistics.

Even though humans worldwide share the same senses, feelings, needs, wants and desires, our languages and the ways we communicate have evolved separately, so some languages have phrases and words that have no equivalent in others.

These words often emerge from the unique cultures, histories, and environments that shape each language. It's like a special secret, a word that captures a feeling, a situation, or an object so precisely that perhaps no other word in any other language can replicate it exactly.

The uniqueness of each language showcases the beauty and diversity of human experiences and perspectives. Moreover, it underlines the delightful intricacy of languages, inviting us to see the world through different lenses and embrace perspectives shaped by differing social nuances. It’s a testament to the vibrant tapestry of human expression.


The difference in languages is a beautiful thing. But it can also be frustrating when one speaks multiple languages and there is no way to express a certain feeling in one language that they can in another.

A Reddit user named Don_Pickelball asked foreign-born people who live in English-speaking countries to share the words that exist in their native language that are sorely missed in English. Here are 15 of the most interesting.

1. Geborgenheit (German)

"In German, we have the word 'Geborgenheit' which describes a very specific feeling of feeling cozy and safe and protected. Like you would feel when you're around loved ones sitting around a fire or when the person you love holds you under the warm covers when it's raining outside. I tried to explain this to someone the other day and when we googled the translation- it came up with 'cozyness' which really doesn't pay justice to what it actually means." — Else1

2. Verschlimmbessern (German)

"If you try to fix something but actually make it worse than it was before." — Chili919

3. Geborgenheid (Dutch)

"It is about feeling safe and sheltered because someone who loves you and cares for you makes sure nobody can hurt you." — Illimprovement700

4. Komorebi (Japanese)

"It roughly translates as 'the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through trees.'" — tipsy_jana

5. Saudade (Portuguese)

"It has a similar meaning to 'miss you' but we have a direct translation for that 'senti sua falta,' saudade has more of an emotional feel to it, it’s really hard to explain, it’s deeper than simply missing someone." — Peddy_D

6. Backpfeifengesicht (German)

"A face in need of a fist." — No_Tamanegi

7. Estrenar (Spanish)

"To use something for the first time." — Ratonvacilon23

8. Kuchisabishii (Japanese)

"A Japanese term which directly translates to 'lonely mouth;' when you're not hungry, but you eat because your mouth is lonely." — MOS95B

9. Kalsarikännit (Finnish)

"Meaning deliberately getting drunk alone at home in your underpants with zero plans of meeting anyone or going out. I think other nations do this as well, but don't have a word for it. Delightfully relaxing and therapeutic at times, slightly concerning if done excessively. At best a wonderful opportunity to touch base with yourself, your life and your deepest thoughts and feelings. And/or watch that one cheesy comedy from 1992 you love but can't get any of your friends to watch with you because they have standards. At worst you wake up to an unholy mess accompanied by a killer headache, cheese all over the bed, cryptic messages on ripped up pieces of pizza box cardboard written by you to you all over the kitchen, and have nobody to blame than yourself." — Fit_Share_6147

10. Chaw-tamaw-tey-quat (Comanche)

"My native language is a Native American language called Comanche and isn't a written language but the word sounds like 'chaw-tamaw-tey-quat' and it basically is a socially acceptable way to say 'I'm done speaking.'" — SCP-33005

11. Tachiyomi (Japanese)

"Japanese has loads of words that require entire sentences to explain in English. My favorite of all time is tachiyomi, which means 'standing at a newsstand reading something without any intention of paying for it.'" — the2belo

12. Lagom (Swedish)

"It means not bad, and not too good. Just an average between. A very neutral word. For example, when you wash your hands, the water should be lagom hot. Not cold, not scalding hot. Just lagom." — Live_Rock3302

13. Luce (Farsi)

"It basically means intentionally acting all cutesy/precious/coy because you think it's appealing." — _eviehalboro

14. Sobremesa (Spanish)

"After a meal when you sit around the table talking." — KommieKoala

15. Załatwić (Polish)

"It means to get something done using connections/ persuasion/ backroom dealings." — ---Loading---

Barely three months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, allowing for the relocation of anyone on the West Coast deemed a threat to national security.

Soon, nearly 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry (many born in America and half of them children) were assigned identification numbers and loaded into buses, trains, and cars with just a few of their belongings. After a brief stay at temporary encampments, they were moved to 10 permanent, but quickly constructed, relocation centers — better known as internment camps.


Departing for relocation. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

In 1943, renowned photographer Ansel Adams visited one of the camps.

Adams was best known for his landscape photography, with his work appearing in galleries and museums across the country. But he welcomed the opportunity to see and capture life at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in the fall of 1943.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

These are just a few dozen of his photos capturing the unthinkable experience of being a prisoner of war in your own country.

Life at the internment camp was hard on the body and spirit.

1. Nestled in Owens Valley, California, between the Inyo and Sierra Nevada mountains, the camp faced harsh conditions.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

There were relentless blasts of desert dust, heat during the day, and punishingly cold temperatures at night.

2. There were 10,000 people crowded into 504 barracks at Manzanar, covering about 36 blocks.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

3. Each barrack was divided into four rooms, shared toilets, showers, and a dining area, offering families little to no privacy or personal space.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

Furnishings and creature comforts were sparse. Just a cot, a straw-filled mattress, and blankets. Up to eight individuals shared a 20-by-25-foot room.

4. Due to the severe emotional toll and inadequate medical care, some Japanese Americans died in the camps.

Marble monument with inscription that reads "Monument for the Pacification of Spirits." Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

Others, including some at Manzanar, were killed by guards, allegedly forresisting orders.

Though he was a civilian employed by the military, Adams was able to capture aspects of the camp that the government didn't want depicted in his work.

5. The housing section at Manzanar was surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by military police.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

But shots of armed soldiers, guard towers, or barbed wire weren't allowed, so Adams worked around it. Instead, he captured these subjects in the background or the shadows.

6. So while he couldn't take a photo of the guard tower, he took one from the top of it.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

As serious as conditions were, internees attempted to make the most of an unimaginable situation.

7. They were allowed to play organized sports, like volleyball.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

8. Baseball games were popular too.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

To maintain order, teams of players from each center were allowed to travel from camp to camp to play ball.

9. Churches and boys and girls clubs were established.

A Sunday school class at the internment camp. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

10. There were singing groups.

The choir rehearses. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

11. And even a YMCA.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

In the face of adversity, everyone did their best to stay busy.

12. Kids went to school...


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

13. ...had recess...

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

14. ...and studied for uncertain futures, all behind barbed wire.

Students listen to a science lesson. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

15. The adults worked inside Manzanar. Some maintained the dusty, arid fields.

There were 5,500 acres of land for agriculture at Manzanar. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

16. They grew crops like leafy greens and squash.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

17. Or raised cattle.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

18. Others worked as welders...

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

19. ...nurses...

A nurse tends to babies at the orphanage. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

20. ...scientists...

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

21. ...or shopkeepers.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

22. Workers earned $12 to $19 a month. Some pooled their earnings to start a general store, newspaper, and barbershop.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

By the end of the war, more than 11,000 Japanese Americans had been processed through the Manzanar camp.

And despite being held for supposedly posing a threat to national security, not one Japanese American was charged with espionage.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

The Manzanar camp closed in 1945. Japanese Americans returned to neighborhoods and homes they barely recognized. And 45 years later, they received a formal apology.

In 1988, after a decade-long campaign, Congress passed The Civil Liberties Act, which required the government to pay $20,000 in reparations to each internment camp survivor. In 1990, the first of nine redress payments was made. A 107-year-old reverend, Mamoru Eto, was the first to receive his payment. Later, President George H.W. Bush delivered a formal apology.

"I took that as evidence that — in spite of the things the government did — this is a country that was big enough to say, 'We were wrong, we're sorry," one survivor told the BBC.

By standing up to hysteria and xenophobia — and refusing to forget this unforgivable era in American history — we can continue to do right by the thousands of Americans put in an unthinkable situation.

These photos remind us of why we will never go back to a place like that again.

More

A mini history lesson about the concentration camps on American soil.

74 years ago, a U.S. president ordered an entire ethnic group to be placed in concentration camps on U.S. soil.

During World War II, a young boy was forced from his home with his family, placed on a cramped train, and sent to an isolated camp across the country with no knowledge of when he would be able to return home. He and his family were confined to camps for years, solely on the basis of their ethnicity.

This isn’t the story of an inhumane atrocity that happened across an ocean or in another country. It happened on U.S. soil in 1942.


Kids boarding a bus for relocation in Byron, California. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

And the young boy in this story is George Takei, the "Star Trek" actor, who was one of more than 117,000 Japanese-Americans detained in U.S. concentration camps during the early 1940s. He talked about his experience on Democracy Now!:

"We had nothing to do with the war. We simply happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. But without charges, without trial, without due process — the fundamental pillar of our justice system — we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast, where we were primarily resident, and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps — prison camps, really, with sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us — in some of the most desolate places in this country: the wastelands of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, the blistering hot desert of Arizona, of all places, in black tarpaper barracks. And our family was sent two-thirds of the way across the country, the farthest east, in the swamps of Arkansas."

Japanese internment is a dark period in America's history, but in many history classrooms, the camps are only touched on briefly — if at all.

American citizens receiving their instructions for deportation. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

In my public school U.S. history curriculum, the internment camps were just a couple of paragraphs in a textbook, and we didn't talk about it in class at all. During college and through my own research, I learned so much more about the camps and the people inside of them — and why it's still important to talk about them.

Here are four key things that you should know - but might not have learned - about the forced relocation of Japanese Americans on U.S. soil.

1. Japanese internment began Feb. 19, 1942, and most evacuees were detained in the camps for about three years.

On that day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that paved the way for detainment and the relocation of Japanese-Americans. In the coming months, almost 120,000 West Coast residents were removed from their homes and sent to 10 camps across America.

The detainees were instructed to only bring belongings that could fit in one suitcase, and they were forced to leave behind their homes, businesses, and schools. Most of them had no idea if or when they would return. Can you imagine how terrifying that would be?

Most families didn't know where they were going or when they would come back. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

2. Most of the camps were isolated, and they lacked the resources and freedoms of the outside world.

The camps weren't fully constructed when the detainees were being evacuated, so some families were held in "assembly centers" like Tanforan, a racetrack. According to a survivor, they slept in horse stalls, didn't have access to running water or heat, and had limited access to bathrooms.

After Japanese-Americans were moved from the assembly centers to the more permanent camps, they usually lived in barracks, where there was limited privacy. The camps eventually had clinics and schools, but they were understaffed and under-resourced.

A notice informed Japanese-Americans they would be evacuated. Photo via U.S. government/Wikimedia Commons.

3. The detainees worked hard to make the camps feel like home.

Compared to the victims of the Nazi death camps, most of the people incarcerated in Japanese internment facilities had a much higher quality of life, and outright violence was rare. The detainees knew they wouldn't get to go home anytime soon, so they started making the camps their own.

Japanese-Americans wrote, published, and distributed their own newspapers in the camps. People who had been leaders in their communities pre-internment ran for elected office in their camp's community council. Young people put together bands and held dances. And even though most of the camps closed in 1945, survivors still meet periodically for reunions.


A community council holds a meeting in the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

4. When the camps closed, many Japanese-Americans didn't — or couldn't — go back home.

In his interview, George Takei said that going back to California from the camp in Arizona was a "horrific, traumatic experience." Because the internment period devastated businesses owned by Japanese-Americans, many families lived in poverty in the years after the war. The families who were detained left almost everything behind, but there was very little to come back to.

"We lost everything. We were given a one-way ticket to wherever in the United States we wanted to go to, plus $20. And many people were very embittered about their West Coast experience, and they chose to go to the Midwest, places like Chicago or Milwaukee, or further east to New Jersey, New York, Boston. My parents decided to go back to Los Angeles. We were most familiar there. But we found that it was very difficult. Housing was impossible. They would deny us housing. Jobs were very, very difficult." — George Takei, via Democracy Now!

Fumi Hayashi recounted to the Oral History Archives Project: "I remember once around Christmas time, wondering when we'd ever get out of there. And it's sort of like, 'Does the government really hate me this much?' ... It's a hard thing to accept, and there's no answer." Photo via U.S. Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons.

We want to think that something as terrible as uprooting and imprisoning an entire ethnic group could never happen in America, but it did. And it could happen again (just ask Donald Trump and his supporters).

So it's important to keep remembering—by telling our stories and listening to the people who tell theirs.