Being someone who considers themselves a second language speaker, I have always found that my native-language of Mandarin (although no longer as good as my English), holds a few words or phrases that I realized couldn’t translate into English. I say this not because there weren’t words for them in the English dictionary, because there were plenty, but because of the meaning that is lost in translating them into another language.
Mandarin has roots that trace back 3,000 years to the origin of the Chinese language, more recently becoming the common language of China over 700 years ago. Because of this, over the centuries, Chinese characters have gone from simply representing ideas or objects, to imbedding themselves into the deeper meaning of these ideas, becoming symbolic of what they represented.
I really don’t know if that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t have a non-English language where they can find an example of this. But essentially, what I’m trying to say, is as time as progressed, these words have solidified themselves as the sole-identifier for these ideas, meaning that the word in itself evokes instant imagery and clarity on whatever is being conveyed, it is the ultimate adjective, noun, verb, it requires no follow up, the word is a definition in itself just from the emotions it lets off.
Below I have jotted down a few that I’ve heard over the past several weeks that I don’t believe could ever be translated into another language and hold the same significance that it does in Mandarin.
香- xiang, like very good taste, smell, just feels right on the palate
aīyō，nǐzuò dèfànhǎoxiāng a!
Oh my, this food that you made is so savory!
(Personally when I use this word, it evokes an image of that scene from Ratatouille when Remi takes a bite of the cheese and strawberry together and colors begin to swirl together on screen as he’s just in ecstasy. Just to give an example of what I mean by evocative)
情 qing, like very caring of, adoring, affection, lovey-dovey
Zhuǎn pàn duōqíng
a loving (or soulful) glance
辛苦- xin ku, working very hard, deserving of praise, worked to exhaustion, withstanding bitter hardships
Lùshang xīnkǔ le.
You must have had a tiring journey.
脑海- nao hai, mind, same symbolic connotation as a heart that just doesn’t exist in English
nǐ cúnzaì wǒ shēnshēn dè nǎohǎi lí
You exist, deep in my mind
存- cun, to exist, to protect it, cherish, withstand the test of time
Love will last forever
轻- qing, weightless, gentle, worry-free, relaxing
Tā zǒulù jiǎobù qīng.
She walks with a light, carefree step.