These words are unique

When translating texts you may stumble over words you can't find a suitable equivalent to. You usually have to translate the word in a half sentence. Some words might give you an expression for an activity or things you know about but so far didn't know how to call it.

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As a translator you repeatedly have to handle words that don't have an equivalent in other languages. Sometimes you need half a sentence to explain the meaning. But such words also could give you an expression for this activity or feeling that everyone knows but you didn't have a word for. 

In English…


The Urban Dictionary explains "to balter" as dancing artlessly, without particular grace or skill but usually with great pleasure. Just like the drunken uncle at the last wedding, where you wonder if he really is dancing, but you enjoy the sight and see the happiness on his face. This is a unique English expression. 


Describes the accidental discovery of something positive, or a process that unexpectedly led to something positive. It was "serendipity that penicillin was discovered. It was "serendipity" that my favorite band needed to postpone their show at a festival and I therefore got on the guestlist and allowed me to see another of my favorite bands. 

In Portuguese…


It's an improvised solution without having the knowledge or means to resolve the problem. The attitude to "resolve things somehow" is quite common in Portugal. Depending on the situation this can be positive or negative. A Portuguese who knows how to "desenrascar-se" (help himself) keeps a calm mind in stressful situations and looks for a solution that at least works for the moment. Mostly those aren't solutions made to resolve the problem for good. 


Longing for something is quite good as translation but doesn't cover the significance entirely. The feeling of "saudade" is part of the Portuguese culture. While longing is rather something negative and sad, saudade can be related to happy memories or hope. It's a mixture of feelings of longing, missing, nostalgia and dreaming. The feeling always comes from deep within the heart and is related to people or places you love like your home. 

In French…

"Cercle Vertueux"

Basically the same as "serendipity". Sometimes one positive thing leads to another and in the end you achieve something you didn't hope for. Basically, the opposite to Murphy's Law, something good causes something good and everything is like in a "circle of luck". 

"Savoir-faire" and "Savoir-vivre"

"Savoir-faire" not only refers to being able to do things, but the "something" more. Those people master what they do and add the certain "something" to the whole. The same accounts to "savoire-vivre" Obviously, every living thing knows how to live, but if you know how to "savoir-vivre" then you live your life to the fullest and you enjoy every last bit of it. 

"Je ne sais quoi"

Here we are talking about this "special something" that you can't describe or understand. This can be people who amaze you but can't really say why. Or a certain location that will always be in your memory although there's nothing special about it. Something "unknown" that makes you wonder, amazes you or disgusts you and you just can't say why. 

So, next time the "cercle vertueux" tempts you to "balter", follow the "savoir-vivre" feeling and don't lose yourself in "saudade" but hope for some serendipity and make use of some desenrascanço if you need to. 

Your alugha-Team





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