English is a language with many fantastic words in it, some of which we have looked at in the past. However, what about those amazing words that other languages boast? Here are some great foreign words for you to try out.
1. Schadenfreude - German
The person who invented this world was an absolute genius. It means to take pleasure from someone else’s misfortune, which is something we all like to indulge in occasionally. This word is so good that we use it in English without even trying to translate it. The simple fact is that there no word in English which so accurately sums up the petty, small minded yet joyous feeling of seeing someone else fail. Sure, you could talk about morose delectation or gloating but neither of them gives you the same warm glow as this German word. The German language even differentiates between secret and open schadenfreude, which is a direction I would love the English language to take as well.
2. Bakku-shan - Japanese
The sexism police might be rapping on my door after reading this one but all I can do is blame the Japanese. You see, they have this wonderful word which just kind of rolls off the tongue. What does it mean, though? Well, it means a lady who looks pretty from behind but not from the front. I think it is safe to say that most guys (and girls!) has felt the deflating effects of bakku-shan at some point and we really need to start using this word in English. I couldn’t find an equivalent word to describe men, which is a bit of a shame.
3. Espirit d'escalier - French
This French term describes something which happens to me on a regular basis. You know what it’s like; you are out with your friends and swagger over to talk to an attractive girl but it turns out to be one of those horrible bakku-shan moments. When you go back to your mates they are enjoying a prolonged bout of schadenfreude at your expense. It is only when you are in taxi on the way home that you think of the perfect witty response which would have saved the situation and turned you into the hero again. Espirit d'escalier is translated as staircase wit, which means that it is the witty response you only think about when it's too late because you have already gone down the staircase on the way home.
4. Nunchi – Korean
I sometimes worry that I might not have sufficient nunchi to get through life without problems. The Koreans use this fantastic word to describe someone who understands the mood of the people they are with and manages to avoid saying the wrong thing. Sadly, I am the one who will always, always make an inappropriate joke or say something regrettable in a group situation. You might call nunchi something like emotional intelligence in English.
5. Desenrascanco – Portuguese
The Portuguese are incredibly cool people, aren’t they? They would have to be to come up with a lovely word like this one. Desenrascanco means to get yourself out of a tangle but there is more to it than this. It embraces and celebrates the spirit of someone who gets themselves into a scrape and then has the necessary skills and personality to get themselves out of it. Do you remember that A Team episode when they got captured but cunningly made a tank that fired cabbages so that the baddies went flying through the air but didn’t actually get harmed in any way? If Hannibal could have spoken Portuguese he would have lit a cigar and smilingly said “Desenrascanco, my friend”.
Do you have a friend who has progressively turned orange in the last few years? If so, then you are already familiar with the disturbing side effects of slampadato. This Italian word is used to tell us that someone can’t stay away from the hot, bright and rather smelly world of tanning salons. This is just one of the brilliant words in Italian. If you want to learn this language you could start by taking a quick test of your current level.
What other great foreign words have you come across?