General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Do you know any brief paragraphs, or sentences written in foreign languages whose unique beauty does not bear translation?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10191points) December 24th, 2016

There are foreign words, and phrases that are famous throughout the world. There’s something about them. A charm. “Ooh la la”, “Feliz Navidad”, “Gesundheit” ...

Do you know of any full sentences, longer phrases, paragraphs, even entire books that are best left in their native tongue?

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21 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

“Your mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras, you faithless slime.”

Jeruba's avatar

Some things in Latin. Some things in Sanskrit. Some things in Hebrew. All ancient, all essentially religious, all musical in some way, even if not actually set to music. I admire them even though I am no fan of religion.

And there are those who will say that sacred texts written in Arabic are untranslatable because the beauty of the language cannot be rendered in any other tongue.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Hasta LA Vista. Frara jacha.

janbb's avatar

Que sera sera.

janbb's avatar

Omnia patri e spiritus sancti

janbb's avatar

Arbeit macht frei.

Zissou's avatar

@janbb I think you mean “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti”.

Jeruba's avatar

And I think @RedDeerGuy1 means “Frère Jacques.”

gondwanalon's avatar

Cherchez la fem.

Jeruba's avatar

@Ltryptophan, the “unique beauty” part is what makes your question so interesting. Lots of phrases continue to be used in their language of origin, but I don’t think most of them are preserved because of beauty.

janbb's avatar

@Zissou Yes, I was lying in bed thinking I had blown it.

JLeslie's avatar

I know a lot of people who know the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. I guess it’s beautiful in English too, but for those who attended church back in the day, I would assume the Latin has a special feeling or meaning for them.

I had a bunch of others come to mind, but I’m not sure I would put them in the “beauty does not translate.” I’ll name them below anyway, you can decide.

La dolce vita.

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? (I had to copy that, I never would have known how to spell it out).

Cafe au lait.

A la mode.

Mi casa es su casa.

Joie de vivre.

Mazel tov.

Quid pro quo

I know a bunch of short phrases in Yiddish that are funny to the ear of an English speaker. In NYC even people who aren’t Jewish would know a lot of them, but not so much in other parts of the country.

arzikass's avatar

” در کار گلاب و گل حکم ازلی این بود————————کاین شاهد بازاری وان پرده نشین باشد”
Also any other verse by Hafiz. Hafiz’s lyrics cannot be translated in any way whatsoever. There were many attempts to do it, but the results were not and never will be successful.
I think it is somehow true about every language and every poem, but this is the most impossible one in my opinion.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Dum spiro spero.

Strauss's avatar

I always thought the “Homeric” Greek for this proverb sounded like the meaning:

Μουνος σοφος εστιν ελευθερος.

(Latinized): Mounos sophos estin eleutheros.

Translation: Only the wise are free.

Cruiser's avatar

Ich Liebe Sie

LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t know about meaning, but here are some common foreign words and phrases that I find particularly expressive:

Et tu, Brute?
Buon giorno.
Shalom.
Salaam.
Dasvidaniya
Como estas?
Andale!
Quesque se?
Mah zeh?
Mach schnell!
verboten

It has been a long time since I have last said these words, but this beginning of Hebrew prayers still moves me:
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam

simonjhollands's avatar

voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir ?

Jeruba's avatar

That one ^^^ was already cited by @JLeslie above.

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