March Reflection: The Importance of Language

Being the geeky blogger-type that I am, I love the written word in all its forms. In my travels across the world, I have come to understand that the words that make up the language of a place reflect its unique culture and vision of life – the result of which is a plethora of native tongues which are as varied in nature as the regions that they emanate from.

If you like to travel like me, then all too often this can leave you quite literally lost in translation.

Allow me to help you out with a handy little pocket translation guide for some of the regions I have been lucky enough to visit, and where I have subsequently learnt the local language.

We’ll start with a little county in England. A place with it’s own, very unique take on the English language, and the location of my home during my adolescent years.

6 words that have a completely different meaning in Essex


1. Have it: to own / possess something

Essex meaning: to party hard. For example: “I’m gonna HAAAAVE IIIIIT” (pronunciation of the “H” in “have” not compulsory)

2. Proper: correct according to social / moral standards

Essex meaning: extremely. For example: “I’m leaving mate. This party is proper bleak”.

3. Bleak: deserted / barren

Essex meaning: disappointing. For example: “She’s well fit, but I took her on a date and found out that she’s actually well bleak”

4. Well: fit and healthy

Essex meaning: see “Proper”. Use interchangeably.

5. Mug: a large receptical used to hold tea

Essex meaning: Someone who has been taken advantage of. For example: “I can’t believe he sold me that motor and then it broke down on the A12 to Basildon. I’m a right mug”

6. Chardonnay: a variety of grape, used for making champagne and other white wines

Essex meaning: One of the girls in your class at school. For example: “Chardonnay’s been suspended cs she was caught sniffing Wayne’s glue stick behind the bike sheds”

We move to Qatar next, where after living here for 18 months, I feel I am finally starting to understand the intricacies of the Arabic language.

6 words that you need to understand before you visit the Middle East



1. Shukran: thank you


2. Salam: Direct translation: peace. Used for: hi!

3. Khallas! a term used to mean that something is completely and irrevocably done, finished, and over. No seriously. Just stop. 


4. Yalla! Let’s go!


5. Marhaba habibi (m) / habibte (f): welcome, friend


6. Inshallah (or insha’Allah): Direct translation: God willing. Used for: this is never going to happen. Well, it might. Just not right now because I’m going home.

And finally, let’s go to the rest of the world and some of my favourite words that are completely and utterly unique to that particular place.

6 untranslatable words from around the world



1.  

2. 

3. 

4. 

5. 

And finally, my favourite; a word which describes the very reason I started this blog in the first place.

6. 

Which unique words or translations do you know, from where you live or around the world?

I have posted this as part of EmmaKelly and Rebecca’s March Travel Link-Up. Head over to any of the girls’ blogs (or to guest Sam’s) to add your own post on the topic of ‘Lost In Translation’.

29 Comments

    • March 1, 2015 / 7:53 pm

      Thanks love. Me too, and proud!

      Polly xx

    • March 1, 2015 / 7:55 pm

      Haha, I miss Essex! It was a really fun one, I have loved reading some of the stories 🙂

      Polly xx

  1. March 1, 2015 / 8:14 pm

    In one of the posts like this I found an italian word I didn't know (culaccino, which is the mark of the mug of tea/coffee) and I was kind of upset. Then I asked around and no one knew it. So I learned an italian word from an English guy. LOL.

    Languages are so interesting 🙂

    Eithne on the Moon | Lifestyle, books and travels!

    • March 2, 2015 / 7:59 am

      Haha, it's amazing where you get these little tidbits of knowledge from! Thanks for passing that on, I will try to remember culaccino. It's an apt one for me, as I'm always leaving tea stains around my house!

      Polly xx

  2. March 1, 2015 / 9:39 pm

    What a great blog post! I always wondered what Yalla meant (there's a restaurant called Yalla Yalla behind Oxford Street)

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    • March 2, 2015 / 7:59 am

      Thanks so much Miss LC! I LOVE that that's a restaurant name, I wonder if it sells Arabic food…

      Polly xx

  3. Anonymous
    March 1, 2015 / 9:40 pm

    Hwl – Welsh for spirit and energy, which you seem to have in abundance Polly. As spoken by your great grandmother.

    • March 2, 2015 / 8:01 am

      Aww thank you, whoever this is! Great word, and I'm impressed that my great grandmother was able to speak such an amazingly difficult language. I obviously didn't acquire those genes.

      Polly xx

    • Dad
      March 2, 2015 / 5:19 pm

      It was me Polly, and I spelled it wrong! It should be hwyl, to be correct. My granny was a native Welsh speaker called Myfanwy Rees before her marriage. There is a bit of Welsh on Gran's side too, incidentally. Apart from English and Welsh, my granny and grandpa spoke mandarin, Tamil and Urdu between them. So what went wrong with you, eh?! ; )

      xx

  4. March 1, 2015 / 10:54 pm

    I lol'd at Chardonnay! It's such a strange name for a child…
    I think language is such a fascinating thing, although, I am terrible at learning it. I like to just appreciate languages I don't understand and there's a strange kind of peace and quiet that happens when I'm standing in a place and can't understand anything.

    My colleague and I played a game once. We had a safety document (that's not important haha) that had about 20 translates of the same warning. Since I work in quite an international environment, we thought we'd walk around and ask people to find and read their native tongue. It's really fascinating hearing others read languages that are just so completely different from english. Even when I can see what they were saying, I still found it so hard to comprehend a language that's not in the latin alphabet.

    Happy Sunday!

    ~ K

    http://www.crumbsinthebed.com

    • March 2, 2015 / 8:06 am

      Ha! There are all kinds of variations on the name Chardonnay in Essex. Destiny is another popular choice with a completely different meaning!

      I'm terrible at languages too, but still fascinated by them. Completely relate to what you say above!

      There's nothing quite like hearing someone speak fluently in their native tongue is there? I'm sure the Italians/Spanish/French amongst them made the boring safety document sound everrrrr so romantic!

      Polly xx

  5. March 1, 2015 / 11:34 pm

    Essex meets Arabic, proper genius!

    • March 2, 2015 / 8:07 am

      Haha, thanks Emma. I quite like the idea of an Arabic guy growing up in Essex and merging these two tongues. Can just imagine it: "Oi oi saveloy, can't wait to go to this proper banging gig tonight, inshallah!"

      Polly xx

  6. March 2, 2015 / 2:29 am

    i love this, such a sucker for these things too!

    xo welltraveledwife.com

    • March 2, 2015 / 8:09 am

      Pleased I'm not the only language geek around here! I love your mardis gras post – hooow fun does that look?!

      Polly xx

  7. March 2, 2015 / 1:48 pm

    Loved this, Polly! I've learned everything I needed to know about the Essex vocabulary from … yep, TOWIE (guilty as charged). I loved your selection of untranslatable words from around the world too! There are some words in Chinese that can't be translated to English … I sometimes think of these words to describe something and then have a hard time trying to explain them to John. Language is amazing! xo

    • March 2, 2015 / 8:31 pm

      So I almost quoted directly from TOWIE but I thought my more discerning reader may not appreciate it. SO pleased it has been educational for you like it has me though Jaime! Ooo, could you share an interesting Chinese word for me to learn?! Love language!

      Polly xx

  8. March 3, 2015 / 10:45 am

    I love that word komorebi! such a pretty concept of dappled sunlight. sounds much better having a word dedicated to something so nice. I had a good laugh at your Essex words – have heard it around but your descriptions have made it all clear.

    • March 4, 2015 / 10:18 am

      It's stunning isn't it! I love any words that describe sunshine in any of its forms 🙂 Hehe, glad my Essex dictionary was educational for you.

      Polly xx

  9. March 3, 2015 / 4:59 pm

    I have never been good at languages but I find them so beautiful, so I like reading little things like this where I can try to grasp just a few words! Has it been hard living somewhere where the language is so different? I hear Arabic is very difficult to learn!

    • March 4, 2015 / 10:19 am

      It's been so difficult! With Arabic, not only is the pronunciation so hard to master, but there's obviously the issue of an entirely new alphabet too. I'm resigned to learning just the real basics. Any more than that will be a bonus.

      Polly xx

  10. March 4, 2015 / 2:57 pm

    Very jealous of your time in the Middle East! I loved visiting Qatar and still find myself sometimes saying "yalla yalla" when things are going too slow. Maybe I spent too much time in taxis with drivers complaining about the traffic??

    • March 6, 2015 / 5:23 am

      Ahh you've been to Qatar! Not many people have, surprisingly. Haha, that sounds about right – the traffic is a daily source of frustration over here!

      Polly xx

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