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About the project

Untranslatable is an indie project, crowdfunded and crowdsourced, that aims to explain words and expressions from all around the world.

Think 'Urban Dictionary', but multilingual.

What is Untranslatable?

Untranslatable is a project to shed a light on the side of foreign languages non-native speakers rarely get to see. We share idioms, expressions, slang and more, submitted and explained by native speakers.

Untranslatable doesn't just focus on what something means and what it translates to, also where it is used, by whom, and in what context. All this information is usually not included in the translation, and yet is very important and valuable in order to understand the true meaning.

This website will not replace regular dictionaries, but should serve as an additional source of information for those interested in languages who would like to get an inside view.

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Is it only for things without translation?

Not at all!

Untranslatability is a very complex subject.

In fact, translatability is a lot more complex than most people realize.

Because something as simple as "I am" can translate to "yo soy" or "yo estoy" depending on the permanency of the situation.

A simple phrase like "the grass is green" will translate to "the grass is blue" in Japanese, where green is considered a shade of blue.

One of the most difficult words for a translator might in fact be the word "you".

Everything can be translated to a certain extent, but some things require a little bit more explanation, and it is that extra bit of context and explanation we would like to share here on Untranslatable.

The name is inspired by the reaction you get from people when you ask them to translate or explain something from their native languages.

"It's kind of like this, but not really. It doesn't really have an exact translation, it's kind of untranslatable"

What makes Untranslatable unique?

There are hundreds of online dictionaries dedicated to slang, but rarely do they focus on slang and expressions from all around the world. Instead, they are often hyper-focussed and aimed to explain regional slang to native speakers from other regions. This is great, but can make it hard for non-native speakers to learn about slang and local expressions.

Beyond the inclusion of languages and dialects worldwide, users get asked extra information about the use of a certain word or phrase, like who uses something (teens, parents, politicians, etc.), and at what frequency.

The fact that people are allowed to submit from any language, and the focus on extra-linguistic information makes Untranslatable a project unlike any other.

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