28 Genius Depictions Of Words With No Direct English Translation

05/09/2014 03:18 pm ET | Updated May 09, 2014

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But in this case, each image is worth just one.

Designer Anjana Iyer seeks to explain untranslatable words from non-English languages, with the help of a some quirky imagery. The New Zealand-based artist's series of illustrations, each of which is accompanied by a short explainer, effectively translates words that cannot be directly anglicized.

The series, "Found In Translation," draws from a variety of languages including Greek, Korean and Tshiluba (which is spoken in Democratic Republic of the Congo). Some of the terms Iyer chose to illustrate -- such as "schadenfreude," a German word that means the feeling of enjoyment derived from seeing the misery of others -- are more well-known examples of untranslatable words, while others are a bit less common.

Iyer began the series as part of the 100 Days Project, a web-based creative exercise out of New Zealand which asks artists to choose an activity and repeat it every day for the next 100 days. For the span of the project, Iyer will be illustrating a word that has no direct English translation. (She had already completed 41 images, as of Friday afternoon.)

See a sample of Iyer's illustrations of untranslatable words, below.

  • Anjana Iyer
    Fernweh (German)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Backpfeifengesicht (German)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Bakku-shan (Japanese)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Shlimazl (Yiddish)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Tsundoku (Japanese)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Waldeinsamkeit (German)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Pochemuchka(Russian)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Aware (Japanese)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Radioukacz (Polish)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Prozvonit (Czech)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Gattara (Italian)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Hanyauku (Rukwangali)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Rire dans sa barbe (French)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Friolero (Spanish)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Lieko (Finnish)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Papakata (Cook Islands Maori)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Komorebi (Japanese)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Cúbóg (Irish)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Tingo (Pascuense)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Utepils (Norwegian)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Won (Korean)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Ilunga (Tshiluba)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Schadenfreude (German)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Tokka (Finnish)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Istories me arkoudes (Greek)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Wabi-Sabi (Japanese)
  • Anjana Iyer
    Mamihlapinatapei (Yagan)

YOU MAY LIKE

CONVERSATIONS