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Weekend Challenge: Untranslatable

Cameron Christopher
December 13, 2013 by Cameron Christopher Staff

Hello there, my li'l linguists,

Words are crazy, right!? There's a lot wrapped up in the way we express ourselves through language. I've been feeling particularly inspired by John Koenig's film "Sonder", which is the product of his project The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

Though we can read and understand the definitions of words, real or fictional, it's often better to experience the word in some way. In the spirit of the meaning behind words, we're challenging you to explore these untranslatable words with video as your medium, illustrating their approximate definitions, the moods they reveal, or the memories they surface.

So go ahead; pick a word from this list:

Duende(Spanish) The heightened state of emotion after a particularly expressive artistic performance gives you chills, makes you smile, or causes you to cry.

Hyggelig(Danish) This means something that has to do with cakes and sweets, cozy comfort with family at home, and candlelit darkness under blankets. Who cares if it's hard to describe, it sounds amazing!

Jayus(Indonesian) A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh. We all have that friend.

L'esprit de l'escalier(French) The predicament of thinking of all the things you should have said just after you've left the conversation.

Mamihlapinatapei(Yagan) The wordless, understanding look shared by two people, each hoping the other will start something they both desire but are unwilling to suggest. Oof.

Mokita(New Guinean) The truth everyone knows but nobody talks about.

Schadenfreude(German) Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others, which I'm sure you've all experienced while watching fail videos.

For a little extra inspiration regarding the power of words, check out the aptly named Words by Everynone, which reveals the multiple meanings we give these bits of our language. By only occasionally revealing the word they're illustrating, they compel the viewer to think about the words through the entire piece:

+ Create a video based on one of these words. Make sure you either title your video using the word, include it in the description, or use it in the video!
+ Keep it under 3 minutes.
+ If you add music, make sure you use a song you or a buddy created, or something from the Vimeo Music Store! If you do choose to use a Music Store song, please throw a link in the description.
+ Add this at the end of your video's description: "Created for the Weekend Challenge:"
+ Upload and post your video to the Weekend Challenge Group by *****Tuesday, December 17th, 2013***** at 11:59 PM (EST).

Only videos made specifically for this Challenge will be considered.

+ The winner will receive a free Vimeo Plus account for one year! If you're already a Plus member, you'll get another year.
+ The runner-up will receive an extra 3GB of upload space!

All videos must be approved by the Vimeo Staff before appearing in the Group, so don't worry if your video doesn't show up at first; we'll get to it!

Ready for a challenge?

Use your eyes and your camera to make a video about a word!

Accept this challenge
In this ongoing Vimeo Video School series, we present our community with fun challenges to help hone their video-making prowess.


Allan Crook Plus

Awe man. That looks amazing. But I have another shoot planned for this weekend. Baws.

Allan Crook Plus

Thanks man. I've been trying to find a tenuous link from my script to one of those words but it's just not happening. ho hum.

Ryan Toyota Plus

No trophy this time? ;)

Cool idea. Looks like this one will require further research into each word.

Daniel Hayek Staff

Hey Ryan, we're working on an alternative to trophies that we think everyone will appreciate more :)

Fabricio Lima Plus

Awn, sad you forgot one word, from the Portuguese "Saudade" :)
its a word that describe a feeling, that its not easily translated into other languages...
but it means something like "missing someone" or... "missing something..."


I would love to hear how americans / english speakers pronounce hyggelig :)

BabbittdaWabbitt Plus

"Hyggelig" - Pronounced High-Gelligg.... Right ? No ?
Just kidding. This looks like too much fun. Once again.

Brian Kimpson

WHYYYY CAMERON?!?! This is such a great video idea, but I have finals and no time.

Cameron Christopher Staff

Hey, I get the finals pressure. Tuck it away and make it some time without the pressure of the Challenge, and make sure to send it to me when you do!

BabbittdaWabbitt Plus

First try uploading was botched, so I tried again. Not sure if there's two copies.

Kristen Hanson

I made a video with a similar premise as this, but with English and French words. Videos about words are the best! Check out Homonymes:

BabbittdaWabbitt Plus

Had to redux...again. These computers are crazy. Much like the people who made them.

Fabian Zanco

Oh just saw the message today, bummed I'm too late t use my idea, I was going to use Mamihlapinatapei! I'll keep it for another time, at least I got inspiration for the future from this weeks challenge.

Ori Gomez

But...duende means leprechaun (I'm spanish)

Chris Ava PRO

OMG there are so many words in Greek that cannot be translated..dont know where to start, its a tough one...Eudaimonia....

armen perian Plus

they should just rename l'esprit de l'escalier to "Armen's life."

Mike Ochtman

Here's another word for someone to try: "Saudade".
A Portuguese word describing the deep melancholic longing for something passed; especially if the thing or person longed for is unlikely to return or repeat. The feeling you get when a truly, deeply loved person passes away. Grief, sorrow, melancholy, all wrapped into one word. Saudade.

Aziz Shoukri

where can i check the winners from the last challenge ?

R&M Pictures

There is no accurate translation for the word cinematography in german, a cinematographer would be a 'Kameramann' (a camera operator rather then a cinematographer in my eyes at least) and it could eventually be described as 'kamerafuehrung', but there is no word that truly translates cinematography, i'd love to be proven wrong though...

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