THIS BRIDGE CALLED LANGUAGE is an upcoming anthology of real-life stories, each inspired by a non-English word that does not have a direct, one-word English translation, (an “untranslatable” word). This anthology will allow the power of language, storytelling and personal lived experience to be the bridge between the imagined “us” and “them,” in a world that is increasingly filled instead with pieces of us all.


Language is an ever-changing reflection of who we are and what we value. Every language throughout history has had to grow and change to be able to create single words that reflect the complex feelings, situations and experiences that shape our understanding of ourselves. The English language is no different. It has grown and changed over time as well, creating new words to describe modern situations. Take for example, a few of the words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in recent years: “sexting,” “mash-up,” and “earworm” were added in 2012,  while “catfish,” “selfie” and “hashtag” were added in 2014.

However, there are many things that the English language cannot convey in only one word, like the joy of meeting someone again after a long time, (the French call it retrouvailles), or the tender act of running your fingers through someone’s hair (in Brazilian Portuguese it is cafune). Sure, we can try to explain words like these with long sentences, and qualifiers and context but there isn’t one English word that can truly capture the tone, the meaning and the weight of these “untranslatable” words.

Wouldn’t it be spectacular to have an anthology of personal stories, from a diverse group of writers, each inspired by a word from some world language that doesn’t have a direct one-word English translation? Wouldn’t it be great to allow the power of personal storytelling to illustrate these hard to translate words that speak volumes about the human experience? Wouldn’t it be delightful to allow language that has previously been a barrier to be a bridge, celebrating our differences while illuminating our similarities? (Yes! Yes! Yes!)


We are seeking true-to-life, personal stories, inspired by untranslatable words that capture the essence and experience of the word more than any attempt at a direct translation could. We seek true tales that convey both the unique and the universal in the magic of real life.

Got questions? Check out our FAQs. For information on how to submit your work, see our Submission Guidelines.


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