“To unlock a society, look at its untranslatable words.”– Shame by Salman Rushdie
It has been an exciting month at This Bridge Called Language headquarters. I can’t wait to see what the coming months will bring as we continue to publicize the call for submissions for this upcoming anthology. In the meantime, here are a few updates for you to chew on as you work on your submission.
The most commonly asked question so far has been about word count. What is the word count minimum and maximum? Will you still read it if a work is outside of those constraints?
Here’s the answer: We do not have hard and fast constraints on the word count for submissions to this anthology. Ultimately, we’d like to see work whose length supports the content–work in which the storytelling feels complete, paints a picture and moves us, but is concise and doesn’t feel like it is packed with filler. Short or long, if it is a quality piece of work, we’ll take a look. If you still feel like you can’t move forward without some number guidelines, we recommend a word count between 500 and 5000 words. Feel free as always to send me an email on the subject with questions.
Finding an untranslatable word that moves you can be difficult—there are just too many to choose from! This doesn’t help you narrow down the field, but here are some additional resources for words. We’ve taken the liberty of pulling out a few notable words from each resource, just to whet your word-loving appetite!
8 Filipino Words That Don’t Translate to English (8list.ph) This site has great words, and fun illustrations for each word. This is a user submitted resource that apparently even includes a little bit of intercultural shade (all in good fun though). Notable word from this list:
- Tampo (Filipino): a pretend-tantrum one puts on to elicit apology from another party.
Tampo is a great word that could definitely inspire great story telling. It’s a short list (only 8 words,) but definitely worth checking out.
45 Beautiful Untranslatable Words that Describe Exactly How You’re Feeling. (Thought Catalog) This is a comprehensive resource with lots of repeats but some great words we haven’t seen much of as well. Notables from this list that are prime for great personal stories include:
- Mokita(Kivila): The truth everyone knows but agrees not to talk about.
- Dapjeongneo(Korean): When somebody has already decided the answer they want to hear after asking a question, and are waiting for you to say that exact answer.
- L’appel du vide(French): Literally translated to “the call of the void”; contextually used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.
Untranslateable Words from the MotherTongues Blog This blog has a section of all the posts related to untranslatable words and the selection is quite diverse. It includes more indigenous American, African and Asian words than I’ve seen in a lot of other resources. Here are some notables to think about:
- Hózhǫ́ (Navajo): Striving for balance in life, towards self, others and the earth. Being off-balance only on purpose.
- In La ‘Kesh (Mayan):“We are different faces of each other” or “I am another you”. These words are spoken with deep reverence as recognition of the divine within another person.
- Ukuph’ ukuziphakela (Zulu: South Africa). Literally: “Giving is to serve a portion for oneself.” Kindness is reciprocated. When one gives to another it is like serving a portion for oneself because when in need, it is most likely that the person one has helped, will return the kindness.
Hopefully, some of these words or resources will get your creative juices flowing!
Reaching More Writers
Know of a writers’ group, collective or writer’s center that we should reach out to (in the US or abroad)? Or a place where writers look or gather (virtually or in person) where we should publicize our call for submissions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions. We’ve done a great job so far, but we want to reach even more writers, of as many cultures and backgrounds as we can.
Editor, This Bridge Called Language