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For better or worse, anything sufficiently subtle or complicated can't be translated 1-1 across languages. There are too many problems of context, meaning, etc. For a strange example - the Intuit have 50 words for snow. How much subtlety would be lost translating that into English? It just wouldn't work.

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/there...

> have 50 words for snow

Untrue, but widely circulated and accepted myth [0]

[0] http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4419

Fair enough, but the point still stands. Languages don't map 1 to 1.

I guess if you live in SV you might not have direct experience with this, but English has a lot more than one word for "snow".

In Seattle we have 50 words for rain

Rain, stupid rain, fucking rain, miserable rain...

In Seattle we have 50 words for surprise at the lack of rain.

Really? Like what? I can think of things like snow (sleet, flurries, blizzard, powder) but not any direct synonyms. We can't hold a candle to the Inuit.

Maybe not official oxford dictionary words for snow, but as a skier, I can think of: Powder, pow, fresh, fatties, corn snow, crud, corduroy, slush, champagne powder, wet snow, ice coast snow, flurries, whiteout, etc..

Some words describing how it lays, some describing how it falls, some describing what it turns into, moisture content, flake size. This is how you get to "50" (or just multiple) words for snow. English does it too. It's not just generic "snow" that gets described with 50 words... (but some are just flavor: pow, fresh whateveryougetthepoint)

Why would you have multiple words for the same thing, that don't carry different shades of meaning or uses? What do you imagine these 59 words are used for? Cute little nicknames?

I wouldn't say you should! I imagine the Inuit have a much more sophisticated understanding of snow than someone from Massachusetts.


tl;dr: they modify words by adding suffixes (e.g. instead of adjectives). So they have (can make) 50 words out of anything

Intuit (sic) actually have fifty words for different types of _taxes_, the snow thing is a myth...

Sometimes things go well if the translators are good enough.

I read Neuromancer both in English and Catalan, in there there were programs called ICE (Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics, so a firewall) and the programs to break them were called icebreakers.

The catalan translator (Joan Fontcuberta i Gel) managed to translate ICE to GEL (I don't remember what the acronym mean, but it made sense). "Gel" is "ice" in Catalan, also is one of the translator's surnames. And so we could have "trencagels" as "icebreakers" (literal translation).

So, yes, most things are not easily translatable, so when they are they stand up and show us the craftmanship of the translators.

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