Learning Language – Schadenfreude

One of the interesting things about languages is the fact that sometimes words cannot be translated between one language to the next. I was reminded of this in New York as Thorsten and I were watching Avenue Q. There is a song called Schadenfreude. It is a German word describing the concept of deriving pleasure out of someone else’s pain or misfortune.

I managed to youtube the song in case you were curious.  I do not own this video, I just happened upon it.

There is no English equivalent of this. We literally just steal the German word.

This is not the only word we have stolen from another culture. In all honesty, most languages steal a lot of words from English. This is mostly in the technological world. You may not think about it, but it’s there: words like telephone or computer a lot of times are taken and somewhat adapted into the other language:

Spanish – teléfono, computadora

German –Telefon, Computer

Russian – телефон, компьютер (for those of you not familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet – it reads the same way as in German)

We don’t think about since English is the dominant business language. We only do when we look at what words we have stolen:

RSVP – French; répondez s’il vous plait

Cul de sac – French

Gummy Bear – German; English spelling of Gummibär

Dopplegänger – German

Kindergarten – German

Lederhosen – German

Wunderlust – German (yearning for travel…..I have this!)

Wunderkind – German

You can find more; I just went and looked more at English words from German. I think the concept of adopting words from other languages is very cool. Sometimes a language just understands a certain concept better….or at least it feels that way. Sometimes a word is perfect as it is and there is no need to come up with an equivalent.

What do you think?

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