The Accuracy of the German Language Makes Translation Difficult

German is a language in which vocabulary multiplies through composition: words come together and acquire other meanings, precise but difficult to translate into other languages.

The almost unlimited possibility of joining words, juxtaposing or postposing radicals gives the German language a very rich and precise vocabulary. The meaning of the new words that arise is deduced from the elements that compose them. This makes it possible for the language learner, for example, to grasp the meaning of a previously unknown word, as long as he knows what the elements that form it mean.

Capturing the meaning, however, does not necessarily mean correctly employing the wide variety of related terms. And, much less, translate them correctly into your mother tongue.

In some cases, you have ti simply add the meaning of the parts to have the meaning of the new expression. An example: Mantel means coat, especially. Wintermantel is a winter coat, Pelzmantel, a fur. But is Bademantel a bathing suit? Or for bath? Of course not: Mantel here corresponds to the robe, thus a bathrobe.

Another example is the word joy (Freude) and its typically German variants. Is there a word in another language that expresses the anxious expectation of something that is about to happen, but already makes us happy in anticipation, like Vorfreude?

Less noble is that slightly mischievous feeling of joy when something bad happens to someone – do you have any expression for it? For the Germans have Schadenfreude, literally, mischievous joy, pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

There is no one who does not, from time to time, enjoy the misfortune of others. But perhaps it does not have a specific denomination in other languages ​​because it is considered petty. So much so that Goethe himself condemned it once, seeing in it a sign of the inability to feel sympathy with others. According to him, when people become really bad, they can not share anything else except for Schadenfreude (“Wenn die Menschen recht schlecht werden, haben sie keinen Anteil mehr als Schadenfreude”). On the other hand, there is a German saying that the most beautiful joy is precisely this pleasure with the misfortune of others (“Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude”).

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