Untranslatable Words


We’re hugely dependent on language to express how we really feel, and yet words often feel curiously vague or frustratingly inaccurate.

There are lots of moods, needs, and feelings that our own language has not yet properly pinned down. The perfect word – even if it comes from abroad – helps us explain ourselves to other people, and its existence quietly reassures us (and everyone else) that a state of mind is not really rare, just rarely spoken of.

This set of cards defines some of our favorite words from the world’s languages and marries them up with complementary images to create cards that bring some of our most important feelings into focus. We’ve created them to prompt greater reflection about the nature of language and the emotions.

Example Cards

  • DUENDE (Spanish): A heightened sense of emotion created by a moving piece of art.
  • FORELSKET (Norwegian): The euphoric feeling at the beginning of love. We can’t believe someone so perfect has wandered into our lives. They enhance and complete us. We might report: ‘I was overpowered by forelsket as our fingers interlaced…’
  • YŪGEN (Japanese): Gives a name to a mood in which one feels that the universe as a whole possesses a mysterious and elusive beauty. Moonlight, snow on distant mountains, birds flying very high in the evening sky, and watching the sun rise over the ocean all feed this sensibility.

20 cards in box | 159mm x 115mm x 20mm | 2023

The School of Life is a London-based organization built to help us find calm, self-understanding, resilience, and connection – especially during troubled times.

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