Tag Archives: Ella francis sanders

Speaking in tongues by Ella Frances

An illustrated compendium of untranslatable expressions

Yesterday I bought this book by Ella Frances Sanders and I just can’t stop reading it. It was love at first sight and I was not wrong: I’m enjoying each and every page of this surprising, beautiful and engaging  work.

Curious expressions from around the world

If you are a translator, a linguist, or you simply enjoy the intricacies of language, I bet you’ll love it too. In this book you’ll discover lots of hidden treasures from all over the world waiting to be found and  over 50 beautiful ink illustrations that will make you smile and dream. It’s a quick enough read and makes the perfect gift for word nerds.  It is a charming collection of  drawings featuring quaint and funny expressions that have no direct translation into other languages, most of them quite surprising, hilarious or even shocking.  Each phrase receives a two-page spread. On the right hand side, the author provides the phrase in its original language along with its translation—both of which are superimposed on the illustration. On the left hand side, Sanders interprets the expression’s meaning. Furthermore, the author gives context, history, the equivalent in different countries, if any, and takes notice that some of them are not true to facts. It’s no wonder it has become an international bestseller!

Most of the expressions in the book are idioms —with a figurative  and often surrealistic meaning— showing the quirky ways people  express themselves in different languages and cultures*, yet some of them are interjections which convey emotions in an astonishing and exclamatory way. The title of the book itself is a sort of idiom: speaking in tongues or Glossolalia is a phenomenon in which people speak in languages unknown to them.

*In Romanian, ‘îl scoţi din pepeni’, (literally, ‘To pull someone out of their watermelons’) is to drive someone crazy, a bit nuts. In French ‘J’ai le cafard’ (literally, ‘I have the  cockroach’) means “(to) feel blue”, that is to say (to) feel sad, somber, or glum.

As for the author, her bio reads “Ella Frances Sanders is a writer out of necessity and an illustrator by accident. She currently lives and works in Bath, UK. Her first book, Lost in Translation – An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words is an international bestseller, and her second book The Illustrated Book of Sayings – Curious Expressions from Around the World was published in September 2016″.

So, without further ado, here are the covers and back cover:

English version

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Spanish version


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French version

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The illustrated book of sayings

A charming illustrated collection of more than fifty expressions from around the globe that explores the nuances of language

Lost in Translation Note Cards: Untranslatable Words from Around the World 

Collection of note cards featuring illustrations of phrases and words from around the globe with no English equivalent—the perfect gift for word nerds and aspiring travelers of all stripes.

Recommended book

translators through history
This account of how they have contributed to the development of languages, the emergence of literatures, the dissemination of knowledge and the spread of values tells the story of world culture itself.