Tag Archives: Lost in Translation

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‚ÄĒboth of which are superimposed on the illustration. On the left hand side, Sanders interprets the expression‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒwith a figurative¬† and often surrealistic meaning‚ÄĒ 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, ‚Äė√ģl¬†scoŇ£i din pepeni‚Äô, (literally, ‚ÄėTo pull someone out of their watermelons‚Äô) is to drive someone crazy, a bit nuts. In French ‚ÄėJ’ai le cafard‚Äô (literally, ‚ÄėI have the¬† cockroach‚Äô) 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

Click on the pictures for further information.

Spanish version


Clica en la imagen para más información

French version

Pour obtenir de plus amples informations, veuillez cliquer sur la photo


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‚ÄĒthe 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.

The best movies featuring translators and interpreters

Translators and interpreters in the movies

Though it hasn‚Äôt been plain sailing, I have finally created a list of movies featuring translators and interpreters. From thrillers to sci-fi, rom-coms to comedies, there’s something for every taste. Have you seen these films? If you have any suggestions, queries, or just comments regarding this collection, don‚Äôt hesitate to get in touch!

    Películas educación


Original title:¬†Arrival¬†¬†Country: USA¬† Release: 2016¬†Director:¬† Denis Villeneuve¬† Screenplay by Eric Heisserer.¬†Based on “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang¬† Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

Denis Villeneuve directs this outstanding sci-fi movie that will delight translators, interpreters, philologists and linguists. The movie revolves around communication with an alien species, that has suddenly arrived, seemingly out of nowhere.

The hypothesis of this sci-fi movie states that language alters the way we think and the way we see the world. This theory, which contradicts Noam Chomsky‚Äôs ‚Äėuniversal grammar‚Äô, is known as linguistic relativity or Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

The military, in order to work out whether the aliens come in peace or not, hire a linguist (Amy Adams) who, in turn, will experience important changes as she deepens in communicating with the extra-terrestrials.

It is a highly recommendable movie that will appeal to both linguists and good sci-fi lovers.

Also Known As (AKA)> Albania (complete title): Kontakti i Par√ę; Argentina: La Llegada; Brazil: A Chegada; Bulgaria (Bulgarian title): –ü—ä—Ä–≤–ł –ļ–ĺ–Ĺ—ā–į–ļ—ā; Canada (French title): L’arriv√©e; Canada (English title): Arrival; Chile: La Llegada; Croatia: Dolazak; Czech Republic: PŇô√≠choz√≠; Estonia: Saabumine; France: Premier contact; Germany: Arrival; Greece: őó ő¨ŌÜőĻőĺő∑, Greece (transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title): I Afixi; Hungary: √Črkez√©s; Israel (Hebrew title): Ha’mifgash; Italy: Arrival; Japan (English title): Message; Lithuania: Atvykimas; Mexico: La Llegada; Peru: La Llegada; Poland: Nowy poczńÖtek; Portugal: O Primeiro Encontro; Romania: Primul contact; Russia: –ü—Ä–ł–Ī—č—ā–ł–Ķ; Serbia: Dolazak; Slovenia: Prihod; South Korea (working title): Contact; Spain: La llegada; Turkey (Turkish title): Gelis; Ukraine:¬† –ü—Ä–ł–Ī—É—ā—ā—Ź; USA (working title) Story of Your Life, USA: Arrival; Uruguay:(original subtitled version) La Llegada; Vietnam: Cuoc Do Bo Bi An.

Chuck Norris Vs Communism

Original title: Chuck Norris Vs Communism  Director: Ilinca Calugareanu  Country: Romania Writer: Ilinca Calugareanu  Cast: Irina Margareta Nistor, Ana Maria Moldovan, Dan Chiorean

A great documentary which is worth mentioning is Chuck Norris Vs Communism. In a miserable Romania set in the eighties, a young radio newscaster, Irina Nistor, dubbed thousands of smuggled movies which allowed Romanians to learn about the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Chuck Norris vs Communism

The Interpreter

Original title: The Interpreter  Country: United Kingdom  Release: 2005  Director: Sydney Pollack Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Sydney Pollack, Jesper Christensen,Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron.

 An African-born UN interpreter, a widowed Secret Service agent and a plot to kill the genocidal leader of Matobo are the key elements of this engaging movie. Both Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman nail their respective characters in this intelligent thriller. Catherine Keener, the supporting actress and winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, deserves a special mention. The Interpreter isn’t a light and fun thriller; the viewer needs to be focused to keep track of the plot by Sydney Pollack. Recommended for any translator or interpreter fond of intrigues and unexpected turns.

Also Known As (AKA)> France:¬† L’int√®rprete; Spain, Argentina, Chile: La int√©rprete; Germany: Die Dolmetscherin; Greece: őó őĒőĻőĶŌĀőľő∑őĹő≠őĪŌā; Portugal and Brasil: A Int√©rprete; Russia:¬†–ü–Ķ—Ä–Ķ–≤–ĺ–ī—á–ł—Ü–į; Turkey:¬†√áevirmen;

The Terminal

Original title: The Terminal  Country: USA  Release: 2004   Director: Steven Spielberg  Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Eddie Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, Zoe Saldana, Kumar Pallana.

This movie is based on facts. An immigrant from the Balkans is caught up at the New York JFK Airport just after the war breaks out in his country. Soon, he starts experiencing communication difficulties. Despite the leading actor and director’s tendency towards unnecessary corny scenes, it is certainly an entertaining movie.

Also Known As (AKA) > Brazil: O terminal; Germany: Terminal; Greece: The terminal; Argentina, Chile, Spain, Urugay: La terminal; France and Canada (French title): La terminal; Portugal:¬†Terminal de Aeroporto; Russia: T–Ķ—Ä–ľ–ł–Ĺ–į–Ľ.


Original title: Stargate  Country: EEUU  Release: 1994 Genre: Sci-fi  Director: Roland Emmerich  Cast: James Spader, Kurt Russell, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Mili Avital, Alexis Cruz,Djimon Hounsou, Richard Kind, Erick Avari, John Diehl.

A linguist is given a curious assignment to translate some whimsical tables from Ancient Egypt. His translation will become the key that will open a fascinating but threatening world. Strongly recommended for translators and interpreters who enjoy sci-fi and fantasy films.

Also Knwon as (AKA) > Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay: Stargate: la puerta del tiempo; Brazil: Stargate, a Chave para o Futuro da Humanidade; Canada (French title) and France Stargate:¬†La porte des √©toiles; Germany: Stargate; Russia:¬†–ó–≤—Ď–∑–ī–Ĺ—č–Ķ –≤—Ä–į—āa; Spain: Stargate: puerta a las estrellas


Original title:¬†Windtalkers¬† Country: EEUU¬† Release: 2002¬† Director: John Woo¬† Cast:¬†Nicolas Cage,¬†Adam Beach,¬†Christian Slater,¬†Peter Stormare,¬†Noah Emmerich,¬†Mark Ruffalo,¬†Brian Van Holt,¬†Martin Henderson,¬†Roger Willie,¬†Frances O’Connor,¬†Jason Isaacs,¬†Kevin Cooney.

A messenger man uses native American languages to send messages during War War II. The army, despite counting on anthropologists to try to decipher communications, can do very little. Although at times it can seem somewhat repetitious and far-fetched, translators and linguists may still enjoy it.

Also Known As (AKA) > Argentina, M√©xico: C√≥digos de guerra; Brazil and Portugal: C√≥digos de guerra; Canada (French title):¬†La voix des vents; France: Windtalkers – Les messagers du vent; Germany:¬†indtalkers; Russia:¬†–ď–ĺ–≤–ĺ—Ä—Ź—Č–ł–Ķ —Ā –≤–Ķ—ā—Ä–ĺ–ľ; Spain: Windtalkers; Ukraine: Ti, —Č–ĺ –≥–ĺ–≤–ĺ—Ä—Ź—ā—Ć i–∑ –≤i—ā—Ä–ĺ–ľ



Original title: Charade  Country: USA  Release: 1963   Director: Stanley Donen  Cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy,Ned Glass, Jacques Marin, Paul Bonifas, Thomas Chelimsky.

Audrey Hepburn is a UN translator and interpreter whose husband is murdered for no apparent reason. This event triggers a plot that reminds us of Hitchcock. The grace that Hepburn boasts when getting in the interpreter’s booth has gone down in cinema history. It is a must-see for all Audrey Hepburn fans.

Also known as (AKA) > Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, Spain: Charada; Brazil and Portugal: Charade; Denmark: Charade – tre mand frem for en enke; Finland: Charade – ett farligt spel;¬† France: Charade; Greece:¬†ő°őĪőĹŌĄőĶő≤őŅŌć ŌÉŌĄőŅ ő†őĪŌĀőĮŌÉőĻ; Hungary:¬†merikai fog√≥cska; Italy:¬†Sciarada; Norway: Hvem svindler hvem?; USSR:¬†–®–į—Ä–į–ī–į; Turkey:¬†√Ėld√ľren s√ľphe; West Germany: Scharade

La Traductrice

Original title: La Traductrice (The translator)  Country: Switzerland/Russia   Release: 2002  Genre: Drama  Director: Elena Hazanov Cast: Alexander Baluev Julia Batinova Sergei Garmash Elena Safonova Bruno Todeschini

Ira, a young Russian woman in her twenties, lives in Geneva with her mother and doesn’t know much about her home country. Tashkov is an alleged member of the Russian mafia in jail waiting for his trial. Ira, who is a translator working for Tashkov’s defence attorney (defence lawyer) quickly succumbs to Tashkov’s charm, who is a powerful and learned man and seems to have the gift of reading her thoughts. But Tashkov will soon manipulate the young lady who wants to find her roots and her own way in life. When it dawns on her that danger can be hidden where least expected, it may be too late.¬†

películas sobre traductores


Fresh Suicide

Original title: Fresh Suicide  Country: India Release:  Director: Anupam Barve

Short film shot in a very realistic style. A young Indian translator works for an American journalist who is creating¬†a photo feature on farmers’ suicides in rural India. Strongly recommended.

Full movie:

Lost in Translation

Original title: Lost in Translation  Country: USA  Release: 2003 Director: Sofia Coppola  Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris.

An actor in hard times and a photographer’s wife meet in Tokyo. The language and cultural barriers work as a metaphor for the character’s isolation… something more than just a friendship will develop in this crossroads. Although it is not directly related to translation, it strikes me as an inescapable reference.

Also known as (AKA): Argentina, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay: Perdidos en Tokio; Brazil: Encontros e desencontros; Germany:¬†ost in Translation – Zwischen den Welten; Greece: XőĪőľő≠őĹőŅőĻ ŌÉŌĄő∑ őľőĶŌĄő¨ŌÜŌĀőĪŌÉő∑; Italy:¬†ost in Translation – L’amore tradotto; Portugal: O Amor √Č um Lugar Estranho; Turkey: Bir konusabilse…

Everything is illuminated

Original title: Everything Is illuminated  Country: USA Release: 2005  Director: Liev Schreiber  Cast: Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Boris Leskin

Rare and interesting movie telling the story of a young Jewish man who endeavours to find the woman who appeared in the picture his grandfather was holding in his deathbed. It also features the character of a translator/interpreter. The soundtrack by Paul Cantelon is also a great asset to this movie.

Everything is illuminated

Also known as (AKA): Argentina; Mexico, : Una vida iluminada; Germany, Austria: Alles ist erleuchtet; Brazil: Uma Vida Iluminada; France: Tout est illumin√©; Italy: Ogni cosa √® illuminata; Poland: Wszystko jest iluminacja; Portugal: Est√° Tudo Iluminado; Russia: C–≤–Ķ—ā –≤–ĺ–ļ—Ä—É–≥; Spain: Todo est√° iluminado; Sweden: Allt √§r upplyst


Original title: Spanglish  Country: EEUU Release: 2004  Director: James L. Brooks  Cast: Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce, Sarah Steele, Ian Hyland, Victoria Luna, Cecilia Suárez.

A Mexican woman with a low level of English migrates to the US to work in a wealthy family’s house. The language barrier is soon evident. The best part is during the end credits, though some people will dislike this movie, and others may even find it fun.

Películas sobre traductores e intérpretes

Also known as (AKA) > Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela :¬†Espanglish; Brazil, Portugal:¬†Espangl√™s; Canada (French title): Spanglish – J’en perds mon latin!; Croatia:¬†Ň†panjolski engleski; Denmark: N√¶sten helt perfekt – Spanglish; Greece: IŌÉŌÄőĪő≥ő≥őĽőĻőļő¨; Hungary: Spangol – Magamat sem √©rtem; Poland: Trudne sŇā√≥wka; Romania: Cum sa nu devii american; Russia:¬†–ė—Ā–Ņ–į–Ĺ—Ā–ļ–ł–Ļ-–į–Ĺ–≥–Ľ–ł–Ļ—Ā–ļ–ł–Ļ; Spain: Spanglish

La ni√Īa de tus ojos

Original title:¬†La ni√Īa de tus ojos (The Girl of Your Dreams)¬† Country: Spain¬† Release: 1998¬† Director: Fernando Trueba¬† Genre: Tragicomedy¬† Cast: Pen√©lope Cruz, Antonio Resines, Jes√ļs Bonilla, Jorge Sanz, Loles Le√≥n, Rosa Mar√≠a Sard√†, Neus Asensi, Santiago Segura.

A group of Spanish filmmakers are invited to Nazi Germany to shoot the German-Spanish production ‚ÄėLa ni√Īa de Tus Ojos‚Äô (The Apple of Your Eye) at the UFA studios in Berlin.

As Carmina points out, the character of the interpreter shows up, playing a rather humorous role due to the embarrassing situations in which he gets involved in the making of the musical drama.

ALso Known As (AKA) > Brazil:¬†¬†Garota dos Seus Sonhos; France: La fille de tes r√™ves; Germany: Das M√§dchen deiner Tr√§ume; Italy: La Ni√Īa dei tuoi sogni; Russia:¬†–Ē–Ķ–≤—É—ą–ļ–į —ā–≤–ĺ–Ķ–Ļ –ľ–Ķ—á—ā—č; Turkey: R√ľyalarin kizi; USA: The Girl of Your Dreams

Desert Flower

Original title: Desert Flower  Country: United Kingdom   Release: 2009  Genre: Drama / Biopic  Director: Sherry Horman  Cast: Liya Kebede (Waris Dirie), Sally Hawkins (Marylin), Timothy Spall (Terry Donaldson), Soraya Omar-Scego (Waris as the kid)

Waris Dirie (Liya Kebede) is in the hospital and needs an interpreter. Much to her dismay, she comes across a Somali translator who is giving personal opinions instead of accurately translating what she says.

Also Known As (AKA) > Austria:¬†M√§dchen aus dem Goldland; Brazil: Flor do Deserto; Denmark: T√łsen fra Texas


cursos para traductores intérpretes y redactores

Zero Dark Thirty

Original title:¬†Zero Dark Thirty¬† (2012 )¬† Genre: Thriller¬† ¬†Director:¬†Kathryn Bigelow¬† ¬†Cast:Jessica Chastain,¬†Joel Edgerton,¬†Taylor Kinney,¬†Kyle Chandler,¬†Jennifer Ehle,¬†Mark Strong,¬†Chris Pratt,¬†Mark Duplass,¬†Harold Perrineau,¬†Jason Clarke,¬†√Čdgar Ram√≠rez,Scott Adkins,¬†Frank Grillo,¬†Lee Asquith-Coe,¬†Fredric Lehne,¬†James Gandolfini,¬†Reda Kateb,¬†Fares Fares,¬†Stephen Dillane,¬†Homayoun Ershadi

Instead of featuring only one interpreter, there is a collection of interpreters, who help trace Osama Bin Laden. 

Also known as (AKA): Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Spain : La noche m√°s oscura; Brazil: A¬†Hora Mais Escura; Canada (French title): Op√©ration avant l’aube; Hungary: Zero Dark Thirty – A bin L√°den-hajsza; Iraq: Si daghighey-e bamdad; Italy: Operazione Zero Dark Thirty; Japan: Zero D√Ęku S√Ęti; Lithuania: Taikinys #1; Poland: Wr√≥g numer 1; Portugal 00:30 A Hora Negra; Romania: Misiunea: 00.30 A.M.; Russia:¬†–¶–Ķ–Ľ—Ć –Ĺ–ĺ–ľ–Ķ—Ä –ĺ–ī–ł–Ĺ; Ukraine: T—Ä–ł–ī—Ü—Ź—ā—Ć —Ö–≤–ł–Ľ–ł–Ĺ –Ņ–ĺ –Ņi–≤–Ĺ–ĺ—ái


Original title:¬†Babel¬†¬†Release: 2006¬† Genre: Drama¬† Director: Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rruti Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garc√≠a Bernal,¬†KŇćji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza,¬†Rinko Kikuchi

Directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu, with a script by writer Guillermo Arriaga, Babel premiered at Cannes on May 23, 2006 and completes I√Ī√°rritu‚Äôs ‚ÄúTrilogy of Death‚ÄĚ, which started with Amores Perros.

This film was the Golden Globe winner for the best drama in 2007 and candidate for seven Oscars, among them best film and best director (though it only got the best soundtrack award).

The film narrates three intertwined stories which take place in different parts of the world: Japan, the United States and Morocco. It features four different languages with some hindrances related to language barriers (such as the American couple that suffers an accident in Morocco) or the communication skills (the story that takes place in Tokyo focuses on a deaf teenager).

Also Known As (AKA) > Sweden: Jakten p√• den magiska stenen; Bulgaria:¬†–Ď–į–Ī–Ķ–Ľ

Blood Diamond

Original title: Blood diamond (2006)  Director: Edward Zwick Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Arnold Vosloo, David Harewood, Caruso Kuypers, Michael Sheen, Basil Wallace, Ntare Mwine, Stephen Collins, Chris Petoyan (AKA Chris Astoyan), Jimi Mistry

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of a white Rhodesian arms dealer in Sierra Leone. He sports an amazing accent and he also speaks krio and many times acts as an interpreter.

Also Known As (AKA) > Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Spain: Diamante de sangre; Brasil, Portugal: Diamante de Sangue; Canada (French title): Le diamant de sang; Greece:¬†őúőĪŌĄŌČőľő≠őĹőŅ őīőĻőĪőľő¨őĹŌĄőĻ; Italy: Blood Diamond – Diamanti di sangue; Romania: Diamant insangerat; Russia:¬†–ö—Ä–ĺ–≤–į–≤—č–Ļ –į–Ľ–ľ–į–∑

The Interpreter (TV Series)

Original title:¬†šļ≤ÁąĪÁöĄÁŅĽŤĮĎŚģė (The Interpreter)¬† Genre: Workplace rommance¬† Country: China¬† Director:¬†Wang Ying¬† Cast:¬†Yang Mi,¬†Huang Xuan

This list wouldn‚Äôt be complete without a special mention of this Chinese series starring Qiao Fei (Yang Mi), who studies French and dreams of becoming a professional interpreter. His mentor whilst studying in Paris is Cheng Jia Yang (Huang Xuan), the son of a foreign minister and an outstanding interpreter of French to Chinese. This series is based on the novel ‚ÄúLes Interpr√®tes‚ÄĚ by Miao Xuan. It was¬†a commercial hit in China.

películas sobre traductores e intérpretes


Top 10 actors who can pull off foreign accents