Sometimes you need to get lost to find yourself. This might be in a new city or a new land entirely. Perhaps it is best, however, to get lost in a new language.
Proust once said that, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’. Learning a new language is a real voyage of discovery. Foreign words can change the way we see the world.
Getting lost in a foreign language is an expansive experience: it will open you up and widen your view. The taste and texture of new words can give you new ways to find beauty, express wonder and make peace. Ultimately, it could lead you to a more beautiful, wonderful and peaceful life.
Here are ten such words. Words to give you new eyes through which to see the world.
Nefelibata *Spanish* (adj.) ne-fe-lE-‘ba-ta
One who lives in the clouds of their own imagination.
One who does not obey the conventions of society, literature and art.
From the Greek word nephelt “cloud” and batein “walk” - literally “cloud walker”
Ya’aburnee *Arabic* (n.) Ya-ah-boor-nay
A declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.
Literally, ‘you bury me’.
Gezelligheid *Dutch* (n.) heh-SELL-ick
The coziness, warmth and comfort of being at home, or being together with friends or loved ones sharing time in a pleasant atmosphere.
Can also conote a sense of belonging, the feeling of seeing a friend after a long time, or any togetherness that gives a warm feeling.
A room, a person, a party or a visit to one’s grandparents could all be described as gezellig.
Wabi-sabi *Japanese* (n.) wah-bee sah-bee
A way of living that peacefully accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay.
Finding beauty in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.
Derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence.
Wabi connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age.
Fernweh *German* (n.) FEIRN-veyh, with fei as in feint
Feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been before.
An ache for distant places.
Literally ‘farsickness’ or ‘longing for far-off places’. Contrasted with Heimweh: ‘homesickness’ or ‘longing for home’.
Dépaysement *French* (n.) depeizmon
When someone is taken out of their own familiar world into a new one.
To feel disorientated but also the exhilaration of discovery and expanding your own boundaries.
Meraki *Greek* (adj.) may-rah-eke
To do something with soul, creativity, or love.
To put something of yourself into your work.
Elmosolyodni *Hungarian* (v.)
To slowly break out into a genuine smile when being overcome with emotions, like love or utter happiness.
Kairos *Ancient Greek* (n.) KYE-ross
The perfect, delicate, crucial moment; the fleeting rightness of time and place that create the opportune atmosphere for action, words or movement.
The ancient greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. Whilst the former refers to chronological time, Kairos is a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.
Resfeber *Swedish* (n.) RACE - fay - berj
The restlessness of the traveler's heart before a journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together.
That jolt in your heart the second you officially purchase your plane tickets.
Literally, ‘travel fever’.
People fear what they don’t understand. But, understanding other languages is important. It helps us to celebrate our differences and appreciate what makes us human.
Let these words provide you with a new way of seeing the world. It could also be a new way of seeing ourselves; a way into recognizing the differences and the likenesses that define you. Looking into another language, into another culture, is like looking into a mirror with new eyes.
Foreign languages can take us around the whole world. But ultimately, they can bring us closer to our most authentic self.