People always cite “gezellig” as being the ultimate Dutch untranslatable word, but I’m not too fussed about “gezellig”. There are ways to get around “gezellig”.
The word that gets my neurons in a frizz is “inhoudelijk“. Especially in the following sentence: “Ik heb een inhoudelijke vraag”. I have a question about… “The contents”? That’s not right. “The nitty gritty”? Ugh. “The subject matter”? Not really something we say, and I worry people would misunderstand. Do you have a better idea? Click here to help me out!
That’s not the word that most people look up, though. In terms of popularity, the number-one untranslatable word on this website is “ervaringsdeskundige“. Have a look at the article and see if you have a good idea for a translation. Kind of in the same genre is “hulpvraag“, which I have also never been able to find a satisfactory translation for.
Another popular one is “keuzestress“. A lot of Dutch people would be very grateful for a good translation, so your help would be appreciated!
Then we have “twijfelen“. There’s plenty of ways to translate “twijfelen”, but which one is the best? I am in doubt, I’m conflicted, and I’m on the fence about it. Perhaps there’s one perfect translation I just haven’t come up with yet? Click here.
“Verdieping” in the sense of “laten we de verdieping opzoeken” is another tricky one, and so is “uitstraling“ in the sense of a person who is not beautiful per se, but has great presence.
My untranslatable Dutch idioms are “een stok achter de deur“, “een sigaar uit eigen doos“, “je ogen uitkijken” and “ik ben er echt heel erg aan toe“.
There’s more, but let’s stick with these for now. It would be great if you could do some “meedenken” – ah, that’s another one! Ideas, thoughts, commiserations… they’re all very welcome, just click on the word you’d like to help me with and leave a comment under the article with your remark. Thank you ❤️
Heddwen Newton is an English teacher and a translator from Dutch into English. She has two email newsletters:
English and the Dutch is for Dutch speakers looking to improve their English, but also for near-native speakers who write, translate into, or teach English. Also interesting for people who like to compare Dutch-speaking culture to everybody else in the world.
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