Book Review: Lost in Translation


I'm no linguist, but I'm fascinated by the limits, uses, and capabilities of language. Maybe it's the writer in me, or the Psych major, but the discrepancies in languages are completely captivating. Language shapes our world and how we process it. Expanding vocabularies help us manifest our experiences and emotions. Language is reciprocally determined by culture-- we shape language as language shapes us. As such, the words we don't have in English are particularly fascinating. I remember one such "untranslatable" word profoundly affecting my worldview for the better: wabi-sabi, a noun for the Japanese philosophy of perfection and transcendence that lies within the imperfect. Having such interest, I was excited to receive a copy of Lost In Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World from a group called Blogging for Books to review.


The author, Ella Frances Sanders, is a writer and illustrator who spends her time living all around the world, freelancing. I imagine she's been collecting these words throughout her travels. Each illustration is wonderfully simple, sometimes with very concrete illustrations, other times, it's more abstract visual interpretations of the words. I like the textural experiences she accomplishes through the illustrations by combining watercolors and thin-lined ink patterns.


Each pair of facing-each-other pages has the illustration and word on the right, and the country of origin and a little background on the left. The words come from all over the world across many different languages. Some of them are really beautiful, profound meanings, and others are more silly or just plain unusual-- for example, one word specifically refers to the time it takes for someone to eat a banana. I had a lot of fun reading this book and it's really creatively stimulating. I find myself thinking about creating my own illustrations about the words or writing stories or poetry inspired by them. It's such a relaxing little read and totally gets your brain moving again when it hits a creative wall.


Overall, this book was a lot of fun and I totally recommend it. It's a nice way to unwind and let your brain wander. I do recommend it for anyone who's fascinated by language and appreciates whimsical illustration.

I received this book in exchange for a review from Blogging for Books.

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5 comments:

  1. I've seen a couple other people review this book too and it really makes me want to get it! I may just get it for myself!

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  2. I love these photos! It looks really whimsical - great job of capturing the feel of the book! I totally want to pick it up now, words fascinate me!

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  3. It's really creatively stimulating, and I don't think I expected that out of this book so it was a great surprise!

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  4. I recommend it-- it's super entertaining, but also not a huge commitment to enjoy!

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