Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words

I pick up my copy of Lost in Translation and it automatically falls open at Fika, Swedish verb meaning “Gathering together to talk and take a break from everyday routines, usually drinking coffee and eating pastries – either at a cafè or at home – often for hours on end.” This is because Fika is my 5-year old’s favourite word. Next on her list is “Samar”, Arabic n. “staying up late long after the sun has gone down and having an enjoyable time with friends.” Next up is Wabi-Sabi, Ubuntu, Goya, Jugaad and Saudade.

She has worked them into the English language in ways thoroughly unintended and each time I am able to pull out the perfect word for an emotional occasion, her eyes lit up and she says, “That’s exactly it! That’s exactly what I mean to say, but there is just no words for it.” Turns out, there is a word for almost everything, just not always in the English language.

Lost in Translation is a small, manageable, engaging, enjoyable chunk of words from a wide range of languages across the world that capture a moment perfectly. The way light filters through a tree, solving problems with frugal innovation, falling out of love, the marks left on the skin when wearing something tight, sensing the passing of time on a cosmological scale. It’s all there.

Product Information

Retailer: Amazon +

Price: ± £5 – £7.50
Delivery costs: Free Delivery

About Ella Frances

“Ella Frances Sanders is a writer out of necessity and an illustrator by accident. She currently lives and works in the city of Bath, UK, without a cat. Her first book, ‘Lost in Translation – An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words’ was a New York Times bestseller, and her second book, ‘The Illustrated Book of Sayings’ will be published in September 2016.”*


  • Genre: Coffee table book
  • Target age range: Adults, Older adults
  • Target gender: Unisex/gender neutral design

dexterity 100cognitive challenge 100





Environment & People

destress 100durable 100educational 100funicon100genderneutral100recyclable packaging 100





It’s a beautiful book with a lovely collection of words and for £7.50, it’s a cost-effective choice and would make a lovely gift or coffee book table.


Product dimensions: 17.3 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
Pages: 112 pages
Available formats: Kindle edition, Hardcover
Publisher: Square Peg
Release date: June 2015
Language: English


Culture and language is closely tied together. Learning a new word easily coincides with embracing a new habit, finding a new perspective or remembering how you really want to live your life. When my 5-year old gets frustrated with a mistake she made and cannot fix when creating something, I say Wabi-Sabi, find the beauty in imperfection and incompleteness. As we arrive at a beach, shoes are kicked off and she impatiently encourages everyone to get their shoes off for murr-ma, – time to go treasure hunting with our toes!

Lost In Translation is a lovely collection of beautiful words, but its also a binder of life lessons as each word has been carefully selected to have high emotive expression that encourages a positive outlook and embraces a mindful approach to life.

Highly recommend.

The review is based on the Hardback copy of Lost in Translation. Read more about Ergohacks’ eco and access icons used in reviews. This article was first published on 26 August 2016.

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