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Language we love

At FutureLearn, we’re always on the look out for new sources of inspiration and share what we learn with the world every month in our “Things we love” series. Since it’s International Mother Language Day this Sunday, in this edition, our team talk about some of their favourite words from different languages.

At FutureLearn, we’re always on the look out for new sources of inspiration and share what we learn with the world every month in our “Things we love” series. Since it’s International Mother Language Day this Sunday, in this edition, our team talk about some of their favourite words from different languages.



A Hungarian word, literally “Donald Ducking”, aka staying home wearing a shirt but no pants.

– Eszter Kovacs, Social Platforms and Community Manager



A Japanese word for the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled together with other such unread books. While I love books, I have to admit that my own to-be-read stack is huge, and having a word specifically for that seems perfect for me.

– Melinda Seckington, Developer



A Scottish word for the moment of hesitation (and panic) when you forget someone’s name, just as you’re about to introduce them to someone else.

– Jess Weeks, Copywriter



This is a swedish word for the “pathway” of light that the moon can leave on water. I love that this is an untranslatable word and find it fascinating that there are concepts, like this, that cannot be properly explained across languages.

– Lily Kemp, Learner Stories


Hao (好)

This is a Chinese character which means “good” – the word you use to praise people or things, or put together as “good morning”. The character is made up of two parts – the left part means “female”, the right part means “son”. Think about how our ancestors constructed “good” by combining a female and a son.

– Minji Xu, Consultant



As I’ve got older, I’ve started to realise that time is running out. I have a long list of things that I want to achieve in my life, and every passing day is a reminder that I’ve barely made a dent in that list. This German word exactly describes such a condition, and literally translates as “closing-gate panic” – the idea being that an imaginary gate will be closing soon and after that it’s simply too late to do anything about it.

– Matt Hill, Front-end Developer



This is a German word which literally translates as “liquor-idea” or “a plan one hatches whilst drunk”. It delighted me so much when I heard it that I wrote a blogpost about it and decided to start learning German on Duolingo.

– Tess Cooper, Product Manager



Danish word which is only barely translatable as “cosy”. I first visited Copenhagen in winter 2002 or so and took my wife. The guide book talked about this word and we certainly felt it wherever we went – fireplaces, candles, schnapps, sitting outside bars covered in blankets etc. We came back laden with candle holders and bottles of Schnapps (which still sit relatively untouched in my drinks cabinet). Go over there, in winter, and experience it yourself.

– Simon Nelson, CEO


Ganbatte (頑張って)

Japanese word meaning “do your best” (or, formally, “ganbatte kudasai”). It’s often translated as “good luck” in English, and while English speakers might say “good luck” in the same situations, it doesn’t really mean that. It’s appropriate when the activity requires effort and isn’t just down to luck. Culturally, perseverance and hard work are important in Japan, so this word crops up a fair amount in anime and movies. It’s the word that comes to my mind quickest when I have a task to do or want to wish someone else well in their task.

– Liz Valentine, UX Researcher



Pronounced HEER-eyeth, with a rolled “r”, this Welsh word has no direct English translation, but can loosely be described as a homesickness and nostalgia for a past place or person. It’s a deep longing for your homeland and pull towards Wales. Check out Buddug James Jones’ show Hiraeth which sums up the concept – with music!

– Megan James, Partner Marketing Executive



In the Cornish dialect, you might say “I’ll do it dreckly” – where it sounds a lot like the English word “directly”, implying an intent to do something immediately, or at least soon. But in reality, “dreckly” isn’t time-bound at all – it means “later on”, “tomorrow” or even “maybe one day”. As well as causing much amusement when mistranslated, it’s also a reminder that living life at a slower pace can be more satisfying than trying to cram in too much and doing everything at a breakneck speed as a result.

– Kathy Skelton, Head of Strategy



This is a Swedish word that can be used both as a verb and a noun. Fika is a cherished tradition that you could roughly translate as a coffee break, but it’s more than that. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life, whilst chatting with friends and colleagues over coffee and something sweet (cinnamon buns are a popular choice). The coffee should be strong and served in abundance as multiple cups can be drunk whilst having fika (it’s no surprise that Sweden is one of the world’s biggest consumers of coffee). People will stop to fika at least once a day, sometimes twice. Slowing down and taking a break is the most important part (along with the coffee and cake), so if you happen to be working from home, or are otherwise alone (travelling, perhaps?), you can always fika solo.

– James Mockett, Front-end Developer


Do you have a favourite word from your own or another language? Tell us in the comments below. Want to know more about what inspires us at FutureLearn? Take a look at all of our “Making FutureLearn” posts.

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