Sophie Elinor

Words you just can't translate

For International Translation Day, national broadcaster SBS wanted to create a special video project with people from different cultures, discussing words in their language which are difficult to translate in English.

Very happily, I was approached to create a series of typographic animations to help illustrate these phrases. The bright, bold visuals needed to reflect the warm and humorous tone of the video.

I kept the style of lettering the same across the whole project, but differentiated each phrase with movements that enhanced their meanings.

This is the Arabic equivalent of ‘when pigs fly’. Literally it translates as ‘when apricots bloom’, which is impossible in the extremely hot Arab climate.

Widely used in Mexico and Peru, "ahorita" literally means "now", but practically it could mean in ten minutes, an hour, a week... who knows!

This is the part of chicken between the thighs and the wings, much loved by the French! “Sot l'y laisse” translates as “the fool leaves it behind!”

In Hindi, "roothna" is a loving, bashful annoyance between lovers. It's not real anger; there‘s an element of coy affection and affectation in it.

"Philotimo" is a Greek virtue encompassing kindness, generosity and willingness to help. It's an offering of hospitality without expecting anything in return.