Sometimes you talk with people who’s native language is different from yours and it is nice when you find out that they actually do speak – or at least know some words – of your language. Apart from what they think about your language in general I find it interesting if there are any particular words they do like or words they find special.

For example, to me, the Portuguese word ‘saudade’ is special. Not just because it sounds almost like music but also because it has a very similar meaning to the German word ‘Sehnsucht’, which means a lot to me. Incidentally, there is no equivalent in the English language. To most people my native language German sounds odd and rather abrupt and not verymelodic. I agree that it certainly takes a lot more getting ‘into it’ before you discover its beauty (unlike French, where even swearwords sound like compliments!).
Many years ago I met a man in Cambridge who liked the word ‘Fünf’ – meaning the number five – as it was so different from anything he ever heard.
There are two words in German that Ana likes most. One is ‘zusammen’, which means ‘together’ while the other one is much more of a mouth full: ‘Umarmung’. It’s made of two parts (so you pronounce it ‘um-armung’) and you could translate it simply as ‘hug’. But then it wouldn’t sound like an Egyptian pharaoh and you simply wouldn’t do it justice. ‘Embrace’ is already closer to the target, but it’s a bit different still… it’s a very nice word, though!
Because ‘Umarmung’ really means ‘the process of wrapping one’s arms around somebody’ (‘um’ means ‘around, arms are fairly self-explaining and the ending ‘ung’ turns the verb ‘umarmen’ into a noun and indicates the process.) Looking at it from this angle I find the German word actually quite elegant, but of course I’m biased!
What really makes me happy is the fact that both words relate to something equally important to me: The concept of togetherness, the idea that one plus one is so much more than just the sum of its parts. I am a firm believer in this idea and without getting overly political here (in today’s climate it is of course political, but it’s more than that) I will not tire to mention it again and again: The world needs more ‘zusammen’ and a bit more ‘Umarmungen (that’s the plural) wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. As a matter of fact, I can think of some people out there who obviously didn’t get enough hugs when growing up.

Incidentally, that picture is already more than 17 years old… for Ana and me, ‘zusammen’ is more than just a word!

  • Date Posted - 22. March 2017
  • Key Words - Team