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20+ Literal Translations That Can Encourage Anyone to Learn a New Language

A different language provides us with a new vision of life. Sure, studying a new language means learning different words for things we already know, but it also gives us another way to think about such things. And sometimes it can lead to laughable discoveries.

We at Bright Side love learning about foreign cultures and invite you to take a look at some amusing literal translations from all over the world.

  • In China, people refer to a refrigerator as “syut gwaih” or “snow cupboard.”
  • In Vietnamese, kangaroo is “chuột túi” which can also be translated as “rat pocket.”
  • Do you know what “amuse-bouche” means in French? It’s “mouth-amuser” or “a bite-sized appetizer.”
  • Don’t get scared when you hear about the “paper vampire” in Afrikaans. It sounds like “apier vampier” and also means stapler.
  • In Arabic, lobsters are called “surtan albahr” or “cancer of the sea.”
  • In Spanish, people call rollercoasters, “montaña rusa” which also means “Russian mountains.”
  • Adorable sloths in China are called “Shù lǎn” which translates to “tree lazy.”
  • In the Burmese language, marriage is “ain htaung” or “house prison.”
  • In Sanskrit, war is “gaviṣṭi” which literally translates to “desire for more cows.”
  • Our beloved avocados in Mandarin are called “niúyóuguǒ” or “cow oil fruit.”
  • In Germany, instead of raccoons, people adore “waschbären” or “wash bears.” While in France, people are captivated by the “raton laveur,” also known as the “washing rat.”
  • In Japan, when you need gloves, you can ask for “tebukuro” or “hand bags.”
  • The word “Chángjǐnglù” translated from Chinese is “giraffe” or “long-neck deer.”
  • In Sweden, people make salads from “frönsak” or literally, “green things.”
  • In Vietnamese, people have a lot of funny words for fish. For example, sharks are “cá mập” or “fat fish.” Whales are “cá voi” meaning “elephant fish.” And graceful dolphins are "pig fish’ or “cá heo.”
  • In Polish, “not my problem” is expressed as “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy” which also amusingly means “not my circus, not my monkeys.”


  • You know what seal eggs are in French, don’t you? You don’t? Well, it’s “phoque oeuf!”

What translations do you find the most amusing? Or maybe you know of other funny literal translations that we’ve missed? If so, feel free to share your knowledge in the comments!

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