Untranslatable sentences: me da pereza

Today I´m bringing you one of those untranslatable phrases that I enjoy collecting, only this time it goes the other way round: it´s an expression in Spanish for which I can´t find a good English translation.

Example scenario: it´s Friday evening, and the company´s Christmas party is starting in a couple of hours. Outside it´s already dark, and quite cold; the snow from the previous night has started turning into ice. I´m feeling warm and cozy at home, and when I start thinking about dressing up and going out, into Dublin´s city centre, to attend the party...

Me da pereza.

Grey cat lying on its side a wooden shelf, looking at the camera

That´s what I would say in Spanish, "me da pereza", which loosely translates as "I´m overcome with a feeling of laziness when I think about doing X". It´s as if I got tired just from thinking about it. It´s a powerful sensation that comes upon me... and pushes me toward the couch 😀

Looking around, I´ve found two possible translations: "I don't feel like it", which more literally translates as "no me apetece", and "I can't/couldn't be bothered", which basically means that I'm not going to do it, either because I don't consider it to be necessary, or because I'm not interested, or because I'm too lazy to make the effort.

I guess from those two, the closest one is "I don't feel like it", because it conveys the idea that I think doing X is a good idea in general, but at this moment in particular I don't have the energy or the will to do it. The other one, "couldn't be bothered", doesn't fit as well, in my opinion: it doesn't seem to me that it values X in any way (due to passivity, indifference, or who knows why) and it's also assuming that, whatever X is, I'm not going to do it.

And that's the beauty of "me da igual" or "I don't feel like it", in my opinion: it's an obstacle but not a blocker, just a barrier that can be overcome. Very often, our brain wants to go for the easy option, the comfortable one, the one that saves the most energy, and it has good reasons (namely preservation instinct). But we don't have to always pay attention to it, because it doesn't always know what's best for us...

I'm not saying that we shouldn't listen to our body when it really needs to rest, of course we should. But beyond that, it may be good for us to think about what it is that's holding us back, and why. What's hiding behind that laziness? What are we really trying to avoid? And what reward can we find if we go ahead regardless? That way, we will know if it's worth making that initial effort.

Did I finally go to the party? Yes, I did. Why? Because I knew that once I got there, I would have a great time, and that's exactly what happened. What was my strategy? The same one that's worked for me so many times in the past - going straight into getting ready without thinking too much about it, and most importantly, not sitting on the couch!

What about you? What is it that you don't usually feel like doing, and how do you motivate yourself to get over it?

Untranslatable sentences: walking down memory lane

Today I´m bringing you another one of those "untranslatable" English expressions that I love, this one I think is a really cool metaphor: walking down memory lane, which we could loosely translate into Spanish as "darse un paseo por la calle de los recuerdos".

And that´s precisely what I´ve been doing this weekend: accompanying my friends in their own walk down memory lane, returning to places they hadn´t visited in many many years. It turned out to be a wonderful walk, both in the literal and figurative sense, and inevitably, we created new memories (thanks a million ladies!)

Stack of old black and white photos

In Spanish, the closest thing to memory lane that I can think of is something called the trunk of memories, from a famous song by Karina:

Searching through the trunk of memories
Any time in the past seems better than now.
Taking a look back is good sometimes,
Looking ahead is living without fear.

Another interesting metaphor, I think. And also during this weekend, I found myself searching inside that trunk, rescuing special moments with someone very close to my heart who passed away recently, and to whom I would have liked to be able to say goodbye.

I agree with the idea that it´s good to take a quick look back every now and then, and fondly remember the things that were, for at the end of the day, as my grandma used to say, "those times brought about these ones". But let´s be careful not to wallow in it for too long, or it may prevent us from making the most of the present moment...

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

Robert Brault

Untranslatable sentences: back to basics

Here’s another one of those phrases that I like to call “untranslatable” - it’s not that they’re impossible to translate into Spanish, but they sound much much better in English, in my opinion, and you have to kind of explain their translation so that people can understand it well (other phrases and expressions here, here and here).

And today’s phrase is “back to basics”, which roughly translates to “Volver a lo básico”.

And what are the basics? Well, it depends on the topic that´s being discussed. If we´re talking about decoration, for example, or fashion, it might mean choosing simple colours and lines, instead of more complex styles. If we´re talking about primary education, it might mean returning to focus more on essential subjects like reading, writing, and maths. To me, the general idea conveyed by “back to basics” is that we have become so sophisticated (in whatever area) that we have forgotten what is truly important, the basis of it all, and we must return to it.

It´s a sentence that can be applied to many situations, at home, at school, and at work. Today, I´d like to propose that we use it as a reminder to look after ourselves.

woman doing hand heart sign while looking at the sunset

Looking after ourselves first, so that then we´re able to look after others, or take care of our own tasks. Because, how often are our days so busy, and so full, that they go by without us dedicating any time or attention to ourselves? And by the time we realize it, we´re already out of energy, already exhausted.

It may be due to us believing that other things are more important, that other people must come first… But that´s not sustainable in the long run. I love the way Katie Reed expresses it:

"Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what's left of you."

Katie Reed

Would you like to have the energy required to give the world the best of you? Then I suggest that you return to focus on these four basic pillars, if at any point you have stopped paying attention to them:

  • Rest – getting enough sleep every night (enough hours of deep, restoring sleep), as well as taking short breaks during the day.
  • Diet – keeping to healthy, balanced, and if possible, natural foods. Also, drinking lots of water in order to stay hydrated, and practicing conscious breathing every now and then, to help oxygenate each and every cell.
  • Exercise – dedicating some time to move, even better if it´s outdoors, and often. If you choose something that you like and find motivating, you´ll be more likely to keep at it: your favourite sport, swimming, running, dancing, yoga…
  • Connection – finding the balance between spending time connecting with others (as we are all social animals) and also connecting with ourselves, so that we can "keep our batteries full".

What do you think about these four basic pillars of self-care? Would you add any others? Which one do you think would be good for you to give more time and attention to, at this moment in your life?

Untranslatable sentences: food for thought

As I´ve already said a couple of times in this same blog, there are a few phrases and sentences in English that I love and for which I can´t find a good Spanish translation, and vice versa.

The phrase that came to my mind today is “food for thought”, which is basically something that makes you think when you read or hear it. The Spanish translation would more or less say “food for your mind”.

Which is what I aim to make available to you through these weekly articles: a few ideas and quotes that can spark reflection… and if we´re lucky, even a bit of action.

Here´s today´s food for thought:

The steps that you don´t dare take also leave a mark.

Grela Bravo

In what direction do you want your steps to take you? And what´s preventing you from taking that step that you haven´t attempted yet?

Untranslatable sentences: spread too thin

These last two weeks have been a bit crazy for me: tasks and meetings at work were getting on top of each other, with some of them planned and some unplanned, and to be honest, I was mad busy.

And as it usually happens, it was not a case of me being very busy with one particular thing; instead, I had to take care l of multiple things at once, so I spent my days in a state of alertness, splitting my attention (or rather, dispersing it), and constantly switching between tasks.

Does it sound familiar?

Thankfully it was only for the two weeks, and now there´s a quieter period coming up. Otherwise, I would have found it exhausting.

And all of this reminds me of another one of those expressions that I really like but find impossible to translate, or at least I´m not able to translate in an elegant way, from English into Spanish: to be spread too thin. I´m not sure whether the phrase originated here, but I remember reading something very similar in The Lord of the Rings, in words said by Bilbo Baggins:

"I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread."

I think all of us may have felt this way at some point in our lives. And what can we do? Well, a few things come to mind:

  • Become aware of what´s happening to us, and recognize how that´s affecting us physically, mentally and emotionally. This is the first step: once we know it, we can do something about it.
  • Reduce as much as possible (or even better, eliminate) multitasking, that is, this doing several things a the same time. In a future post, I´ll take the time to explain why multitasking doesn´t work, but just for you to know, it doesn´t work, even if we get the impression that it does 🙂
  • Rest and take care of ourselves as much as we can during this time: sleep time, good diet, a bit of exercise and fresh air... (please note that I´m not counting watching Netflix, or scrolling through social media in our smartphone "to unwind", in my opinion that doesn´t work either, it´s not relaxing)
  • Whatever we cannot avoid, let´s take it in the easiest possible way. This may seem paradoxical, but if you think it through, if we take the pressure that´s already there and add another layer to it with our own worries, stress levels are not going to decrease, quite the opposite, they will increase. Patience and good humour will make it all more bearable.
  • And also very important, though we may not always think of it: whatever we can avoid... let´s avoid it! Here I like using the four Ds that David Allen lists in his book Getting Things Done:
    • Do it (if it takes you less than two minutes),
    • Defer it (schedule it for later),
    • Delegate it (get somebody else to do it), or
    • Delete it (it´s not the end of the world if it doesn´t get done).

Do you agree with these strategies? What others can you think of? How do you deal with this feeling of being "stretched too thin"?

Untranslatable sentences (or nearly)

You may have noticed that this is a bilingual blog: it´s published in Spanish, and also in English. I have the good fortune to speak both languages, and I´m also an amateur translator, so I get to enjoy double time with this blog: first while writing the weekly post, and then again while translating it 😊

But it´s true that every now and then I bump into a word or sentence that I find really hard to translate… Something that sounds great to me in one language, but then loses all its spark once translated. And it´s not just with the blog, it happens to me also in daily life, and I suspect I´m not the only one suffering from it. At home, I spend most of my time speaking Spanish, but there are certain words and expressions that I always say in English, because in Spanish they just don´t fit. And at work it´s the opposite situation: I speak with my colleagues in English, and sometimes I struggle to explain an expression or saying that would be super simple if I said it in Spanish.

One of those sentences that sound amazing in English, which is why I always say it that way, is something I learned years ago in a yoga class for pregnancy. I love the way it sounds and also what it conveys; I repeat it often to my three “babies”, and I say it to myself as well, because I believe it´s something we can all benefit from hearing:

You are lovely, you are lovable, you are loved.

Beautiful, right? And in English it sounds so musical, so special, almost like a poem. Now, we translate it into Spanish, and it turns out something like “eres adorable, te mereces amor, eres amado/a”. The message is still very nice, but which version sounds better to you?