Translatable and Untranslatable vocabulary in IELTS Speaking

Brainstorm things into the categories below, only writing down the ones that one of you didn’t know before your partner told you about it.

Types of accommodation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parts of a home/ Furniture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places where people live (“city” etc)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Types of job

 

 

 

 

 

Festivals/ Celebrations

 

 

 

 

 


Things related to festivals/ celebrations

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places people go in their free time

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free time activities

 

 

 

 

 

Types of music

 

 

 

 

 

Types of TV programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

Types of food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare with the list on the next page. Did you come up with any high level language that isn’t on that list?

 

When you were brainstorming, did you think of any words in your language which you couldn’t translate? How could you explain those things in the speaking test?

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Suggested answers

Types of accommodation

(university) halls/ dorm

condo(minium)

council flat

high rise

shared house

studio (flat)

Parts of a home/ Furniture

balcony

cooker

corridor/ hall

fitted kitchen

fridge

intercom

living room

master bedroom

wardrobe

Places where people live (“city” etc)

capital (city)/ regional capital

(seaside) resort

(small/ medium-sized/ large) village

city centre/ downtown/ town centre

commuter town/ satellite town

outskirts

suburb

Relationships

(distant) relation/ relative

(former) classmate

(former) colleague/ co-worker/ workmate

(maternal/ paternal) grandfather/ grandmother

_____-in-law/ my in-laws

acquaintance

ancestor

best friend/ good friend

direct boss/ line manager

drinking buddy

ex (husband/ wife/ boyfriend/ girlfriend)

fellow alumni

female friend/ male friend

fiancé/ fiancée

great grandparent

great uncle/ aunt

niece/ nephew

old friend

partner

school friend/ childhood friend

stepmother/stepfather

Types of job

admin staff/ clerk

businessman/ entrepreneur

cashier/ shop assistant

office worker

profession

Festivals/ Celebrations

local festival

marriage ceremony/ wedding reception

Things related to festivals/ celebrations

fireworks/ sparklers

party poppers

speech

toast

Places people go in their free time

(live/ music) venue

amusement arcade

hot springs (resort)/ public baths

masseur

Free time activities

a… reunion

channel hopping

chill out/ veg out/ take it easy

go clubbing

have a lie in/ catch up on my sleep

meet up with…

surfing the net

window shopping

Types of music

classic rock

classical

dance/ techno/ house

folk

folk

girl band/ boy band

indie/ alternative

pop

world music

Types of TV programme

adaptation

cop series

costume drama/ historical drama

current affairs

mini-series

murder mystery/ whodunit

news broadcast

quiz show

reality show

sit-com

sketch show

soap opera

stand-up comedy

talk show

travel programme

weather forecast

wildlife documentary

Types of food

(Sunday) roast

dessert

fast food/ junk food

main course

microwave food/ ready meals

starter

soup/ stew

Try to think of a word or expression which is basically untranslatable from your language in one of the categories above (including phrases that are only used in your country but are based on English), then use phrases like those given below to describe that thing until your partner guesses what it is. Do they agree that it is untranslatable and think you described it well?

Although there’s no obvious translation, it could be explained as…

(Foreign/ Young) people sometimes think this means… but in fact/ actually…

I think most people know what a… is, but anyway it…

In Japan we say this when (we are talking about)…

It has something in common with…

It’s a bit like (the British/ American/ Chinese/ Korean…) but…

It’s something like…

It’s the closest Japanese equivalent to…

The normal/ usual translation for this is…

There’s a word/ expression in my language, “_________”, which means…

This also exists in China/ Korea/ most Asian countries/…

This is in English dictionaries, but not everyone knows it. It means…

This is often explained as…

This means (something like)…

This only exists in Japan (and a couple of other countries) and is…

Translated word for word, it would be…/ The direct translation is…

Do the same with the expressions on the next page.

Ask your partner and then the teacher about any which you might want to mention in the speaking exam but don’t know how to explain.

—————————

Suggested untranslatable words and expressions

Types of accommodation

Apaato

Manshon

Minshuku

Ryoukan

Parts of a home/ Furniture

Chabudai

Cooler

Flooring

Fusuma

Futon

Genkan

Genkan-saki

Getabako

Kotatsu

Oshiire

Shouji

Tansu

Unit bath

Washitsu

Washlette

Youshitsu

Zabuton

Places where people live (city etc)

-ku

-ken

Furusato

Relationships

Bucho

Joushi

Kacho

OB Sempai/ Kouhai

Types of job

Freeter

OL

Paato/ Arubaito

Salaryman

Festivals/ Celebrations

Bounenkai

Enkai

Hanami

Hatsumode

Hinamatsuri

Kodomo-no-hi

Nomikai

Nyuugakushiki

Obon

Oomisoka

Seijinshiki

Setsubun

Shichigosan

Tanabata

White Day (including giri choco)

Things related to festivals/ celebrations

Giri-choco

Hakama

Otoshidama

Toshikoshisoba

Yukata

Places people go in their free time

Bunka centre

Hello Work

Izakaya

Karaoke box

Manga kissa

Free time activities

Tachiyomi

Nomikai

Types of music

J-pop

Enka

BGM

Idol

Visual kei

Types of TV programme

Kouhaku gassen

Manzai

Variety bangumi

Types of food

Nabemono

Nimono

Wagashi

Washoku

Yakitori

Youshoku 

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PDF version for easy saving and printing: Translatable and Untranslatable vocabulary in IELTS Speaking

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