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“Huh?” – the word that needs no translation

 

Translation agencies can do anything but there is at least one word out there that doesn’t need translation.

The simple “huh?” (in Bulgarian we use “A?”) is rarely written down. However, it is used to signal that one either didn’t hear or didn’t understand what was just said is indispensible, especially in informal conversation.

But the interesting thing about “huh?” is that it’s practically universal, according to a study published by researchers from the Max Planck Institute. They studied 31 languages from around the world as diverse as Icelandic, Cha’palaa (a minority language spoken in Ecuador), and Murriny Patha (an Australian Aboriginal language). Their findings were that every language studied uses “huh?” in the same context to mean the same thing.

 Every language needs a “Huh?”

Other common words are often radically different across languages. Consider the English “dog” – “chien” in French, and “gǒu” in Mandarin Chinese. The humble “huh?” is actually an instance of convergent linguistic evolution. Regardless of language family or location, in all conversation we are expected to reply promptly and appropriately to what has just been said. When we are unable to do so – through not hearing or not understanding what has just been said – we need an ‘escape.’ This need to quickly pause the flow of conversation to enable us to better understand and respond imposes a very specific constraints on the “escape” words that evolved.

As a result, we find a word like “Huh?” in every language and it fits the bill perfectly: it is a simple, minimal, quick-to-produce questioning syllable.

Although “Huh?” doesn’t need translation, there are so many other words we can translate. If you need professional translation, contact us now!

mitra“Huh?” – the word that needs no translation

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