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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Wing

5 Words to Know as a German to English Translator in South Tyrol

Translating the untranslatable.

As an English translator for the hotel and tourism sector in South Tyrol, it didn’t take long to discover words in German that simply don’t translate well into English. Typically, these words have to do with food and traditions – which makes sense – but other times, they are specific to South Tyrol or a German-speaking audience. It’s been my job to make sense of it all for the average English reader, and it’s my duty to share it with you.

So here’s what I’ve come up with, a list of five words you not only need to know as an English translator, but you have to understand if you want your reader to know what on earth you’re talking about when you're translating the untranslatable.

1. Speck (sh-peck)

In English, it translates to “bacon”, but oh, my dear Speck, you are so much more than that, which is why I stopped translating you long ago. So, Speck it is. In my eyes, Speck can be loosely translated to heaven in your mouth – but really, it is a delicately smoked ham cured with spices and wonderful Alpine herbs. The “Speck-tacular” flavours of the thinly sliced meat can be enjoyed alone or with Schüttelbrot – a crunchy flatbread that's a staple in South Tyrol.

2. Stube (shtu-beh)

If you say the word “Stube” to a South Tyrolean, I can almost guarantee it will evoke a special place of warmth and security in their hearts. A Stube is a cosy room typically adorned with wood panels on the walls and ceiling and a tiled stove to keep warm. It’s a place where people gather and spend quality time with each other. Often, a Stube serves as a dining room in huts or inns and as a living room in homes. A Stube isn’t just a farmhouse parlour; it’s so much more than that. It’s a Stube.

3. Törggelen (turg-eh-len)

Törggelen is a mouthful – both when trying to say it and when celebrating. Törggelen is a South Tyrolean tradition that takes place from October to mid-November and often combines a walk in the colourful autumn countryside with a meal shared with family or friends in a cosy Buschenschank, which is typically owned and run by the same family. This age-old tradition celebrates the year’s young wine and includes typical local specialities like dumplings, salt pork, ribs, various sausages and sauerkraut, with roasted chestnuts and Bauernkrapfen – a flat fried pastry filled with either plum, pear, or poppyseeds. (These are not to be mistaken for Faschingskrapfen, which are a filled doughnut served during Carnival.) After several enjoyable hours of good food and great company, a small glass of homemade schnapps presented by the host is the perfect finish to the festivity.

4. Schlutzkrapfen (shlutz-krahp-fin)

Schlutzkrapfen are a fan favourite in Alpine huts and rustic taverns. These spinach stuffed ravioli-esque delights are a well-deserved delicacy after a long hike and are served with browned butter, parmesan cheese, and topped with chives. I often joke about this dish being the reason I moved to South Tyrol, but as my aunt always says, “There’s a hint of truth in every joke.”, so now I’m not quite sure what to believe.

5. Kneippen (k-nye-pin)

Kneippen is a type of hydrotherapy that stimulates the circulatory system by subjecting various parts of the body to cold water. Imagine putting your feet in a mountain stream – that’s Kneippen. In South Tyrol, there are many Kneipp water paths where you can walk in shallow waters or dip your arms in a Kneipp basin to experience this invigorating treatment.

Bonus: Genuss (guh-noose)

I often find myself wrestling with the word “Genuss”. Although it isn’t South-Tyrol-specific and it is translatable, it’s a word I come across quite often, and sometimes it leaves me stumped. With every encounter, it has a slightly different meaning and has the power to mean everything and nothing all at the same time. The hardest part: It’s up to you to decide within the context. Do they mean a treat? A delight? Enjoyment? Indulgence? Pleasure? Who knows, but eventually I settle on one with 95% certainty and move on. If you’ve ever translated a text with the word Genuss, you’ll know what I’m talking about.


What are some words or phrases you’ve struggled with understanding or translating? Drop me a comment below! I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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