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  • Writer's pictureSapana Gupta

Does language shape how we see the world?

Not all languages have equivalent words.

Take the Turkish word “Yakamoz”—it refers to the moonlight reflecting on water at night. It’s incredibly specific and has no translation in English (or in any other language, as far as I know).

Kübra Gümüsay highlights this in her book Sprache und Sein, explaining how unique and untranslatable words are deeply rooted in their culture, shaping our perception. Since learning the word “Yakamoz”, she sees it whenever she walks by the sea at night. Simultaneously, she wonders whether those who don’t know the word also see it.

Her book made me think of the Hindi word "Rimjhim." It describes the gentle, rhythmic sound and sensation of light rain, especially during the monsoon season. It captures the joy, nostalgia, and renewal that rain brings to India, providing relief from the heat and essential moisture for crops. When I hear "Rimjhim," I have a romantic perception of rain, while the simple translation "drizzle" feels rather neutral to me—it misses the cultural nuances.

Words and languages label objects and experiences, shaping our perception. If we can’t describe something, can we truly see it?

How do unique words in your language (or another language you know) shape your view of the world?

📸 India, August 2018: A photo I took right after it rained, enjoying the cooled air and lush greenery :)

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