I think one of my favorite words that exists in human vocabulary is the word “Gemütlichkeit.” One of the best birthday presents I ever received was a small picture of me and some of my best friends laughing. At the bottom, in golden paint, is that word. Gemütlichkeit. For those of you looking at that and wondering how a word can have so many consonants, it’s pronounced like this “Ga-mute-leash-kite.” It’s a German word, and one that doesn’t have an exact English equivalent. On Wikipedia, the definition is: “a word used to convey the idea of a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance.”
My German teacher didn’t attempt a definition. He said, “It’s the feeling you get on a snow day, when you wake up and find out school is closed. You cook yourself a good breakfast and make some hot cocoa. As you look out a window, watching the snow land in your front yard, sipping your cocoa packed to the brim with marshmallows, the feeling you get during that is Gemütlichkeit.”
So, what does this have to do with the Fureai house?
Last week, someone asked the question, “What does Fureai mean?” I realize I had totally neglected to give a definition. But, there’s a problem. Fureai doesn’t have a translation in English. If you plug ふれあい into a translator, you’ll get something along the lines of “contact.” Other strange translations I’ve seen say things like, “Mutual Touch.” I usually say it means something along the lines of “friendly welcome.” That’s true, but it still doesn’t explain the exact meaning.
Wikipedia actually does have a pretty good definition for this one.
It says, “Fureai (ふれあい) is a Japanese term to refer to the formation of emotional connection between people of different age group and/or profession within the community.”
Words like these are something I find truly fascinating about language. Every time I have a conversation, I’m using words from dictionaries, or online programs, or something I learned in a class. Every time I buy something delicious from 7/11, I say a little thank you to the Europeans and Japanese who first sat down and began deciphering our languages together.
So, maybe you’re wondering if there are some English words that don’t have an exact translation. There sure are!
Tonight, I was putting a Bible lesson together that was going to be based off the song “Amazing Grace.” You can’t talk about amazing grace without bringing up forgiveness! So, I talked with Sandy about the best translation for the word forgiveness. Her response, “There isn’t really one.”
The word most often used for forgiveness, is also used for permission. So, forgiveness is a word that requires a lot more explaining. And if you’re me, sometimes drawing. (That’s my go to for difficult words.)
Which brings up one of the frustrations of learning a language and mission work. There are religious phrases (and every day phrases for that matter) that are incredibly difficult to translate. “You need to have a relationship with God,” “He was baptized into Christ,” even something as simple as calling someone “Brother So-and-So” can be confusing. To translate them exactly makes no sense. “I need to be friends with God? Ananias and Paul were brothers?” These are just a few examples.
However, there’s something wonderful about these words and phrases and that is it gives us insight into each others lives and inspires conversation.
One of the places that will always feel “Gemütlichkeit” to me is the Christian Student Center. If I were to describe that word personally, I might say it’s the feeling you get sitting up with your friends on the beach until 3 in the morning talking about religion. Or maybe the feeling you get sitting around a campfire with all your friends singing old hymns.
“Fureai” to me feels like it was a word made for church. Maybe the only place I have experienced it is at church, or at the Student Center.
So, I hope I didn’t bore you with linguistics this week. It’s something I’m truly fascinated by, despite the obstacles.
Bible classes continue to go well. I am adding another student this week. I will meet with them for the first time tomorrow.
We’re planning more events for the Fureai House.
This Saturday and Sunday, we’re having two “Packing Parties” to finish up Operation Christmas Child. On Saturday, students and church members will come to pack boxes for boys, then on Sunday we will pack the boxes for girls. After that, they will be shipped off to the Philippines.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support!