How do you say: “I Love You?”

Valentine’s Day has arrived – have you got your loved one the perfect gift and written the sweetest Valentine’s Card? But the real question is, how do you tell that special someone you love them? Here are some translations of “I love you” in different languages to help you, should you find yourself tongue-tied:

English – “I love you”

French – “Je t’aime” or “Je t’adore”

German – “Ich liebe dich”

Italian – “Ti amo”

Spanish – “Te amo” or “Te quiero”

Russian – Я тебя люблю! (“Ja teb’a l’ubl’u!”)

Arabic – ٲنَا بحِبَّك (“ana baħibbak” – to a man); ٲنَا بَحِبِّك (“ana baħibbik” – to a woman)

Chinese (Mandarin) -我愛你 (“wǒ ài nǐ”)

Japanese – 愛してるよ (“aishiteru yo”)

Korean – 사랑해 (“sarang hae”)

Urdu – میں آپ سے محبت کَرتا ہوں (“mein ap say muhabat karta hoon” – to a man); میں آپ سے محبت کرتی ہوں (“mein ap say muhabat karti hoon” – to a woman)

Lost in Translation?

But everyone knows there are certain words that don’t have a clear translation from one language to another. In the past we’ve looked at the most untranslatable word to English, but what about when it comes to love?

Of course, English has become very flexible with love. No longer reserved for the unending passion you feel for your spouse, you can love books, films, food and just about anything. In other languages, this isn’t always the case. In many cultures, the words of “I love you” are very serious and one would never say they love the latest Hunger Games movie, for example.

Likewise, translations from languages into English can cause problems. The Mandarin Chinese word for “hobby” uses the characters “love” and “to be fond of” (爱好 – “àihào”); and whilst we can say “cooking is one of my loves” it isn’t exactly commonplace.

The gravitas of “love” is also demonstrated in other languages. After a long courtship and only when you were ready, you might hear your Norwegian love interest say “Jeg elsker deg;” likewise, in Japan you’re more likely to hear someone say “suki da” (好きだ) “I like you very much(!)” before they say “I love you”.

The Huffington Post recently reported on affectionate words and concepts that don’t translate easily to English. Words included:

  • “Mamihlapinatapai” (Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego) – which translates as a look shared by two people who are waiting for the other to make the next move.
  • “Onsra” (Boro language of India) – translates as a bitter-sweet love, – the feeling that you will never love someone else again.

Furthermore, concepts of love can be very hard to translate in one language to another. English has several words or phrases to say you love something or someone – you could be passionate about them? Affectionate or infatuated? Adoring or lustful? Do you yearn for your love or are you merely fond of them?

In Korea, China and Japan there is a concept of love that is often translated as feelings, sentiments, emotions and so on. It can mean the love you have for your mother or the love you have for your husband or wife.

  • Chinese (Mandarin) – 情 (“qing”)
  • Japanese – 愛情 (“aijou”)
  • Korean – 정 (“jeong”)

In particular, in Korean, the concept is noted as being particularly hard to translate and without innate cultural knowledge, it is impossible to fully understand the meaning of this concept.

So, translating “I Love You” might be trickier than you first thought!