I completely identify with the title of that Oscar-contender movie from a couple years ago, Lost in Translation. Not the movie itself, mind you; despite the rave reviews it received, I don’t think I understood it. But the title, that much I got, and it’s dead on. One of the real hurdles to learning another language is to leave behind your close ties with words in your first language. No matter how carefully you translate a phrase, it will lose something, if not in reality, then in your perception of it.
This is all somewhat vague and cerebral, so, with help from my housemate Maureen, I have an example to explain exactly what I mean:
I guess Vaselina is the best they could do when they translated Grease to Spanish, but the idea of John Travolta with vasaline in his hair isn’t the same. Now that’s lost in translation.