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Untranslatable German Words: Klangwunder Posted by on Jul 28, 2017 in Language, vocabulary

In the series of untranslatable German words, we tackle those words that just don’t have a direct English translation that makes sense. This week, we have a wonderful word, that encapsulates a lot: Klangwunder.

What is a Klangwunder?

The new concert hall Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, hailed as a Klangwunder. (Image by AxelHH at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY 2.0)

Klangwunder is a place or device that has miraculous acoustics. It puts you in awe and wonder how such good Klang (sound) can be achieved. Not only places, such as the recently opened Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, but also devices with really good sound are called Klangwunder. As you can imagine, a lot of advertisements for audio devices use the term!

What does Klangwunder mean?

Is this Lautsprecher a Klangwunder?

Klang means “sound”, and Wunder means “miracle”, so literally, it is a “sound miracle”. But that sounds quite off in English, I think. You could perhaps be more descriptive to achieve the same kind of meaning.

An English Alternative

An often seen English translation is “sound sensation”, or it is used as adjective: “with sensational sound”. I would still prefer using “miracle” or “wondrous sound”, because that is part of the meaning. It is the wonder, the miracle of the device or the space that makes it a Klangwunder.

I think it is important for the word to fully make sense to use descriptive words. So let’s see some!

wundervoll – wonderful

unbeschreiblich – indescribable

ansprechend – appealing

die Akustik – acoustics

die Dämpfung – damping

der Klang – sound

die Tonhöhen – tone pitches

die Höhen – treble

die Tiefen – bass

ausgeprägt – distinct, pronounced

gedämpft – dampened, muffled

klar – clear, crisp

satt – rich

So something you could say is:

Der Raum ist ein Klangwunder! Die Tiefen sind satt und die Höhen sehr klar. Persönlich finde ich die ausgeprägten Höhen besonders ansprechend. (The room is a sound sensation! The bass is rich and the treble is very clear. Personally, I find the pronounced treble very appealing.)

How would you describe a Klangwunder in English or in your own language? Do you have a word in your language that describes the same thing? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author:Sten

Hi! I am Sten, and I am half Dutch and half German. I was on exchange in the United States, and I really enjoyed that year! So in that sense, I kind of have three nationalities... I love all of them!


Comments:

  1. AskAGerman:

    I would like to add that its unexpected. if you are looking at a small gadget or loudspeaker and you think “that cheap/small thing will sound bad”. but then it suprises you. noone in germany would call a 100000€ soundstystem a “klangwunder”. if it has no good sound we would call it “kernschrott” 😉

  2. Alexis Klug:

    Very fascinating as usual 😝😊


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