No matter what language you say it in, Elton John couldn’t be more accurate with his song “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.”
But, being human, we’ve all made mistakes and have been in positions where an apology was the only thing we could bring to the table.
That being said, there’s a right and wrong way of saying those words, and it varies significantly from one country (and culture) to the next.
The team at Day Translations decided to pool together its expertise and share our knowledge nuggets with you. Today, we’ll be taking a look at apologies and how to say them in ten different languages!
Cultural Variations in the Art of Apologizing
Many cultures don’t only use “I’m sorry” after someone has made a mistake. It’s also used whenever misunderstandings arise, to express condolences and if a friend or acquaintance is going through a hard time.
Here’s a look at ten of the best apology terms across the world:
#1 – Ek is jammer.
Jammer is an Afrikaans term for apologizing. It’s used for anything from accidentally bumping into someone to hearing about your neighbor’s flat tire.
#2 – آسف (Aasif)
آسف (Aasif) is an Arabic apology that’s used in at least 25 countries where Arabic is an official language, which means picking up on this term might really come in handy one day.
#3 – Oprostite
Oprostite is a Bosnian term used to apologize, and it’s not only used in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since Bosnian is also spoken in Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro, you can use this apology in 5 different countries.
#4 – 对不起 (Duì bù qǐ)
If you’re able to master this Chinese phrase, you’re good to go. The language itself is spoken by 1.3 billion people on earth, so at least armed with this baby, you’ll have the most basic of manners when talking to them.
#5 – Het spijt me.
In Dutch, you use the term het spijit me, and when literally translated, it means that whatever is at hand is making you feel regret.
#6 – Désolé (Masculine), Désoléé (Feminine)
French is one of the world’s most beautiful languages, and it even manages to make an apology sound more romantic and genuine. This form of apologizing is JUST for saying sorry if you’ve wronged someone. Please don’t use it to ask someone for information. In that case, use the term excusez-moi (excuse me) instead.
#7 – Es tut mir leid
When this German apologetic phrase is literally translated, it means “it makes me feel suffering”, but in short, it’s just a great way of saying I’m sorry.
#8 – Mi Dispiace
If you’re trying to convey an apology, Mi dispiace is a generally accepted Italian phrase for that. However, you’re much more likely to hear the word scusi (sorry) if you’re in Italy. And unless the offense is really horrendous, scusi will likely do the trick for you too.
#9 – Sinto muito
Sinto muito is a Portuguese phrase used for saying ‘I am sorry’, but if you just want to get a quick ‘sorry’ out there, the word desculpa will probably do.
#10 – Lo Siento
You can also attach the word mucho (much) to Lo Siento to end this Spanish apology off properly. Don’t use Lo Siento to ask for directions though, that one is best kept for situations where you feel empathy for someone else. Perdón (pardon) is the right word here.
Polite expressions are fundamental parts of the learning process if you’re trying to master any foreign language, and it’s crucial to have the right words to apologize and adequately express regret when you’re talking to someone in your target language.
You can use these expressions for ‘sorry’ we mentioned here to make amends, smooth things over, or accept guilt when you’ve wronged someone. With all these words and phrases in your vocabulary, you should be able to make amends with ease when the need calls for it.