Translating the word “Experiencer” into other languages

December 10, 2010

Nuance of meaning retained with newly invented word

Recently an Italian website,, contacted the John E. Mack Institute for permission to translate some of Dr. John Mack’s articles. With consent from the John E. Mack Archives LLC, permission was granted.

We asked what word they would use for “experiencer”.

“Experiencer” is, after all, a sort of invented word in English, which Dr. Mack popularized when he applied it to people who have reported experiences that appear to be “alien encounters” but for which another explanation may exist. It has become an important word in the lexicon of alien encounter research, so needed some careful attention.

“Experiencer” is a deliberately vague term meaning “one who has experienced something”, which in its vagueness allows for many possible interpretations of what exactly may be the nature of the experiences. That same vagueness needed to be retained in any translated form.

We asked a librarian what resources existed for getting the finer sense of word meanings in Italian, and she turned us to this site, , which suggested that “esperienza” can carry the meanings of knowledge / mental sensation / skill. Sounded about right, and the word was a good sound-alike.

So we initially proposed “esperienzer” (esperienza with an “er” substituted at the end), without knowing if adding an “er” to the end of a word in Italian turns something into a noun like it does in English. (As in “one who travels” becoming “traveler”.) The translator replied that “esperienzanti” may be what we were seeking. (As anticipated, Italian does not place an “er” at the end.)

“‘Esperienzanti’ is like ‘those who are experiencing something’“, he wrote. “I think this word does not exist,” he noted, “but I like the idea. I can use it.”

Later discussions and feedback from dual-language speakers led us to a final decision in which we’ve opted for a term that suggests “one who experiences a particular state”:

“Experiencers” and “experiencer” in Italian will henceforth be:
“esperienti” (plural),
“esperiente” (singular)
…at least in articles by the late Dr. John Mack. We hope it catches on.

A similar effort is underway for French translations.The translation of “Experiencer” into French was much easier. An existing, though rarely-used, term with nearly the same meaning was easily chosen – experienceur – and a corresponding website launched.

We are always looking for volunteers to translate more articles. Please contact us if you’d like to translate even a single article.

Update: American-based Italian researcher Paola Harris confirmed that there has not yet been an Italian term for “experiencer” invented yet, so we are truly pioneering the use of this new term. Harris added that a word similar to the English word “contactee” is most often used in alien encounter literature — “Contattisti, or Contattati …mostly Contattisti”.

This feedback affirmed, for us, the need for a new word. “Contactee” carries the implication that a person has been contacted by an outside agency, and that is the sort of pre-loading of meaning that the term “experiencer” is meant to avoid. By being more broad, “experiencer” allows for many interpretations.

An interesting historical note:The neutrality “experiencer” was designed to possess has developed a positive emphasis, even as it retains as an open question what the experiences are. As it is typically applied to those who believe they can learn something of value from their experiences, or who may feel there is an element of cooperation or active participation in the experiences, a factional dispute arose with those who prefer to identify themselves as “victims” or “abductees”. Those who disagree with the more positive ideas or possibilities may resent “experiencers” for failing to validate their sense of victimization. This dispute is ironic in light of the fact that “experiencers” also report “abductions”; they simply do not define themselves by that particular experience.
RELATED NOTE: Foreign publishers interested in translating Dr. Mack’s book Passport to the Cosmos, please contact the John E. Mack Institute.

  Subject Area: News

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