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untranslatable words…

2 min read

Everything’s connected somehow.

This week, we talked about reading in other languages and the influence of foreign cultures in our countries. I also told you that MACUNAÍMA by Mario de Andrade is one of those books you can’t translate.

There’s no equivalent to the words and even tones and sentence structures used in that book. You have to know Portuguese, and you have to know the Brazilian culture to understand the book. What I wrote on the blog about reading without a dictionary does not apply to this book, even for me. I’m a native speaker, and I didn’t know more words than usual there. That’s what makes it untranslatable.

I mean, you might know a lot about the US, UK, even France, Italy, Germany because those cultures spread throughout the world via movies, television, music, food, and even colonization.

But I would be surprised if you told me that you’re not Brazilian and don’t have a Brazilian friend, and you know a lot about our folklore or that you perfectly understand the nuances of the Portuguese language spoken in the vast and many regions we have here.

So, yeah. You could try to translate MACUNAÍMA but the more you’d do it the more the book would lose its Brazilian identity. At least that’s my opinion.

But what I really wanted to say here was that like ideas and tones and speech, there’s a lot of words that don’t have a direct equivalent.

And no, I’m talking about “saudade”. “Zehnsucht” in German means saudade. That’s settled. We move on. We have many cooler words like “cafuné” or “farofa”.

So, it’s Friday, I don’t want to provoke a deep thought today. I’m just curious about this…

☕️ What word in your language has no direct translation at all? And what does it mean? Show us your tsudoku’s, Waldeisamkeit’s and kilig’s…

– via @beardbetweenthelines 👇🏻

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