April 19, 2022
Tina Duarte

If we do a Google search, we can easily find lists of words referred to as not having translation into other languages and which, at first glance, seem to be a problem that may be difficult for translators to solve. In these lists, we find words from several languages that describe specific feelings or moments and, very often, the Portuguese word “saudade” pops up.

Hypothetically, if we are debating this topic with people of other nationalities, we, the real Portuguese, so proud of our language and our history, will hasten to nod in agreement, because, after all, “saudade” is much more than just “missing”, which will be conveyed by the obvious attempt of a direct translation into languages such as French or English. And we will talk about nostalgia, the deep melancholy that can be seen in our eyes, that anxiety that worries us so much, the sadness or the almost physical pain that invades us when we miss someone. Because that’s it, that is “saudade”. That word that cannot be translated into two words, a verb and an object, only, we would conclude.

In fact, every word on these lists always has a sufficiently detailed explanation that allows us to perceive the dimension of the moments or feelings to which they refer. Since translation is the art of putting into our language what is conveyed to us by the source language, the challenge lies in being able to condense everything that the concept comprises and present the result to the reader in a natural manner, without losing anything in this transition.

This will then be our specialization, knowing how to say in our language what someone thought, felt and later wrote in another language. Knowing how to condense in our own words the same force or intensity of what we read, being able to interpret all the nuances of the sentence, the meanings of the words considering the readers’ universe, while respecting the writer’s voice.

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