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How to Say Saudades: Words That Don’t Translate to English (with Bilingual Audio!)

Learning a new language is really tough, not only do you have to learn about grammar, and vocabulary, but you also have some crazy words that don’t even translate to your language.

Living in Brazil has made me see that these mistakes happen frequently with many of my students and friends who have put themselves, or me, into a very confusing situation.

We’re excited to introduce a new BILINGUAL Real Life English For Brazilians Episode. We explain it in Portuguese, and then we have the same conversation (almost) in English. Recommended use!  Relax, have fun, listen in Portuguese first, then in English. Please let us know what you think!

1-Chad & Justin (gringos) explain in Portuguese(15:40):

2- The SAME conversation (almost) in English (12:40):

Listen to more podcasts | Leia este texto em Português

A common example of this is when I didn’t know about the expression  “Voce sumiu.” A friend of mine came up to me one day, after I hadn’t seen him for a long time and said with a lot of excitement “po cara, voce sumiu!” After translating in my head I was very confused, did my friend think something had happened to me? Had he, and possibly other people, been looking for me worried about the poor gringo?

I quickly reacted, reassuring him that I was fine and he didn’t have to worry, and he could tell everyone else that I was fine too. I felt like a real idiot a few minutes later when he explained that he wasn’t looking for me at all and that “Voce sumiu” was just a common Brazilian expression used when you haven’t seen someone in a long time.

Have you ever had an embarrassing mistake because of direct translation? Well, in this article you are going to learn about 8 expressions that don’t translate directly, and the most appropriate way to say that in English.

9 Words That Don’t Translate to English 

Saudades

One of my favourite words in Protuguese is saudades. It’s an expression with a lot of emotion and a very deep sense of compassion. There’s no comparison to this word in English, at least not with the same degree of emotion involved.

Expressions similar to saudade:

I miss you – This would be like saying “sinto a sua falta” and we can use this for friends, family, lovers, and anyone else.

These next words (except for nostalgia) all have a romantic sense and aren’t as common as, “I miss you.”

  • I yearn for you– You have a strong desire to be with that person
  • Heartache- You feel emotional pain because the person isn’t with you
  • Nostalgia– The positive memory and feeling of that person

It’s important that you don’t use the wrong word by mistake. A ex-student of mine, a guy, once sent me a message saying that he “yearned for me.” If I hadn’t known him so well, I could have gotten the wrong idea.

Voce sumiu/ Quanto tempo

As you saw in my example above, the expressions “voce sumiu” doesn’t  translate into English. The word sumiu “missing” in English is only used when something or someone has actually gone missing and you are looking for it. (to go missing- went missing)

The most common thing to say in this situation is an expressions very similar to Quanto tempo but, still it’s not a direct translation.

We always say the phrase: “Long time no see!” or “How long has it been.”

This would be the best way the greet someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

Namorar

In English no one “namora!” Ok, so maybe that’s not true but the word doesn’t have a direct translation. We use the word “dating” when we want to say that I’m namorando (in a serious relationship) but we wouldn’t the word “date” to say, hoje eu vou namora.

Ways to say namorar:

  • To hang out with someone
  • To spend time with my girlfriend/boyfriend
  • To go on a date
  • To be dating somebody

Shopping

Brazilians use many English words in their everyday vocabulary, for example, feedback, turnover, home theater etc… But one word that you use incorrectly is SHOPPING. In English the verb shop means fazer compra, so if you say “go shopping” you’re really saying “fazendo compras.”

How to really say “o shopping”:

The Mall – More common in American English
The shopping centre – Universal

Combinar/ Marcar

Making plans is very important, so you don’t want to make a silly mistake with these 2 words. Although we have the words “mark” and “combine” in English, they’re not used in this way. The verb “to mark” would mean to correct someone’s test or to “deixar uma marca” in someone.

How to really say combinar/marcar:

  • Arrange- “Let’s arrange a time to meet.”
  • Schedule- “I just scheduled a time to go see the dentist”

Aceitar

It was really funny the first time that “eu aceitei uma agua.” I thought to myself of course I will accept it, I have no preconceptions towards water.

The word accept in English is not used for something you desire, but more like something you agree with or  tolerate. We use the word “accept” in phrases like, do you accept my apology? Or, “we don’t accept that kind of behavior here.” But, it can be used in exactly the same as Portuguese in situations like, do you accept mastercard?

How to use aceitar in English :

  • Would you like a glass of water?
  • Could I offer you something to eat?

Dar Um Jeito

This has to be one of the most symbolic expressions in Brazilian culture for me. I love using the term “jeitinho Brasileiro” with some of my buddies here in Brazil. A lot of students have asked me how to say this before and I can never really think of a perfect translation but here are some similar examples.

How to really say dar um jeito:

  • Find a way– Achar um jeito
  • Leave it to me– Deixe comigo
  • I’ll handle it– Vou lidar com isso
  • Find a loophole– Find a way to trick the system

Conclusion

All languages have these types of word and expressions that have  such a deep cultural sense that it is nearly impossible to truly understand what it means unless you’ve lived it. The purpose of this article was to show you how cool your language is and how many struggles and embarrassing situations we gringos have learning Portuguese.

With each new expression you learn, the more you start to understand, not just the language, but you also gain a lot of cultural knowledge about that country.

  • Well done Chad Fishwick.

    • Pedro Henrique says:

      It's 'falta' not 'faulta'. 😀 Great post. I posted this here so he could see and correct this.

  • Mário Rodrigo says:

    Hi, What’s up? I used the word coined for to talk about my wife’s brother. In Portuguese we say CUNHADO. I should have used the expression “brother in law”.

    • Justin says:

      Hey Mario, what up? Your brother’s wife is your SISTER in-law (she is a woman), and your wife’s brother would be your BROTHER in-law! Does that help?

  • Ana says:

    Great post, guys!!!
    It’s quite interesting listen to you talking in Portuguese.
    Do you know we change our voices when speaking a foreign language?
    Thanks!

  • Atenir says:

    Very good, Chad.
    I liked very much the expressions “let’s arrange” and “schedule”, because I usually used “to mark” and “combine”. Now I comprehension it.

    Thanks you very much.

    Good luck!.

    Atenir.

  • Chad Fishwick says:

    Oh wow! thanks for the great feedback guys!

  • Chad Fishwick says:

    Oh wow! thanks for the great feedback guys!

  • Chad Fishwick says:

    Oh wow! thanks for the great feedback guys!

  • Trevor says:

    Great for people who want to learn Portuguese as well. ^_^

  • Diego Davi says:

    Hey… u guys speak Portuguese really well… that's amazing to listen to this podcast in Portuguese with an American point of view!

  • Jean Gustavo says:

    O ''Por Favor'' do Chad com sotaque mineiro , really funny.

  • […] transported back in Kansas. This phrase has been engrained into our culture for talking about homesickness thanks to Dorothy and her little dog, […]

  • Patricia Meloy says:

    So glad I found this site. Portuguese is very easy to listen to and I enjoy hearing it again. Muito obrigada.

  • Amauri Aires says:

    Nice job guys! Those expressions that you explained are really interesting!

  • Amauri Aires says:

    Nice job guys! Those expressions that you explained are really interesting!

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