10 pitfalls to watch out for when translating into Portuguese

Nobody can really say how they begin, but linguistic fashions catch on and become widespread in exactly the same way as those of clothing and accessories: suddenly everyone is saying or writing an expression without really thinking about what they are saying and without pondering the fact that what they are saying may not make sense, even if it sounds familiar, precisely because so many other people are saying the same thing. Sooner or later, we hear them being used by leaders and influential people or, worse, we come across them in texts written by these people. It is at this point that these linguistic fashions become pitfalls for everyone who uses the Portuguese language professionally, as a working tool.

Here is a list of 10 linguistic fashions that are pitfalls to be avoided by those who want to keep their texts in Portuguese free of inaccuracies.

1. “Não me faz sentido“. (“It doesn’t me make sense.”) This construction is not only ungrammatical… it also makes no sense. If you want to express your opinion about something that you believe doesn’t make sense, you should say: «não faz sentido para mim» or «para mim, não faz sentido». (“It doesn’t make sense to me” or “For me, it doesn’t make sense”).

2. “Acessibilidades” (“accessibilities”) instead of “acessos” (“accesses”); “visualizar” (“visualise”) instead of “ver” (“view”); “rececionar” (“take receipt of”) instead of “receber” (“receive”), and so on. This is a normal human trait. Sometimes we want to make our words carry more weight by using alternative, grandiloquent vocabulary. In most cases, the outcome is a text which is less clear, often ridiculous and frequently inaccurate. “Acessibilidade”, for example, is the quality or character of that which is accessible; it should not be confused with “acesso”.  If you can use a simpler term then you should do so. 

3. “Tenho uma reunião ao meio dia e meio“. (“I have a meeting at midday and half a day”). No… while it is possible that you have a meeting at “meio dia e meia” (which means half an hour after midday, i.e. 12.30 pm), it is unlikely that you have one at “meio dia e meio” which simply doesn’t exist, since it means “midday and half a day”.

4. “Vamos endereçar esta questão”. (“Let’s address this matter”.) “Endereçar” in Portuguese means send something to a particular address. It does not mean “enfrentar” (“take on”) or “tratar” (“deal with”) as the verb “address” does in English, which is probably where this particular pitfall originated. So avoid using the verb “endereçar” for this purpose, since it does not have this meaning in Portuguese.

5. “ 11 anos atrás, já cá estava”. (“Back eleven years ago, it was already here”.) Well, you could hardly say “há 11 anos à frente” (“forward eleven years ago”), could you? The presence of the verb “haver” (which corresponds to “ago” in English) already indicates that we are looking back in time, so the “atrás” (“back”) is redundant. Leave it out. Just say, “Há 11 anos, já cá estava.” (“Eleven years ago, it was already here”). And while we’re on the subject of “bastar” (“just” in the sense of “suffice”)…

6. “Basta só dizer que sim”. (“Just only say yes”). The verb “bastar” (“to suffice”) suffices, so there is no need to add “só” (“only”). Your sentence will lose none of its meaning if you simply say: “Basta dizer que sim”. (“Just say yes”).

7. “Indepentemente de ser viável ou não, faz-se”. (“Irrespectively of it being viable or not, we’ll do it”). This is another example of redundancy. Because “irrespectively” means we are going to do it if it’s viable and we are going to do it if it is not viable. Which means the “ou não” (“or not”) is superfluous. It would suffice to say: “Independentemente de ser viável, faz-se”. (“Irrespectively of it being viable, we will do it”).

8. “Vamos meter mais carros elétricos a circular.” (“Let’s put more electric cars into the roads”). The problem here is the word “meter”, which in Portuguese means to put something into a recipient or a container, such as a drawer. In this case it is being used incorrectly as a synonym for “colocar”, which, in the sentence above, would have translated to, “Let’s put more electric cars on the roads”.

9. “The CEOs foram chamados para uma reunião.” (“The CEOs were called to a meeting”). In Portuguese, abbreviations and acronyms do not have a plural form (nor dots). So the correct way to write this would be “CEO”, without the plural “s” on the end.

10. “Estes textos normalmente são sempre revistos“. (“These texts are normally always revised”). Consider this: “normalmente” (“normally”) means that although, as a general rule, the texts will be revised, there are occasions when they will not be; in other words, they are not always revised. So you cannot follow “normally” with “always”. Either they are “normally” revised or they are “always” revised. The two circumstances are mutually exclusive so they cannot occur simultaneously.

We hope that this “road map” of pitfalls will help you avoid them in your texts and translations in Portuguese.

If you need professional assistance to translate a text into Portuguese,  do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.