Finding a word-for-word translation of a text can be difficult. That’s because, there is the literal (word-for-word) and an “understood” meaning? Sounds confusing? Not really.
Let’s break some terms down:
- Denotative – meaning as defined from a dictionary.
- Connotative – a meaner that is “understood” and which supercedes the dictionary definition.
When I was writing the book, “Learn Portuguese the Fun Way, Volume 1,” I faced a genuine difficulty. And that is, how do I translate the following sentence:
O chapeuzinho agradou tanto a menina e ficou tão bem nela, que ela queria ficar com ele o tempo todo.
Here is the translation:
The little hat pleased the girl so much and looked so great on her, that she wanted to wear it all the time.
So what exactly was the problem? how do you translate the expression “ficou tao bem nela.”
ficou = stayed
tao = so
bem = well, good
nela = on her
So: ficou tao bem nela = stayed so good on her.
That’s a word for word translation, but it’s also lame translation because it misses the idea of what the Brazilians would try to express when saying that.
If a Brazilian exclaims, “Ah! Ficou tao bem nela!” (Of a hat, shoe or other clothing) what he or she really means is “it looks so great on her!”
So, in this case, it was necessary to trade in the literal meaning for an understood meaning.
I asked three language experts from Brazil: Emerson Pereira, Jerry Mill and Francielle Zucolota, and they all agreed that the transation is: “looked so gret on her!”