It’s gearing up for Carnaval in Brazil and as the world wishes it was there for the party, what better time to ask the question: What’s your English, Brazil? We’re dedicating February to Brazil English and here’s our first guest post from Jussara Simões, translator, interpreter and blogger.
Nobody can deny that English has today the role that Latin had in the days of the Roman Empire. And, just like the Romans used to do, the English language has been spreading its power around the world, and it comes in without knocking. Brazil is not a bilingual country; Portuguese is our national language, but lots of us are trying hard to learn English quickly, because it’s a requirement for good jobs.
When the English language forces its entry into a Romance language country, amazing things happen. Some of the funniest misunderstandings come from the terms known as “false friends”, i. e., words that seem to be what they are not. A few examples:
Condescending – the Portuguese cognate, “condescendente”, means exactly the opposite, but “condescendente” is what you find in bilingual dictionaries, and I wonder why.
Stupid – the Portuguese cognate, “estúpido”, means rude, discorteous, impolite; it does not mean lacking in intelligence, and the translation of stupid should be “burro” and its synonyms. I must add that the wrong translation is also found in bilingual dictionaries.
Some amusing Brazinglish terms cause lots of laughter around the world. There’s a device called “uninterruptible power supply”, or “UPS”. In Brazil our IT marketing people decided to call it “no-break” (yes, it sounds like “me Tarzan you Jane”, but that’s how English is spoken in Brazil). Many years ago, when “no-breaks” were first introduced in Brazil, I had a hard time explaining to my colleagues abroad what the heck I meant when I said I was using a “no-break”.
Brazilians are known for their improvising talent. Businesses have been replacing Portuguese with English, but the majority of our people have a hard time with those English terms, and they eventually create their own Brazinglish terms. Some examples are: “serve-serve”, a term invented by those who find it difficult to pronounce self-service; “pé de mouse” (literally “mouse foot”), instead of mouse pad: the word pad, pronounced by Brazilians, sounds like “pé de” (foot of), so it was quickly adapted and “translated” as “pé de mouse”, and I applaud Brazilians’ creativity and sense of humor.
Visit the blog for more guest posts from Brazil in February. And why not submit your own guest post? We’d be delighted to hear from you!