I was eating a mango that I hadn’t tasted since many years. The last time I did, I was on top of a mango tree and caught it myself. Many sweet and adventurous memories crossed my mind of days spent with friends, and some of them are still part of my life.
These memories made me think of a special word best suited to describe what I felt. A word most people asked me to explain.
This word comes from the Portuguese language and named ‘saudade’; and that is difficult to translate to English and many other languages.
Back in 2004, a British firm called Today Translations shared the results of an opinion survey with over 1000 translators, about the 10th most difficult words to translate. Saudade ranked 7th and here is the full list in order of difficulty:
1. ‘Ilunga’ in tshiluba, one of the languages of Congo – someone who forgives once, and maybe a second time but never a third time.
2. ‘Shlimazi’ in Idiche – someone who is chronically unlucky.
3. ‘Radioukacz’ in Polish – someone who worked telegraphing for the resistance movements against Soviets during the Iron Curtain period.
4. ‘Naa’ in Japanese – word used to emphasize a statement or agree with someone.
5. ‘Altahman’ in Arabic – a profound sadness
6. ‘Gezellig’ in Dutch – cosy
7. ‘Saudade’ in Portuguese – nostalgic feeling, miss someone or something.
8. ‘Selathirupavar in Tamil – defines a non-authorized absence in face of obligations.
9. ‘Pochemuchka’ in Russian – someone who asks too many questions.
10. ‘Kiloshar’ in Albanian – loser.
An approximate translation of ‘Saudade’ is ‘homesick’ or ‘missing someone or something’, as well as longing.
As a lover of words, I like to describe them as I feel; I would say that saudade is such a deep emotion that like many others, you cannot find the right words to describe it.
It’s like a rainbow of emotions intertwined that one felt at once and felt so good that never wanted to stop having it. And when it ends, you feel empty.
The bad ‘saudade’ hurts and it’s painful if you won’t ever again experience it once more. That’s when someone you love dies.
The good ‘saudade’ it’s not painful because you may feel it again, if the object of your feelings will be at reach again.
Someone once told me that only Portuguese speakers know what saudade feels like; I actually disagree. This is a narrow-minded way to judge a group of people, as being more or less capable to feel and express their emotions.
The difficulty to translate some words lies not in lack of meaning, but the impossibility for the translator, to understand and express the local culture and nuances that every word carries with it.
Communication is not only verbal nor written, and in the soul of any language lies the history of a nation or group of people.
If we ever taste a new culture by living within it, with genuine interest and openness, we stand a chance to integrate in it well, adopting its customs and rituals, and eventually understanding what words feel like and what they express.
“Saudade” is universal for all who love, care, appreciate and value the little moments that leave so much meaning within us.
Who ever thought a mango could bring me to reflections and go back in time?
This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt Salad Days