Mango’s Reflections

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

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Sharing sights & insights captured with diverse angles. Ex-corporate, now my own boss. Cycling, hiking, cooking, reading, yoga, writing and photography, are no longer only hobbies listed on my resume. It's what I do when I want.

19 thoughts on “Mango’s Reflections

  1. Its generally considered that understanding a new language or culture is difficult,often the nuances in tone while speaking a word aids in the meaning too.That’s how people not only distinguish people from different countries but even within the country. These are technical facts,however if people around you understand you despite of minute errors or major ones,that’s all that matters for happiness 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, those are the nuances that we at first don’t perceive, for being so subtle and particular to each language and culture. With a little bit of interaction, we start to see and understand these nuances.Yes, we don’t need much technicality to be happy. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read your words with a vivid image of the mango and of the word ‘saudade’ in my mind. Your writing transports me!!!!! Amazing….


  3. I love mangos and I miss them. Australia produces delicious mangos and ever since I left, I’ve never been able to get a mango quite as good. The ones they get in New Zealand come from Peru and they don’t taste as nice. I’m not sure where Britain gets its mangos from but I’ll have to buy one and try it.

    I loved reading all those words, thank you. It’s nice to discover words for things for which we have no English equivalent.


  4. this reminded me of a post I put up long ago. sadly the link to the challenge is dead but my reply is still there. If I remember rightly Saudade is a longing for things in the past, or something like that


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