Volume 5, No. 1 
January 2001

  Gabe Bokor





Translation Journal
Book Review

Two New Portuguese Dictionaries

by Gabe Bokor

Michaelis Moderno Dicionário Inglês-Português, Português-Inglês

Publisher: Melhoramentos

ISBN 85-06-03123-0

1735 pages, 167,000 entries

Price in Brazil: R$ 125.00 (1 real ~ US$ 0.5)

hose of us who translate into or from Portuguese have for long waited for a new edition of the venerable Michaelis dictionaries, first published in 1957, which have been reprinted over 50 times since then, but never updated. With the brand-new Michaelis 2000, our wait is finally over.

The new Michaelis is apparently a completely new dictionary. It combines the En-Pt and Pt-En volumes in one large, 1735-page volume with a contemporary-looking hard cover and a thumb index. Since the old Michaelis had a combined 2480 pages in its two volumes, the new edition seems to be smaller. However, appearances are deceiving, since the new edition has a printed area of 7" x 9.5" per page against 5" x 7.5" in the old one, resulting in a 25% larger total printed area for the new Michaelis. The typeface of the new edition is somewhat larger (and more easily legible). All in all, the new edition has 18% more entries if the publishers' information in both editions is accurate.

The new edition does not have the (few and poor-quality) illustrations of its predecessor; but who needs those when we now have the Oxford-Duden Pictorial Dictionary with much more and better pictures.

The contents of the new Michaelis are obviously based on the old one; most entries have not been changed at all, although many new ones have been added. The technologies that appeared or suffered qualitative changes during the past 43 years are represented; thus we have floppy disk, CD, chip (in the sense of electronic component), e-mail, and online, but not Web (in the meaning of the World-Wide Web) or browser. The now obsolete definition of transistor was taken over unchanged from the old edition ("cristal de germânio usado como amplificador eletrônico"). AIDS is there, and so are many new slang terms or those that were taboo in the 50s; thus, we have the f-words in both languages (and its modern Brazilian equivalent transar, which was rendered by the old Michaelis as "to have a love affair"), cool (in the meaning of good, approved), gofer, and others. Interestingly, slang terms of contemporary Brazilian politics, such as tucano (member of the PSDB party), or petebista (member of the PTB party) are not listed, but sem-terra and grampear (in the meaning of bugging a telephone line) are.

A good number of abbreviations, including some technical ones, are listed in the En-Pt part: FOB, FOC, FTP, TNT, DJ, DL, and DNS, but not t.o.c., d.o.a., or ASAP. The number of abbreviations in the Pt-En part is much smaller: a.C., A/C (but not c.a. or c.c.).

The spelling and vocabulary of the English is British-oriented, as was the old Michaelis, but not consistently. Thus, the main entry is colour, while color remits you to colour. Both tube (in the meaning of underground urban transport) and subway are listed. Trunk is not translated as porta-malas (boot is), but porta-malas is translated as trunk with no mention of boot. The Portuguese is all-Brazilian with no reference to European Portuguese usage or spelling. Even when a word is translated in its meaning as used in Portugal (comboio in the meaning of train, fato in the meaning of man's suit), the country of use is not indicated.

The new Michaelis contains somewhat more idiomatic phrases than the old one, and the entry word within each expression is spelled out in full, rather than being replaced with a ~ sign as in the previous edition.

The new edition has a few useful new appendices, such as proverbs and their approximate equivalents, names of animals, irregular English and Portuguese verbs, measurement units conversion table, numbers in different forms, and math symbols.

Conclusion: The new Michaelis is not perfect (few dictionaries are), but it is a definite improvement over the old one and even over the 1982-vintage Webster/Houaiss En-Pt dictionary. It is a useful addition to the collection of dictionaries of those who work from or into Portuguese.



by Isa Mara Lando

Web Site: www.vocabulando.com.

Publisher: SBS Special Book Services

402 pages, soft cover, spiral bound.

Price in Brazil: R$ 47.00 (R$ 1 ~ US$ 0.5)

f you're like me and enjoy reading dictionaries, you'll love this one. Well, it is not actually a dictionary. Its subtitle says "Vocabulário Prático Inglês-Português," but it is much more than a collection of words in one language translated into another. It's as if a competent, warm-blooded teacher patiently explained to you how to translate some difficult terms from English into Portuguese.

The book is designed for ease of use, from the spiral binding that stays open at any page to the cute icons that call your attention to the type of difficulty in translating a given term.

False cognates (faux amis)—English words that are spelled or pronounced like a Portuguese word, but have a different meaning.

Words requiring special attention—words without direct and unique translation into Portuguese and terms with less obvious meanings.

Words and expressions that generate awkward constructions in Portuguese, presented with equivalent idiomatic expressions.

Terms frequently encountered in the American press.

Frequently used words, for which the maximum number of Portuguese synonyms is listed.

Suggestions of more natural constructions in Portuguese

Notes on the meaning of some words that are more difficult to translate

Problem words and the pertinent explanations are framed and marked with three exclamation points in addition to the applicable icon.

Ms. Lando has made an "amazing" discovery: Translation does not mean replacing words in one language with words in the other language. Problem words are given in (often hilarious) sentences, always with context and the intended message in mind. Many of her translations are refreshingly innovative and invariably accurate and idiomatic. Alternatives are often given, some of which may not contain any possible translation of the main entry word.

For example, under the entry "how" she translates "How reliable do you think he is?" as "Você acha que ele é mesmo confiável?"
Under "often":
It is often said = Diz-se.

Other recommended translations for phrases containing "often": "em geral," "geralmente," "sempre," use a verb such as "costumar," "ser comum," etc., or use "muitos" as in
Other industries sprang up, often with Indian owners = Outras indústrias surgiram, muitas com proprietários indianos.

English words of common use are often translated using informal or slang equivalents. Since the book is intended for native speakers of Portuguese, the register of the Portuguese equivalents is not indicated even if it is different from that of the English word for which they are given (ex.: "jogo de cintura" as one possible translation of "compromise.")

One example of how VocabuLando goes beyond conventional dictionaries is the verb "to substitute," which takes on opposite meanings according to whether it is used with "with" or "for." You will find this distinction in very few dictionaries (not in Michaelis or in Webster/Houaiss), but it is explained in detail in VocabuLando.

To compare the didactic approach of VocbuLando with that of a conventional dictionary, you may also wish to look up the word "nod," which is dispatched by the new Michaelis in seven short lines (about 50 words); VocabuLando dedicates a page and a half to the verb alone.

For an example of the author's sense of humor, look up the entry "member," where she illustrates the pitfalls of literal translation by giving the sentence "Freud era tão respeitado na Academia de Ciências de Viena que sempre que entrava no salão nobre, todos os presentes se levantavam / todos se levantavam" with the warning: "Melhor que 'todos os membros se levantavam...!'"

Conclusion: VocabuLando, while making no claims of being a full-fledged dictionary, is a useful aid for those who translate into Portuguese and sometimes find it difficult to choose the best equivalent of a difficult term.