Será que… I wonder if…

chuva2In spoken language, not everything can be easily translated from English to Portuguese and vice-versa. There are many words and expressions that complicate the life of translators and interpreters. In English we have the sentence: “I wonder if…” Usually translators will translate this as “Eu me pergunto por que…”. But that’s not very correct, people never say this in colloquial Portuguese. However, there is a similar expression in Portuguese: “Será que…?”, which literally means “Will it…?”. For example:

  1. Será que vai chover hoje? = I wonder if it will rain today.
  2. Será que ele vem? = I wonder if he will come.

If the first example was translated to “Eu me pergunto se vai chover hoje” it would be comprehensible, but it wouldn’t sound natural at all. The same for the literal translation to English “Will it rain today?”… It doesn’t express the same kind of doubtful meaning. I’ve seen many translations like this because it’s a very common mistake made by translators and translation tools such as Google Translate (see the article When Google Translate Fails…).

However, it’s important to note that there are other similar cases with the verb ‘to wonder’. Above we have analysed ‘wonder if‘. If we take ‘wonder why‘ or ‘no wonder‘, then we have other meanings to translate. From English to Portuguese:

  1. I wonder why he didn’t come = Eu queria saber por que ele não veio.
  2. You may wonder why he didn’t come. = Você deve estar querendo saber por que ele não veio.
  3. No wonder he didn’t come = Não me supreende que ele não tenha vindo.

In these cases, many translators also continue to use the verb ‘perguntar’ in its reciprocal form (for example: “Eu me pergunto por que ele não veio”). Sometimes, depending on the context, it’s fine, but in general, they are bad translations.

I wonder if this article will help translators to improve their translations quality in future. (Será que este artigo vai ajudar os tradutores a melhorarem a qualidade de suas traduções no futuro?)

rainy day

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