Oxford University Press: Portuguese Mini-Dictionary

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Oxford University Press: Portuguese Mini-Dictionary

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Review of "Oxford University Press: Portuguese Mini-Dictionary"

published 13/02/2007 | bigush
Member since : 29/11/2006
Reviews : 47
Members who trust : 34
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Pro Comprehensive and accurate.
Cons Print is a touch small.
very helpful

"Linguistic Accuracy Avoids Face Slapping!"

The book

The book

Bilingual dictionaries fall into two main categories; totally useless, and invaluable. Forgetting the totally useless, of which there are many, the invaluable varieties are published by either Collins or Oxford University Press.

I have lived and worked in three different European countries and have usually opted for the Oxford dictionaries finding them to fulfil the main needs of the second language learner, and especially the traveller and ex-pat. The reasons for this I will outline later.

First of all, I must get something off my chest! Phrase books are only good for hitting aggressive beggars and over passionate Southern European males. To learn a long, grammatically complicated question and use it, will elicit a long grammatically complicated response that you will not understand. For example; just grunting the words 'want', 'eat' and 'menu' will be much more effective and cause less confusion than coming out with the equivalent of ' Dear sir, would you be good enough to bring me the menu as we find ourselves in the position of being rather hungry.' The waiter will assume you're fluent and will subject you to a torrent of rapid babble that will only cause you to escape to the nearest McDonald's.

This is why a good dictionary is more useful than said phrase weapon. If you anticipate being in a certain situation, spend 20 minutes thinking of all the vocabulary you might need and look them up in the dictionary. If you're going to spend some time in the country or visit again, grammatical niceties can come later. To begin with, wordstream caveman grunting is much better.

What is needed from a bilingual dictionary is accuracy, guidance on pronunciation and, importantly an understanding of the linguistic peculiarities of the two languages in question. The Oxford mini dictionary fulfils these needs. On a physical level it is robust, having a vinyl cover that will withstand winespills, and it is small enough to fit into a pocket. However, its comprehensive coverage of both English and Portuguese and compact size makes the print quite small, so it might not be suitable for the visually challenged.

Firstly pronunciation:

In both language sections, the pronunciation of the word is given in brackets directly following it. This is expressed in the International Phonetic Alphabet. It isn't the same as the English alphabet, but 80% of it is. If you don't have a linguistic background, look at the English section and you will soon get the idea of how it works, hopefully. Stress is also important when pronouncing any language and especially Portuguese. By stress I mean the part of the word which is spoken with the most force. Again, if you're not an experienced linguist this might sound a little trivial, but it is much more important in Portuguese than it is in English and wrongly stressed words can be misunderstood. Stress is expressed in this dictionary by a single quote mark [ ']. This mark means that the following syllable is more strongly pronounced.

i.e. trad'itional but 'untraditional

This dictionary is very good at defining some of the peculiarities of both languages, especially our own.

We are uniquely blessed in English with something called the Phrasal Verb. Learners are more likely to call it a curse.
This is the combination of a verb and a preposition which creates a new meaning. Verbs are words of action; run, think, put etc. Prepositions are words such as; to, in, out, of , off, up etc.
For example the question ; 'Can you put me up tonight?' translated into Portuguese would be quite a bizarre question. The answer would be 'where' and 'I think you might be too heavy to lift!'
'Put' and the combination 'Put Up' are completely different in meaning. We have thousands of these combinations in English and in the Oxford mini dictionary they are comprehensively covered under the principal verb. So the verb Put will have the Portuguese for Put off, Put up, put up with and so on. This is invaluable and some dictionaries are not so helpful. It is impossible to translate these phrases word for word.

Idioms are treated in the same way. By idiom I mean a commonly used phrase which makes no sense at all if translated. They are really longer and more bizarre versions of phrasal verbs.
For example the sentence; ' My passport is a bit dog-eared.' Translated literally would cause the other person to assume you have just taken LSD and can see canine ears on your passport.

All idioms are covered in the dictionary, usually under all words used. In the example above the translation would be found under 'dog' and 'ear' and tagged as idiomatic usage.

Portuguese -English
As with most of the Romance languages Portuguese words have feminine and masculine forms, together with plural forms. The appropriate endings are given for each word in the Oxford mini dictionary directly after the main word. Nouns are also named as either feminine or masculine.

Portuguese is also spoken in Brazil and there is some difference in vocabulary. The different forms are usually given in the dictionary.

At the back of the dictionary is a table of regular and irregular Portuguese verbs. I cannot stress how useful this is. All tenses and endings are given for the main irregular verbs. Also there are three types of regular verb in Portuguese and their tense endings are also given.

Portuguese idioms are also explained in the same way as the English variety.

As I have already said, I found this dictionary invaluable during my 7 years in the country. My only criticism is the lack of swearwords and the size of the print. Leaving out swearwords is common for most dictionaries of this type but is incredibly short-sighted as they are very important to be aware of.

I once conducted a passionate affair with a dentist in Oporto, by SMS, using this dictionary. The seduction was a success without having my face slapped. Now what better recommendation is there?!

For some reason Ciao hasn't included the picture of the book so I've uploaded it below.

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Comments on this review

  • BNibbles published 27/02/2007
    You're dead right about those phrasal verbs - German can be just as bad, e.g annehmen, which ought to translate as to take on or accept, can also get used for putting weight on in a dietary sense. There's a whole bunch of 'other nehmens' all starting with a different preposition. Re dictionaries, I like the smaller plastic covered jobs although mine are mostly Collins. I've been trying to work up my list of 'languages of wine growing nations' since doing French & German A levels way back when. My Collins Portuguese is a bit thicker and an ordinary hardback. I really got stung with the Collins Greek from Amazon. Turns out it was only the English-Greek half and Amazon didn't even stock the other bit!
  • simsy87 published 19/02/2007
    great review full of great information enjoyed reading. Very informative
  • natalka57 published 17/02/2007
    Ah, a fellow phrasebook-loather... as if you ever need more than three of the phrases in the book anyway (well I never would, I often wonder what kind of holiday phrasebook-compilers actually go on).
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Product Information : Oxford University Press: Portuguese Mini-Dictionary

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Listed on Ciao since: 13/02/2007