First, the most important thing to know:
No matter how you pronounce it, saudade is pretty much always pronounced correctly. Depending on the country – whether Portugal or Brazil – and depending on the region – where exactly in Portugal or Brazil – the word saudade can sound so different that all your fears of mispronunciation are unfounded.
You can quote us on that!
Saudade is pretty much untranslatable.
You can describe it, but you can certainly not force it into a synonym.
If you translate it with “a longing for strange places”, you get close to its meaning, but only describe a small part of its effect.
Saudade describes a feeling, or it is a collective noun for several feelings that resemble each other. Longing, melancholia, pain, nostalgia, loneliness…
You have to have felt it.
Endless discussions are possible about a competition for the world’s most beautiful ABC, meaning the most beautiful word in the world.
A jury appointed by the German Institute for Foreign Relations ranked saudade in sixth place of all words.
And just to give you an impression of the competition: the winner was the Turkish word yakamoz, meaning “reflection of the moon in the water”.
How rich words can be!
The word saudade is said to have originated in the time between the 12th and 15th century.
The Portuguese claim it for themselves, and in connection with their innumerable voyages to discover the world, and the constant leave-taking this entailed, they gave it its first great blossoming.
As the historian and writer Gloria Kaiser stated, It only crosses Lusitanian lips…
Central Europeans may associate more with the term lamento.
We all know the effect lamenting, and suffering for suffering’s sake, has.
And we know we usually feel better afterwards…
Saudade in Music
Saudade is the central theme of the last style of European urban music still in existence today: Portuguese fado.
Fado mixes the world of feelings associated with saudade with moving texts, resulting in a musical style in which all this grief is cried out, in weeping and screaming.
Music in Saudade
One essential reason for the nomination of the word as one of the ten most beautiful in the world is certainly its sound, the music within that sound.
If you want, you can experiment and play with it, repeat it several times, short-long-short, long-short-long, with an accent in the middle, or maybe at the end after all, with a de at the end, or a dee, or maybe a gee after all?
Speed plays its own role here; dream yourself to Portugal or Brazil in the midday heat, 40° Celsius, the sea, farewells…
Tears of yearning,
Come, do not hold back,
For, if you fail to appear, you will be my death…
See what a state I am in,
What fate I must endure,
For I must expect death
If I hesitate to weep.
Eyes, when I weep with you,
Heal my weariness;
Tell me, why do you not weep?
from Lágrimas de saudade (anonymous), Portugal, 16th century