Book Review: Collins’ Portuguese Dictionary & Grammar

Collins’ Portuguese Dictionary & Grammar

It’s good to have a useful dictionary.  As a child, I was made fun of for reading dictionaries, a habit I have continued well into my adulthood, but those who make fun of those who read or like to look at dictionaries are missing the point, that if you want to know what words to say to increase your vocabulary, the easiest way is simply to look them up.  In our day and time, of course, there are a great many ways to do this online, and I like using those a lot as well, but sometimes it is important to have a book close by to look at to ponder over how to say a word in another language, and for those times this book certainly does a good job at moving both from English to Portuguese as well as vice versa.  It’s not a high frills book but it is sizable and includes a lot of words and definitely is a good resource to have if you are someone who is looking for the right word in Portuguese or English from the other language.  It is little wonder in that light that the book is a bestselling dictionary.

This book is about 950 pages long and it is divided into several parts.  The book begins with an introduction, abbreviation guide, pronunciation guide, notes on Portuguese spelling and English and Portuguese verb forms, as well as numbers.  After that the first 430 or so numbered pages of the book is made up of the English-Portuguese dictionary, which is organized alphabetically by letter.  Within the various definitions are included idioms translated by phrase, pronunciations are given, and different senses of words are often given different meanings.  In the middle of the book there are grammar guides for both English and Portuguese that take 128 pages that are not numbered with the rest of the book.  The rest of the book then consists of the Portuguese-English dictionary that is smaller than the English-Portuguese side but not by a huge amount.  Occasionally the book explains terms, such as the notorious Brazilian Revolta da vacina, where citizens of Rio de Janiero revolted in 1904 against a compulsory smallpox vaccination.  These sorts of bits make the book a lot more enjoyable and provide some value aside from the words themselves and will likely be appreciated by those looking for a bit of context on the Portuguese language.

What you do with a book like this is up to you.  As for me, this book was easy to enjoy and appreciate for the nuance it provided in the look at different words to use based on different senses of a word.  In looking at these words it appears that Portuguese has a smaller vocabulary than English does overall (although this is not particularly surprising) words like tart and sour, for example, translate to the same azedo/azeda.  That said, there do not appear to be any words that I have found in Portuguese that have the same sort of linguistic horrors for people as take or set, so there’s that.  The book’s discussion of grammatical rules related to verb construction are also something that would be useful to many readers as well.  This is not the sort of book that one reads for literary pleasure, but it is a practical guide and even in an age where online dictionaries are common there is still a good case that can be made for this book being a very worthwhile and enjoyable one to have, and that’s something that can be appreciated by anyone who wants this somewhat sizable book.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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