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The book is based extensively on interviews and participant observation and includes a large quantity of speech attributed to the participants. Much of this speech was originally in Portuguese and have been translated into English by myself (sometimes with assistance of native Portuguese speakers). Some of this speech is based on transcripts of recorded interviews; some is based on fieldnotes. This page explains my approach to transcription and translation. The original text of the quotations (often with broader context) is available on the Original Quotations page.

Quoting Interview Transcripts

Quotes taken from recorded transcription are typically represented as long quotations. They are always presented verbatim, with only the following exceptions:

I correct minor disfluencies when they do not appear to be relevant to the interpretation of the quote. This includes removal of almost all uhs, and hms, my feedback utterances (uhu’s) that overlap with an interviewee’s speech, and some of the minor self-corrections or repetitions. For instance, “and that that that it would be strange” would typically be quoted as “and that it would be strange.” For more serious self-correction, which may represent a major change in what the interviewee was saying, I usually leave the utterance as is, using ellipsis to show the place where the grammatical flow is broken: “I can maybe try to find some… but I think that I usually already wrote many things in English.” Alternatively, I truncate the corrected part, replacing it with bracketed ellipsis: […]. (In other words, I use “[…]” to represent an omission, and plain “…” to represents a pause or a an interruption in the flow of an utterance.)

I correct minor grammatical errors for interviews conducted in English and in my own Portuguese utterances in Portuguese interviews. I do not, however, correct non-standard or even plain wrong use of vocabulary (either for by myself or by my interviewees). I also leave the speech uncorrected if the usage is relevant to the flow of conversation (e.g., if it creates a confusion between me and the interviewee).

I frequently remove parts of the utterance to shorten quotes and make them easier to read. I represent such removals with bracketed ellipsis: […]. (Again, ellipsis without brackets is used to indicate pauses and chances in sentence structure.) Such removals may span several dialog turns, though I do not splice together distant parts of in interview. The listing of the original quotes fills in most of such removals.

I mark laughter, chuckles and pauses selectively, when they appear to be relevant to understanding the conversation.

At times I take shorter segments of a recorded interview and integrate them into a paragraph. Such shorter quotes are transcribed in the same way as long quotes.

Some of the interviews were not recorded. Quotes from such interviews are presented based on fieldnotes and follow the same conventions as other quotes from fieldnotes, which are described in the next section.

Quotes from Fieldnotes and Paraphrases

Quotes taken from fieldnotes, either based on interviews or observed scenes, are obviously never as not reliable as those from recorded interviews. Beyond that, however, I distinguish between more and less precise quotes by use of quotation marks.

When I place a phrase in quotation marks while describing a scene, this means that the quote was recorded in my notes, and that at the time of recording it I was reasonably sure that it represented the utterance verbatim or nearly verbatim. Some of those quotes were spoken and recorded in my notes in Portuguese, while others were spoken in Portuguese but recorded in English. In the latter cases, I typically took time to make a mental note of the phase right after it was uttered, and could remember at that point my on-the-fly translation of it, but not the exact Portuguese phrasing.

Alternatively, I sometimes introduce direct speech that is based on paraphrases recorded in my notes. I include such speech without quotes, italicizing it if it helps understanding:

How would you even do it? asked Fabio. How would you translate “DIM?”

Such direct speech always represents utterances that actually occurred, but might not be reproduced verbatim. In the example above, Fabio may have said “could” rather than “would,” or may have even said “How would this even work?” In such cases I intend to capture speaker’s meaning and overall manner of speaking, but not make assertions about the exact words. I sometimes choose to drop quotes around utterances that were actually recorded verbatim, to blend them with the adjacent utterances, which are based on paraphrases. E.g., in the quote above I could put quotes around Fabio’s question “How would you translate DIM?” but choose to include it without quotes since the adjacent utterances are paraphrases.

Quoting the Original Portuguese

There are substantial differences between spoken Brazilian Portuguese and the formal Portuguese as it is often written in Brazil. There is a strong tradition in Brazil of translating speech into formal register when representing it in writing. When transcribing the original quotes (see Original Quotations). I do not follow this tradition when representing the original Portuguese and instead attempt to present the spoken vernacular as it is. At the same time, however, I am to keep the transcripts readable. I use the following convention as a compromise:

I always preserve speaker’s actual grammar and vocabulary, as best as I can. For instance, I do not correct “a gente trabalha” to “nós trabalhamos,” ou “pegava” to “pegaria.”

I represent common verbal abbreviations. I write tar (, ) instead of estar (está, estou), instead of você, pra instead of para, vamo for vamos, cabou instead of acabou. Such abbreviated forms are not used in standard written Portuguese, and the Brazilian convention is to formalize them when representing direct speech. At the same time, most Cariocas seem aware of the fact that they use such abbreviated forms and recognize them when they see them written. Needless to say, I only use such abbreviated forms when the speaker does.

I do not represent other aspects of Brazilian or Carioca pronunciation. For instance, I do not attempt to represent the pronunciation of “s” as [ʃ], “r” as [x], or the insertion of extra vowels between consonants. I also do not attempt to represent the nearly ubiquitous substitution of for -ou in the past tense of verbs (“ele falô” instead of “ele falou”) except in “tô,” or the dropping of final “r” in verbs (“quero falá” vs. “quero falar”). Since such features are common to nearly all Carioca speakers, the reader can fill them in. Representing such features in quotes, on the other hand, would make the quotes a lot harder to read.

Translation into English

A section of this website (Original Quotations) provides Portuguese text and additional context for long quotes that were translated from Portuguese. It also provides additional context for quotations originally in English (and identifies them as such).

When translating vernacular Portuguese into English, I try to pick vocabulary from the appropriate register, but erring on the side of the more formal English. (For example, I translate “cara” as “guy” rather than “dude.”) I do not attempt to represent in English the grammatical informality of Portuguese vernacular. In a few cases I include the original Portuguese in brackets in the text of the book when the translation is not obvious or where the original choice of word may be relevant.

When Portuguese quotes include English words, I include those words in English in the quote and italicize them. When translating the quote into English, I again italicize the English words. I add “[says in English]” or “[English]” if this English phase is not common in Portuguese, for example: “If you want we can talk. [Says in English.]” I do not do this for English words that can be considered already a part of Portuguese vocabulary.

When Portuguese speakers use English words in the context of a Portuguese sentence, they nearly always adjust their pronunciation to the rules of Portuguese phonology, which makes them sound quite different from the original English: “download” would be pronounuced as [daʊnˈloʊʤı] (“dawnloaji”) and “nerd” as [ˈnexʤı] (“nehji”). The way such words are pronounced varies from one speaker to another and between different contexts: the pronunciation can be more Portuguese or closer to English.

I avoid representing pronunciation in most such cases, since it would make the text hard to read and may create an impression that my interviewees are less competent in their use of such words than they actually are. Instead, I present them in their standard English spelling, which how all of my interviewees would write such words in the context of a Portuguese sentence. When the pronunciation is particularly relevant, I make a separate note about it, as I for example in the opening of chapter 3.