Friday, September 16, 2011

Rediscovering the Portuguese Language

As the Brazilian economy flourishes, the demand for Portuguese translations has increased. Do an image search for cities like Sao Paulo, Curituba, or Bello Horizonte and you will see that they rival many of the largest Asian or American cities. A few months back, we had written an article about the expanding Brazilian economy. With a population reaching 200 million, Brazil is certainly the most important Portuguese-speaking country [Read: The Bridge to Brazil: Portuguese Translations]. The economy of Portugual has also become an integral part of the European Union. In this month’s article, we want to go further and discuss the intricacies of the Portuguese language and what you need to know to help you choose a Portuguese translation service.

One of the romance languages that originated in the northwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula, the Portuguese language spread to the south with the help of the Reconquista and to other parts of the world through Portuguese colonialism in Asia, Africa and South America. Speakers of the Portuguese languages are considered “Lusophones,” and compromise a total of 272.9 million speakers, making Portuguese the 5th most spoken in the world and the most spoken in the Southern Hemisphere.

Because of their proximity in origin, Portuguese is a sister language of Spanish. A Portuguese speaker may be able to understand a Spanish speaker and vice versa. It is important to note that while Portuguese and Spanish may be mutually intelligible to a degree, they are not the same language. Considerable differences make Spanish and Portuguese unique and must be treated as separate languages. It cannot be expected that a Portuguese speaker will understand Spanish. When translating for the South American market, two separate translations in Spanish and Portuguese are certainly needed.

It is also important to understand some of the key differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. When intercontinental language dialects are compared, they often cite the differences between British English and American English, yet linguists believe that the differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese are far greater. Brazilian Portuguese has been largely influenced by African and Amerindian languages. While most of the grammar and lexicon rules remain the same, there is a great degree of differences in vocabulary for food, flora and fauna, and other terms that pertain to the local Brazilian culture. The Brazilian language is diverse within itself, having regional differences within the country. The dominance of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, in both economic and cultural aspects, has made the dialect of this southeastern region the most recognizable.

What does this mean for translation? It means that for a good translation, it must be identified for which population the translations are intended. It is perfectly acceptable to request a native speaking translator that is either fluent in European or Brazilian Portuguese, or one that originates from the Southeastern portion of Brazil for example. Most translation agencies that offer Portuguese translations would offer both choices, but please make sure to clarify to the translation agency which variety you would need. A European Portuguese translator may not be your best choice for a translation intended for the Brazilian market and vice versa. It may be more likely that you need a Brazilian Portuguese translation, as the population and economic stronghold of Brazil far exceeds that of Portugal’s. Yet if you want to focus on the European market, going with a European Portuguese translator is your best choice. A translation agency can help you find a Portuguese translator that understands your market and your industry.
Precision Language and Graphics offers Portuguese Translation services, for both the European and Brazilian markets. For more information about our Portuguese Translation Services, or questions about the Portuguese language, please visit

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