Our guide for translating Portuguese

In business, it is crucial to be aware why it is important that the Portuguese being used is not only correct, but also culturally appropriate. We hope that this article will offer you some useful tips.

I. The importance of Portuguese Translations

Portuguese is the second most spoken Romance language and the sixth most spoken language in the world.

Portuguese is used by 215 to 220 million native speakers and 270 million total speakers across many continents from Europe, Asia to Africa. 

Portuguese roots in Latin. It is morphologically rich. Nouns, adjectives and determiners are variable in number and gender. In each tense, verbs have three different forms of person. On top of that, this language has four modes. The indicative mode is the most complicated one and it consists of “only” five tenses for you to deal with.

This complexity in grammar is the reason why you need a professional translator if you want to avoid ambiguity and create grammatically correct sentences for your materials.

II. Portuguese in Europe, America, Africa and Asia

The variety of Portuguese used in Portugal and Brazil is so different that one can tell when hearing the way vowels are modulated by speakers from the two countries. 

Morphological differences between the two are also significant. Translators must be careful when selecting references for some specific industries such as medicine, technology or mechanics. Though the differences are enormous, it is not enough to call Portuguese used in Portugal and Portuguese used in Brazil two distinct languages or dialects.

Portuguese is the official language of many African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé and Príncipe. In Asia, you can also  find it as the main language in East Timor and Macau.

III. 3 tips for translating Portuguese

1. Be Aware of Cultural Differences

For instance, Portuguese-speaking countries often prefer the 24-hour clock, but in the UK, the 12-hour time format with am and pm is the one in use. Another case is that headings in English capitalize each word in the title, whearease in Portuguese, the only word with a capital letter is the first letter of the first word only. 

2. Portuguese is Longer than English

The length of text varies between English and Portuguese as much as 30% longer. This may have a direct impact on the marketing materials. 

If the text were being translated from Portuguese into English, it’s likely that the length of the text would shrink, which in turn would mean there would be an empty space. It is the job of a skilled translator to adapt the target text to fit the space, and ensure that the original message is delivered properly.

3. Spelling Reform in 2015

In 2015, there was a spelling reform to make the spelling of Portuguese words more uniform across the Portuguese-speaking countries. In the old times, the Portuguese alphabet had no ‘k’, ‘w’ and ‘y’. For instance, ‘k’ being replaced by ‘qu’, like ‘kilogram’, which became ‘quilograma’. 

As borrowed English words have been increasing, so adding more letters to the original 23-letter alphabet to 26-letter is required. Besides, some consonants have also been removed such as ‘p’ and ‘c’.

Your choice can affect the cost and the effectiveness of translated content. Therefore, you need professional linguists who understand both languages and the cultural nuances within each of them to advise you. 

If you need to translate into Portuguese, give us a call today!

Fun facts about Portuguese language:

  • Portuguese is the official language of the Chinese autonomous territory of Macau.
  • Only 5% of Portuguese speakers live in Portugal
  • Its longest word has 29 letters which is ‘anticonstitucionalíssimamente’
  • Each verb tense in Portuguese comes with six different endings