Portuguese, with over 200 million speakers is the seventh most spoken language in the world, the most spoken language in South America, the second most spoken in Latin America and an official language of the Euroean Union.
Portuguese is comprised of two official dialects: Portuguese (referred to as European Portuguese) and Brazilian Portuguese. So considering what Portuguese to choose when localizing your products or services is common when it comes to translation. We usually hear questions like "How do I know which dialect will work best for my target market?".
Here’s a brief breakdown of the main differences between the two main Portuguese dialects… and when I say brief, I mean brief, I’m sure there are hundreds of books written on this... but here it is in a nutshell (so to speak).
Why it may not be as simple as “just choosing one”...
Before the Portuguese Orthographic Agreement, which came into effect officially on May 13th of this year, there were two official written forms; Brazilian and EU Portuguese, which covered the African and Asian speaking countries. The differences in spelling, stemming mainly from variations in pronunciation was a long debated topic throughout the 20th and 21st century, but has finally come into play.
The elimination of spelling differences, leaves fewer grey areas and room for confusion for learners of the language, and helps to unify the Lusophone population through one written language. From a translation point of view, the fact that all Portuguese written documentation has to abide by standardised spelling, makes things a lot less complicated, and even provides a little more flexibility for translators. Variations in vocabulary and cultural differences however, do still exist, which is why translation into both dialects as separate languages is still a factor in Portuguese translation.
Brazil is a huge country, so it goes unsaid I suppose, why its dialect is classed as a language in itself compared to that spoken in Angola or Cape Verde. Due its size and location, the Brazilian dialect has been heavily influenced with terminology from other languages such as English and some of the African languages, and is more prone to “borrowing” terms. This leaves significant differences in terminology between that of EU Portuguese, which tends to be influenced more by its neighbours in Spain and the other Romance languages (French, Italian).
Copy written using a lot of colloquialisms is where the language barrier tends to increase, just as it would if an American were to read a publication in British English.
Although not an issue in terms of translation, it is worth noting the vast differences in Portuguese pronunciation among the dialects, which was the root of the majority of spelling differences over the years. In Brazil, words tend to be spoken more clearly and are pronounced as they are spelt, whereas in Portugal, certain vowels for example are pronounced less clearly, or not at all. So, for someone who is fluent in European Portuguese and not in the other, it will be relatively easy to figure out Brazilian Portuguese, however it will be more difficult vice versa. As well as this, in Portugal people are regularly exposed to Brazilian Portuguese on television, whereas the same can’t be said in Brazil.
So, what should be my localization approach?
Where is your audience?
If your audience is based anywhere other than Brazil or Portugal, and you are unsure of the best approach, use this rule of thumb:
If you are targeting people mainly based in the USA, then Brazilian Portuguese will be the most appropriate. If your audience is based in Africa or Asia, European Portuguese will be the most widely understood.
Gauge which will provide the most return on investment...
It is always advisable to translate with your target audience in mind, in order to resonate with them as much as possible. So for instance, if you are selling in Brazil, then you should localize into Brazilian Portuguese. However, if you need to sell into other locales and budget is a factor then you can consider adapting Brazilian into European Portuguese.
Whatever you do, don’t mix...
One important thing to note: if you're going to stick to one version of a language, stick to it. Mixing several language dialects and synonyms for different terminology will look unprofessional and confusing for your customer, so don't be tempted to throw in vocabulary from all regions in an attempt to please everyone.... it won't.
Keep it simple…
In order to appeal to a wider audience, simplicity of sentence structure and terminology is key, so try to keep language as neutral as possible. Keeping sentences short and to the point, and avoiding the use of flowery language will make it easier for most readers to engage with and understand the translation. This will be most applicable In the case of user manuals or technical documentation, where keeping simple language is most achievable.
If you are unsure of whether or not your Portuguese translations are audience appropriate and if they are adhering to the new spelling agreement, here is a free Portuguese spelling analysis to help give you some peace of mind.