You may have heard some noise lately regarding the new Portuguese spelling reform, and are wondering what it is all about. So here is a little breakdown of what it is and a couple of things to bear in mind regarding translation and localization to help keep you up to date…
Over the 20th and 21st century, with the rise of the Portuguese speaking population and Brazil’s influence on the Portuguese language, many attempts have been made to form a common written language, shared by the vast Lusophone population in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe.
The first attempt began as far back as 1911… and almost 100 years later, in 2009 the debate was finally settled and the Novo Acodo Ortográfico (New Orthographic Agreement) was signed. At the time, the new Orthographic Agreement was only implemented officially in Brazil and given a six year transition period to be fully adopted by the rest of the Lusophone world, the deadline of which will be on May 13th this year.
So what does the Spelling reform mean for Portuguese speakers?
The Orthographic Agreement was forged with the aim of strengthening the Portuguese language, to avoid distinguishing the Portuguese dialects as separate languages, and eventual segmentation of each of the Lusophone countries, if written language differences were to persist.
It means unified spelling of words among the countries where the Portuguese language is spoken officially, although country specific words and phrases will still exist. An example of this in English would be UK and US spelling differences e.g. “centre” (UK) and “center” (USA) would no longer have two spellings, however the different idiomatic phrases or words expressed in each culture will remain the same. The agreement will not eliminate all orthographic differences, but it will move towards a 98% standardisation, particularly between Brazil and Portugal.
Here’s a summary of the main changes
- Mute consonants disappear in European Portuguese, keeping in line with the Brazilian spelling e.g. eléctrico > elétrico, óptimo > ótimo, direcção > direção
- New letters are added to the alphabet; it now has 26 letters, with the re-addition of K, W and Y
- Only written language is affected, spoken language will remain the same.
- Change in usage of upper and lower case letters
- Removal of certain accents - particularly in Brazilian Portuguese e.g. bilíngüe > bilíngue, heróico > heroico
- Certain hyphens are removed and some are added - auto-escola > autoescola, microondas > micro-ondas
What to be aware of regarding Portuguese translation and localization
The new Agreement means that all documentation written in Portuguese must comply by the new spelling rules going forward. If you already work with Portuguese as one of your main languages or are considering having content translated into Portuguese, here are a few things to take with you…
Want to be sure that your content is in line with the new spelling laws? Upload your file or URL below for a free spelling analysis.