SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Portuguese Spelling Reform - Are You Clued In?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 7, 2015 / by Lorna Franklin



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…

Be sure that you Language Service Provider is taking action - First and foremost, it is likely that your LSP is aware of the reform, but you can never be too careful. Make sure to check that they are taking the necessary steps to ensure that all translators are complying with the new rules, and that the terminology in your content will therefore be up to date.
Have your 100% matches reviewed - This is really important as many of your previously stored 100% matches may not be in line with the new laws, so it’s a good idea to request that they are reviewed for the next few projects, this way leaving less room for errors.
Prioritise updates of certain content - Updating currently translated text is not compulsory but it is advisable in order to provide the most up to date language for your consumer and to display a professional brand image. Any end-user texts, websites and marketing material should be updated as a priority. Basically anything that is being displayed to an end user or consumer should be updated to comply with the regulations, whereas manuals and technical documentation that is not directed to end users can be gradually updated when translating new projects.

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.

Get a Portuguese Spelling Analysis

Topics: Documentation Translation, Marketing Translation, Translation Services

Lorna Franklin

Written by Lorna Franklin

In 2009, Lorna's love for languages inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Intercultural studies with French and Spanish, in Dublin City University (DCU). During her degree, she spent a year living in Granada, Spain which truly re-enforced her passion for the Spanish language and culture.