English to Portuguese translations are fraught with potential pitfalls for translators who are unaware of the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and the version of Portuguese spoken in Portugal and the former Portuguese colonies (herein referred to as “non-Brazilian Portuguese”).
While the two dialects of the language are mutually intelligible, they have three chief groupings of differences that can make it difficult for speakers of the one dialect to understand speakers of the other:
- Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and phrase construction. The base syntactic features of written Brazilian Portuguese and non-Brazilian Portuguese can seriously complicate Portuguese translations. Just as the past participle “gotten” of the verb “to get” gives a translator away as being American, certain constructions, phrases, and words separate Brazilian from non-Brazilian Portuguese. While isolated instances of these differences may merely be jarring for readers, repetition of them makes a text feel less natural, and large differences in phraseology or idiom may seriously hinder readers’ comprehension.
- Culture. Compared to speakers of non-Brazilian Portuguese, speakers of Brazilian Portuguese are imprecise in their speech: they say more or less what they mean and let their interlocutors fill in the blanks. This can lead to cross-cultural failures of communication due to the relative literalness of speakers of non-Brazilian Portuguese. For example, if a tourist in Lisbon asks, “Is this museum open until 5:00 PM?” a local might answer, “No” if the museum is open until 6:00 PM, as the museum does not close at 5:00 PM, like the tourist literally asked. If an entire text is translated in the wrong dialect, it will be full of such inaccuracies, making non-Brazilian Portuguese readers constantly guess at meaning and Brazilian Portuguese readers feel that they are being spoken to like children.
- Pronunciation. While differences in pronunciation do not prevent understanding between speakers of the different dialects of Portuguese, they can become frustrating when they could have been avoided with a more apt Portuguese translation. Consider how difficult it would be for an Englishman to have to listen to video transcripts, auditory instruction manuals, and interviews reproduced by an American with a drawling Southern accent. This type of issue can easily be avoided in Portuguese translations when their translators are sensitive to the dialect of their target audience.
Given the differences between Brazilian and non-Brazilian Portuguese, it is important that dialect be taken into account in English to Portuguese translations. Rather than translating into Portuguese, translators should translate into the dialect of Portuguese with which they are most familiar and keep their audience in mind when generating Portuguese translations. Failure to do this may cause the target audience to say, “Como? Não falo português europeu.” – “Come again? I don’t speak European Portuguese.”
At Art One Translations we recognize country-specific language differences and ensure that the translators not only translate words and phrases correctly, but also have a country-specific audience in mind when working on a project. All of our translators live and work in the countries where the language of their translations is spoken, which enables them to capture all of the finer points of language use that a non-expert, or even an expert from a different area, would miss. This means that our translations are so fine-tuned and current that a native speaker of their target language could be convinced that the text of the translation was written by an educated local resident.
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