Dialects & Regional Variations
Portuguese is the fifth-most widely-spoken language in the world, with over 250 million native speakers living in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, and Mozambique, among other countries.
English to Portuguese translations may be fraught with potential pitfalls for translators who are unaware of the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and the dialect of Portuguese spoken in Portugal and other former Portuguese colonies, especially those in Africa.
This article will refer to “Brazilian Portuguese” and “European Portuguese.” (Note: Portuguese is spoken in multiple African nations, but the language used there has much more in common with the one in Portugal.)
Differences in Dialects and How They Affect Portuguese Translations
While the two dialects of the language are mutually intelligible, several broad differences need to be taken into account when working on Portuguese translations:
The Role of Vocabulary for Accurate Portuguese Translations
One of the most significant differences between the two main dialects of Portuguese is vocabulary. Everyday words can vary significantly. For example, “breakfast” is pequeno-almoço in Portugal, and café da manhã in Brazil. Similarly, “train” is comboio in Portugal and trem in Brazil.
Over the centuries, Brazilian Portuguese has absorbed many words from indigenous and African languages. Interestingly, some of these words are now commonly used in Portugal because they refer to objects that did not exist in Europe before Brazil was colonized. Examples include jacaré (alligator) and abacaxi (pineapple).
Brazilian Portuguese has also adopted many English words, especially in IT and computing. For example, Brazilians will use the words laptop and mouse, whereas speakers in Portugal prefer computador portátil and rato.
Portuguese translations need to use the right word to read smoothly. The reader may be able to understand unfamiliar words in context, but it will slow them down.
Additionally, some words have an innocent, everyday meaning in one dialect and a vulgar meaning in the other. Portuguese translators working in their native variant will know to avoid these words immediately.
How Grammar Affects Portuguese Translations
Differences in the basic grammar of written Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese can complicate Portuguese translations. Just as the past participle “gotten” of the verb “to get” gives a translator away as being American, specific constructions, phrases, and words separate Brazilian from European Portuguese.
For example, Brazilians exclusively use você to mean a single “you,” while speakers in Portugal say tú (informal) or você (formal). There are also differences in the plural “you.” These need to be handled correctly in Portuguese translations, especially in marketing copy or other texts that directly address the reader.
How Communication Style Impacts Portuguese Translations
European Portuguese is much more direct than Brazilian Portuguese, which can lead to cross-cultural communication failures. 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 literally close at 5:00 PM.
If an entire text is translated into the wrong dialect, European Portuguese readers will constantly be left guessing the meaning. On the other hand, Brazilian Portuguese readers, who are used to filling in the blanks for themselves, will feel that they are being spoken to like children.
Cultural Context in Portuguese Translations
Translations into Portuguese need to take into account the local culture as well as the language. For example, Brazil and Portugal have different legal systems. If you are translating a contract from English to Portuguese, you will want to work with a professional Portuguese translator who is familiar with the local legal system.
The same applies to Portuguese translations of marketing copy or advertisements. You can build trust with potential customers by using a Portuguese translator with an intimate understanding of the local market and how people think and talk. On the flip side, a Portuguese translation done by a translator who does not reside in that country might sound unfamiliar or awkward.
Portuguese translations intended specifically for speakers in Africa may require a translator from that region who can tailor the language even more specifically to that community.
Portuguese Translations Focused on a Specific Region
Given the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese, it is essential that the target country be taken into account in English to Portuguese translations. Rather than translating into either form of Portuguese, translators should translate exclusively into their native dialect.
Portuguese translations should always keep the target region in mind, never aiming for a “neutral” Portuguese.
Portuguese Translations for Website Content
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is one of the most important reasons to use the correct Portuguese dialect on your website.
The copy on your website must reflect the keywords for which the users search. Searchers in Brazil and Portugal will use different words, so for your website to perform well in searches, your Portuguese translations need to be written to match the keywords users in the target
Our Portuguese Translation Process
At Art One Translations, we recognize country-specific language differences and ensure that our translators not only translate words and phrases correctly but also keep their audience in mind.
Our Portuguese translators live and work in the countries where the specific dialect of the language of their translations is spoken, which enables them to capture nuances that a non-expert, or even an expert from a different country, would miss.
This means that our translations are so fine-tuned and current as to sound as though an educated local resident wrote them. We also provide localization for software, website, user manuals, and other types of files and employ specialists in many fields so that any text can be adapted precisely according to your needs.
We also provide localization for software, website, user manuals, and other types of files and employ specialists in many fields so that any text can be adapted precisely according to your needs.
If you expect top-notch, market-specific Portuguese translations, Art One Translations would love to partner with you on your next project.
If you are interested in our Portuguese translation services, please send us a cost-free, obligation-free inquiry.
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