Portuguese

Dialects and Regional Variations

English to Portuguese translations are fraught with potential pitfalls for translators who are unaware of the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and the dialect of Portuguese spoken in Portugal and the former Portuguese colonies (“European Portuguese”).

While the two dialects of the language are mutually intelligible, three broad differences can make it difficult for speakers of the one dialect to understand speakers of the other:

  1. Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and phrase construction. 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, certain constructions, phrases, and words separate Brazilian from European Portuguese. A few of these differences won’t hinder readers’ comprehension, but when they add up they can make a text feel unnatural and clunky.
  2. Culture. European Portuguese is much more direct than Brazilian Portuguese, which can lead to cross-cultural failures of communication. 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 in the wrong dialect, European Portuguese readers will be left constantly guessing at meaning and Brazilian Portuguese readers, who are used to filling in the blanks for themselves, will feel that they are being spoken to like children.
  3. Pronunciation. While differences in pronunciation do not prevent understanding between speakers of the different dialects of Portuguese, they can be avoided by translation into the right dialect. Consider how difficult it would be for an Englishman to make sense of video transcripts, auditory instruction manuals, and interviews localized 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 keep their audience in mind. All of our 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 area, would miss. This means that our translations are so fine-tuned and current as to sound as though they were written by an educated local resident.

If you are interested in our Portuguese translation services, please send us a cost-free, obligation-free inquiry.

Client Comments

Terrific work! Thank you very much for the precise and dedicated work throughout this effort. I’m so pleased to know our translations are in such great hands. Once again, I just want to say how much your hard work and dedication to keeping this project on track means to not only me, but the executive team here at JSI. I knew you would come through, but you proved it to them as well.

Patti Waddell

JSI Telecom