Portuguese holds an incredibly important place on the world stage, especially in terms of its influence in South America (largely due to Brazil), in southern Africa and in parts of South East Asia. The language has a huge global reach and potential audience, which makes it too important for modern, international businesses to ignore.
Global importance of Portuguese
The Portuguese Empire was the first and longest lasting European global empire, and although its influence never reached the heights of the Spanish or British Empires, it nonetheless gained and retained an importance that shouldn’t be overlooked. Today, Portuguese is the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) are home to 300 million people covering a combined area of over 10,742,000 square kilometres.
Probably the most important global effect of Portuguese is that it remains the primary language of Brazil, one of the modern world’s up-and-coming economic superpowers. Even disregarding all other Portuguese speaking countries and people, accessing one of the largest and perhaps someday one of the richest countries in the world will require high quality translation into the Portuguese language.
European Portuguese versus Brazilian Portuguese
Crucial to your translation service is deciding whether you want your text to be read mainly by European Portuguese speakers or by those in Brazil. Much like there are core differences between British and American English, there are differences between European Portuguese and its Brazilian counterpart, although in this case the differences are far more noticeable. Whilst the two languages are mutually intelligible, it remains very important to distinguish between audiences in order to avoid confusion and earn respect.
The main differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese are pronunciation, spelling and use of pronouns. The former, of course, won’t affect your written translation, but spelling and pronoun use should be localised based on your target audience. It’s worth bearing in mind that Portuguese spoken outside of Europe and Brazil is still influenced by these two main versions.
Many Japanese speakers learn the Brazilian version of the language, while many African and Asian forms more closely match the European language.
What to expect from your Portuguese translation
Like many Romance languages, you can expect that Portuguese will take up more space in written form than English, being anywhere between 15% and 30% longer. Unlike Spanish, Portuguese does not use the inverted question and exclamation marks, but does use diacritics, or accents, that may need to be accounted for in graphic design.
Interesting facts about the Portuguese language
- Due to its larger population, there are more Portuguese speakers in Brazil (202 million) than in Portugal itself (10.8 million).
- In the early 20th century, European Portuguese spelling was made more phonetic in an attempt to increase literacy rates. Similar efforts were made in Brazil in the latter half of the century.
- The Portuguese alphabet does not naturally use the letters K, W or Y, using them only for foreign loan words.