In 2009, all Portuguese-speaking countries underwent a language reform that aimed to established a common orthography, or spelling system.

Countries involved in the overhaul included Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé & Príncipe, and East Timor.

Why was this change made? And what effect has it had on translation and localization?

A Standardized Form

While this change in orthography means that residents of these countries have changed the way they write, it has simplified some aspects of translation and localization for the worldwide Portuguese market (which includes 190 million people in Brazil, 10 million in Portugal, and 32 million in the other six countries).

Proponents initially said the move would make the language more uniform globally, making such things as internet searches and legal documents easier to understand. Grammarians estimated that the unified spelling will affect 1.6 percent of the words used in Portugal and 0.5 percent of the words used in Brazil, and that 98 percent of the spelling discrepancies between the two countries will be eliminated once Portugal implements the agreement.

ULG researched some of the specific standardization rules when the proposal was first introduced; here is an overview of the changes:

  • The agreement will reach a 98% standardization.
  • Eliminating the letters c and p from the spelling whenever they are silent.
  • Eliminating the mark (ü) from the Brazilian spelling.
  • Eliminating the acute accent from the diphthongs éi and ói in paroxytone words.
  • Considering divergent spellings (such as anónimo and anônimo, facto and fato) as both legitimate, according to the dialect of the author or person being transcribed.
  • Establishing some common guidelines for the use of hyphens and capitalization.
  • Adding three letters (K, W, and Y), to the Portuguese alphabet.
Effects on Localization

Naturally, these reforms have a big impact on translation and localization. It will be necessary to start using the new rules on materials that are being translated for the first time, and to review the materials that have already been translated in order to update them accordingly. It will be necessary to review all 100% matches and Context TM segments in Portuguese translation memories applied to new projects.

The need for translation updates will have additional implications, such as higher costs for full edits and a longer turnaround; therefore, it is helpful to discuss the process for incorporating Portuguese spelling reforms with your localization partner.

ULG is available to assist our clients in implementing this Portuguese language transition.  Please contact us if you have additional questions.

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