“It makes no difference whether it is Brazilian or European Portuguese”

10 05 2013

REALLY? I read this on an e-mail from a prospect client today and literally felt like crying. Basically, the client was saying that there is a difference when translating into these two languages, but not from either of them into a third language. Again, really?

Hence, I have decided to settle the issue once and for all! Brazilian and European Portuguese, or other variants (I have heard African Portuguese) are so-called because they ARE very different. Firstly, let’s put it into perspective. Listen to about 1 minute of each video below to have a feel for the languages:

Brazilian Portuguese

European Portuguese

They sound very different don’t they? In fact, they are more different than different accents in English speaking countries and it can be hard even for native speakers to understand their non-native variant.

Next, there are vocabulary differences, such as:

English Brazilian PT Portugal PT
Can opener abridor tira-cápsulas
Butcher’s açougue talho
Flight attendant (female) aeromoça hospedeira de bordo
Workbook apostila sebenta
Candy bala rebuçado
Bathroom banheiro casa de banho
Box caixa, caixinha boceta (this in PTBR is equivalent to the “C” swear word)
Panties/ knickers calcinha cueca (This in PTBR is the word for men’s underwear)
Identity Card carteira de identidade bilhete de identidade
Driver’s license carteira de motorista carta de condução
Mobile/cell phone celular telemóvel
Convertible conversível descapotável
Pedestrian Crossing faixa de pedestres passadeira
Line/cue fila bicha
Fridge geladeira frigorífico
Stapler grampeador agrafador
Comic história em quadrinhos banda desenhada
Injection injeção pica
Socks meias peúgas
Bus ônibus autocarro
Pedestrian pedestre peão
Bus Stop ponto de ônibus paragem
Private tutor professor particular explicador
Sandwich sanduíche sandes
Ice cream sorvete gelado
Juice suco sumo
Train trem comboio
Shop window vitrine montra
Saucer xícara chávena

Source: SO Portugues

Grammar, orthography and general writing are also different. So different, in fact, that in 1990, Portuguese Speaking countries signed an orthographic agreement in an attempt to align/unify the rules for written Portuguese across Portuguese speaking countries. In addition to unifying language, the aim of the agreement was to improve cultural exchange, reduce the economic cost of book production and translations, and promote bibliographic exchange between these countries. This has been met with such controversy that it was due to become obligatory from 2008 and now, at least in Brazil, its obligatory enforcement has been postponed to 2016 – i.e. both the old and the new grammar and orthography rules are currently acceptable in Brazil. Source: Brasil Escola

The aforementioned differences are naturally significant, but the most significant difference is a lot more subtle – i.e. culture. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Equatorial, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe and Macau. All of these countries harbor very different cultures that are reflected in how the language is spoken and, more importantly, how meaning is construed through language. This is particularly true in technical fields, legal and medical terminology is completely different in Brazil and Portugal, because there are different regulations and practices in place.

Most opponents of the orthographic agreement argue that you couldn’t possibly contain all these different manifestations within a single set of rules. One couldn’t possibly contain such a fluid language spoken in such vibrant cultures in a unified grammar book.

Back to the business of translations, it is easier for native Portuguese speakers to learn variants of Portuguese other than their native ones than learning a new language. However, this learning is not automatic and requires cultural awareness. If a translator is not knowledgeable about the culture where the source Portuguese file is from or intended Portuguese translation is targeting, there are bound to be misunderstandings! My advice: always look for an expert on the specific variant of Portuguese being used in your project.


Avenues for Medical Translators in Brazil

12 04 2013

“Not many sectors of the Brazilian economy have grown as rapidly and consistently as the medicine market. Since 2005, expansion rates in this sector have been well into double digits. In 2011, the market grew by 19 %, with a turnover of USD 26 billion and 2.3 billion medicine packs”, according to the pharmaceutical giant, boehringer-ingelheim’s website.

Such a large market is a natural magnet for global pharmaceutical giants and, needless to say, a great opportunity for medical and pharmaceutical translators. In addition to the drug and pharmaceutical markets, there is medical and market research, which in some ways complement the first, but also have their own established markets.

There are several avenues available to medical translators who wish to initiate or expand their careers in this market. We’ll discuss a few of them briefly below.

Firstly, there is medical and pharmaceutical research. Medical research in Brazil is conducted mainly at universities or research centres and is funded by sponsoring agencies or by pharmaceutical companies. The first consideration here is whether you translate into English or into Brazilian Portuguese.  Generally, we tend to prefer native speakers to translate only into their native languages.

Based on that assumption, if you are Brazilian, researchers in Brazil are not a good bet, because they will need to translate their work into English- they have very little demand for translations into Portuguese, because they usually need their research translated for international publishing. However, due to the fluid nature of Brazilian Portuguese and how hard it is for foreigners to master its nuances, the fact that these researchers often write part of the work in English (which usually means you have to interpret how they thought in Portuguese to be able to review the content in English) and Brazilian regulations that make it very hard for them to hire services abroad (taxation and funding issues), researchers hardly ever hire foreign translators. Hence, they are not a market to be overlooked if you are able to translate well into English. Researchers are also usually demanding clients (because they speak English), but loyal and often refer you to their peers.

Pharmaceutical companies are the biggest buyers of Brazilian Portuguese translations in this market. They need the research that they sponsor abroad (clinical trials, etc.), patent documentation, prospects, marketing materials, etc. all translated and localized for the Brazilian market. Hence they are great clients and a constant source of demand. However, due to the sensitive nature of their research and products they often prefer to hire companies to provide translation services. The reasons behind this are many, but to pinpoint a couple, they can hold translation agencies more easily accountable for errors and confidentiality breaches. Plus, translation agencies will implement processes involving a series of translators and reviewers to ensure accuracy. If you do not own an agency, you are more likely to get to these clients through a specialist medical agency. Serious medical translation agencies are excellent to work for, because they are aware of the responsibility involved and pay accordingly for your expertise. In addition, they will strive to keep working with you when you demonstrate quality. You are able to work closely with their project managers, but they will require serious qualifications and experience.

Another avenue is pharmaceutical and medical market research, which is arguably the easiest to enter, but also the most price sensitive. This is driven by pharmaceutical companies and other medical product manufacturers that hire specialist market research companies to gain insight into their consumer markets. The market research companies will procure the translation services and are price sensitive, because they often work on tighter budgets and need to cover costs of travel, interviewing etc. Nonetheless, they can be an excellent avenue into the medical market and have the most dynamic demand – i.e. they’ll need documents, audio and several different other types of documents translated.

These are key features of the medical translation market in Brazil. Naturally, there a number of nuances that affect how much work you receive and how much you can earn, but as a general rule you should aim to have a mixture of clients from each of these avenues, i.e. market research companies, translation agencies and researchers. This will ensure you are both in demand and able to specialize in an area (e.g. patents), which provides an effective compensation structure for your services.

The future of education

5 02 2013

The last month has been uncharacteristically crazy. January isn’t usually a busy month in my translation experience, but this one has been mad. I have actually worked every single day, without a day off until Feb 1, and I am now the blocked up carrier of an annoying cold, but how rewarding is it when you get to work on projects that inspire you?!

Sometimes we are given these projects that actually make us realize the value in what we do; because I am able to put something originally written in a different language into my native language, a lot more people are able to have access to that content and some contents are worth spreading.

One such project was a 60,000-word translation for UNESCO from English to Portuguese about open educational resources  (OER) and open courseware (OCW). I must say I am really excited about the possibilities of these concepts. They refer to resources or entire courses made available openly and freely online for anyone who’s interested in learning or using them for teaching purposes. The power of this is evident in Shimon Schoken’s TED talk about self learning 

I believe this is the future of democracy and inclusion and us translators have a role to play in making content available in as many languages as possible to reach as many people as possible.

Having said that, I thought that if we all could find an open educational resource project or open courseware that we are passionate about and perhaps volunteer or try to work with them in some way, we will be doing a huge service to millions of people who’ll gain access to this wealth of resources becoming available online.

The aforementioned UNESCO project was not a  volunteer one, but I have just volunteered to translate TED talks, which are open educational resources.

Translators everywhere! Let’s join the OER movement!

Translating Poetry

5 11 2012

As an experienced and specialist translator I must say I don’t often get asked to translate challenging topics (deadlines, however, are always challenging). There is little novelty in terms of vocabulary and topics after you’ve been translating medical and business articles for so long.

Anyway, last week I was faced with the unusual challenge of translating poetry. My client is a Portuguese artist who wrote about the issue of alcoholism in Portugal. His book uses images and poems to convey the extent of the problem, the domestic violence that follows and etc.

I had time and decided to take on the challenge of adapting the poems to English. My first approach was to have a 1 hour session on skype with my client to make sure I was understanding what he meant by the artwork and the poems. I must say that I found it very interesting, because discussing poems is not usually a part of my routine.

Following this conversation, I sat down and translated line by line of each poem. I then sent this initial version of the translation along with a few remaining questions to my client, who made comments and helped me with the unclear meanings.

Whilst I was waiting for my client’s feedback, I did a bit of research on English poems to get into the mindset and rhythm of poems in this language.

I then went back to the poems with a different approach, now looking at them as a whole, not isolated verses, to feel whether there was a rhythm to the reading, whether it was understandable in English, etc. I must say I was very please with the result (and so seemed the client!).

It is fantastic as a translator when I have the opportunity to work closely with my clients to convey their message. I am able to connect to the client and the project and this makes the work so much more interesting and personal for me.

One important aspect of ensuring the success of this project was making sure the client understood that I am not a poet, therefore I could translate what he meant and make it sound natural in English, but I could not transform it into English poems.

In any case, I don’t think the poems should sound like English poems anyway, because they are the thoughts of a Portuguese poet looking into some of the most significant social issues in his country. The poems have to convey some of his Portuguese soul, some of his way of feeling and expressing himself. If he sounds like an Englishman, it makes no sense…

I believe that this is the main difference between translating medical and business reports and poems. With the first, your goal is accuracy, ensuring everything is translated with precision and the professional tone is maintained; whereas with the second, your goal is to convey the emotion, but you still want the voice of the poet to pervade the translation. I cannot thank my client enough for the challenge and for his confidence in me. I had a thoroughly enjoyable week at work!

Mind Your Language

10 09 2012

I have just come across this really funny British sitcom from the 70s. It is about teaching English as a foreign language and the cultural clashes between the students from different nationalities and the very British teacher. Brilliant!

The first part of the first episode, which you can watch on YouTube here, is hilarious. I am sure anyone who has learned a second language, particularly English will relate in some way to it. Enjoy!




13 08 2012

CULTURACRAZE. This was my former blog for Brazilian Portuguese speakers. I have not posted in ages, but there are some interesting cultural discussions there. Apologies, but there is no English version available!