“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.


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!

Welcome Everyone!

7 01 2012

Welcome everyone! You can read a little bit more about me and my company on the “About” page and several other posts under “My Journey” and “EAP“.

This is just a quick message to help you navigate through this blog. If you are a translator, you might be interested in the section “Translation Tools & Resources“. If you are a Brazilian Portuguese <> English Translator or a Linguist also check out the section “Language Matters“, where I intend to discuss my findings and research on terminology and etc.

If you are not a translator, perhaps the most interesting parts of this blog for you will be “Cultural Affairs” and “Off-topic“.

Regardless of where you go on this blog, I hope it inspires and encourages you whether you are a translator, linguist, language/culture enthusiast, translation client or just a “passer-by”.

Please feel free to send me your comments, feedback, suggestions and etc. I am on a journey to learn too and your feedback is welcome!

Happy Reading!