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April 18, 2016
Just as there are differences between British English and American English and, Latin American Spanish and European Spanish; there are also differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. The differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese are not only present in pronunciation, vocabulary and spelling but also in terms of culture and context. Portuguese is spoken by more than 210 million people in the world and is considered by the British Council as one of the ten most important world languages for the United Kingdom’s future in business and communications. It is therefore important to understand the differences between Portuguese from Brazil and Portuguese from Portugal, if your business is looking to enter the growing Portuguese-speaking market.
With the growth of the Brazilian economy since the start of its commodity boom, the number of foreigners living and working in Brazil has continued to rise. While many people expect for English to be widely spoken in the business world of one of the planet’s emerging powers, the British Council in Brazil discovered only 5% of Brazilians consider themselves to be fluent in English. Considering that English is the lingua franca in the global economy and is also crucial for accessing information online and in many of the specialized sectors that are particularly important to Brazil, such as finance, oil, gas, mining and information technology; the low level of fluent English-speakers may come as a surprise to those looking to capitalise on the growing Brazilian market. By translating your website or having your product information translated and localized in Brazilian Portuguese will undoubtedly give your business a huge advantage in Brazil and allow your business to communicate with 80% of Portuguese-speakers in the world.
In May 2015, an important orthographic agreement was reached between the native Portuguese-speaking countries in the world. This new agreement means that Brazil, Portugal and native Portuguese speaking countries are set to unify the spelling of the Portuguese language on a global scale. The Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement was implemented in 2009 and since then official documents and school materials across the Portuguese speaking world have started to adhere to the new rules. As the sixth most spoken language in the world, the reform’s aim is to standardize the language with the Portuguese written word being brought closer to the spoken word, forming a unified spelling across all Lusophone countries. Until this recent reform, the orthographic rules between Brazil and the other Portuguese-speaking countries differed but are from now on are set to be brought together resulting in published and printed texts being provided in one version not two.
This new Portuguese spelling reform is set to only affect about 1.5% of all Portuguese words however with language being a central component of a nation’s identity and culture, the reform has been met with some objections. The main objection raised about the reform has been the portrayed ‘Brazilianisation’ of the language and the supposed benefits of the reform for non-Brazilian Portuguese speakers. With more than 200 million native Portuguese speakers being from Brazil, accounting for 80% of all native Portuguese speakers in the world, it comes as little surprise that the reform is slightly in favour of Brazilian Portuguese speakers. This so-called ‘Brazilianisation’ of the Portuguese language is regarded as a threat and interference with the culture with political leaders pointing out the difference in language being at the heart of their country’s cultural heritage.
In 1967, 2002 and 2009 the Portuguese language went under similar reforms to strip away a number of accents and to simplify the Portuguese language. This latest reform is regarded by many as a step in the right direction, as they believe that by simplifying the language, it may attract people to begin learning the Portuguese language and improve business communications and opportunities. A number of classic novels and poems such as those by Brazilian classic novelist Machado de Assis will have to be re-edited in order to meet the new demands of the Portuguese language reform. However, this may lead to a re-birth of some of the literary classics which will now be able to be enjoyed by a much wider audience. For many of the reform’s supporters, this by no means is a dissolution or end to the Portuguese language but is in fact a demonstration of its successful evolution to be more in tune with the needs of the today’s society and business world.
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