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Should our website be in both European and Brazilian Portuguese?
March 16, 2014 4:09 AM   Subscribe

I help manage a website for an international audience; we strive to be inclusive. We offer several different language versions; our translations are done by volunteers. Generally we add languages based on whether we have volunteers to translate. We have been offering European Portuguese for a while. Now a new volunteer has shown up, asking to be invited to the project; s/he is offering to volunteer for a translation to Brazilian Portuguese, which we currently do not offer.

As an example: we offer Dutch, but not Flemish. Our Flemish members all seem to manage fine with either the English, Dutch or French versions of the site (their choice).

Personally I do not read or speak Portuguese. My questions are:
Should we be offering a Brazilian Portuguese version of the website? Are the differences large enough to make this something we should strive to do?

Do Brazilians manage using European Portuguese versions of websites, and if they do, do they dislike it?
posted by Too-Ticky to Writing & Language (19 answers total)
 
One question: how many visitors do you currently have from Brazil? Could you survey them about this?
posted by lunasol at 5:14 AM on March 16


In my home state, we have an established "old immigrant" population of European Portuguese speakers (largely from the Azores, but also from the mainland) and an emerging "new immigrant" population of Brazilians. I've asked several members of both groups about the mutual intelligibility of the dialects over the years. It appears that while there are marked differences, they're not a significant obstacle to most people-- both groups are exposed to each others' media, and familiar with the other group's idiom. Many elderly Portuguese women in New Bedford, whom you would expect to be linguistically inflexible, are completely addicted to Brazilian soap operas.

One of the main obstacles is differences in pronunciation which are irrelevant in writing.

If you want to be totally inclusive and it's not too much work, it's always a nice idea to cater to a potential audience. But if it seems like a PITA, I'd politely decline because it's unlikely that Brazilians are finding your information inaccessible.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:18 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I agree with Major Curley. Pronunciation is the most significant comprehension barrier between the two.
posted by umbĂș at 5:42 AM on March 16


The participation of Brazilian members is comparable to that of Spanish or Australian members, greater than that of French or Canadian members, and smaller than that of Dutch or Austrian members.
It would not be easy to survey them. Possibly not even feasible.

Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:50 AM on March 16


If you want to be totally inclusive and it's not too much work, it's always a nice idea to cater to a potential audience. But if it seems like a PITA, I'd politely decline because it's unlikely that Brazilians are finding your information inaccessible.

I came to say almost exactly this. My wife is Portuguese, and we have many Brazilian friends, and they all communicate just fine! There are some differences in vocabulary that are a bit of a stumbling block for someone like me, who is trying to learn the language, but for natives, it seems that they just know what is being said. Kind of like when someone says 'baguette', and you know to pick up a crusty loaf of bread :)
posted by PlantGoddess at 6:19 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I am not an expert on this, but I spent some time in Brazil and I met some Portuguese people there and while my Portuguese was never very good, I would say the difference between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese Portuguese is about the same as the difference between American English and British English. There are a few minor differences in vocabulary and grammar but the vast majority of the difference is present in spoken accents (even within Brazil there are a variety of spoken accents) that aren't relevant to a written website.

While some sites do offer both an American and British English version of themselves, there's no real question that for the ones that offer one or the other, no native english speaker has any difficulty with sites that are written in the "wrong" one for them.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Just use Brazilian Portuguese. Your European Portuguese speakers will understand, no worries.

I'm European Portuguese, and I have no problems understanding written or spoken Brazilian Portuguese.
posted by MiG at 7:58 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I'm neither Brazilian nor Portuguese but my understanding from both Brazilian and Portuguese people is that they can understand each other's version of Portuguese fine.
posted by dfriedman at 8:41 AM on March 16


Just anecdotally, working for a company that serves a lot of different ethnicities and nationalities in Massachusetts - we always translate into Brazilian Portuguese and it's never been a problem. My understanding from our translator is that the two are getting closer together rather than further apart.
posted by kythuen at 9:06 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Is there a "neutral" Portuguese like they use with Spanish advertising?

I do know that from my job in South America that my Brazilian associate always made sure any spoken content was Brazilian.
posted by Che boludo! at 9:23 AM on March 16


Should we be offering a Brazilian Portuguese version of the website? Are the differences large enough to make this something we should strive to do?

Do Brazilians manage using European Portuguese versions of websites, and if they do, do they dislike it?


To answer your questions:

The differences are not large, no. They are mutually intelligible. That said, the Brazilians will know that your website is in European Portuguese and will assume, even though they understand it, that you are catering primarily to Europeans.

Whether thats ok with you or not, depends more on what your website is all about. If its just a public resource, that should be fine. If you are trying to sell something to Brazilians, then, yes, you should have it translated into Brazilian Portuguese.

If your website can only choose one Portuguese, it should be Brazilian, not European. Even my European Portuguese wife agrees with this.
posted by vacapinta at 10:13 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I'm Brazilian. We understand Each other just fine. The most you'll get is someone thinking, 'haha, they used x to mean y, how funny'.
Brazilian Portuguese tends to be the standard nowadays for various reasons. And if I'm not mistaken the trend is to try to integrate the different Portuguese languages again.
Another vote for: someone is volunteering so why not?
You could just integrate the two versions, really the difference wouldn't be that great.
posted by Neekee at 10:14 AM on March 16


Another potential factor to consider: Is the topic in question a popular one amongst European and Brazilian Portuguese visitors alike; and is the cultural development of the topic different between Portugal and Brazil?
posted by Tsukushi at 10:19 AM on March 16


(Your location lists you in the Netherlands; if that's true, then "Assume Brazilian Portuguese is the default" might be way less true than if you were in North America.)
posted by jaguar at 11:08 AM on March 16


Can you talk to the potential volunteer about this? He/she might have useful things to say. Or it could be that they're just looking for a volunteer project for their resume and hadn't thought about the implications of having two Portuguese versions of your website.

I am a translator and have a sideline in "translation" from US to UK English - but I typically become involved when something needs to be adapted specifically for a UK market, not for parallel versions of a website.
posted by altolinguistic at 11:25 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


One thing to consider is the future maintainability of having an additional language pack. Translation is rarely a "one time shot," where someone takes a couple of weeks, translates the content, and nothing ever changes again. Since you already have an internationalized site, you probably already have a good idea of how much additional work this will entail over the next five years, say. Any time you add or change content on your site, you have to have a translator available to create or modify the language pack. Is your volunteer going to be willing/available to maintain the translations? I think it would be better to have fewer translations that are always correct, rather than more translations, with iffy reliability. If it were me, I'd say, "thanks, but no thanks."
posted by instamatic at 5:40 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


My first language is English. I'm studying Brazilian Portuguese, and can understand and produce European Portuguese as readily as Brazilian. I agree with everyone else that the differences aren't likely to be problematic for a business site.
posted by melesana at 10:17 PM on March 16


This might be relevant but the differences between *spoken* Brazilian and European Portuguese are huge. Words may be spelled the same but pronounced completely differently. If your website involves any kind of audio then the divergence of the two is much more important.
posted by vacapinta at 5:00 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I'm Brazilian. Yes, we understand European Portuguese all right, but some of us might find it a bit quaint and funny sometimes. Offering a Brazilian version would be nice but not essential.

On the other hand, keep in mind that there are about 10 million Portuguese, but 200 million Brazilians.
posted by Tom-B at 6:17 PM on March 17


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