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New Brazilian Portuguese Spelling in Effect
Posted by Renato S. Beninatto on January 6, 2009  in the following blogs: Translation and Localization
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Let’s keep it simple: If Brazilian Portuguese is among the languages into which your content is translated, ask your translators to adopt the “new spelling” for all new projects. If you have a live website, consider having it reviewed to comply with the new spelling rules. Your translators and reviewers will know what you mean: All eight Portuguese-speaking countries signed an Orthographic Agreement in 1990. Brazil is the first one to adopt it officially. Major Brazilian newspapers have adopted the new spelling as of 1 January 2009, even though the correct spelling of a few words — parabrisa and parachoque among them — still generates some controversy. Publishers have a grace period until 2012 to comply with the new spelling rules.

Grammarians estimate 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. That might not happen soon, because Portugal has until January 2014 to adopt all changes. Many Portuguese resist the new spelling agreement, because many day-to-day words will be affected. On the other hand, Brazilians only need to get used to the elimination of accents in words like idéia and vôo (which are now spelled ideia and voo) and to new hyphenation rules.

While this change in orthography means that residents of Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé & Príncipe, and East Timor will have to make some changes in how they write, it will simplify some aspects of publishing on websites and dead trees for the worldwide Portuguese market (190 million people in Brazil, 10 million in Portugal, and 32 million in the other six countries). But it’s not a complete solution to the Portuguese linguistic diaspora. Lexical differences will remain: In Brazil they use software but Portuguese run logicial; they click on a mouse in Rio but on a rato in Lisbon, and view results on a tela rather than on an écran. Net-net, who benefits? School book publishers and spellchecker publishers. It will also make life easier for the African countries that now receive school books from Portugal but watch TV from Brazil.


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