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Language fact: Brazilian Portuguese changes spelling rulesAs of January 1, 2009, Brazil has adopted important changes in orthography. All eight Portuguese-speaking countries around the globe signed the 1990 Orthographic Agreement, and Brazil is the first country to officially adopt it.

The Guia Michaelis da Reforma Ortográfica provides an excellent summary of the changes introduced by the new spelling. Here are some of the important changes:

The letters K, W, and Y are now permitted for use in certain words (neologisms or terms imported from other languages). These letters were previously unknown.

The umlaut symbol is not used on vowels anymore. For example, the old "cinqüenta" will now be written as "cinquenta".

The combinations éi and ói used to carry an accent - not anymore. "debilóide" is now "debiloide" and "epopéia" is now "epopeia".

Translators of Brazilian Portuguese are already using the new spelling rules. One important consideration is that existing translation memories need to be updated. This is sure to cause some confusion and translation delays as legacy materials get updated.

UPDATE: For a good overview of all the changes, take a look here.

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  1. Wanderjenn said...
    How much confusion is this expected to cause amongst Portuguese speakers? In other words, are these rules just a reflection of what people were already doing or is this an attempt to standardize the language. I apologize if I sound a bit naïve about this. My only knowledge of Portuguese comes through my rough knowledge of Spanish.
    LuSinger said...
    Hi Jenn,
    These new rules are indeed causing some confusion; for example, we are not supposed to change the wording in the amendments for Protocols and Investigator Brochures for clinical trials unless clearly specified. Agree? So, the text will not be consistent if part is written with the new and part with the old rules. However, the two ortographies are acceptable until 2012. This will give us some time to adaptations.

    These rules ARE NOT just a reflection of what people were already doing...and is totally silly ( in my humble opinion) since we do not know if the other Portuguese speaking countries will actually adopt such a change...
    ForeignExchange Translations said...
    I think that's the big question: will mass confusion ensue?

    Just like every other change, these modifications will need some time to be known and accepted and there will be, for sure, some confusion around them... Some clients, linguists, readers won't even know about these changes for a while, but that doesn't change the fact that the changes need to be implemented and accepted, the sooner the better. There will be a time of transition when some of the new rules could be even considered mistakes by people who are not familiar with them, and there will be a need for some "education" in these cases.

    In summary, some time will be needed for these rules to reach all Brazilian speakers, for them to be accepted and to be considered "normal" by all Brazilian speakers, and not a set of imposed standardization rules.
    Anonymous said...
    You mentioned the Portuguese Language Reform (which is how it is called here, in Brazil). Yes, it is in full implementation (as of January 1st) and we all have been "getting used" to the new rules since mid-2008, as a prelude to the real thing. When school resume, in a couple of weeks from now, students will have to "start all over again" and the teachers - as well as professors - will have this huge task of "erasing" all they have already learned, absorbed, and incorporated in their daily skills and imprinting new and fresh directives. I don't envy them.

    Allow me to remind you that this reform is not only for Brazilian Portuguese. ALL Portuguese speaking countries (18 of them) will go through the same process, although some will have to do more changes than others. Portugal (the mother-land) will be the one with the most changes (over 39%), so Continental Portuguese translators/interpreters are the ones with the heaviest burden. Brazil will have only 18% of change, much of it already in place due to "popular use", which makes things a lot easier.
    Larry said...
    Is it just me, or does the decision to eliminate the dieresis ('umlaut', as you call it) make no sense at all?

    How are people supposed to learn/remember that:

    -'cinquenta' (formerly cinquënta) doesn't have the same sound as 'quente' or 'que'?
    -the 'quest' in 'equestre' (formerly 'eqüestre') is different from the one in 'questão'?

    It seems like there's more ambiguity being introduced.
    Anonymous said...
    Silly is indeed the right word for this reform...
    medical translation said...
    With medical translation, where peoples' health is at stake, you shouldn't be relying on something that could just leave you stranded at a critical moment.

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