We have spoken in the past about how important it is to be aware of the variances that can exist within international languages, and today we’re going to talk a little about another language that is extremely important for anyone trying to create an inclusive voice message. Portuguese is the fifth most widely spoken language, with hundreds of millions of native speakers spread across the globe. Many places in America are densely populated with Portuguese speakers, who will obviously be better served if your IVR prompts and other messages have an option in their native language. But should you utilize a Brazilian or European Portuguese recording?
Quick history lesson! Portuguese spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th century as a result of Portugal creating a colonial and commercial empire that lasted up until 1975. Because of this, Portuguese took root in many places, especially South America, and became the dominant tongue. Brazil accounts for over 50% of the population of South America, and Portuguese is the native language for 99.9% of the Brazilian population.
And for how widespread Portuguese already is, it is also continuously expanding in usage. African nations are increasingly adopting Portuguese, and it is expected that tens of millions of more speakers are going to be added yearly.
So let’s say that you are interested in having at least one recording in Portuguese in order to address and direct clientele for whom that is their native language. But the decision-making process does not end there. Before prepping any kind of voice message or looking for any kind of voice translation, you should determine which version of Portuguese is the one you want.
Portuguese Recording, Brazilian & European – What’s the Difference?
There are two major variants that you might encounter: Brazilian Portuguese, and European Portuguese. As their names no doubt describe, European Portuguese is the original mother-tongue from Portugal, while Brazilian Portuguese is the version that evolved in Brazil and is now the dominant incarnation of the language across South America.
European Portuguese is the more formal of the two languages, whereas “Brazilian Portuguese has a unique rhythm that makes it stand out as soon as you hear it. It is very musical and quite clear. European Portuguese, in contrast, is rather fast. Actually, many learners claim that this is one of the reason why Brazilian Portuguese is much easier to follow.”
As we discussed in our Mandarin vs. Cantonese blog, the Brazilian and European versions of the Portuguese language are largely similar, with much of the distinction between them coming from the differences in pronunciation, stress, and speaking rhythms. A Brazilian Portuguese speaker will be able to understand a European Portuguese speaker, and vice versa, but the accents and delivery will make for an awkward and strained delivery.
And there are cultural differences separating the languages as well, the kind of thing that a word-for-word system like Google Translate would not know to catch. There are nouns and verbs that are shared by both versions of Portuguese but that mean entirely different things.
As one particularly drastic example, “rapariga” in European Portuguese is an innocent word that means “girl”. In Brazilian Portuguese, “rapariga” means prostitute. So. You’re going to want to be careful with these things.
So are you going to want your Portuguese recording in Brazilian or European? The answer lies in what audience you are expecting to utilize the IVR prompts or listen to the Auto Attendant prompts in question. If you are in North America, you will most likely need to tailor your voice recordings to Brazilian Portuguese, especially if you are based out of California or Massachusetts, as these states are each home to hundreds of thousands of Brazilian Portuguese speakers.
But if you’re anticipating an overseas audience, then European Portuguese will probably be the better fit.
And there are other variations and dialects of the language beyond what we have described here. There’s Cape Verdean Portuguese, Macanese Portuguese… In India they have Damanese Portuguese and Goan Portuguese, etc., etc.
The important thing is to consider the audience your voice recordings are intended for, and to make educated choices based on what will best serve your needs. And once you have made your decision, engage with knowledgeable and experienced professionals for both the translation and the recording, to make sure your customers and partners are getting the best experience possible.