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Portuguese Language Spelling Reforms

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On January 1st of this year, the Portuguese spelling reform took action with the aim of unifying the eight Portuguese-speaking countries - the result being the standardisation of spellings to mirror the Brazilian form.


There are over 236 million speakers of Portuguese, so the spelling reform eliminates the variations and creates a single spelling system. It will also improve internet searches and standardise certain documents, namely legal documents. Three new letters will be added to the alphabet and silent consonants will be removed – so “optimo” will become “otimo”.

A transition period has been allowed to allow all to adopt the changes, however various newspapers have already adopted the new spellings which in itself is a positive start, yet it seems to be taking a little longer for education sectors to make the change. The real issue for schools seems to be that students read things outside of school that have different spellings to what they are taught in school, thus causing confusion.

For translators and interpreters, the spelling reform will affect those taking qualifications in both fields. Until 2012, when taking examinations, candidates can opt to either use the new or old spelling. However, in 2013 the new spelling will be compulsory in examinations. This is a real indication of how the spelling reform will have an effect on the way in which translators and interpreters carry out their work.

So what’s the verdict? Some are of the opinion that it will increase business in Brazil whilst others feel that that it is simply a way of conforming to the Brazilian influence. The main feeling seems to be that there are many variations in French and English and no reform has been made, so why should there be in Portuguese if all it is going to do is create confusion and be a burden to the education system and other sectors alike.

So, will the reform be for the best? Watch this space.

Written by Megan Elliott
The Culture Vulture moved from Africa to work for Kwintessential back in 2007. His job is to fly around, keeping an eye on news, making sure you keep up-to-date with developments in the world of language, culture, localization and international business.