You have just sold a machine to a Brazilian customer. Now you have to translate the manual to help Brazilian users work with it safely.
You decide to talk to a trusted translation agency to get a quote for a translation into Brazilian Portuguese (PT-BR). You remember that this machine’s manual has already been translated into European Portuguese (PT-PT). Is it possible to make use of this translation by adapting it into PT-BR? After all, it’s still Portuguese.
The answer is yes and no. This is because, despite the many similarities, there are major differences between these two varieties of Portuguese which must be borne in mind.
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of adapting a translation from European Portuguese (PT-PT) into Brazilian Portuguese (PT-BR), and vice-versa.
The advantages of adapting PT-PT into PT-BR.
It takes less work to adapt a text than to translate it from scratch. Since the productivity of the translator and reviewer is higher, the total cost will end up being lower. The translator and reviewer have less work, so the customer pays less.
Compared to translation, the time needed for an adaptation is significantly less. A professional translator will take less time to change the vocabulary and grammatical structures than it would take to translate the text in full. Therefore, adaptation between language varieties is a good option, especially for more urgent jobs. The translator takes less time, so the customer gets the finished file faster.
Let’s look at some practical examples of adaptation.
For more information on the differences between PT-PT and PT-BR, see “5 ways to differentiate Brazilian Portuguese from European Portuguese”.
The advantages of not adapting PT-PT into PT-BR.
Any translation done based on the original language/text, without going through a second intermediate language/text, will be more faithful to the original idea. This is especially true if the adaptation between language varieties is done based on the first translation only, without consulting the original text. Not doing the translation based on the original document, but using an adaptation of what was interpreted and transposed into another language, increases the likelihood of unnecessary risk.
It can be a source of potential mistakes and false cognates, i.e. similar words with different meanings in each language variety.
To avoid replicating any mistakes, the translator must work with a bilingual format to compare the text to be adapted against the original. Ideally, the adaptation should be reviewed by a second translator in the bilingual format.
A text translated directly from the original language will sound more natural. The intermediate translation will always end up influencing the adaptation, which can negatively impact how the message is conveyed in the adapted version.
For this reason, a direct translation gives the translator the chance to express the original text’s ideas in the most natural way possible in his/her own language. In turn, the reader understands the idea better, since it sounds more natural.
This is especially important in marketing and other high-visibility texts. By choosing to translate directly, you avoid compromising the potential customer’s experience by “clinging” to the text of the other language variety.
Even in the case of legal documents and technical manuals, adaptation may not be the best option because of the specific terminology of each sector. This is because the translator/reviewer may understand a given term and feel no need to change it; when, in fact, it is not the most exact form in that context.
Here are some examples of similar ways of saying things whose meaning can be understood by a Portuguese speaker, although it is not the most accurate way in that language variant.
So, how should you decide?
First, determine what is most important to you:
a) Having a fast, cost-effective version in PT-BR, or;
b) Ensuring your message is conveyed in the best way to Brazilian/Portuguese customers.
If the answer is a), request an adaptation. If the answer is b), choose a translation from scratch.