How do I translate Portuguese to English? - iWorld Learning

How do I translate Portuguese to English?

How do I translate Portuguese to English?

Translating from Portuguese to English can be a rewarding yet challenging task. Whether you’re a professional translator, a language learner, or someone needing to translate for personal or professional reasons, understanding the nuances and intricacies of both languages is crucial. This article will guide you through the process, providing essential tips, tools, and techniques to translate effectively and accurately.

Understanding the Basics of Portuguese and English

1. Linguistic Background:

Portuguese is a Romance language that originated from Latin, while English is a Germanic language with significant influences from Latin and other languages. Understanding the historical and linguistic backgrounds of both languages can help in comprehending their structural and lexical differences.

2. Grammar Differences:

Portuguese grammar is more inflected compared to English. It has gendered nouns, extensive verb conjugations, and a rich use of subjunctive moods. English, on the other hand, relies more on word order and auxiliary verbs to convey meaning.

3. Vocabulary:

While there are many cognates between Portuguese and English due to their shared Latin roots, there are also many false friends – words that look similar but have different meanings. Being aware of these can prevent translation errors.

Steps to Translate Portuguese to English

1. Preparation:

Before you start translating, it’s essential to have a thorough understanding of the text’s context and purpose. Familiarize yourself with the subject matter, the target audience, and the specific terminology used in both languages.

2. Tools and Resources:

Utilize dictionaries, thesauruses, and translation software. Online tools like Google Translate can be helpful for a quick reference, but for accurate translation, professional tools like SDL Trados, MemoQ, or Wordfast are recommended. Websites like Linguee and Reverso provide examples of how words and phrases are used in context.

3. First Draft:

Begin with a rough draft translation. Focus on conveying the meaning of the original text without worrying too much about the style or fluency. This stage is about understanding and converting the core message.

4. Revision and Refinement: Review your first draft and refine it. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Ensure that the translation reads naturally in English and maintains the original text’s tone and style.

5. Proofreading:

Proofreading is crucial. Read the translation several times, checking for any errors or awkward phrasing. It can be beneficial to have someone else review your work to catch mistakes you might have missed.

6. Cultural Sensitivity:

Ensure that cultural nuances are correctly translated. Idiomatic expressions, humor, and cultural references often don’t translate directly and need careful handling to convey the intended meaning without causing misunderstandings.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

1. False Friends:

Portuguese and English have many words that look similar but have different meanings. For example, “assistir” in Portuguese means “to watch” or “to attend,” not “to assist.” Always double-check these words in a reliable dictionary.

2. Idiomatic Expressions: Idioms often don’t translate well directly. For example, the Portuguese expression “ficar de pé atrás” (literally “to stay on the back foot”) means to be cautious or suspicious. Finding an equivalent expression in English is crucial for maintaining the original meaning.

3. Verb Tenses and Moods:

Portuguese uses a variety of verb tenses and subjunctive moods that don’t have direct equivalents in English. Understanding the context and the intended nuance is essential for choosing the correct English tense or mood.

4. Gendered Language:

Portuguese nouns have genders, which can affect adjectives and articles. English does not have gendered nouns, so it’s important to ensure that the translation makes sense and flows naturally in English.

5. Syntax Differences:

Portuguese syntax is often more flexible than English. Pay attention to word order to ensure that the translation is grammatically correct and sounds natural in English.

Tips for Effective Translation

1. Deepen Your Language Skills:

Fluency in both languages is a must. Engage with native speakers, consume media in both languages, and continually expand your vocabulary and understanding of linguistic nuances.

2. Specialized Knowledge:

If you’re translating technical, legal, medical, or other specialized texts, it’s important to have a good grasp of the specific terminology and conventions used in both languages.

3. Practice Regularly:

Like any skill, translation improves with practice. Regularly translate texts of varying difficulty and subject matter to build your skills and confidence.

4. Stay Updated:

Languages are constantly evolving. Stay updated with changes in both Portuguese and English by reading contemporary literature, watching recent films, and following current events.

5. Use Parallel Texts:

Reading bilingual books or texts with parallel translations can help you understand how professional translators handle difficult phrases and complex sentence structures.

Using Technology in Translation

1. Machine Translation:

Machine translation tools like Google Translate have improved significantly but are best used for getting the gist of a text. They often struggle with context, idiomatic expressions, and cultural nuances.

2. Translation Memory Software:

Tools like SDL Trados and MemoQ store previously translated phrases and sentences, which can help maintain consistency and speed up the translation process for repetitive texts.

3. Online Dictionaries and Corpora:

Websites like Linguee and Reverso provide contextual translations from a vast corpus of bilingual texts, helping you understand how words and phrases are used in real-world contexts.

4. Speech Recognition:

For translating spoken language, speech recognition tools can be handy. They transcribe spoken Portuguese into text, which can then be translated into English.

5. Collaboration Platforms:

For large projects, platforms like Crowdin or Transifex facilitate collaboration among multiple translators, allowing for more consistent and efficient translations.

Translation in Different Contexts

1. Literary Translation:

Translating literature requires creativity and a deep understanding of both languages’ literary traditions. The goal is to capture the original text’s essence, tone, and style while making it accessible to English readers.

2. Technical Translation:

Technical translation involves specialized terminology and often requires a background in the relevant field (e.g., engineering, IT, medicine). Precision and clarity are paramount.

3. Legal Translation:

Legal translation requires a thorough understanding of legal systems and terminology in both countries. Accuracy is crucial, as even small errors can have significant legal implications.

4. Marketing Translation:

Marketing texts need to be persuasive and culturally appropriate. This often involves adapting the content to resonate with the target audience while maintaining the original message’s intent.

5. Academic Translation:

Translating academic texts requires a good grasp of the subject matter and familiarity with academic writing conventions in both languages. Clarity and coherence are essential.

Examples and Practice

Example 1: Simple Sentence

Portuguese: “O gato está em cima da mesa.” English: “The cat is on the table.”

Example 2: Complex Sentence

Portuguese: “Embora ele estivesse cansado, ele continuou trabalhando até tarde da noite.” English: “Although he was tired, he continued working late into the night.”

Example 3: Idiomatic Expression

Portuguese: “Ele está com a faca e o queijo na mão.” English: “He’s got everything he needs to succeed.” (Literally: “He has the knife and the cheese in his hand.”)

Example 4: Cultural Nuance

Portuguese: “Bom apetite!” English: “Enjoy your meal!” (Literally: “Good appetite!”)


Translating from Portuguese to English is both an art and a science. It requires a deep understanding of both languages, attention to detail, and cultural sensitivity. By following the steps outlined in this guide and continually practicing and refining your skills, you can become proficient in translating effectively and accurately.

Remember, translation is more than just converting words from one language to another. It’s about conveying meaning, emotion, and intent. Whether you’re translating a simple document or a complex literary work, the goal is to create a translation that reads naturally in English while preserving the essence of the original Portuguese text.

Successfully registered!
We will confirm the registration information with you again by phone and look forward to your attendance!