The Portuguese Spelling Agreement (Acordo Ortográfico) aims to establish a unified spelling code for all Portuguese-speaking countries.
Currently, the spelling rules differ across all Portuguese-speaking nations. The spelling discrepancies between Portugal and Brazil are of particular interest to U.S. based companies, because these contain the world’s two largest Portuguese-speaking populations, and are therefore the most common Portuguese-speaking target audiences. The reform will not eliminate all orthographic differences between the two dominant forms of Portuguese found in Brazil and Portugal, but it will move Portuguese closer to a unified written language. The goal of the reform is to attain 98% standardization across the board.
Most spelling variance has to do with the placement of accent marks and hyphens within words. Currently, in Portuguese, the words “pára” and “para” carry two different meanings simply because one has an accent and the other does not. According to the reformed Portuguese Spelling Agreement, the accent on “pára” will be eradicated so the difference between the two words will only be determined through context. This is just one small example of the changes to come; the reformed Portuguese Spelling Agreement will affect a projected 1.6% of all words in Portugal, and .5% of all words in Brazil. Some symbols and letters will be eliminated, some added, and the use of all accent marks and hyphens will change dramatically in order to achieve standardization. Implementation of the reform has begun as of 2009 and will continue over a projected 6 year transition period.
Naturally, these reforms will have a great impact on translation and localization. If your target audience is a Portuguese-speaking nation, it is wise to consider the ramifications of publishing material that may soon become out of date. You may also consider reviewing material that has already been translated and decide whether it may be prudent to update it accordingly.