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Portuguese translations: What to know and where to find them in Switzerland

Did you know that Portuguese is the most spoken language in Switzerland after the national languages and English?

That’s right! More than half a million people speak Portuguese in Switzerland.

But who exactly is this large Portuguese community in Switzerland? What can we learn about their culture and language? And what should you look out for when ordering Portuguese translations? Let’s find out!

How did the Portuguese come to Switzerland?

There are records of Portuguese-Swiss interactions dating back to the 15th century. Still, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Portuguese community in Switzerland really started to grow. 

What led to this boom?

In the 1980s, Portugal was in turmoil. The country had just emerged from a 40-year dictatorship and was still reeling from the aftermath of the devastating Colonial War. Unemployment was at an all-time high, and wages and living standards were the lowest in Western Europe.

In other words, the Portuguese desperately wanted to migrate for a better life.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the economy was booming, but labour-intensive jobs were hard to fill. The Swiss government responded by offering incentives to attract foreign workers.

It was this “meeting of minds” that led more than 100,000 Portuguese to move to Switzerland between 1989 and 1994. 

The first wave was mostly men who left their families in Portugal. They were given guest worker permits and worked low-skill jobs. Many already knew French, so they concentrated on the French part of the country. With time, most “guests” became permanent residents and brought their families to Switzerland.

The Portuguese community in Switzerland today

The Portuguese make up the third-largest foreign community in Switzerland, and the two countries cooperate at many levels.

Except when there’s football on, the Portuguese live quietly in Switzerland. They are known to be hardworking and discreet.

An interesting fact is that Engadin, a gorgeous valley in the eastern Swiss Alps, is home to a proportionally high Portuguese population. In 2014, every 7th inhabitant was Portuguese. Some have even mastered the national language Rumantsch and play an essential part in keeping the endangered language alive.

What you need to know about Portuguese

Portuguese originated, you guessed it, in Portugal. It’s a Romance language, so it evolved from Latin, but it has many other influences.

Portugal has been a crossroads of cultures for centuries. All of which have left traces of their languages and traditions. The Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans occupied Portugal at different times, and the Moors ruled the country for centuries. The Moors were also the ones who gave the country it’s present name. «Alburtuqal» (البرتقال) is the Arabic word for oranges and if you’ve ever had the chance to enjoy a freshly pressed oange juice in Portugal, you might appreciate why the Moors decided to name an entire country after a fruit.

But you’re probably wondering: how did Portuguese become so widespread?

Believe it or not, the “small seaside garden”, as the Portuguese like to call their country, was the most powerful empire during the Age of Discovery. This historical period saw the Portuguese seafarers spread their language and culture across four continents.

Today, over 280 million people speak Portuguese as their first or second language, which makes it the 9th most spoken language in the world

Besides Portugal, it’s the official language of nine countries and territories, all former colonies.

What are the main variants of Portuguese?

Portuguese has two main variants: European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.

European Portuguese is the root language and the one spoken in Portugal.

Brazilian Portuguese is, as you might have guessed, spoken in Brazil. It carries influences from the country’s native populations, enslaved Africans, and, more recently, American English.

Grammar, spelling, and vocabulary are almost identical. The main differences are pronunciation and rhythm. Brazilian Portuguese feels a bit more musical and relaxed. European Portuguese, on the other hand, is more intricate and polite.

Something to keep in mind when localising your content to Portuguese: choose a language service provider with native translators from the country you’re targeting. Contrary to popular belief, a European Portuguese native speaker translating to Brazilian Portuguese, or vice versa, often leads to disaster!

What are some common words and phrases in Portuguese?

Portuguese grammar is similar to that of other Romance languages but might be confusing for speakers of other language groups. For example, one key difference between English and Portuguese is that all Portuguese nouns have a gender and a number. 

But there’s some good news: like in English, the standard word order is Subject-Verb-Object.

Here are some common phrases in Portuguese:

GoodbyeAdeus / Chau
PleasePor favor
Thank youObrigado
Excuse meDesculpe
You’re welcomeDe nada

Portuguese translations: how to get them right, every time

Portuguese is not just one of the most spoken languages in the world — it’s one of the most important languages in Switzerland.

But how can you make sure that your message resonates with Portuguese audiences in Switzerland — and beyond?

That’s where we come in.

SwissGlobal is an ISO-certified language service provider that works with native Portuguese speakers from Brazil and Portugal who are all experts in their fields.

Get in touch with us now for your Portuguese translation needs.