E.g., 04/08/2020
E.g., 04/08/2020

Pricing paradox for the “forgotten Hispanics”

By: Joseph Gomes, Managing Director - Viva Translations

Brazilians, the forgotten Hispanics?

Ok, before you Brasukas get all in a huff, according to some, Brazilians are Hispanic. Now, it’s true that if you ask anyone to list all the countries whose native people are considered Hispanic - of which there are roughly 24 – almost no one (and none of those I recently asked) would include Brazil.

Nor do most Brazilians consider themselves Hispanic, and (somewhat) rightly so. Historically, this collective designation, primarily used in the US, referred to some of Spanish-speaking heritage. Over time, this overgeneralization became synonymous with the term Latino, a fact personified in the most recent US Census (2010), where those polled were asked if they were "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino".

But are Brazilians Latinos? (I hear those Carnaval feathers ruffling.) Some definitions of Latino refer to someone speaking a Latin language, which Portuguese is, while others refer to those from Central and South America (leaving the debate on whether Mexico is in North or Central America for another time) often living in the United States (which, by the way, would include Haitians, bringing French and Haitian Creole into the language mix – but I digress…).

However you want to characterize Brazilians, they are anything but forgotten. Some time ago, they overcame their relative absence in the North American mind possibly leading to misclassifications and misperceptions. Brazil is front and center on the world stage, providing huge opportunities for the language industry - and significant challenges.

The pricing paradox that affects quality (and vice versa)

One such challenge relates to sourcing Brazilian native linguists and the pricing paradox that significantly affects the quality of Brazilian Portuguese translations.

On the one hand, the Brazilian economy has been booming, both before and since being awarded the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, resulting in an overwhelming increase in demand for labor. The supply of architects, engineers and other (including translation) professionals required has had serious problems keeping pace with the hyper-growth. In addition, inflation rates, especially on services, have resulted in incomes with 30 to 35% less purchasing power than compared to 2008.

Meanwhile, in the localization industry, according to Common Sense Advisory, "The average per-word price for translation into and from the 30 most commonly used languages on the web has fallen over 30% since 2010.” Paradoxically, Brazilian Portuguese (and other) linguist translation rates have not risen and the Brazilian real has appreciated roughly 20% against the US dollar, euro and British pound.

So, the heavy downward pressure on translation rates, reduced purchasing power on the income they produce and an unfavorable exchange rate when earning in foreign currencies, not to mention the increased demand for their services, has had an impact on how translation professionals perform. Translators are forced to do the same or more in less time, and in many cases there is the inevitable trade-off between productivity and quality.

In the past week alone, two highly experienced Brazilian translators have told my company that they will no longer provide edit/review services. This, sadly, was not unexpected; we have seen this trend grow over the past couple of years, and it has been confirmed in conversations with other language-service providers (LSPs) offering Brazilian Portuguese.

They have stopped this type of work because the time required on the often poor-quality translations they receive makes the edit/review rates just plain uneconomical. Simply put, translators are trying to translate faster and faster, often paying less attention to detail, to make ends meet, resulting in poorer quality deliverables. (The fact that deadlines are also increasingly tight doesn't help.)

Bottom line, Brazil is not what it was 5 or so years ago and the localization market's perception needs to adjust to the current reality. LSPs, in particular those with sufficient weight to drive pricing models, need to educate buyers that Brazil is not "cheap", which should, in turn, help allow Brazilian Portuguese linguists and suppliers more breathing room to deliver the level of quality expected.  

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.


Joseph Gomes

Joseph Gomes is the Managing Director of Viva Translations, a full service LSP that specializes in European and Brazilian Portuguese technical translations. He has lived and worked in Canada, Ecuador, France, Japan, Portugal and Thailand. Over the past 25 years he has held project, marketing and upper management positions in the IT and language industries.