Our Guide to Portuguese to English Translation for the Legal Industry

portuguese to english translation

Globalization, remote work, ease of travel, and migration have spurred demand for legal document translation services in numerous language combinations and directions, including Portuguese to English.

The need for Portuguese translators will continue to grow amid constantly evolving business and regulatory environments around the world.


A Primer on Portuguese to English Translation

Portuguese is an official language in 8 countries and is the 7th most spoken language in the world, with Brazil home to the largest population of native Portuguese speakers. In fact, Brazil has 90% of the world’s 270 million native Portuguese speakers. One study projects Portuguese to be a “crucial” language to learn over the next 20 years.

There are excellent reasons to retain a translation service specialized in the Portuguese-English language pair to assist with your legal matter. Brazil’s economy is the ninth largest in the world in nominal GDP terms, providing opportunities for business expansion and cross-border M&A. The need for Portuguese to English translation services in the United States is also quite strong with over 1.3 million native Brazilian Portuguese speakers residing in the U.S. alone.


Portuguese to English Legal Translation Services

There is a large demand for Portuguese to English document translation for legal papers such as contracts, affidavits, patents, divorce decrees, and court documents. For this reason, top legal translation agencies will likely offer Portuguese translation as one of their services to help clients through various legal processes.

Legal Agreements

International business is growing at the fastest pace ever. Given the sheer amount of native Portuguese speakers across the world, the use of cross-border legal instruments and agreements will only continue to increase. For efficient and compliant business transactions, these instruments will need to be accurate, concise, and readily understood by all parties.

Contracts for real estate transactions, business arrangements, and even automobile purchases or leases will often require certified translations. Therefore, certified translators can help all parties entering an agreement fully understand all conditions of the document and mitigate any potential misunderstandings due to language.


Portuguese translators can help ensure all information on sworn statements, declarations, and affidavits is complete and accurate for court purposes. Suspect or unnatural-sounding translations can cause affidavits to fall under heightened judicial scrutiny and be deemed invalid or introduce unnecessary delays in the legal process.


Portuguese-to-English translators can help applicants through the patent process by helping prevent errors in document preparation, linguistics, syntax, and formatting. Ensuring patent applications are complete and accurate will assure applicants that their inventions are fully protected. Translators can also help convey any foreign-language information related to patents post-application.

Court and Litigation Documents

With the growing number of native Portuguese speakers, translation services will be needed more than ever for court and litigation documents. A professional translation service will help litigants with Portuguese language documents produced at all stages of federal or state legal proceedings. Using the services of a certified translator is often a requirement by the U.S. federal and state courts.

Divorce Decrees

Having precisely translated divorce decrees will ensure that the divorce will be legally recognized in the destination jurisdiction. This is vital for two reasons. First, having your divorce decree translated and recognized in another jurisdiction will pave the way for a subsequent marriage. Second, this will also allow certain immigration procedures such as immigrant visa applications to be processed without delay.


How to Select the Right Provider of Portuguese to English Translation Services

To find an experienced provider of Portuguese to English translation services, there are certain things to look for and red flags to avoid. For starters, you will want to check if the translation service uses translators certified by the American Translators Association (ATA). Beyond using an ATA-certified translator, you’ll also want to check if they have expertise in specific cases similar to yours. In this section, we list a few things you will need to look for when vetting your translation service.

Do They Use Certified Translators?

The first step in finding the right legal translation service is to look for the appropriate certifications. In the U.S., the ATA is a leading certifying organization due to its stringent testing and ethics requirements. Many U.S. government agencies and courts will require certifications on translated legal documents. Using a service that employs ATA-certified translators will also help establish credibility when submitting translations for review by the courts.

Do They Have Legal Expertise?

To ensure your legal documents are translated correctly and accurately, translators need to understand the context around your specific case and that requires legal expertise. If they don’t have any prior experience dealing with cases similar to yours, the translations should be double-checked by specialized attorneys. For that reason, it would be faster and more cost-efficient to use a translation service that also has experience dealing with similar types of cases.

Do They Check Grammar and Syntax Carefully?

It’s not enough to convert a document from one language to another. Your translation agency needs to have certified translators and expert linguists to make sure there are no mistranslations that alter the original meaning of the source documents. When vetting an agency, ask for samples of previously translated documents and have an expert linguist check them. If, for example, the wording seems unnatural or there is excessive use of passive voice, those could be red flags.

Are They Smart About Using Technology for Translation?

While machine translation software has become popular in recent years, it is tempting for translators to put too much reliance on it especially during times of high caseload. Over-reliance on machine translation can lead to mistakes and syntax issues that may affect your case. For accurate Portuguese to English translation, human translation is still the best method. Machine translation software can be an excellent time-saving tool, but your translators should always check the output, edit as needed, and make sure the meaning matches exactly that of the original document.

Do They Understand the Differences Between Brazilian and European Portuguese?

Before you work with a Portuguese-to-English translator, make sure they understand the language nuances of the country in which your original document has been produced. Although the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement attempts to unify and standardize all variants of Portuguese, there is no “neutral” Portuguese. Therefore, since language and cultural differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese are significant, your translator needs to be aware of these variances and take them into context before translating the documents into English.



U.S. law firms requiring Portuguese to English document translation should exercise due caution when selecting a translation provider. Any documents in Portuguese, including contracts, affidavits, patents, divorce decrees, and those produced in litigation, may require certified translation into English for use in the U.S. legal system.

Before hiring a translation service, be sure to carefully vet them. Check to see if they employ ATA-certified translators, first and foremost. Next, make sure they have legal expertise in cases similar to yours. Ask them to translate a sample document of a few hundred words so you can determine if they have the expertise you need. You should also confirm that they check the grammar and syntax carefully before delivering the translated document.

At HIGHLEX, we are not only experienced in translating documents from Latin America for legal purposes in the U.S., but we also provide legal support to ensure a successful outcome for your client.

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