Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

Brazil embraces spelling reforms

Children looking at books
It may be some time before there is a universal Portuguese language

Brazilians start 2009 facing the task of learning new spelling rules that have just come into effect.

The spelling reforms have been agreed by Portuguese-speaking nations, but the language seems set to have different written forms for some time to come.

In Portugal, there has been fierce resistance in some quarters to the changes because many of the changes are to spell words the Brazilian way.

Portuguese is the official language of more than 230m people worldwide.

Brazil, by far the biggest lusophone nation, is the first to adopt the new spelling rules.

Spellings are standardised, and silent consonants are removed in order for words to be spelt more phonetically, turning, for example "optimo" (great) into "otimo".

Various accents are also no longer needed.

The alphabet grows by three letters to 26 - k, w and y were already in use but until now frowned on by purists.

BBC Brasil reporting the story
BBC Brasil is set to adopt the changes in February when the site is revamped

Proponents says the move will make the language more uniform globally, making such things as internet searches and legal documents easier to understand.

However, it may be some time before there is a uniform version of written Portuguese.

Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe have ratified the spelling accord but have not fixed a date for introducing the changes.

East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola have said they are interested in approving the accord but have not yet done so.


Portugal has ratified the changes but also has no set deadline for introducing them.

And it is there that resistance is most keenly felt.

Thousands of people signed a petition against the reforms, arguing that it amounted to adopting Brazilian spellings.

"Of course it is a capitulation to Brazilian interests," Portuguese MEP Vasco Graca Moura told BBC Brasil.

"The day that Brazilian orthography can be used everywhere Portuguese is spoken is of huge benefit to Brazilian economic interests, especially those involved in producing schoolbooks," he said.

But Angolan writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa believes that the reforms will be of most benefit to African countries.

"Right now in Angola, there are two ways of spelling - the Brazilian and the Portuguese way. That in a country whose great challenge is to ensure literacy among its people," he said.

BBC Brasil will adopt the new spelling changes in February when its site will also be revamped.

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