Brazilian agribusiness and the translation industry

Marcos Chiquetto jan 22 2024

Agricultural products are a very important part of the Brazilian economy today. For example, Brazil currently produces 42% of the world’s soybeans, making it a global leader in this product.

 And does this economic activity involve much technology?

Well, common sense would tell us that it doesn’t. If the average person was asked to picture a harvesting machine, for example, they would probably imagine an enormous machine with relatively simple mechanisms controlled by a few levers and buttons.

However, this is not the case. Today’s agricultural machines are extremely sophisticated pieces of equipment, both in their mechanics and in their control mechanisms, which are based entirely on digital processing.

Example of a modern agricultural machine

These machines are controlled by powerful software systems that optimize the operations and configurations of the equipment. The operations manual of an agricultural machine can run over a thousand pages explaining all the possible mechanical adjustments and software operations.

Screen shots from an instrument panel of a harvesting machine

If someone wants to buy and operate one of these products in Brazil, they will need this information in Portuguese. Consequently, the manufacturer will need to translate a significant volume of marketing material and thousands of pages of technical documentation.

Okay, but I suppose this would be simple to translate. After all, agriculture isn’t a very complicated business.

Sorry, once again, that’s not true. The language used with this type of equipment is highly technical and specialized and is not something that an average translator would be familiar with. This makes the translation quite difficult.

So, manufacturers of agricultural equipment need to have large volumes of highly specialized, difficult materials translated.

Wow. I never would have imagined that.

Right. Who would? And most people wouldn’t realize that manufacturers of agricultural equipment are among translation agencies most important clients these days.

And how is this translation to Portuguese done?

Typically, the equipment manufacturer contracts a multilingual translation company, usually based in the United States or Europe, to perform translations to all the languages they need.

This multilingual agency will have vendors specialized in various languages spread across the entire globe. In the case we are considering, it will use its vendor for Portuguese, which will normally be a Brazilian company.

First, the agency will do the initial processing of the material in its translation memory platform (see our article on translation memory) and then send the processed material to its Brazilian translation vendor who will open the file in the translation environment of the platform, revise the segments already contained in the memory and translate any new segments.

The text to be translated is exported from its original format to the translation platform memory, which is the translator’s work environment. That is where the translation is done.

The Brazilian vendor returns the translation to the multilingual agency, who exports the material to the original format and to PDF, to deliver it to the equipment manufacturer. Then the translated material is included in the product package, which is delivered to the client in Brazil.

Is this work flow the same for other advanced technology companies, such as producers of software and electronic equipment?

More or less. The method is basically the same, but there is one important difference: the most important clients of a software or electronics company are usually in Europe and the United States, in addition to having other clients all over the world. So, these companies will ask the multilingual agency to translate their materials into dozens of languages, such as French, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Polish, Chinese, etc.

In the case of agricultural equipment, the most important buyers are in countries that are the world’s largest producers of agricultural products, such as the United States, China, India, Brazil, and Argentina. Thus, the translation will be required for fewer languages, with Portuguese being one of the most important. A company like Microsoft or LG will rarely need a translation only in Portuguese because all its products will be sold all over the world. On the other hand, a manufacturer of agricultural equipment can make an important sale just in Brazil, therefore needing the translation only for Portuguese.

This creates another possibility: instead of using a multilingual agency, the manufacturer can work directly with a Brazilian translation agency. But it has to choose well to guarantee a high-quality job.

The best option is a company that has experience in partnering with multilingual agencies, because that will mean it follows the best methods and uses the best tools, delivering a world-class job at a lower cost.

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