Digital Real-Time Services to Translate Brazilian Portuguese World Cup Tweets

Fans and brands to benefit

Want to tweet a question at a local “carioca?” One Hour Translation has 200 translators at the ready to translate your query into Brazilian Portuguese. Just as it did during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Cyprus-based company will be offering free, on-demand translation services during the World Cup, which kicks off June 12.  

Illustration: Chris Gash  


Brazil’s difficulties with foreign languages is well-documented. Despite being surrounded by Spanish-speaking nations, Spanish is not a common tongue. The country also ranked low on the 2013 EF Education First’s English Proficiency Index.

Offering free translation during the soccer event won’t just be a public service; it’s also a great opportunity for brands to get international publicity, said One Hour Translation CEO Ofer Shoshan.

However, Lee Maicon, svp of strategy for 360i, warns that the immediacy isn’t always beneficial, especially when it comes to ad campaigns, which may get lost in translation. “There’s a huge difference between [translating copy] so the client understands as opposed to actually copywriting in English,” he argued.

Even Google, which acquired camera-based translator app Word Lens from Quest Visual last week, acknowledges that its translation service can come out garbled, but is still forging ahead. “It may not be perfect all the time, but a good translation is better than no translation,” Roya Soleimani, Google communications manager, said.

Maicon theorized that marketers could be better served by tapping into global translation requests in order to help inform trends. For example, in 2013, 360i tapped into the API of major airports to learn about flight cancellations, then immediately connected the info with Red Roof Inn’s ad bidding. When travelers would be stuck, the hotel chain would pay more to ensure a No. 1 ad spot on search engines.

Shoshan said that requests for tourism-related translations into Brazilian Portuguese have risen 52 percent over the last six months, especially for phrases involving hotels and airlines. “You could use language to judge consumer needs at the right place and the right time,” Maicon explained.

Immediate translation companies could also monetize by partnering with service-oriented businesses or local governments. Google is said to be in talks with taxi drivers and ambulance companies for World Cup translation services, and EF struck a deal with the Brazilian government to train 1 million people to speak English ahead of the 2016 Olympics by providing real-time digital instruction.