Language & International Arbitration
Portugal – a country with communication skills
The Language background
Language barriers are one of the most prominent cultural concerns when dealing with business matters in a foreign country, and this makes sense because a seemingly innocuous mishap in wording can lead to a failed business deal. This is even more relevant in the legal world, especially in regards to international arbitration where high stakes are involved.
The language used in arbitration can have either a positive or negative impact on party equality since language plays a fundamental role not only during the written pleadings, but also and more importantly during the oral phases of the proceedings. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked and it is not uncommon that advocates and arbitrators find themselves at pains in understanding and showing command of the language used in the arbitration; thusly, this is a matter which should be carefully considered.
Portugal has many attributes when it comes to the Portuguese language itself. Over 250 million people speak the Portuguese language throughout the world and it is currently considered to be the 6th most widely spoken language. Portugal also shares a great amount of cultural, economic and legal backgrounds which serve as a common tie between many other countries. Due to this, a large amount of commercial transactions worldwide deal with Portuguese speaking countries.
Recently, Portugal has seen a substantial growth in terms of investment and capital flows, due to larger countries, such as Brazil and Angola viewing Portugal as a safe harbor for their investments.
Language to use in arbitration
Portuguese is of course the best language to use in arbitration involving parties from Portuguese speaking countries. But what happens when one of the parties (or both) do not speak Portuguese (but nevertheless consider the option to arbitrate in Portugal)?
One may well say that Portugal is one of the countries within the EU well-known for its population having a good understanding and command of English. This is due to many reasons, but mostly due to the high importance that learning English is placed on the educational system as well as the fact that movies are subtitled, rather than dubbed as in many other Western European countries.
As many Portuguese citizens are highly adept in their usage of English as a second language, with much of the population speaking relatively comprehensively, this means that when it comes to selecting a jurisdiction as well as the language of arbitration, there shouldn’t be any difficulties in regards to dealing with not just the legal system but also with locals, as well as in making other logistical arrangements.
In other words, arbitrations in Portugal can interchangeably use Portuguese and English as working language.
Lisbon as an alternative to London after Brexit
Further, with the looming uncertainty of the end-result of Brexit, this has made the United Kingdom very unstable on many levels. With many legal aspects still to be ironed out in these proceedings, it might not be in the best interest to select the UK as a jurisdiction for international arbitration.
It is important to highlight the importance of language when selecting a language for international arbitration. Portugal has many qualities which showcase it as an advantageous choice, with language being high on the list.
In next week’s blog post, the Portuguese legal background will be covered, not just in regards to the current legal system in Portugal, but also the strong ties and similarity in the judicial systems that still exist between Portugal and other Portuguese speaking countries.
If you would like more information or have any questions regarding international arbitration in Portugal, please feel free to download our extensive Guide to Portuguese Arbitration.