As is the case with most languages, the same letter can be associated with different phonemes — that is to say, the same letter can be pronounced in many different ways. You’ve probably noticed that Portuguese is no exception. Two of these letters that have many variations are S and C:
SucessoSuccess – In this example, different letters/digraphs (s, c, and ss) have the same sound.
ConcessãoConcession – Here we have the same letter (c), but two different sounds.
In this Learning Note, you’ll learn how to pronounce these letters by paying attention to how they are positioned within a word or phrase.
The Letter S
Depending on where it’s placed, and the letters surrounding it, s can have 3 different sounds: se, ze, or sh
Unlike English, most Portuguese words have a gender.
Sometimes you’ll notice patterns, like the -o ending in many masculine words and the -a ending in many feminine words. There are many, many exceptions, however, so you can’t always rely on that rule. Furthermore, some words take on different forms for each gender and others only have one form. It comes down to using the patterns as a guide and memorizing the exceptions over time as you hear them in context.
We can split Portuguese words into at least four groups when it comes to gender.
Have you heard of Minimal Pairs? A minimal word pair consists of two words that vary by only a single sound.
For example, contacalculation and contotale – the only difference is in the final sound (“a” vs. “o”).
Practicing with minimal pairs is a great way to perfect your pronunciation and comprehension because it teaches you to hear the subtle differences between similar sounding words. As you’ll see in the examples below, even a tiny change in pronunciation means you could be saying something much different from what you intend to say!
While we’re at it, let’s also make a distinction between minimal pairs, homophones, and homographs.
Homophones are words with the same exact pronunciation but different meanings
Minimal pairs are words that have the same pronunciation except for only a single sound, also known as a fonema (phoneme). That single sound difference is the only thing that lets you know they are two different words – they are minimally different.
Homographs are words that are written the same exact way but pronounced differently. Some minimal pairs can also be homographs but that’s not the norm.
You have been learning to speak and write proper Portuguese, but not every Portuguese person speaks perfectly 100% of the time. Depending on the context, we might prefer using simpler terms to save time, explain something in a different way, joke around, or even fit in with a group. That’s where gíria popular –or just gíria – comes in. GíriaSlang is the Portuguese term for “slang”. Let’s take a look at some of the most common words.
Ya, eu vou ter convoscoYeah, I’ll meet you guys
Ya – also found written as iá – is often, but not exclusively, used by young people. It simply means SimYes, but can also replace, or be replaced by, ClaroOf course, Certo