Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Consonants

August 17, 2020

Portuguese and English share a common alphabet, for the most part, and many of the sounds associated with each consonant are quite similar. If you’re a native English speaker, the pronunciations to pay special attention to are those associated with the vowels, which we will cover in a separate learning note, as well as the following consonants / consonant digraphs: c, ç, ch, h, lh, m, n, nh, r, s, x, and z. This guide will serve as an overview of European Portuguese pronunciation for consonants, but you should also explore these links for more detailed explanations of some of the trickier sounds:

Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Vowels

August 17, 2020

It’s time to take a deep dive into the pronunciation of vowels in European Portuguese! First we’ll invite you to play around with this interactive guide and then we’ll cover all the factors that go into creating the variety of subtle variations between each vowel sound.

Pronunciation of Vowels in European Portuguese

Explore the guide below to get to know Portuguese vowels a little bit better. You can mouseover Rui’s lovely face in the interactive diagram to listen to and practice all these vowel sounds! For the best possible experience, use a computer running the Chrome browser.

European vs Brazilian Portuguese

August 13, 2020

What’s the difference between European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese? For starters, European Portuguese is the variant spoken in Portugal and is more similar to the dialects spoken in Africa and Asia. (It is sometimes called Continental Portuguese, or even Portuguese Portuguese! 😄  ) Given the size and population of Brazil, however, the Brazilian Portuguese set of dialects are the most famous across the world, including online and in the entertainment industry.

Some compare the distinction between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese to that between American and British English, or between Latin American and European/Castilian Spanish. Practice Portuguese only teaches European Portuguese, but if you are arriving here with a background in Brazilian Portuguese, it can be helpful to understand the differences.

For native Portuguese speakers, the various dialects are mutually intelligible. As a non-native, hearing multiple versions can sometimes add extra confusion and complexity to the learning process, particularly when it comes to the pronunciation differences. If you’re planning to spend time in Portugal, or you just want to learn more about the Portuguese language as a whole, it’s important to understand the many unique characteristics of European Portuguese. We’ll take a look at some of the primary differences in spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

01:11:26

Maratona de Leitura

Reading Marathon

May 23, 2020

Featured Shorty: “Diário de uma Quarent(o)ena II.”
A lot has happened, to say the least, since we last recorded a podcast episode!
We start out by challenging your comprehension with casual Portuguese conversation to get you up to speed on what’s been happening with us personally as well as in the world… since we know we are definitely your primary resource for all things COVID-19!
We spend the rest of the episode tweaking the pronunciation of our brave listeners who once again contributed their recordings. (Obrigado!)
We review the pronunciation of the different R, S, E, and O sounds, perfecting the cadence and flow of Portuguese sentences… plus, you’ll discover a word that even Rui has trouble pronouncing!

26:17

Segredos da Pronúncia Nativa

Secrets of Native Pronunciation

March 3, 2020

In this episode, we once again analyze record audio clips from our brave listeners! We listen to the Shorty, “À Busca de Doces“, and explore how to make your Portuguese sound more native with pronunciation subtleties and word choice. We also clarify some other challenging concepts, such as the differences between “aí, ali, & lá”.

38:37

Como Falam os Nossos Membros?

How Do Our Members Speak?

January 27, 2020

Today, the tables have turned, because YOU, (our listeners) are the main voices of this special episode! European Portuguese learners from around the world bravely submitted recordings of themselves reading our featured Shorty, “Um Encontro“.

We listen to each one, while suggesting subtle improvements for perfecting their pronunciation, including some challenging vowel sounds, and rules of the letter “S”, and more.

A BIG “thank you” to everyone who bravely submitted their recordings. Let us know if you enjoy this and we’ll do more of this in future episodes!
(Learn more about the pronunciation of the letter “S” here: The Letters “S” and “C”)

Minimal Pairs

December 10, 2019

Have you heard of Minimal Pairs? A minimal word pair consists of two words that vary by only a single sound. For example, conta calculation and conto tale – the only difference is in the final sound (the vowel sounds represented by a and o). Practicing with Portuguese 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.

Let’s dive into some Portuguese minimal pairs!

Open vs. Closed Vowels

à vs. a

  • give da of
  • às to as the
  • para – para stop – to
  • falámos we spoke falamos we speak
33:40

As Senhoras Que Bebem Cerveja

Ladies Who Drink Beer

October 7, 2019

In this episode, we deconstruct one of our latest “Shorties”. We go through some useful food vocabulary, discuss verb and tense choices, and Rui irons out Joel and Molly’s “estrangeiro” pronunciation! There’s also some exciting news about Practice Portuguese, especially for those of you who might be in the Algarve next weekend.

00:02:32

How to Pronounce the Letter X in Portuguese

July 10, 2018

Compared to some other languages, Portuguese pronunciation is relatively consistent, once you learn and follow the basic rules. A huge exception to this idea lies the letter X, which is one of the most challenging sounds – even for more intermediate learners.

That’s because this letter makes a several different sounds, and it varies unpredictably… for the most part. To get started, let’s see what Sherlock has to say on the topic:

(A special thanks to our friend Wayne Wilson for not only writing and animating this video, but for also providing the voice of Sherlock! Please help us thank him below or in the YouTube comments!)

As you saw in the video, there are 5 different ways to pronounce X in European Portuguese. But when you see a new word that contains this letter, how will you know which of the 5 pronunciations to use?

The only way to be fully sure is to memorize the individual words. But to hopefully give you a head start, let’s explore some of X’s common pronunciation patterns:

Regular -AR Verbs in the Simple Past

May 16, 2018

The English simple past tense (e.g. “I went”, “We ate”, “You finished”) corresponds to the Portuguese pretérito perfeito simple past.

As with the present tense, conjugating regular Portuguese verbs in this tense is easier once you learn the patterns for each verb group.

Examples of some regular verbs in the -AR group include falar to speak, gostar to like, and andar to walk.

Let’s see the conjugations for the latter:

41:56

A Tartaruga Ninja

The Ninja Turtle

December 23, 2017

Our fabulously fictional Portuguese family is back (with peculiarly different voices 😂) and this time, they’re considering adding a new member. We explore new vocabulary surrounding food, animals and more, and also run into some new usage examples of the conjunctive and conditional moods. And just like in the last episode, Rui continues to help Joel identify some more of his “estrangeiro” pronunciation habits!

Update (April 12, 2018): After launching this episode, it was helpfully pointed out to us that keeping a turtle as a pet is irresponsible: They die earlier in captivity and live a miserable, unnatural life. They’re part of our wildlife heritage and need their protected, natural habitat to thrive. Instead, consider adopting a cat or dog from a shelter – surprisingly, they’re less work, and you’ll be doing some good! More details here and here. (Obrigado, Joanna!)

18:56

Como Falam Os Algarvios? (Conversa com Eliana)

How Do Algarvians Speak? (Conversation with Eliana)

August 1, 2017

After our very challenging Diálogo, dedicated to the Algarvian dialect, we decided to record a follow-up discussion with Eliana, (who voiced the Algarvian characters).
She will help us understand a bit better some of the difficult terms and expressions that came up in that episode, and how they’re typically used in the region.

00:15:13

Aprender Português? Vejo-me Grego! (Video)

February 28, 2017

In this video, Joel (o Canadiano) interviews Pedro, a personal trainer in Lisboa. When he saw which videos and website his Greek girlfriend was using to learn Portuguese, he immediately recognized Rui and Joel as members of the gym!

Instead of just taking a photo together, we decided it would be a bigger surprise for her to see her boyfriend pop up in her YouTube activity feed! So we recorded this interview to make it happen…

During the conversation, we discuss:

• Common challenges that make Portuguese difficult for non-natives to master

• Learning your partner’s language while in a relationship

• Specific grammar and pronunciation peculiarities in European Portuguese

Disclaimer: Since this interview is spontaneous and Joel is not a native speaker, he makes a few mistakes (eg. “Isto é” instead of “Este é” when introducing Pedro!) Members who see the subtitles / transcription will see the corrections, and hopefully learn from these common errors. But for those who just hear the audio or view the video without subtitles, just make sure to take Joel’s grammar with a grain of salt and focus more on Pedro! 🙂

15:51

Aprender Português? Vejo-me Grego! (Video)

Learning Portuguese? I'm seeing myself Greek (I'm struggling)!

February 28, 2017

In this video, Joel (o Canadiano) interviews Pedro, a personal trainer in Lisboa. When he saw which videos and website his Greek girlfriend was using to learn Portuguese, he immediately recognized Rui and Joel as members of the gym!

Instead of just taking a photo together, we decided it would be a bigger surprise for her to see her boyfriend pop up in her YouTube activity feed! So we recorded this interview to make it happen…

During the conversation, we discuss:

• Common challenges that make Portuguese difficult for non-natives to master

• Learning your partner’s language while in a relationship

• Specific grammar and pronunciation peculiarities in European Portuguese

Disclaimer: Since this interview is spontaneous and Joel is not a native speaker, he makes a few mistakes (eg. “Isto é” instead of “Este é” when introducing Pedro!) Members who see the subtitles / transcription will see the corrections, and hopefully learn from these common errors. But for those who just hear the audio or view the video without subtitles, just make sure to take Joel’s grammar with a grain of salt and focus more on Pedro! 🙂

00:02:38

Mystery of the Disappearing Sounds (in European Portuguese!)

October 5, 2016

Have you ever been confused by the way Portuguese natives pronounce their sentences?

Even if you know the individual words, when used together they can sound completely unfamiliar. This is often because some written vowels mysteriously vanish when spoken.

Watch this short video now, because in the next few days we’ll launch a new lesson to help you master vowel pronunciation. You’ll learn why these vowel sounds disappear so you’ll understand European Portuguese better while making your own accent sound more native!

00:39:45

Open & Closed Vowels in European Portuguese

September 18, 2016

Many learners find European Portuguese natives much more difficult to understand than Brazilians – mainly because when spoken, it sounds much more closed.

In some cases, there are even vowel sounds that are barely audible! (Make sure you already saw the Mystery of the Disappearing Sounds as an entertaining 2-minute introduction!)

In this 2nd of our 3 video lessons in this special series, we explore what we consider the most challenging aspect of European Portuguese comprehension: Open, medium and closed vowel sounds.

By mastering this lesson, you’ll not only better understand what European Portuguese natives are saying, but you’ll make your own accent sound a lot more authentic when you’re speaking Portuguese.

Important: We designed this video to be an ultimate resource that you can return to many times, regardless of your current level… so don’t expect to understand and master every single pronunciation rule after just viewing it the first time! Watch it all the way through the first time just to get the general idea, then return to the content in multiple study sessions, pausing and rewinding as necessary.