However, when you listened for these sounds throughout the Units and in the Shorties, you may have heard some things you didn’t expect! It’s not always straightforward to know how sounds will be pronounced at a more natural speaking pace. Why? Two reasons:
the neighbouring sounds (i.e. the sounds right before or after) have an effect on each other
the stress / flow of the word or sentence
Luckily there are some guidelines to help you nail these less obvious Portuguese pronunciation skills!
Pronunciation varies across different Portuguese dialects, so you will likely hear variations in the the R (as well as other sounds). We’ll focus on the “standard” Lisbon pronunciation here for simplicity’s sake. Just keep in mind that you may hear it differently in other parts of Portugal, and especially in Brazil.
First we’ll describe how the English R is pronounced, so that you can differentiate it from the many pronunciations of the Portuguese R. Then we’ll talk about the primary R pronunciations in European Portuguese: flap R, guttural R, and trill R.
Mastering the consonant sounds are essential to understanding and speaking European Portuguese. While many sounds are similar in English, there are a handful that are extra challenging to learn and pronounce, including “s”, “r”, “lh”, “x” and “z”. Check out the complete reference guide with audio examples here! Chapters: 00:00 Intro […]
A teacher explains the basics of image editing to her class. While the students practice with tools and techniques, you can practice nasal vowels with all the words that end in -em, -am, -um, -im, and -om!
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:
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.
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, so 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.
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!
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”.
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”)
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.
In this guide, we’ll focus on S, Z, C, and Ç. We’ve grouped these together because their pronunciations and variations have a lot of overlap. Let’s see a few examples, just to get us started:
sucessoPlay slow audioPlay normal audiosuccess – In this example, different letters/digraphs (s, c, and ss) have the same sound.
concessãoPlay slow audioPlay normal audioconcession – Here we have the same letter (c), but two different sounds.
Dez vezes dez é igual a cemPlay slow audioPlay normal audio10 times 10 equals 100 – The 2nd and 3rd z sound different from the 1st one, which sounds like the s!
In this Learning Note, you’ll learn which pronunciation to use by paying attention to how the letter is positioned within a word or phrase.
The Letter S
Depending on where it’s placed, and the letters surrounding it, s can represent different sounds: ‘se’Play normal audio, ‘ze’Play normal audio, or ‘sh’Play normal audio
Have you heard of Minimal Pairs? A minimal word pair consists of two words that vary by only a single sound. For example, contaPlay slow audioPlay normal audiocalculation and contoPlay slow audioPlay normal audiotale – 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
àPlay slow audioPlay normal audio vs. aPlay slow audioPlay normal audio
dáPlay slow audioPlay normal audiogivedaPlay slow audioPlay normal audioof the
àsPlay slow audioPlay normal audioto theasPlay slow audioPlay normal audiothe
para – paraPlay slow audioPlay normal audiostop – to
falámosPlay slow audioPlay normal audiowe spokefalamosPlay slow audioPlay normal audiowe speak
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.
Compared to some other languages, Portuguese pronunciation is relatively consistent, once you learn the 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 can be pronounced in several different ways. To get started, let’s see what Sherlock has to say on the topic:
Today we learn about one of the most important symbols of Portuguese culture, found all over the walls and buildings throughout the country – azulejos (tiles). As always, we explore new vocabulary and grammar, and correct more of Joel’s “pronúncia de estrangeiro!”
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!)
In this episode, we learn about one of Portugal’s most important symbols and main exports: cork! We explore tons of new vocabulary, and later, for your benefit, Rui humbles Joel by tearing apart his pronunciation skills!
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.
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!
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.