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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Larkin

The Top 3 Pronunciation Mistakes Speakers of Brazilian Portuguese Make

i meus amigos que falam Português do Brasil! Este blog é para vocês!

About two years ago, I decided I wanted to learn Brazilian Portuguese after having traveled to Portugal. At the time, I had no idea that European Portuguese was so different from Brazilian but I only knew that the language was beautiful and that it was similar enough to Spanish that I thought I could learn it quickly. Since that time, I've been lucky to meet a lot of people from Brazil, through my own learning of the Portuguese language, through travel, and through teaching English and the American accent! These experiences have given me a unique insight into the top mistakes made by native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese. I should mention, I'm now also hyper-aware of the pronunciation mistakes I make while speaking Brazilian Portuguese - it goes both ways right?

  1. The Past Tense -ED Sound

In English, a simple past tense verb is formed by adding -ED to the end of the verb (i.e., walk = yesterday, I walked). What is not so "simple" is the pronunciation of the past tense -ed, as there are 3 different pronunciations depending on what consonant comes before the -ed. I won't get into specifics in this blog, but sometimes -ed is pronounced as a "t" (like in walked = walk-t), sometimes it's pronounced as a "d" (as in learned = learn-d), and sometimes it's pronounced as "ihd" (as in greeted = greet-ihd). This is extremely confusing for all non-native speakers but especially for speakers of Brazilian Portuguese. In Portuguese, all vowels are typically pronounced and rarely do two consonant sounds get stuck together. Therefore, the sound combinations required to make past tense -ed are very difficult for Brazilian Portuguese speakers, as these sound combinations don't exist in their native language. For example, given the past tense word "walked", the sounds used to make up this word are /wakt/. The combination of /kt/ is non-existent in Brazilian Portuguese. What would feel natural for a speaker of Portuguese would be to pronounce this word as /wakihd/.

2. IH vs. EE Sounds

I am frequently asked to clarify the difference between these two vowels by my Brazilian Portuguese speaking clients. Brazilian Portuguese contains 12-13 distinct vowel sounds whereas English contains 20. There is some overlap, for example, the vowel "EE" is a common part of both English and Portuguese. But the "IH" sound is not one of the vowels that overlaps between both languages and it is very common in English. In another blog, I will get into detail about the difference but for now, all I want to mention is that speakers of Brazilian Portuguese will often substitute the "EE" sound for "IH". This makes sense because the "IH" sound doesn't exist in Brazilian Portuguese and the closest match is "EE". (Interestingly, this is where I make mistakes speaking Portuguese, but the opposite - I, at times, will substitute an "IH" when I should have used an "EE"). Additionally, in 90%+ of occasions, English words containing the "IH" sound are typically written with a lone ("lone" as in not combined with another vowel) letter "I" (i.e., it, live, big, etc.) - in Brazilian Portuguese, a lone "I" is pronounced as an "EE" (i.e., isso, idade, amigo). The confusion between these two sounds is completely understandable and predictable but can often lead to some problems as there are a handful of words that carry different meanings and are pronounced similarly except for the vowel (i.e. cheap vs. chip, leave, vs. live, beach vs. bitch).

3. Final -K in Words

Last but not least: Something VERY unique and specific to Brazilian Portuguese is the addition of an "ee" sound after "K". For example, Facebook in Brazilian Portuguese is pronounced as "Facee-bookee". I have to say, I LOVE this part about Brazilian Portuguese, it sounds so endearing to a native English speaker. But often times this rule will get carried over to English where we end a lot of our words with a consonant. This can result in the pronunciation of words such as music as "musikee", bike as "bikee", etc.

This blog only skimmed the surface! There's so much more that goes into changing an accent but as a speaker of Brazilian Portuguese, being aware of these three mistakes will give you a good place to start. As always, feel free to reach out if you have questions! Or sign up for a class with me! I love talking all things Brazil!

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