Getting a Grip of the Portuguese Accent

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First Published: 27th of December, 2021 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: January 3, 2022 at 17:42 pm

Learning a new language is not simply about learning new words and their meanings. As we all know, it’s a lot more than that. And one of the things you will have to do when learning a new language is condition yourself to the accent of that language. That is, the exquisite way that the people native to the language use the letters of the alphabet. Portuguese is no exception.

The word “sotaque” in Portuguese corresponds to the English “accent.” For example:

British accent – Sotaque britânico
North American accent – Sotaque norte-americano
Canadian accent – Sotaque canadense

Accent in this sense refers to the phonetics of the language as well as the accentuation of syllables and the general tone of the language. All of these elements may be collectively referred to as the “accent” of the language.

When I first started learning Portuguese, I was quick to simply learn a Portuguese word and often pronounce it the same way that an English person would. While the pronunciation may be approximate to the real Portuguese pronunciation, the Brazilian person would quickly realize that I was a foreigner. They would look at me and smile in an amused way and sometimes ask if I am from another country. They would sometimes burst out laughing or just giggle a little. But when they laugh, it’s not in a bad way. They laugh in a friendly, amused way and I’m always happy that they are laughing instead of being annoyed at my mispronunciation. I laugh back and make everyone happy.

Here are some words that I mispronounced for some time before mastering Portuguese:

Voce – Voh-say (voh rhymes with go)

Muito – moo-ee-to (the first syllable is like when a cow moos).

Por favor – puh – favoh

Sim – seeng.

dormir – doh-meew

Tentar – taint-ah

Note that “m” after a vowel has a sound that approximates the English “ng” and it is also often nasalized. By paying close attention to how Brazilians say these words, and repeating after them, you will master it.

As with many other languages, it is hard to describe offhand how certain sounds are pronounced in Portuguese. Studying languages is studying God’s handiwork. You will be amazed at how a person in another language so aptly expresses the same idea in completely different words.

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