Speak Portuguese like a Native Speaker: Essential Tips to Perfect your Portuguese Accent
Learning to speak a foreign language can be challenging, but the good news is, our brains are hardwired for language learning. In fact, our phonetic capability begins in utero, and once we are born, we immediately start to adapt to our mother language. This capability enables us to communicate effectively at home, and it also gives us the capacity to quickly absorb any new languages we hear on a regular basis. One of the more challenging aspects of language learning, though, is perfecting our accent. Here are some tips to perfect your Brazilian Portuguese accent and sound like a local:
- 1st tip – Learn to listen. If you listen carefully to native speakers, you’re more likely to understand how they position their tongues in their mouths to speak certain words. You will also recognize the tones they use. Brazilians, for example, are passionate speakers, and place a strong emphasis on what they like and what they dislike.
- 2nd tip – It’s important to understand that Portuguese from Portugal is different than Portuguese from Brazil, so look for a native teacher in the language you wish to learn or from where you wish to travel. Brazilian Portuguese places a greater emphasis on all vowels, and they are pronounced more clearly, whereas in Portugal, they tend to blend vowels and consonants together.
- 3rd tip – As you’re beginning to learn the language, don’t hesitate to speak slowly, but not mechanically. The Portuguese language is usually spoken without pauses, which might complicate things for foreigners. Take your time and do not rush, but if you want to improve your Portuguese, “splice” the words slowly—see which words are really important in the sentence and place emphasis on those words.
- 4th tip – Always makes sure that you open your mouth and annuciate when you are speaking and pronouncing vowels, especially if you want to be clearly understood.
- 5th tip – The Portuguese language is a nasal-sounding language. The tilaccent can become troublesome for those who speak English as their mother tongue since it does not exist in English or German. Example: João (John), melão (melon), mamão (papaya), emoção (emotion), and coração (heart). Only time and practice will help you correctly reproduce this kind of nasal sound, but do not be discouraged.
- 6th tip – Listen to music and sing along. Enjoy karaoke. You will learn faster how words are pronounced. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- 7th tip – People from the north and south of Brazil speak with different accents. Example: In the south and southeast, the letter “r” at the beginning of words sounds like the “h,” as in the English word “house.” The sound of “h” is the same “r” when we say rato (mouse), Rio, and rico (rich). This also applies to the letter “r” at the end of words. Example: amor (love) and calor (heat).
- 8th tip – The “r” in the middle of the word sounds more like an “r” that is spoken in Italy as in parla. For example, travesseiro (pillow) or edredom (duvet). These words require training the tongue tip to touch the roof of the mouth to make the right sound.
- 9th tip – Unlike other Brazilians, Cariocas—the native inhabitants of the city of Rio de Janeiro—generally pronounce “s” as “sh” instead of “ss.” Examples: Meus pais (my parents) is pronounced as “meh-oosh pah-eesh”; biscoito (cookie) is pronounced as “bih-sh-koh-ih-toh.”
- 10th tip – Study the Portugeuse verbs and the verb conjugations. They are not easy, especially for English native speakers, but they are very necessary for you to compose a sentence correctly. In Portuguese, verbs differ greatly for singular and plural. Example: English: I say the word/we say the word. Portuguese: Eu digo a palavra/Nós dizemos a palavra.
- 11th tip – Another regional difference is the open vowel in the North and the closed vowel in the South. The same word spoken in the North will sound more open, while in the South it is pronounced more closed.
- 12th tip – While visiting Brazil, especially Rio de Janeiro, you will hear that the letter “o” (oh) can easily be pronounced as “u” (uh). Examples: dormir (sleep) can be pronounced as “duhr-mihr,” and bonita (beautiful) can be pronounced as “buh-nih-tah.”
Additionally, to improve your Portuguese accent, you must pay attention to what is said, how it is said, and how it feels. Express your emotions while speaking and remember to have fun learning this beautiful language, regardless of the accent!