To effectively speak and understand Portuguese, mastering pronunciation is essential. This guide provides an overview of key elements of Portuguese pronunciation.
In Portuguese, vowels can be oral or nasal, and their pronunciation can change depending on accent and whether they are in stressed or unstressed syllables.
a: Like ‘a’ in “father” when stressed, like ‘u’ in “cup” when unstressed.
e: Like ‘e’ in “bet” when stressed, and like ‘i’ in “sit” when unstressed at the end of a word.
i: Like ‘ee’ in “see”.
o: Like ‘o’ in “not” when stressed, and like ‘oo’ in “book” when unstressed at the end of a word.
u: Like ‘oo’ in “moon”.
Nasal vowels are a significant feature of Portuguese. They are marked by a tilde (~) when written alone or followed by ‘m’ or ‘n’:
ã: Like ‘an’ in “ban”
õ: Like ‘on’ in “song”
Most Portuguese consonants are pronounced similarly to their English counterparts, but some are different:
j: Like ‘s’ in “measure”.
lh: Like ‘ly’ in “million”.
nh: Like ‘ny’ in “canyon”.
rr: A guttural sound, similar to French ‘r’.
s: Like ‘s’ in “sea” when at the beginning of words or when followed by a voiceless consonant; like ‘z’ in “haze” when followed by a voiced consonant; like ‘sh’ in “shop” when at the end of a syllable.
ç and c before ‘a’, ‘o’, ‘u’: Like ‘s’ in “sea”.
ch: Like ‘sh’ in “shop”.
In Portuguese, the stress usually falls on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable, but there are many exceptions. Accents are used in written Portuguese to mark stress when it falls in an unusual place.
Pronunciation takes practice. Listening to native Portuguese speakers and repeating the sounds, words, and sentences they use can significantly improve your pronunciation. Remember to be patient with yourself and keep practicing!
Learn how to link this guide to your speakable speaking assignments: Setting Students Up for Success: Guide to using Text Cards for Instructions.
This guide is a simplified overview and is not exhaustive. Pronunciation can vary widely across different Portuguese-speaking regions. This guide is based on standard European Portuguese. If your students are learning Brazilian Portuguese, some of these guidelines may need to be adjusted.