Difficult Sounds in Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation

The sentence below has 7 common Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation sounds that students often find difficult to pronounce. So let’s look at those sounds individually to try and crack them!

 

A minha filha mais jovem não gosta de carros caros.

 

 

1. NH

It has the same sound as the n the English word onion. With that in mind try and pronounce the word vinho (wine).

vinho (wine)

Two glasses of wine for the Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

 

2. LH

Think of the English word million and try and isolate the sound produced by the double-l. Now try and pronounce the Portuguese word coelho with that sound in mind.

coelho (rabbit)

 

3. EM

When a vowel is followed by the m at the end of words or before b and p, it creates a nasalized sound in Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation.

The closest in English would be the nasalized sound in words ending in -ng, such as sing and ginseng, but with -ng barely pronounced.

Because the m won’t be pronounced as a separate sound, one thing you can do to help you achieve the nasalization is to try and not close your lips immediately – keep them apart and try and bring the air while pronouncing the vowel sound through your nose as well as your mouth. You can try and put your fingertips on your nose and you should feel a slight vibration if you’re doing the sound right.

viagem (trip)

Image of a man dragging a suitcase to illustrate the word 'viagem' as part of Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

 

4. ÃO

The easiest way to achieve this sound is to initially think of it as two separate sounds:

  • the uh sound in the English word sun.
  • and the oom sound in zoom

Once you practised them separately, try and put them together as just one sound.

Check out this other post on the pronunciation of ÃO.

coração (heart)

Image of a heart-shapped hole carved on a door to illustrate the word 'coracao' (heart in Portuguese) as part of Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

 

5. Palatalization of the letter D

The palatalization of the letter d is extremely common in Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation. Instead of pronouncing like a hard d, you pronounce it like a dj sound.  This happens before a phonetic [i] sound.  This [i] sound – the same as in the English word me, will occur:

  • with the vowel i (always)
  • and with the unstressed vowel e, which will be mostly at the end of a word and in the prefix des-

cidade (city)

 

6. RR

Whenever a double R appears in a word, the sound you’re aiming at is the ‘h’ sound as it occurs in the English words happy, horse, house, etc. (or the Scottish ‘ch’ in Loch.) For Spanish speakers, the equivalent is the j at the beginning of a word, like José, jamón, etc.

carro (car)

 

7. R

The Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation of the single R can vary.

  • Beginning of a word: it has the same guttural sound as the RR we saw above.

relâmpago (lightning)

Image of a lightning to illustrate the word 'relampago' (lightning in Portuguese) as part of Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

  • Middle of a word:  As a general rule it is pronounced with a slight trill (or a light ‘tap’ of your tongue in the roof of your mouth) – if you can do a strong Scottish accent try and say the word great – that’s the sound of the r you’re aiming at.

prato (plate)

Image of a plate to illustrate the word 'prato (plate in Portuguese) as part of Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

  • When the r is preceded by a vowel and followed by a consonant, in Rio it is very common for people to pronounce with the guttural sound as well – but that is not the standard Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation, it only applies to Cariocas!

porta (door) – standard pronunciation

porta (door) – carioca pronunciation

Image of a door to illustrate the word 'porta (door) in Portuguese as part of Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

  • End of a word: a) It’s likely that it will be silent – you won’t hear it at all. b) Sometimes pronounced with a light trill. c) And, again, in Rio it’s dragged out a bit, pronounced with the guttural h sound in happy

comer (to eat) – silent R

comer (to eat) – light trill

comer (to eat) – carioca accent

Image of a man eating a doughnut to illustrate the verb 'to eat' (comer in Portuguese) as part of Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation - tricky sounds post.

 

So now you know the tricks to some of the toughest Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation sounds! Let’s practice the sentence one more time!

 

A minha filha mais jovem não gosta de carros caros.

 

 

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