You can form almost every sound in Portuguese using the English sounds that you already know. Look at the Portuguese alphabet below. See if you can pick out the letter that does NOT occur in the English alphabet:
A B C Ç D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V X Z
Resources for further reading:
Below is a guide to the pronunciation of the letters of the alphabet.
A - Sounds like "ah"
B - Sounds like "beh"
C - Sounds like "cê"
Ç - Sounds like "ceh-cedilia"
D - Sounds like "dê"
E - Sounds like "eh"
F - Sounds like "efe"
G - Sounds like "gê"
H - Sounds like "ah-gah"
I - Sounds like "ee"
J - Sounds like "jotah"
K - Sounds like "kah"
L - Sounds like "el-e"
M - Sounds like "eme"
N - Sounds like "ene"
O - Sounds like "oh"
P - Sounds like "peh"
Q - Sounds like "che" as in "chemistry"
R - Sounds like "erre" with a sound similar to the English "H" in "hospital"
S - Sounds like "esse"
T - Sounds like "têe"
U - Sounds like "oo" as in "tooth"
V - Sounds like "vêh"
W - Sounds like "dah-bliu"
X - Sounds like "shees"
Y - Sounds like "epsilon"
Z -- Sounds like "zeh"
You may notice that the accent of our male speaker is somewhat different than the female speaker. That is because the male speaker, Paulo, is from Rio de Janeiro, and Rio locals have a different accent compared to most people in the rest of Brazil.
The following letters are ones you should keep an eye out for as you're starting to learn Portuguese because they won't necessarily sound the way you expect them to!
The letter Ç is only used in the middle of words, never at the beginning! And it only comes before the vowels A, O and U.
Rocket Record lets you perfect your Portuguese pronunciation. Just listen to the native speaker audio and then use the microphone icon to record yourself. Once you’re done, you’ll get a score out of 100 on your pronunciation and can listen to your own audio playback. (Use a headset mic for best results.) Problems? Click here!
The Portuguese H is silent when at the beginning of a word:
The letter H can also be combined with the consonants N and L:
You have also seen that the letter R has a strong sound in Portuguese. There are three positions that the letter R may take when forming a word in Portuguese.
At the beginning of a word:
In the middle of a word:
At the end of a word (usually with verbs in the infinitive form):
The R sound in all three positions is similar. You just have to roll the R like a purring cat.
But when there are two Rs combined (RR), they must be in the middle of a word and they have a very strong sound, as if you were clearing your throat before singing:
The letter Q never appears alone in a word. It must be combined with the letters UE or UI:
Did you know that the letters K, W and Y are only used in foreign loanwords?
The final thing that you need to remember about pronouncing Portuguese words is that accent marks will completely change the pronunciation AND the meaning of a word.
Consider the following stressed vowels:
When you see one of the above vowels, stress that syllable.
For example, compare these two words:
(it) is / (he) is / (she) is / (you) are
These mean two different things and also have a different sound. You’ll learn more about them in the next lessons.
That's enough pronunciation practice for now. Remember: the more you listen, the more you'll be able to recognize words as they're spoken!
Here's a Culture lesson on the Portuguese language!
Portuguese is the official language in eight countries: Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guine-Bissau, and the islands of São Tomé and Principe. It is also a co-official language in India (in the state of Goa), in China (Macau), and in East Timor. There are over 195 million Portuguese speakers in the world.
Currently, Brazil is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world and the only Portuguese-speaking country in Latin America. Unlike in other former Portuguese colonies in Africa, Asia and Southeast Asia, Portuguese is the only spoken language in Brazil. If you travel to the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, for example, you will find that the locals speak at least two other languages (or dialects) and they will talk to you in Portuguese only because you’re not a local.
The Portuguese language evolved from Latin and Greek. Like any other living language, Portuguese has gone through many changes throughout the ages, adding Anglo-Saxon, Arabic and African words to its vocabulary and grammar.
Even though Portuguese speakers can communicate with each other, once you get used to the sound of this language, you’ll be able to notice the different ways people from Portugal and Brazil, for instance, use certain words or expressions. It’s not just the accent that is different! But you understand this because you know American English and British English are also a bit different, right? And not just the accent: there are different words for the same things in either American or British English. So this is also true for the Portuguese language and Portuguese speakers. But don’t let this put you off learning this beautiful language!
If you ever feel more curious about the Portuguese language and its history, you can go to São Paulo, the largest Portuguese-speaking city in the world, located in southeastern Brazil, and visit the Museu da Língua Portuguesa, an interactive museum about the Portuguese language that was founded in 2006.
Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!