Pronunciation Problems in BrazilThe purpose of this paper is to discuss some of the common difficulties native speakers of brazilian
Portuguese have when learning to correctly speak english. First, a bit of context: Portuguese is a Romance language, coming from the same roots as french, italian and spanish
. It is the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world, and has many different dialects. (Medeiros, 2006). It should be noted that Portuguese is almost entirely a phonetic language. Being that english is not a particularly phonetic language, the challenge of spelling and saying unfamiliar words is one of the first and most basic challenges learners will face. This discussion will focus on different vowel sounds, word patterns, consonantal differences, nasality, rhythm, word stress and tone.
While experts disagree on the exact number of sounds in each language (between 20 and 27 vowel and diphthong sounds in english and 7 to 14 in Portuguese), it is undisputed that english has significantly more vowel sounds than Portuguese does (Bond, 2001, Schulz, 2008). The brazilian ear tends to have difficulty discerning the subtle differences between some of the vowel sounds in english. This leads to a thick accent. Brazilians may inadvertently say the wrong word when speaking, as the words may sound the same to their ear. (For example: reed and red.)
Many english speakers learning Portuguese find that there are a lot of rules when using and conjugating verbs in Portuguese. (as there are with any Romance language.) And it is true that the rules can be a lot to learn when starting out. The difference, though, is that, in Portuguese, the vast majority of verbs follow standardized rules and there are few exceptions to these rules. In english, you must learn each verb individually to find out how it is conjugated.
The Portuguese language follows a consonant-vowel pattern and has few words ending in consonants. The english language contains many more consonants, often with multiple consonants falling in a row. These sounds tend to be difficult for Brazilians to make. The tendency is to add vowel sounds in incorrect places (Bond, 2001). For example the word ‘months’ may become ‘monthes’. This tendency is also true at the beginning or end of words. The word ‘spoon’ easily becomes /espu?ne?/
Consonant sounds tend to be less harsh in Portuguese. For example, the letter ‘L’ tends toward a /w/ sound. The letter ‘T’ often turns to a /t?/ sound. The /?/ and /ð/ sounds do not exist at all in Portuguese (Bond, 2001). On a cultural level, it is quite rude to stick out your tongue, so Brazilians would often rather speak erroneously than appear rude and stick their tongue out to make these sounds!
There are several nasal sounds in Portuguese – much more so than in english. A brazilian may inadvertently nasalize /m/ and /n/ sounds, especially at the end of words (Bond, 2001).
The rhythm of spoken Portuguese is quite different than english. As mentioned earlier, Portuguese follows a consonant-vowel pattern. Also, the majority of the time (About 70%, actually (Schutz, 2008)) the stress falls on the second to last syllable of a word. This creates a sort of ‘lilt’ when Brazilians speak. The ‘choppiness’ of the english language can present difficulty for the native Portuguese speaker.
On a similar note, there are a few rules in english regarding where the stress belongs in a word, but there are nearly as many exceptions as there are rules! Native Portuguese speakers will tend to follow Portuguese language rules for placing stress when sounding out a new word, usually stressing the second to last syllable (Schutz, 2005).
english speakers tend to use a wider variety of tones when speaking. This can create confusion, or accentuate a foreign accent when asking questions or making exclamations. When native Portuguese speakers do not use the same extremes of tone, they may appear disinterested, uninvolved, or sarcastic (Bond, 2001).
In conclusion, it is clear that there are a number of significant differences between the Portuguese and english languages. It is also important to note, though, that there are just as many similarities, which have not been discussed in this paper. When one examines the roots of english and Portuguese, it becomes clear that these languages stem from similar roots. In fact it has been said that Portuguese and spanish are sisters, Portuguese and french are half-sisters, and Portuguese and english are cousins!
Bond, Karen. (2001). Pronunciation Problems for brazilian Students of english. Retrieved from :http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/pronunciation.html
Medieros, Adelardo A. D. (2006). A lingual portuguesa. Retrieved from: http://linguaportuguesa.ufrn.br/
Schutz, Ricardo. (2008). A Importância da Pronúncia. Retrieved from: http://www.english.sk.com.br/sk-pron.html
Schutz, Ricardo, (2005). english and Portuguese Word Stress. Retrieved from: http://www.english.sk.com.br/sk-stres.html