Hey, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. And today we’re going to talk about 10 of the most common pronunciation mistakes Brazilian Portuguese speakers make.
Now, if you’re not a Brazilian Portuguese speaker – not a problem because some of these challenges are going to be relevant for you as well.
It’s just that all 10 challenges are very common for Brazilian Portuguese speakers. This is a good time to remind you that having an accent is okay. And making pronunciation mistakes is also okay as long as you’re clear.
The thing is that the challenges that I’m discussing today, or the pronunciation mistakes, may cause lack of clarity. And as a speaker, of course you want to be clear because you need to get what you want from the other person, and you need to deliver your message.
So this is why understanding these challenges and learning how to overcome them, which I’m also going to discuss in the video, is extremely important.
Now, since there are many dialects in Brazilian Portuguese, if you’re a Brazilian speaker, maybe not everything is going to be relevant to you. Or maybe you just don’t tend to make that mistake. Take whatever you need.
And by the way, don’t forget to download the workbook that I’ve prepared for you because it outlines all those challenges and how to overcome them. And some words for practice.
So if you really want to take action, and the only way to change is to take action and actually do something about it, not just watch this video. Then you need to practice it. And to do that, I created the workbook for you. Click the link below or right here to download the workbook.
So, stick around and let’s look at the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes Brazilian Portuguese speakers make.
The first one is not distinguishing between similar vowel sounds. In Brazilian Portuguese, there are less vowels, vowel sounds, then in American English. So, while in American English there is 16 vowels, in Brazilian Portuguese there 13 pure vowels. Five of them are nasal sounds that don’t exist in American English really.
Therefore, what happens is that different sounds in American English, vowel sounds, merge into some vowel sounds in Brazilian Portuguese. The result – different vowel sounds sounded the same.
So, like we have the tense ‘ee’ and the relaxed ‘i’ in American English – sheep-ship – in Brazilian Portuguese you only have one ‘ee’. And there, therefore, these two sounds are going to sound the same. ‘sheep’ – ‘sheep’.
Same thing with ‘pool’ and ‘pull’. So Brazilian Portuguese speakers are less likely to make that distinction, and they may just pronounce both of them the same. ‘pool’ and ‘pool’, ‘food’ and ‘foot’ [with an accent].
And also you have the difference between the ‘e’ in red and the ‘a’ in cat. Since the ‘a’ as in cat, ‘a’, doesn’t exist in Brazilian Portuguese, a lot of speakers just merge it into the ‘e’ sound. And then different words may sound the same, like bed and bad, head and had.
And then it’s going to sound like, ‘head’ and ‘head’. Right. And then you’re starting to affect your clarity because if you’re saying ‘head’ and you mean ‘had’, native speakers we’ll look for, and try to make sense of your sentence with the word ‘head’, ‘head’. And this is not something that we are looking for when speaking.
The first step is to start recognizing the sounds that are around you. The brain filters out a lot of information, and a lot of times you don’t even hear the sounds in American English because they don’t exist in your native tongue.
So simply by hearing it and recognizing it, you can start making a difference. You can start making a change. So in the workbook that I shared with you, I shared a few, um, lists of words so you can practice those sounds and start feeling the difference as you are saying those words.
Another mistake that Brazilian Portuguese tend to make is adding a vowel at the end of words that end with a consonant. For example, ‘wor-kee’ instead of ‘work’, or ‘skypee’ instead of ‘skype’.
Now, let me explain why that happens. In Brazilian Portuguese usually, at the end, you’ll find open vowels like ‘ei’ or ‘a’ or ‘ee’, or maybe vowels with a nasal sound, like ‘bon’.
But you are less likely to find words that end with a ‘p’ sound or ‘k’ sound, like in American English, as in “sleep” or “work”. And what happens, as a result, that people just add another vowel to create that nice familiar feel of open vowel at the end of a word.
So instead of saying “skype”, you may hear people saying ‘skypee’ – the very tiny ‘ee’ sound. Instead of “practice” – ‘practicee’. Instead of “work” – ‘workee’. Okay.
Now, you want to pay attention to it, cause you may not even notice that you’re doing it. A lot of these mistakes are unintentional. So it’s something that just happens to you. And in order for you to recognize it, you need to listen to yourself.
And the best way to do that is to record yourself. So record yourself saying the words on the list in the workbook, or you can practice any word that ends with a closed consonant, like “rap” or “sleep” or “hate”.
Okay? So think of words that end with a consonant, and makes sure that you’re not adding a vowel to make it sound or to make it feel closer to Brazilian Portuguese, to how words are pronounced in Brazilian Portuguese.
Because when you add vowels, you actually add another syllable, and then the word is going to be completely unclear. Because when people hear a word with three syllables, they’re going to search in their brain for a word that has three syllables.
Another interesting thing that happens in Brazilian Portuguese is that D and T at the end of words – ‘d’ and ‘t’ are pronounced as ‘dj’ and ‘tch’. So for example, instead of saying “made”, you may hear someone saying ‘meidj’. Instead of saying “cat”, you may hear someone saying ‘katch’.
Now, it may be very, very subtle, but here’s the problem – “catch” is a different word than “cat”. And if you want to say “bad” and you say “badge”, people are going to try to make sense of the sentence, thinking of the word “badge” and not “bad”. Okay. And that’s “badge”, I mean, “bad”.
Now, why does that happen? Because what you’re doing is you’re not blocking the air completely. To say the D – “bad”, you want to bring the tip of the tongue up and to block the air completely. “bad”, and you don’t even have to release it in American English, “bad”.
When you pull the tongue back a bit and you leave very little room, “badge”, after blocking the air, you get that extra sound – ‘ba-dj’. Right. You’re adding another sound.
‘ka-tch’. So the ‘tch’ is actually a blocked T, and then this extra sound, this fricative, it’s called. ‘ka-tch’, so just end it after you’re blocking the air – “cat”, that’s it.
Sometimes people may even add a little ‘ee’ sound after because of reason number two. And then you may hear ‘badjee’ instead of “bad”, or ‘katchee’ instead of “cat”. And again, then it becomes a word with two syllables, which would be very confusing. Okay? So pay attention that you’re not adding syllables, and that you are closing it with a ‘t’ sound or a ‘d’ sound.
Let’s talk another interesting thing that happens at the end of words. Brazilian Portuguese speakers tend to mispronounce the M at the end of words in American English, and turn it into a nasal sound, like an N sound instead, or an NG.
For example, instead of saying “game” they may say “gain”, or instead of saying “rum”, they may say “run”. The reason why that happens is that while in Brazilian Portuguese you do have the letter M at the end of words, it is never pronounced as an M, where you close the lips and you make this nasal sound – /m/, as if you’re humming – ‘mmm’, ‘mmm’.
Instead, when there is an M in the spelling, the vowel before becomes nasal. That means, the air comes out through the nose, and the M is not really an M, it’s pronounced as N or NG. So this word is going to be pronounced as “bang”, “bang”. So the ‘a’ sound turns into ‘ai’ and the ‘n’ turns into ‘ng’.
In American English when a word ends with an M, and it’s in the spelling, thank God, then you close your lips and you release air through the nose – ‘m’. The lips have to touch each other: “game”, “home”, “rum”.
Okay, so practice it. You can even hum, hold out the sound to make sure that you’re actually pronouncing the M sound. That’s how you’ll start getting used to pronouncing it properly.
The best way to practice it and to change that is to drill many words that end with an M at the end in American English. But don’t just say the word separately. Always use them in context, always use them in a sentence.
So, a simple Google search will give you many words that end with an M, or you can use the words in the workbook that I’ve prepared for you.
The next challenge is the TH because there is no TH in Brazilian Portuguese. So speakers of that language may pronounce words with TH with the closest possible sound, usually a T or a D – a T if it’s a voiceless TH, like “think”.
Or a D, if it’s a voiced TH, like “they”, so it’ll sound like ‘tink’ or ‘dei. What we want to make sure is that the tongue is out, and you allow the air to pass between the tongue and teeth – ‘th’, ‘think’ and ‘they’. No matter how awkward it feels, because then it’s going to sound like a different word. ‘tanks’ instead of ‘thanks’.
The next mistake is that an L that appears at the end of a word is pronounced as a W. So, instead of an L, in this case, a dark L, cuz that’s how you pronounce the L in American English. Brazilian Portuguese speakers may pronounce it as /w/. It’s not a real W, it’s a blend between a W and an ‘oo’ sound.
So instead of “pal”, you will hear ‘pow’. Instead of “people” you may hear ‘peepow’, and instead of “ball”, you may hear “bowl”. Now, it’s really close, like, you may, it may sound almost the same to you cause the dark L does sound like a W a bit, but it’s not the same.
Because for the dark L you do create tension in the back and you don’t round the lips so much. While for the ‘oo’ sound, for that W sound, you do.
“people”. See my lips are not really rounded – “people”. And ‘peepow’, ‘ow’, ‘ow’ – the lips round. For this, a mirror would help when practicing it. You need to look in the mirror and make sure that you don’t round the lips. And for Brazilian Portuguese speakers, I always recommend to lift the tip of the tongue to touch the upper palate at the end of a word no matter what.
Now, a lot of people, including myself, may tell you that you don’t have to bring the tip of the tongue to pronounce the dark L. For example, in the word “people”, I just pulled the tongue back and created some tension here.
But clear is better than accurate. And for Brazilian Portuguese speakers, not to bring the tip of the tongue up will result in pronouncing a W sound or an ‘oo’ sound, which is the tendency.
So to avoid that tendency, make sure that you still bring the tip of the tongue up, to touch the upper palate for the L, First of all, because a lot of native speakers do do that anyway, and it’s clear. Second, because that will tell you for certain that you are not pronouncing an ‘oo’ sound, but an L.
Okay, so when there is an L at the end, you’ve got to make sure that your lips are not rounded, you’re not doing this, and that the tongue doesn’t touch that little bump behind the teeth.
Another very important thing that you need to keep in mind if you’re a Brazilian Portuguese speaker, is that you may replace the primary stress of the word because of the stress patterns of Brazilian Portuguese.
In Brazilian Portuguese, whenever you have a long word, usually the primary stress falls on one of the last three syllables in a word, usually the one before last. And in American English, that’s not always the case.
So sometimes, especially when we talk about long words, you may apply the stress patterns of Brazilian Portuguese onto English. So instead of saying something like “FRUSTrating”, you may say “frustRATING. Instead of saying “COMfortable”, you may say “comforTABLE”.
Because it follows the stress patterns of Brazilian Portuguese, but it doesn’t follow the stress patterns of American English. And stress is important for clarity. Really important.
So you always want to make sure that you are not changing the primary stress of the word, especially in long words. The way to do that is first, become aware. Be aware of the fact that there is a primary stress that is the most important syllable in the word. That primary stress is usually longer, louder and higher in pitch.
And you want to make sure that you’re hearing that primary stress and that you’re able to replicate it to actually stress the right syllable when saying a word.
How would you know if you’re pronouncing the right stress or not? Well, you have dictionaries for that. If you open any kind of dictionary, or a simple Google search will show you the primary stress by showing it in bold.
Or you’ll see an apostrophe to the left of the syllable, and that indicates that that’s the primary stress, and that’s the syllable that needs to be longer, louder and higher in pitch.
The next pronunciation challenge is the American R. Now, it’s really interesting with Brazilian Portuguese because there are a few types of R’s in Brazilian Portuguese. And in some dialects you may even hear a sound just like the American ‘ur’ sound.
But, for some speakers, they only have a /r/ [trill R] sound, and a /h/ sound, like ‘h/r/afael’. ‘hafael’, like an H sound. So, actually there is an H, it’s just pronounced as an R. ‘Hafael’, a good friend of mine, his name is ‘Hafael’, from Brazil. So that’s how I know how to pronounce that R sound.
But if you don’t like my pronunciation, let me know in the comments below, and tell me what I need to change, all you Brazilian Portuguese speakers out there.
Anyway. So, in American English, it’s not a /h/ sound or a /r/ sound. These two R’s exist in Brazilian Portuguese. In American English, to make the R sound, you want to pull the tongue in to let it sit there, in the middle of the mouth.
Make sure that there is contact between the sides of the tongue and the sides of the teeth, and you round the lips just a bit – ‘ur’, as in “red”, or “around”.
So it’s not ‘red’ and it’s not ‘head’, okay, ‘head’ [with BP sounds]. I need to work on my Portuguese R. But anyway, you get the point and there is a lot more to know about the R sound. This is why I’m going to share my video about the R in the description below.
The next challenge is the Schwa. Actually, the lack of schwa in Brazilian Portuguese. So, in American English there is the schwa sound, and I just released a long podcast episode about the schwa sound.
So I’m going to post the link to it in the description below, so you can learn all about the schwa cause it’s really, really important.
But to make a long story short, I’ll tell you that the schwa sound is a reduction of a vowel, and it sounds something like this – ‘uh’. Now, the representation of the schwa can be any one of the five vowel letters, A, O, U, I, E, or any combination of the five.
Since the schwa, which is a reduced vowel that occurs only in unstressed syllables, since the schwa does not exist in Brazilian Portuguese, then speakers of that language may not pronounce the schwa cause they don’t detect it as a real sound.
It’s so small, ‘uh’. Like in the word “about” or “against” or “melody”. And they will replace it with a vowel. Now how do they decide what vowel to use? Well, they look at the spelling.
If there is an O, they may pronounce the schwa sound, this ‘uh’ sound as an ‘o’, like in the word “computer”. So you may pronounce it as “c’o’mputer”.
Or the I will be pronounced as ‘ee’, like “hol’ee’day” instead of “hol’uh’day”. Or the U may be pronounced as ‘oo’. Like “foc’oo’s” instead of “foc’uh’s”.
As you can see there are a lot of places where Brazilian Portuguese speakers may add vowels that don’t really exist because of the spelling, and because they’re not familiar with the schwa sound.
So one of the first things that you need to do is start recognizing that there is such a sound. Cause to make that sound, it is really easy. You just relax your jaw, and you release sound – ‘uh’. And you want to make sure it’s not ‘a’, it’s not ‘u’. ‘uh’.
The last thing that I’m going to talk about today is not really about pronunciation, but more about intonation. Intonation is the melody of the language.
Now, let’s agree that the melody of Brazilian Portuguese is very different from the melody of American English. In Brazilian Portuguese the pitch shifts from high to low, quite often.
<Video fragment of a woman speaking Brazilian Portuguese>
“Tata-duh, tata-duh, tata-duh, tatata-duh, nuh-nuh-nuh, taduh-daduh, daduh”. Am I right? “Tata-duh, tada-duh, tada-duh, tada-taduh-duh”. So, there is like this internal rhythm: “taduh, tada-duh, tada-duh, dadatada-duh, na-nuh-duh”.
Wherever the stress is on a higher note, and it usually hits the same note: “Tata-duh, tada-duh, tada-duh, tada-daduh-duh”. And then, what you may be doing is that you may be applying this melody onto English.
Now, other than the fact that it’s beautiful cause I love the melody of Brazilian Portuguese. Because stressed words are higher in pitch, every time you raise the pitch, because that’s the melody pattern, it feels like the word is stressed.
It may confuse the listener a little bit because you’re not helping them understand what the point is. Uh, and it feels like there are a lot of emphasis. What the main stress is, cause you always have to have like that one leading word or one leading phrase in a sentence.
And when there are a lot of them it’s harder to decipher what’s more important and what’s less important. So the brain is kind of like following you, but there are a lot of stress words to follow.
So you want to remember that when you go higher in pitch, that means that you’re stressing word. And also, sometimes because of that pattern, you may stress unimportant words, like “on” or “if” or “is”.
So, you want to make sure that you’re only stressing content words like nouns and verbs and adjectives. And you’re very choosy about what words you stress. Cause you don’t want to stress too many words in a sentence. You should have like one, two, three really stressed words, but not much more than that.
And if you apply this melody of Brazilian Portuguese, it may seem like you’re stressing many words. So you want to be aware of that. And again, awareness creates clarity. And with, after clarity, you need to take action and practice it, but that’s how you start changing it.
Okay, that’s it. Let me know in the comments below, which one of the 10 pronunciation challenges is the one that you’re struggling with the most. And if you have any other questions about pronunciation, let me know in the comments below as well.
Also, don’t forget to download the American accent guide for Brazilian Portuguese speakers. It’s completely free. You’ll find the link in the description below.
If you liked this video, please share it with your friends. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Have a beautiful week, and I will see you in the next video. Bye.