PRONOUNCING EUROPEAN PORTUGUESE
VOGAIS The Vowels
Auditory impression. European Portuguese will sound a little "fuller" or more lax than standard Brazilian, mainly because the Portuguese often drop certain unstressed vowels. Keep this in mind when you're imitating the pronunciation!
European Portuguese vowels have two variants: STRESSED vowels and unstressed vowels. STRESSED vowels are accented in pronunciation (like the "e" in ho-tel or the "o" in o-pera). If you're unsure, a good trick is to drop every vowel but the stressed one when pronouncing the word. If it sounds somewhat correct, you've probably stressed the right one ("ho-tl" sounds incorrect, whereas "h-tel" is on the right track).
Here are the stressed vowels, approximate values in English, and short Portuguese words where you can clearly hear the pronunciation:
Why are there two ways to pronounce "e" and "o"? Latin had two separate stressed sounds for each of the above vowels, but only the "e" and the "o" keep the same distinction in Portuguese.
Otherwise, there's no all-encompassing rule to determine when "e" and "o" have one sound or the other. You must generally learn to pronounce them word by word, although you will quickly pick up on patterns (one good reason to buy a Portuguese dictionary with phonetic spelling alongside each word!).
Be sure to listen for the STRESS (the more pronounced/accented vowel). Notice that it doesn't fall on the highlighted syllable.
Also note that, fortunately for you, "i" and "u" always sound the same.
Try to approximate the shorter, purer Portuguese vowels: don't pronounce a "y" or "w" sound after e, i, o and u (keep your lip stiff from beginning to end).
The consonants will generally cause you less trouble, although you may run into a few difficulties.
The following consonants are pronounced like their English counterparts:
f, j, l, m, n, p, t, v
can have a trilled sound at the beginning of a word (Scottish or Spanish
rr) or a hard h-like sound, such as the "ch"
in Scottics loch
has that same trilled sound
"c" and "g" have one variant before "hard" (back) a, o and u and another before "soft" (front) e and i:
These rules also apply to "c" and "g" in English, but in Portuguese they are true in every case (there are no contrary examples like "give").
"gu" and "qu" have one variant before "hard" (back) a, o and u and another before "soft" (front) e and i:
"gu" and "qu"
need to make the hard sounds before e and i,
we can write them gü and qü
s, x and z
sounds like "s" in sing
at the beginning of a word makes the sound "ease"
also sounds like "x" in some words
*the "sock" one