Have you ever been misunderstood when speaking to someone in another language because of your pronunciation? But then, when they tell you how to pronounce it correctly it sounds exactly like how you just said it… WTF??
A good example of this is when one day I walked up to a woman on the street selling ice-cream and said “uma cosquinha por favor.” The young street vendor had a puzzled look on her face until I realized that I had said the wrong thing,“cosquinha” instead of “casquinha”. The difference in Portuguese would be, can I have a tickle instead of an ice-cream.
Today we’re going to go through the 5 most common mispronunciations Brazilians have when speaking English.
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ED with Regular Verbs
When we conjugate regular verbs in English we use the ED suffix, Play = Played, Stop=stopped etc. The thing you should know about this though, is that when we add the ED suffix to the verb, in most cases, it doesn’t change the amount of syllables in the word.
A regular verb will only take on another syllable is when it finishes in a “T” or a “D” sound. Remember It’s the sound not the actual letter, a good example of this is “Decide”. Although the last letter is E we don’t actually pronounce it, therefore it finishes with the D sound. This would be pronounced De/ci/ded.
The rest of the verbs take on either a simple D or T sound.
Words that end with these sounds CH/SH/K/S/P/F Carry the T sound when conjugated.
Watched-WatchT, Walked-WalkT, Laughed-LaughT, etc.
The rest of the verbs have the subtle D sound at the end. Play is not pronounced Play/ed, it continues to have just the one syllable with a single D /Played/.
The Dreaded TH
Most of my Brazilian students get very frustrated and embarrassed when they have to say words like, thirty three. Also when we talk with ordinal number like, the fifth, sixth, seventh. But that’s normal, have you ever heard a Gringo saying the word “Orelhão”? We share your pain. But before I tell you how to say the word out loud I want you to hear and visualize the word in your head, let’s think about Ex-President Lula. Think about his lisp, how he used to address the people “povo BraTHileiro”.
There are 2 ways to pronounce the TH sound. The first one is what we call Un-voiced Th sound. This is the TH sound in words like Three, Mouth, Think. To make this sound we have to touch our tongue with our top row of teeth an slowly blow air out of our mouth. We then quickly retract our tongue to pronounce the rest of the word.
This is the “TH” sound you hear in words like THree, anoTHer and mouTH.
The second way is what we call the voiced TH sound, this is the one people have most difficulty with. We say voiced because it is pronounced with a small vibrating sound. Think of words like “Them, Those, The”.
To make this sound we do the same thing with our tongue, touch it with our top row of teeth but this time you’re going to gently vibrate your tongue at the same time. I know it sounds really strange and unnecessary but just this small difference can really improve your pronunciation.
I must warn you all though until you have mastered the TH sound be careful when speaking to people because there’s a high chance that you will accidentally spit while saying this, and never try to emphasize this sound and start using it with other words or you’re going to sound like Daffy Duck.
Adding a EE to the end of words
Another problem Brazilians tend to have is putting a EE sound at the end of words, “I would likeEE to havEE a drinkEE please”. So, maybe I’m exaggerating a little but I often hear this especially with words that end with the letter E. The best advice I can give you is when you say a word that ends with an E (like, make, take, etc) never pronounce the E sound. We always finish the word with the sound of the last consonant. This habit is due to the fact that a lot of Portuguese words finish with a vowel, so this problem is also common with other words that end in a consonant e.g. Big – BigEE Want- Want-EE.
This can be really confusing with verbs that become an adjective with Y. Many Portuguese speakers tend to confuse words like fun and funny, or mess and messy. One of my students was telling me about a party he went to and told me how funny it was. I asked why it was so funny but he just said because all his friends were there, then I understood he meant fun.
CH / SH / T
This one is a very important for me. Since moving to Brazil I‘ve had to come to terms that my name is no longer Chad and embrace my new name as Shady. This one is going to be difficult to explain in words so listen to THIS track for a more audio example.
H vs R
This, in my opinion, is the second biggest problem with Portuguese pronunciation after the TH sound.
The Portuguese R has the same sound as the English H. Does anybody out there like listening to happy music?… Wait, what’s happy music? oh, you mean RAP music.
So to explain the R sound I want all of you to do a little experiment. Find a dog guarding his bone, sure he looks like he’s asleep but get too close to that bone and you’re going hear a perfect growling RRRRRR sound. This sound is so different to the H sound. The H in English is usually just a breath of air and we stress the following vowel, think about words like Honey, Happy. We also have the silent H like in Honest and Honor, but in English remember we never have that strong throat sound which is common in Portuguese.
So that concludes today’s pronunciation lesson. The last piece of advice I’m going to give you is to start imitating people speaking English. When watching movies or T.V. take some time to pay close attention to how the actors are speaking and try to copy what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.
More to come soon on this topic. If you found this article helpful, we greatly appreciate your feedback, participation, likes,sharing and telling your friends about us. If you haven’t already, join the free and open Real Life English Facebook Community and join our mailing list.
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