How to speak Portuguese (with pictures)

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How to speak Portuguese (with pictures)
How to speak Portuguese (with pictures)

Brazilian Portuguese is a beautiful language that is spoken in different dialects throughout Brazil. While this resembles European Portuguese (which is mostly spoken in Portugal), there are several important distinctions between the two languages.


Part 1 of 4: Learn the Alphabet and Pronunciation

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 1
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 1

Step 1. Learn to pronounce the Portuguese alphabet

It is not very different from Spanish, but it is different enough to confuse you in places. These are the basic sounds (when found on their own) in most dialects of Brazilian Portuguese:

  • A = ah
  • B = bé
  • C = ce
  • D = give
  • E = eh
  • F = ehfi
  • G = shé
  • H = ah-ga
  • I = i
  • J = sho-ta
  • K = "ká"
  • L = eh-li
  • M = eh-mi
  • N = eh-ni
  • O = oh
  • P = pé
  • Q = what
  • R = eh-hee
  • S = eh-yes
  • T = tea
  • U = u
  • V = see
  • W = "dabliu
  • X = shis
  • Y = "ipsilón"
  • Z = zé

    The letters K, W, and Y are used only for scientific symbols and foreign words

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 2
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 2

Step 2. Familiarize yourself with diacritics

These are the accent marks that are placed directly on a letter. There are several to choose from and they come in various circumstances.

  • The virgulilla (~) indicates nasalization. Any letter with this symbol will be spoken as if you were pressing your nose.
  • The Ç or ç is pronounced like “s”. The sign below the "c" is called cedilla.
  • The Ê or ê is used to stress a syllable and is pronounced just like / e /.
  • The grave accent (`) is only used for the letter“a”and is only for contractions. For example, the feminine pronoun “a” in Portuguese is equivalent to both the article “la” and the preposition “a” in Spanish. If you go "to the city", in Portuguese it is "à cidade".
  • The “á” in Portuguese is used simply to denote accentuations and is only used when the accentuation is abnormal.
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 3
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 3

Step 3. Know the rules and exceptions

Unlike Spanish, Portuguese has a few pronunciation rules that are not so fixed. The sound of a letter will largely depend on its location within the word. Sometimes what you're used to and what the lyrics actually sound like are two quite different things. These are some examples:

  • Nasalize (that is, say by the nose, as if you were pressing it) each “m” and “n” at the end of each syllable (but not between vowels), so that they sound like “ng”. So “bem” (“good”) is pronounced like “beng”.
  • The sound “-ão” sounds very similar to “au”, but the small pointer over the “a” indicates that it must be said entirely through the nose.
  • The "s" sounds like the "z" (with the Latin American pronunciation, not Spanish) when it is between two vowels, and like the common "s" in any other way. So "house" is pronounced "hunt", "absinthe" is pronounced "abi-sin-tu" and "suave" is "su-a-vi".
  • The “d” and “t” sounds become “ch” before “e” or “i”. So "saudades" is pronounced "sa-u-DA-chis."
  • In the case of "saudades", the "e" without a diacritical mark at the end of a word sounds like "i". It is tempting to want to say "sa-u-daches", but that "ches" must become "chis".
  • The "o" without a diacritical mark does something similar: it becomes "u". "Como" then is pronounced more like "co-mu".

    Sometimes it is not pronounced at all. It would be pronounced "com", depending on the dialect

  • The "L" sound also becomes "u" when it is not between vowels or at the end of a syllable. "Brazil" is pronounced "bra-ZI-u."
  • The tongue vibrating “r” sound that we know so well in Spanish becomes the “j” sound. So using what you know so far, how would you pronounce "nose"? It's a very strange pronunciation: "MO-ju." Yes that's how it is.
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 4
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 4

Step 4. In general, stress the second syllable

If it is not the second syllable that is stressed, you will see a diacritical mark indicating where the stress is going. You do not see? Accentuate the second syllable. "CO-mu". "Sa-u-DA-chis." "Bra-ZI-u". Do you notice the pattern?

On the other hand, the words “secretária” or “automatic” tell you that the stress is on the third to last syllable

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 5
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 5

Step 5. In general, European Spanish is much more different from Brazilian Portuguese than Latin American Spanish, which you probably guessed

But although Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese are very similar, they have a few marked differences, such as the following:

  • Always use the conjugation of "you" for the second and third person plural; that is, "they" and "you" are conjugated in the same way, even in terms of formality. Whether you are giving a speech or talking to your friends, you will always use "you".
  • The vocabulary can be very different, even in the most basic words. “Rojo” in Spanish is “vermelho” in Brazilian Portuguese. Never assume; There are so many false friends!
  • There are only three conjugations of persons for verbs. Brilliant! But they use a completely new tense, the future subjunctive. Therefore, there are trade-offs in terms of difficulty.
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 6
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 6

Step 6. Be aware that accents in Brazil can change considerably when you go to a different state

If you are traveling or moving to Rio de Janeiro, it is good to know that they have developed their own accent and way of speaking. Most of the difference is in the expressions they use and the casual and emotional interjections they prefer. But there are also some differences in pronunciation, such as the following:

  • Instead of the expression "OK" to confirm a proposition, "Demorou!" Is used. "Bacana" means "great" and, instead of the word "intelligent", "cabeçudo" is used. And those are just three examples!
  • Swearing is obviously frowned upon in more formal situations, but if you're mingling in a local bar watching a soccer game, it's going to come up. To begin with, "cheer" is a good word to express general frustration.
  • As for the sounds, the most marked contrast is with the "r"; this sound should be a bit more guttural (remember it's pronounced like a “j”?). Think of something closer to "aj." This applies to all letters "r" that are at the beginning or end of a word, those that are duplicated in the middle of a word or those that are preceded by an "n" or an "l".
  • The sound of the "s" at the end of words or syllables that are followed by an unspoken consonant (t, c, f, p) becomes "sh". So "meus pais" becomes "meh-ush pah-ish."
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 7
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 7

Step 7. Learn how loans work

Specifically, those that end in a consonant other than "r", "s" or "m". These are pronounced as if an "e" had been squeezed invisibly at the end of the word. "Internet" is pronounced "Ing-teJ-NE-chi." Yes. Say it three times quickly. Then there are terms like "hip hop." Can you guess? It's pronounced “jipi jopi”!

In fact, loans are much more common in Brazilian Portuguese than in European Portuguese or Spanish. For example, the computer mouse is called "mouse" throughout South America, but is called "mouse" on the other side of the globe. Makes sense; most of these words come from the United States and it is more difficult that they have made the leap across the Atlantic

Part 2 of 4: Strike up a conversation

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 8
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 8

Step 1. Learn how to properly greet people

It's absolutely the first thing you have to do when you walk anywhere, so it's important to have something to say! Locals will greatly appreciate your making an effort right out of the box. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Olá / Oi = Hello
  • Bom dia = Good morning
  • Boa afternoon = Good afternoon
  • Boa noite = Good night
  • While we're at it, it's also helpful to know time words like the following:

    • Manhã = Tomorrow
    • Day = Day
    • Noite = Night
    • Afternoon = Afternoon
    • Pela manhã = In the morning
    • By day = In the day
    • À afternoon = In the afternoon
    • De noite = At night
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 9
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 9

Step 2. Write down some useful everyday phrases

You may need them when you're lost on the side of the road or when you're having small talk at a local bar or coffee shop.

  • Eu não falo português = I don't speak Portuguese
  • (Você) Fala English? = Do you speak English?
  • Eu sou de… (London) = I am from… (London)
  • Eu sou português = I am Portuguese
  • Excuse me / Com licença = Sorry / With permission
  • Muito obrigado / a = Thank you very much
  • You're welcome = You're welcome / No problem
  • Excuse me = Sorry
  • Até mais = See you later
  • Tchau! = Goodbye!
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 10
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 10

Step 3. Ask questions

You may need to start a few conversations to hone your skills, so you'll need a few phrases under your belt to get the ball rolling. You can use the following:

  • Where are you? = Where are you from?
  • Where are you moram? = Where do you live?
  • Burn her? = Who is she?
  • Or what is it? = What is that?
  • Onde é or banheiro? = Where is the bathroom?
  • Or what do you face? = What are you doing?
  • How much does isso cost? or how much isso cost? = How much does that cost?
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 11
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 11

Step 4. Go out to eat

One of the most common situations that you will find yourself in to practice your skills will be when you are eating out. Here are some phrases that you can use to show that you have knowledge of the language:

  • Or what do you want to eat? = What do you want to eat?
  • Você está com fome? = Are you hungry?
  • Or what do you want to drink? = What do you want to drink?
  • Eu queria um cafezinho = I would like an espresso
  • Or what do you recommend? = What do you recommend?
  • I want to order or order = I want to order
  • Uma cerveja, please = A beer, please
  • A conta, please = The account, please
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 12
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 12

Step 5. Exchange party greetings while you are visiting

If you are in Brazil for a specific occasion, you may have to exchange holiday greetings. These are some of the most important:

  • Happy anniversary = Happy birthday
  • Happy Natal = Merry Christmas
  • Feliz Ano Novo = Happy New Year
  • Feliz Dia Dos Namorados = Happy Valentine's Day
  • Feliz Dia das Mães = Happy Mother's Day
  • Feliz Dia dos Pais = Happy Father's Day

Part 3 of 4: Building Your Vocabulary

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 13
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 13

Step 1. Learn the numbers

Ah, as if you were a child again. You will need to know the numbers in order to have a basic understanding, whether it's at the grocery store, at the bar, or on the road. By the way, as in Spanish, there are male and female versions for the one, the two and the hundreds. This is the basics:

  • 1 = um / uma (as in Spanish, a masculine noun will use um and a feminine one, uma)
  • 2 = dois / duas
  • 3 = three
  • 4 = four
  • 5 = five
  • 6 = six
  • 7 = sete
  • 8 = oito
  • 9 = nove
  • 10 = dez
  • 20 = twenty
  • 21 = vinte e um
  • 30 = thirty
  • 31 = thirty and um
  • 40 = forty
  • 41 = forty e um
  • 50 = fifty
  • 51 = fifty e um

    Do you notice the pattern? They are always the tens followed by "e" and the ones

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 14
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 14

Step 2. Learn the days of the week

Regardless of what language you are speaking, it helps to know what is happening and when. In everyday conversations, it is common to omit the suffix “- feira”. So you will notice that the natives use second, terça, etc. These are the days in Portuguese:

  • Sunday = Sunday
  • Second-fair = Monday
  • Terça-feira = Tuesday
  • Quarta-feira = Wednesday
  • Quinta-feira = Thursday
  • Sixth-feira = Friday
  • Saturday = Saturday
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 15
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 15

Step 3. Learn the colors

It will help you to go shopping, understand menus and just for basic communication.

  • Black = Preto
  • Blue = Blue
  • Brown = Brown
  • Gray = Cinza
  • Green = Green
  • Orange = Orange
  • Pink = Pink
  • Purple = Roxo
  • Red = Vermelho
  • White = White
  • Yellow = Yellow
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 16
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 16

Step 4. Learn some adjectives

Being able to talk about things around you will definitely come in handy. You will be able to give basic opinions about things and understand much better when you know more than just nouns and verbs. However, you must be careful, since there are male and female versions, and they have to match the noun. These are some adjectives:

  • Bad, bad = Mau, ma
  • Well, good = Bom, boa
  • Pretty, pretty = Pretty, pretty
  • Large = Large
  • Delicious, delicious = Delicious, delicious
  • Easy = Easy
  • Sad = Sad
  • Small, small = Small, small
  • Ugly, ugly = Ugly, ugly
  • New, new = Novo, nova
  • As in Spanish, in Portuguese nouns are inherently feminine or masculine, and the adjective must match gender. No matter what you say, keep in mind that it has gender. If you need to describe it, the gender should match. Usually the female versions end in "-a".
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 17
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 17

Step 5. Learn how to mention people

As in Spanish, in Portuguese the verbs have to combine with the pronoun, so knowing the pronoun is very important! These are the options:

  • I = Eu
  • You = You or you
  • He, she, that = Ele, ela
  • Us = Nós (note: many use "people" instead)
  • You = You
  • They, they = Eles, elas
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 18
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 18

Step 6. Learn some common verbs

Now that you know how to mention people, can you tell what they are doing? Here are some verbs in their infinitive forms (that is, ending in -ar, -er, or -ir):

  • To be = To be
  • Buy = Buy
  • Drink = Drink
  • Eat = Eat
  • Give = Give
  • Speak = Fail
  • Write = Escrever
  • Say = Dizer
  • Walk = Walk
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 19
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 19

Step 7. Be able to conjugate these verbs

Unfortunately, being able to say “I am [enter your nationality here]” is not that impressive. You have to make the verbs match the subjects. Since some verbs are quite different, we will only cover regular verbs for now. The conjugations are quite similar to those of Spanish.

  • Verbs that end in "ar", such as "buy", are conjugated as

    -o, -as, -a, -amos, -ais, -am. Then, the conjugation will be "buy", "buy", "buy", "buy", "buy", "buy".

  • Verbs that end in "er", such as "eat", are conjugated as

    -o, -es, -e, -emos, -eis, -em. Then, the conjugation will be "como", "you eat", "eat", "we eat", "comeis", "comem".

  • Verbs that end in "go", such as "part", are conjugated as

    -o, -es, -e, -imos, -is, -em. Then, the conjugation will be “part”, “parts”, “part”, “we part”, “partis”, “partem”.

  • Of course, these are just three regular examples, and only in the indicative mood. There are so many irregular verbs and tenses out there, but covering them all would take a great deal of your time.
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 20
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 20

Step 8. Learn to tell the time in Portuguese

What time is it, please? Translation: "What time is it, please?" You have to know how much time is left before they close!

  • This time = It's 1 o'clock
  • São two hours = It is 2 o'clock
  • São three hours = It's 3 o'clock
  • São dez hours = It is 10 o'clock
  • São onze hours = It is 11 o'clock
  • São doze hours = It is 12 o'clock
  • São oito hours da manhã = It is 8 in the morning
  • This hour is late = It is 1 in the afternoon
  • São oito hora da noite = It is 8 at night
  • É uma hora da manhã = It is 1 in the morning

Part 4 of 4: Improve Your Skills

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 21
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 21

Step 1. Use interactive tools on the Internet

There are many websites that can help you with your conversation skills. The BBC and Memrise are just three websites that offer interactive quizzes that can help you cultivate your knowledge database and that allow for much more than just reading words and hoping to remember them. It's also fun!

Listen to clues and watch videos online to help you with pronunciation. Because the rules of Portuguese are a bit scattered, immersing yourself in them as often as possible is the best thing you can do to master the mistakes that keep popping up

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 22
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 22

Step 2. Take a class

Being forced to speak the language for a couple of hours a week can sometimes give you motivation that you might not otherwise have. Find a school or community center near you that offers Portuguese classes for conversation, business, or just general learning. Any kind of exposure will do you good!

The smaller the class, the better. And, if it's big, try to meet someone you can practice with individually and whose skills are slightly better than yours. Study groups can have you practice every day when classes aren't frequent enough to really develop and grow

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 23
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 23

Step 3. Talk to native speakers

It's stressful, but it's the fastest and most effective way to hone your skills. They know their language is difficult, so don't worry about making mistakes. They will just be glad you made the effort! It will only get less stressful as you do it more and more.

This is part of the reason why signing up for a class is a good idea. Your teacher or your classmates may have access to a circle of people that you don't have access to and that you can join. You will be able to meet people in ways that you would not have been able to otherwise and thus also get something from them

Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 24
Speak Brazilian Portuguese Step 24

Step 4. Use all your skills

You may think that speaking is the only way to improve your spoken Portuguese, but working on your reading, writing and listening comprehension (especially the latter) can also help. True, talking is the best, but being good at other things won't hurt you! So grab a book, start a journal in Portuguese, watch documentaries and movies, and listen to music. Use everything in your power!

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