Do you want to learn the
Brazilian Portuguese alphabet?

Read on and start spelling words now!

Oi, e ai?

Learning the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet is one of the first things you must learn.

That’s why it was the first thing I did when I started this ambitious odyssey of speaking a foreign language from scratch.

By learning the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet you will manage to start figuring out how words are pronounced.

You will understand which words or parts of the words are omitted (swallowed) specially when people speak fast.

This was what happened to me!

Well, when you start talking to people in Brazilian Portuguese, and when you manage to learn a few sentences and use them in the streets, you may get a bit shocked!

First, you may realise that people understand your questions or sentences – which is a great achievement! – but then they must start talking to you really fast, like a machine gun!

“Oh my God! What am I going to say now???” - You'll say to yourself many times!

Relax! It's normal!

When I started to learn a new language, this is what happened to me.

My answer was always “Ok thanks!” or “Yeah, yeah, thank you!”

I didn’t say much, but I didn’t show them how embarrassed I was either...

So, this is also what I recommend you to do.

Together with the body language you'll manage to understand their instructions and their message!

This is how it works in real life.

Learn the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet first. With it you can already read some Portuguese, and then learn:

“Está legal, obrigado” [tah lay-gahoo, oo-bree- gahdoo]

or

“Beleza, obrigado” [bay-lay-zah oo-bree-gah doo]. Attention ladies – you must say obrigada [oo-bree-gah-dah].

And practise a question or a phrase over and over again in the streets. With different people!

It’s fun!

If you are not in a Portuguese speaking country go to Portuguese cafés or restaurants.

If people start talking to you quick, just pretend you are in a rush and you can't talk too much. All you have to say is:

“Está legal, obrigado” [tah lay-gahoo, oo-bree- gahdoo]
or
“Beleza, obrigado” [bay-lay-zah oo-bree-gah doo].

You know, by talking to people, you’ll not only be drilling (I mean, practising) your sentence or question, but you will also be getting used to different accents and words, and ways people react to a certain situation.

Right! But let’s now learn the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet.

The Brazilian Portuguese alphabet has 23 letters. My advice to learn it better and quicker is:

1. Try to memorize the letters in groups of 4 or 5. Have you realised that you cannot memorize more than 5 numbers in a row? If you have a big number to memorize, your brain will divide the big number in 2, 3 or 4 smaller groups of no more than 5 numbers each. When you memorize a phone number for instance, you do it with pauses. These pauses are the division of the different groups of numbers.

Our brain works like that. So try to memorize no more than 5 sounds (and I mean, letters) at a time. The Brazilian Portuguese alphabet will become easy.

2. Start with vowels first.

A [ah] E [eh] I [ee] O [ohr] U [oo]

3. Then, without the help of the sounds.

A

E

I

O

U

4. Then, go backwards.

U O

I E

A

(note that the sound for "A" is very similar to the way you say ‘R’ in English. Use it in your benefit.

5. Now start with vowels and consonants all-together. See below.

6. Try then to spell your name(s) in Portuguese up to a point that you can do it quickly without thinking.

7. Get a good magazine, newspaper or, even better, a Portuguese dictionary and open it anywhere and try to spell the words as quickly as possible. Good dictionaries have often the phonetic sound associated with a word meaning.

8. Then record your voice while you are saying the words and try to spell the words back in writing as you are listening to your own voice. You must understand yourself back. If you don’t, something is wrong! Check it out!

9. Have a small break and repeat it again. The Portuguese alphabet takes a while to memorize.

10. Repeat this process for about 5 times spending about 15 minutes in each round.

11. When you come to a point that you can spell words, find a Brazilian friend and give them a list of words. Ask them to spell them for you. If you don’t have Brazilian Portuguese friends find them on the internet.

So, the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet is like this:

A

[ah]

B

[bayh]

C

[sayh]

D

[day]

E

[eh]

F

[ehfee]

G

[jay]

H

[ah-gah]

I

[ee]

J

[jota]

L

[éh-lee]

M

[éh-mee]

N

[éh-nee]

O

[óhr]

P

[peh]

Q

[qay]

R

[éh-rre]

S

[éh-sse]

T

[têh]

U

[oo]

V

[vay]

X

[shiss]

Z

[zay]

The letters K [kah], W [dublioo] and Y [ee gray-goo] are normally not used in Brazilian Portuguese native speaking words, except for names, chemical references and abbreviations for distances (Km) or weights (kg).

There are no other doubles in Brazilian Portuguese apart from RR and SS.

There are, however, combinations of 2 letters forming a new sound:

CH has the sound [shh] and NOT [tch] like in English.

Try to say these words: chave / chamo / chato / chávena / chouriço / chaminado.

NH has the sound similar to [nyo].

Read these words: ninho [nee-nyo], tamanho [ta-mah-yo], castanho [cas-tah-nyo].

Now try to say these ones: fanhoso / cantinho / gatinha / canhoto / junho / ranhura.

LH has a sound very similar to [lyi]. I know, it sounds weird, but you’ll get it!

Read these words: coelho [coo-eh-lyio] / filho [fee-lyio] / filha [fee-lyia] / talho [tah-lyio] / falho [fah-lyio] / ralho [rah-lyio].

RR – you’ll find it only in the middle of words. Ok! The English language doesn’t have this sound apart from very specific places in the English-speaking world like Scotland, for instance. Rolling the R requires practice. It’s one of those sounds that obliges you to “learn how to speak again”…Imagine a car engine starting. You turn the key and the sound is RRRRRRR...

You can reproduce this sound in 2 different ways:

1. with your tongue – vibrating it and touching very quickly and repetitively the top of your mouth with the tip of your tongue, or

2. with your throat – imagine when your throat is itchy inside and you have to expel some air to “scratch” it inside. Well, ok, it’s like if you are going to...vomit...

SS has the sound [sss] and it’s used only in the middle of words. Some words have a double S because there are 2 sounds for the letter S. But let’s talk about it later.

In Brazilian Portuguese alphabet, there are 2 letters that have 2 unique sounds:

D and T that when together with the vowels E and I, have a very unique sound like [tch].

For instance to say "diamante" (day) you'd pronounce it [tchee-ah-man-tchee], and "arte" (art) you'd pronounce like [arg-tchee].

Ç – has the sound [sss] and you use it only with the vowels A, O and U (e.g. aguaçú, caçou and caça).

g – has the sounds:

    1. [gayh] like the English word goal when together with the vowels A, O and U (e.g. gato, gostosa, guardanapo).

    2. [jayh] like the English word measure otherwise, in other words with E and I (e.g. gente [jayhn-tchee] and girasol [gee-rah-soh-oo]

Note: Letters of the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet are always masculine. If you don’t know what I mean by that, don’t worry! Just try to remember this, because it’s an important rule.

If you want to get familiar with the actual sounds of the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet, watch this video now. It's brilliant and it will explains to you the difference of the different accents. Check this out:

So, now, go back to your Brazilian Portuguese alphabet and, with the help of this video, do the exercises I recommended you.

Let's put it this way: You have until the end of the day to be able to spell Portuguese words quickly, properly and accurately. Deal?

Well, Desculpe! (I'm sorry) but being a bit bossy is one of my professional hazards as a teacher... I know you’ll understand...

Once you’ve achieved your goal, try not to learn anything else today!

Don’t be greedy, ok?

Be proud of yourself instead and Have a break and reward yourself!

Muito bem! [mooing-to being!] Sinto orgulho de você! [seen-too ohrg-goo-lyio tchee voh-say]Well done! I'm proud of you!

You deserve a cup of coffee, a beer, a cup of tea, or perhaps something else that pleases you the most...

Até amanhã! [ah-tee ah-mah-nyaa] - See you tomorrow!

Rafa x

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