Portuguese alphabet is easy!.

Read on and find out how!

Olá

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

In this page you'll find information about:

  • The Portuguese vowels.
  • The whole alphabet with pronunciation tips.
  • Combinations of letters: The CH, NH, LH, RR, and SS.
  • Learning the alphabet was and is the first thing I did and do when I start an ambitious odyssey of learning and speaking a foreign language from scratch.

    By learning the 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) especially when people speak fast.

    This was what I did!

    Well, just as a confession, I must say that the very first time I managed to learn a sentence and use it in the streets, I literally got shocked!

    First, I realised that people understood my question – which was great! – but then they started talking to me so fast that it felt like a machine gun!

    "Oh my God! What am I going to say now???" - I said to myself many times!

    My answer to them 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...

    But together with the body language I managed to understand the instructions!

    So this is also what I recommend you to do.

    This is how it worked for me in real life.

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

    "Muito bem, obrigado" [mooing-too baing, oo-bree- gahdoo]

    or

    "Sim, sim, obrigado" [sing, sing oo-bree-gah doo]. Attention ladies – you 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 quickly, just pretend you are in a rush and you can't talk too much. All you have to say is:

    "Muito bem, obrigado" [mooing-too baing, oo-bree- gah-doo]
    or
    "Sim, sim, obrigado" [sing, sing, oo-bree- gah-doo].

    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.

    Ok, time to learn the Portuguese alphabet.

    The 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? Memorizing letters is like memorizing numbers. 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. Our brain works like that, so try to memorize no more than 5 sounds (and I mean, letters) at a time. The Portuguese alphabet will become easier.

    2. Start with vowels first.

    A [ah]

    E [ayh]

    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, in the Portuguese alphabet, the sound for "A" is very similar to the way you pronounce "R" in English.

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

    6. Try 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 it's 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 should understand yourself listening to your own voice. 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 native speaker and give them a list of words. Ask them to spell them for you. If you don’t have Portuguese friends find them on the internet.

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    So the Portuguese alphabet is like this:

    A

    [ah]

    B

    [beh]

    C

    [seh]

    D

    [deh]

    E

    [ay]

    F

    [ehf]

    G

    [geh]

    H

    [a-gah]

    I

    [ee]

    J

    [jota]

    L

    [éhl]

    M

    [éhme]

    N

    [éhne]

    O

    [óhr]

    P

    [peh]

    Q

    [qay]

    R

    [éh-rre]

    S

    [éh-sse]

    T

    [têh]

    U

    [oo]

    V

    [vay]

    X

    [shish]

    Z

    [zay]

    The letters K [cahpah], W [dublioo] and Y [ipsilon] are normally not used in Portuguese native speaking words, except for chemical references and abbreviations for distances (Km) or weights (kg).

    There are no other doubles in Portuguese (or Portuguese alphabet) apart from RR, SS, and in which the second C is always with a cedilla - Ç – the little comma under the C.

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

    CH has the sound [shh] and not [tch].

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

    NH has the sound similar to [ny].

    Read these words: ninho [nee-nyo], tamanho [ta-mah-nyo], 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 when 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 3 sounds for the letter S. But let’s talk about it later.

    – this is not very common but it’s used specially in European Portuguese where sometimes the first C is pronounced (I mean, has the sound [kk]), other times is mute.

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

    The following video shows what the Portuguese alphabet sounds like and it gives you a word as an example for each letter. This is brilliant! Check this out:

    So, now, please go back to your alphabet and do the exercises I recommended you. Please make sure you get the sounds right.

    You may want to set yourself a deadline - like by the end of the day to be able to spell words quickly, properly and accurately...

    I'm sorry if I sometimes push you to the limit but this is just one of my professional hazards for being a teacher... I like seeing results fast, so I know you'll understand...

    Once you've achieved your goal, don’t try to learn anything else today!

    Don’t be greedy, ok?

    Be proud of yourself instead and

    Have a break and reward yourself!

    Well done!

    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-ma-nya] - See you tomorrow!

    Rafa x

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    Here are some pages you may find interesting:

  • The Portuguese alphabet.
  • European Portuguese Pronunciation
  • Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation
  • Portuguese Determinants
  • Portuguese Nouns
  • Portuguese Verbs
  • Free Portuguese Verb Table
  • Portuguese Adjectives
  • Portuguese Prepositions
  • Portuguese Connectors
  • Portuguese Adverbs
  • Portuguese Question Words
  • Portuguese Numbers
  • Portuguese words similar to English
  • Direct and Reported Speech
  • Useful Portuguese Phrases
  • Days Of The Week
  • Phrases to get by - Brazilian Portuguese
  • Brazilian Portuguese phrases for second meeting
  • Some Portuguese Bad Words
  • Difference Between Por and Para in Portuguese
  • Present Subjunctive in Portuguese
  • Personal Infinitive in Portuguese
  • Future Subjunctive in Portuguese

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