Learning the Portuguese alphabet is one of the things you must learn first.
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.
The following videos are lesson I've created to show you what the Portuguese alphabet sounds like and how you can learn it easily! For a better learning, try to get a piece of paper and write down the sounds of each letter as you hear them. Then, watch the videos as many times as you need until you are able to produce the sounds before the teacher does. Further down, you'll find another video about some sounds you may find difficult to pronounce. Please check them out and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel for immediate updates!
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:
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.
3. Then, without the help of the sounds.
4. Then, go backwards.
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.
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 in the Portuguese alphabet) apart from RR, SS, and CÇ 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. The following video will help you learn them well. Check it out!
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.
CÇ – 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.
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!
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!