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Common mistakes when learning Portuguese

According to the British Council’s “Languages for the Future” report, Portuguese is the seventh most spoken language on the planet. Brazil, viewed as the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) epicenter, is famous for dynamic urban communities and wonderful ocean views. However, Brazil isn’t simply shorelines and sunshine! To really ace the Brazilian dialect — and also that of Portugal and other nations in Africa, and Asia — you’ll need to finish your cocktail and get a job! Learning Portuguese isn’t easy, particularly for English speakers. Here are some mistakes that English speakers frequently make when learning Portuguese. However, when learning a language (especially if you want to pursue a career as a translator) you can’t be afraid of mistakes!

 

1. Articulating words as they would sound in Spanish 

English speakers, are more likely to be familiar with Spanish (as a second language) than Portuguese. Many English speakers know some Spanish expressions from mainstream culture. While Portuguese and Spanish punctuation and vocabulary are definitely connected, the pronunciation is very different. Even if the spelling is the same, don’t assume it sounds like Spanish! 

 

2. Mixing up gender 

The idea of inanimate objects having a gender is troublesome for English speakers. Learning Portuguese requires you to memorise genders, and every English speaker will surely get it wrong once in a while. This can be particularly confusing for students that speak another Romance language, as the gender of objects is often not the same: for example, “bridge” in Spanish is “el puente” (masculine), yet in Portuguese “a ponte” is feminine.

 

3. Not articulating nasal vowels 

The Portuguese language contains the same vowels as English, but there is also “ã”, which has an unmistakable nasal twang. This sound can be difficult to articulate for English speakers, and they often use the same pronounciation as a non-nasal “a”.

 

4. Getting hung up on grammar 

Portuguese verbs are conjugated according to the individual (who is doing the activity), tense (when the activity occurred), temperament (the way in which the speaker communicates), and perspective (whether an activity has been finished). Altogether, there are more than 40 structures that a verb can take. Understandably, it is easy for a student to get bogged down in conjugation! When learning any new language, at the beginning it’s better to worry less about grammar, and focus instead on comprehension and being comprehended. In other words, talk!

Regardless of whether you’re learning the language for personal or professional reasons, your Portuguese-speaking friends will be impressed if you get the basics right!

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