English, Português

How Brazilians pronounce English words

Marina Borges / 27 de setembro de 2013

Dearest creature in creation, study English pronunciation
English_business_1

In case you’re wondering how Brazilians pronounce English words, be prepared for the cruel picture I’ll tell you now. It’s been some three months since I started having English classes with this fun Englishman.

“Marina, I thought you were a translator and interpreter! How come you need English classes?”

Well, I am a Brazilian translator and interpreter, that means my native language is Portuguese. Yes, I do know the English language a bit – due to my educational and professional backgrounds – but I have no problems in admitting there are some words I only know in their written form. Meaning I am familiar with the word, but I have no idea how to pronounce it.

In a perfect world, by now I’d have spent some time abroad in order to get immersed in an English-speaking culture, forcing myself to listen, speak and read English better. That’d be a great opportunity, sure, but since there’s this Englishman living nearby, it’s a much cheaper option.

One of the most interesting aspects of this experience was to realize how I was just not able to pronunce properly. At all. For some unknown reason, I assumed we didn’t need to say the word as a whole, e.g. the final “m” sounds, such as “aim”, or the more usual “t” sound rather than “d” in words ending in “ed” (most verbs in the past, yes), like “disorganized”, “developed”, etc. Portuguese influence, of course. We eat up all our words.

Another typical Brazilian mistake my teacher pointed out was the initial consonant “s” sound. Take the word “special”, for example – we always tend to pronunce “eespecial”, as in Portuguese there is no such thing – a consonant sound without any vowels helping out? You’re nuts.

So now I’m being extra careful now to say simple words such as “sport”, “structure” and such. By the way, when I feel like annoying my teacher, I end up all my sentences saying “and such”. He says there’s no sense in saying this expression, unless I say it “and such like”. The problem is now it has become a problem to me, I tend to end all my sentences saying “and such” while I mean to say “etc.”

Eventually…

I think in the long term, along with shadowing exercises, my spoken English will improve. But I truly recommend getting a native speaker’s opinion on your speaking skills – they are the only ones who can warn you of anything absurd you may be saying.

Though I bet my teacher is not able to pronunce the poem of the link above properly. At least not the very first time, fast.

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