Rules of pronunciation - Part I

European Portuguese pronunciation can be difficult and tricky but also very challenging. In Portuguese a letter can have multiple sounds according to specific pronunciation rules. Don’t worry though, this is easier than you might think.

As you all know, there are two kinds of consonants: sonorant and silent. And the main different between both is essential to understand the pronunciation of certain consonants. First, let’s divide them:

Sonorant consonants – [b, d, g, v, z, j, r, l, m, n, nh, lh]
Silent consonants – [p, t, k, f, s, ç, ch]

Now you are probably asking yourselves ok, right, but how can I distinguish them? The best way is to put your fingers on your neck, more precisely on your throat, press it a little bit and pronounce the sounds of each consonant. If you feel your throat (vocal chords) vibrating, that’s definitely a sonorant consonant. However, if you don’t feel any vibration, that’s because you are pronouncing a silent consonant. With this tip you cannot possibly be wrong. Just try it! Here are some good examples to start practicing!

Examples: beijo, vantagem, zebra, Alemanha, filho, não, batata, queixar, chuva, fornecer, caçar.

Next time, we will talk about the different sounds of the letter ‘S’.