Portuguese: Suponho que sim …

Wow, where have I been? So much has happened since last weekend, which made it virtually impossible for me to read or write for the blog. Unfortunately, one of those things include the theft of my digital camera. There won’t be anymore video updates until I buy a new one. Bummer! But hopefully less tardy posts in the future!

Anyway, on to Portuguese …

REGIONAL HISTORY: Portuguese, in so many ways, has the same history as Spanish. It arrived to the Iberian peninsula via the Roman Empire and was introduced the Suebi and Visigoths, who were already living in the area. Vulgar Latin was used throughout the Middle Ages and was also influenced by the Moorish invasions, which brought a host of Arabic vocabulary. Around the 1100s, Portuguese (at this point, a very early form) began to be used commonly, right around the independence of Portugal. In the following century, King Denis would form a university for exclusive study of the language and made Portuguese the official tongue of the Kingdom.

As one might guess, the language spread to the Americas, Asia and Africa via the Portuguese explorations (remember Vasco de Gama and Bartolomeu Dias?) between the 1400s-1500s. The language, at some points, had become a lingua franca in Southern Africa and what is now modern-day Brazil. Around the time of the Renaissance, Portuguese was also infused with Classical Greek and Latin words. One cool thing about Portuguese it that is still preserved the vowels from Vulgar Latin, while other Romance languages (like Spanish and Italian) made them into diphthongs.

Portuguese is one of the world’s fastest growing languages with 240 million speakers, the sixth most spoken language in the world.


A Latin alphabet, nonetheless. The letters that aren’t colored have similar English sounds. K, W and Y are only used in loanwoards.*

Aa – a as in father
Bb – a mix between the English b and v
Cc – c as in call

Ee – e as in bet; ee as in cheese if last letter of a word
Gg – g as in game; a “zh” sound as the su in pleasure if before e and i
Hh – silent (in the beginning of words)
Ii – ee as in meet
Jj – a “zh” sound as the su in pleasure

Oo – o as in okay
Rr – h as in hot
Uu – oo as in moo
Vv – v as in vase (aslo a mix between the English b and v)

Xx – x as in exit; sh as in shy

There are some important things to note here:

-Portuguese also uses diacritics for certain letters.
ç – like s in safe (when before a, e and o)
á/à – like the a in German nach
â – like the u in nut
ã – like the u in nut, but nasally
é – like e as in bed
ê – ay as in play
í – e as in me
ó – o as in bog
ô – o as in no
õ – o as in no, but nasally
ú – oo as in moo

-Portuguese also uses diagraphs (two letters to mean one sound):
ch – like sh in shoe
lh – like li in million (no similarities in English)
nh – like ni in onion (no similarities in English)
rr – a throaty “er” sound (no similarities in English)
ss – like s in safe

-There are no silent vowels.

*Because of recent standardization of the Portuguese alphabet, K, W and Y will be included in the Portuguese alphabet as of this year.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Kind of looks like Spanish, but sounds nothing like it. This is what threw me off about the language when I first read about it. To a degree, Spanish and Portuguese are mutually intelligible and some of the words resemble each other. But then again …

How does the saying go? Portuguese “looks like Spanish, is read like French and spoken like Italian”? I think the biggest obstacle for me will be the pronunciation, without question.  I’m noticing a lot of “shua” and “em” sounds. Then there is the issue of Brazilian vs. Portugal Portuguese. I’ll touch on that later.

Until then, here’s a treat!

Language Learning Library
Wikipedia (IPA, Portuguese alphabet, Portuguese language)

4 thoughts on “Portuguese: Suponho que sim …

  1. I think the World needs an international lingua franca as well.

    I notice that Barack Obama wants everyone to learn another language, but which one should it be? The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Yet this leaves both Mandarin Chinese and Arabic out of the equation.

    Why not decide on a neutral non-national language, taught worldwide, in all nations? I would prefer Esperanto 🙂

    An interesting video can be seen at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670. A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

    1. Currently, the global language seems to be English, but there should be several. English, in my opinion, is overrated. 🙂

      As far as which language Obama wants us (Americans) to learn, it could really be anything. I think Americans should own up to their responsibility to being bi- or multilingual; they’re behind the rest of the world!

      Also, thanks for the Esperanto video, I really found it fascinating!

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