Tuesday, January 13, 2015

PRONOUNCING THE LETTER "R" IN BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE


Image (R Is For Rely) by Jeremy Brooks (CC BY 2.0)
If you never know when the Brazilian Portuguese "R" sound is like the English "H" sound or when is like the Spanish "R" sound... I hope this article can be useful...


"I have friends in Curitiba (Brazil) and they always pronounce the word "porta" using the "R" like Spanish native speakers... But one day I had a conversation with a guy from the countryside in São Paulo (Brazil) and he pronounced the word "porta" like if he was an American. I was confused!" Testimony of a student from Sweden.

"I never know when I have to write a word using "RR" or "R". Is there any rule that can help me?" Question from a student from Puerto Rico.

"I was convinced that to speak like a brazilian, I just needed to "cut" the "R" sound from the end of the words when I had to pronounce them. Really simple... But when I started to work in Brazil, I realized that no one in the office had this habit." Comment from a student from United States.

Have you been in situations like these and now you believe that in Brazil there is a bottomless pit that produces people with different pronunciations of the letter "R" each second? Well, maybe you're right... But I will try to convince you that things are not that complicated.

Before I give you some tips, I would like to explain three expressions we have used in Brazil to identify the sound of the letter "R":
- 'R' forte ['R' strong]: is that sound like "H" of the English word "house". Also, we can say is like "J" in the Spanish word "jamón".
- 'R' fraco ['R' weak]: is that sound like "TT" of the English word "letter" (American accent). Also, we can say is like "R" of the Spanish word "pero" (NOT "perro" ok?).
- 'R' mudo ['R' mute]: when the letter is not pronounced.

First, let's write ...
This is the easier part. You just need to remember that "RR" can only appears between two vowels. Hence, you can now know that "RR" never can be at the beginning or the end of a word, for example.

Very well... And when you finally find the "R" sound between two vowels, how can you know if you should write this word with "R" or with "RR"? Simple! If the sound is "R" forte (remember?), you must write it with two letters "R" ("RR"), if it's a sound "R" fraco, you should write it with only one letter "R".

Now, let's pronounce ...
Please see the table below that shows the rules to express the sound of the letter "R" in the words. Then I will give more details for each one of them:

SOM DE "R" FORTE ['R' strong] SOM DE "R" FRACO ['R' weak]
- "R" at the beginning of the word (example: "rato")
- "RR" (example: "carro")
- "R" after the letter "N" (example: "honra")
- "R" at the end of the word (example: "cantar")
- "R" between vowels (example: "caro")
- "R" between a vowel and a consonant (example: "carta")
- Combinations "BR", "CR", "DR", "FR", "GR", "PR", "TR" e "VR" (example: "Brasil")


"R" AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WORD:

If the lettrer "R" at the beginning of the word, it always be a "R forte",i. e. it will be like:
- "H" of the English word "house";
- "J" of the Spanish word "jamón";

Examples:
rato – rio – rosa – risada – roubar – roupa – rua – revelação


"R" BETWEEN VOWELS:

When it is between two vowels, the letter "R" will be "R fraco", i.e. the tongue will tremble when we pronounce the word:
- similar to "TT" of the English word "butter";
- similar to "R" of the Spanish word "caro";

Examples:
guri - caro - cara - arara


"RR":

Remember "RR" is only written between vowels. "RR" indicates that the sound between the vowels will be "R forte":
- same as "H" of the English word "house";
- same as "J" of the Spanish word"jamón";

Examples:
arranhar – arroz - carro – ferro - correr – forro – horrível – morrer – terra


WHEN "R" IS BETWEEN A CONSONANT AND A VOWEL:

The following combinations are possible: "BR", "CR", "DR", "FR", "GR", "PR", "TR" e "VR". When pronounced, their sound seems to be the sound of just one letter. They are very similar to their sounds in English, Italian or Spanish:
- "BR" as in the English word "bra"
- "CR" as in the English word "cry"
- "DR" as in the English word "dragon"
- "FR" as in the Italian word "fratello"
- "GR" as in the Spanish word "grande"
- "PR" as in the Spanish word "problema"
- "TR" as in the Spanish word "tres"

Examples:
brasa - pedra - elétrico - preto - França - grande


WHEN "R" IS AFTER THE LETTER "N":

In this combination, the letter "R" is between a consonant and a vowel, but if this consonant is the letter "N", the "R" sound must be a "R forte":
- like the "H" of the English word "inherit";
- like the "J" of the Spanish word "esponja";

Examples:
tenro - enriquecer - enredo - enroscar - sonrisal


And when the letter "R" is at the end of the word (or the end of a syllable)? Then situation become a little different ... there is no a "idealized" correct pronunciation, each region has its particularity. Let's see:


"R" AT THE END OF THE WORD:

When you find the letter "R" at the end of the word (usually verbs in the infinitive), it will depends a lot on the region where you are I will give the most common examples:

- In the state of Rio de Janeiro:
Similar to "CH" in the Scotish word "loch"

- In the state of São Paulo:
Similar to "R" at the end of the English word "card"

- In the states of the Northeast of Brazil:
In these region, they yse to omit the letter "R" when the end it is at the end of the word ("R mudo")

- In the states of the South of Brazil:
In southern regions, it's similar to "R" at the end of the Spanish word "conocer"

Examples:
lavar - socar - moer - cantar


WHEN "R" IS BETWEEN A VOWEL AND A CONSONANT (THE END OF THE SYLLABLE):

At the end of the syllable, the letter "R" usually is between a vowel and a consonant. So the pronounce will be like the situation when "R" is at the end of the word, depending of the region. But in this case, you will never see the "R mudo".

Examples:
parte - acervo - verde - arte

I hope these considerations could help you. Have you heard any other way to pronounce the letter "R"? Share your experiences in the comments! :-)


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