In Portuguese, R at the beginning of words, at the end of words, or before a consonant is pronounced like H. Many Brazilian students carry this habit into English words, pronouncing “restaurant” as “hestaurant” and “far” as “fah.” It’s especially common when the English word and the Portuguese word are similar, such as in “restaurant” and “regular.” SOLUTION: First, I have my students work on pronouncing the English R sound by itself. I demonstrate the correct mouth position and they imitate me. Then, we work on each word while exaggerating the R sound – so we say rrrrememberrrr, for example. Finally, we practice making that exaggerated R sound shorter and shorter until the student gets used to saying remember with an English R. It feels a little ridiculous, but it works! PROBLEM: Similar words
Fortunately, Portuguese and English have a lot of true cognates – words that are similar in both languages, such as area, animal, culture, famous, music, romantic, hamburger, and sports. This makes it easier to remember the vocabulary – but more difficult to remember to pronounce the words “the English way.” SOLUTION: To show the difference in the sounds, I make comparisons with words that they already know and pronounce well in English – “The ‘a’ in animal is like the ‘a’ in and,” for example. I also draw attention to syllable stress – popular in English vs. popular in Portuguese. PROBLEM: Final consonants
Portuguese doesn’t have letters like D, T, G, P, and K at the end of words, so it’s common for Brazilian students to accidentally add a little vowel sound at the end of English words – so big sounds like bigg-ee and stop becomes stopp-ee. One of the most famous is difficult turning into difficulty – which is also an English word, but the first is an adjective and the second is a noun. SOLUTION: I start with words ending in P because they’re the easiest to practice – we practice saying “stop,” “help,” and others, and I tell them to keep their lips together for a second at the end, then “release” them without making an extra sound. Then we move on to “rock,” “get,” “thing,” “good,” and so on, again, “holding” the final consonant for a moment before “releasing” it soundlessly.