9 Common Mistakes English Speakers Make in Brazilian Portuguese
- Wednesday August 16th, 2023
- Posted by: Amanda Ennes
- Category: Learn the Portuguese Language and Portuguese Grammar
Learning a new language can be a thrilling journey, but it is not without its challenges. For instance, there are a handful of mistakes English speakers make in Brazilian Portuguese regularly when learning the language. Let’s explore these blunders and learn how to sidestep them.
False friends are words that look or sound familiar in both languages but hold different meanings. To avoid these traps, it is crucial to delve into the true meanings of words and not rely solely on surface-level resemblances. Moreover, building vocabulary is important to learn new words and their meanings.
- “Parent” in English means “father or mother,” but “parente” in Portuguese refers to a family member.
- “Fábrica” does not mean “fabric,” but “factory.”
- “College” is the equivalent of “faculdade” in Portuguese. Meanwhile, “colégio” means “school”.
- This is a tricky one: “Confident” in Portuguese is “confiante”, while “confidente” in English is “confidant.”
- In Portuguese, “costume” means “habit”, and the clothing used as part of entertainment is “fantasia.”
Portuguese sounds can be hard to learn, and these challenges are among the mistakes English speakers make in Brazilian Portuguese. The unique nasal vowels, like “ã” and “õ,” require a deft touch to get right. Additionally, mastering the distinct roll of the “r” sound can be a tongue-twisting challenge. These vocal intricacies demand persistent practice and a keen ear to ensure that your spoken Portuguese is as clear and accurate as possible.
Watch our video on YouTube: The sounds of R in Portuguese.
In Portuguese, every noun has a gender — masculine or feminine. Do not assume based on English; memorize genders with nouns to avoid slips. Furthermore, you must pay attention to homonyms: the same word can have different meanings and each has a different gender. Check a few examples:
- “A guia” is a female tourist guide. “O guia” is a form, a document with blank spaces.
- “O cabeça” is the leader, while “a cabeça” is the head.
- “O rádio” is a device used to listen to music. However, “a radio” is a radio station.
Ser vs. Estar
Choosing between “ser” and “estar” (both meaning “to be”) is confusing for many learners, leading to mistakes English speakers make in Brazilian Portuguese. Remember, “ser” is for permanent traits, while “estar” is for temporary states.
Further reading: Verb To Be in Portuguese – SER and ESTAR | Lesson 7
Portuguese verbs have more forms than English ones. Master basic conjugations first and build your way up. With various forms for different subjects and tenses, it is easy to feel adrift. Starting with the basics and gradually advancing can ease the overwhelming complexity. Whether it is the shift from “eu falo” (I speak) to “você fala” (you speak) or the transformation of “ele come” (he eats) to “elas comeriam” (they would eat), patient and consistent practice is the key to conquering the intricate dance of verb endings.
Prepositions can perplex. Learn them in context, as their usage often differs from English. “De” might mean “of” or “from,” depending on the context. We have a great guide on prepositions in Brazilian Portuguese if you want to check.
The subjunctive mood in Brazilian Portuguese can present a stumbling block for English speakers. Unlike the straightforward indicative mood, the subjunctive conveys uncertainty, wishes, or hypothetical scenarios. Navigating through phrases like “se eu fosse” (if I were) and “que ele estude” (may he study) requires a grasp of both verb conjugations and the nuances of mood. It is a terrain where words can take unexpected turns, expressing hopes and doubts with subtlety. Ask your teacher to practice that with you thoroughly. Nonetheless, you can also practice it daily through songs. In this blog article, you can check out some great Brazilian songs that will help you practice the subjunctive.
Falling into the direct translation trap is a common pitfall for language learners, especially when transitioning between English and Brazilian Portuguese. While it might seem like a shortcut, translating phrases word-for-word can often lead to confusion or awkward expressions. Instead, understanding the structure and idiomatic usage of the target language is essential. For instance, the phrase “to hit the nail on the head” in English becomes “acertar na mosca” in Portuguese. By embracing the unique flow and expressions of Brazilian Portuguese, learners can communicate naturally and effectively, steering clear of the pitfalls of a literal translation.
Neglecting cultural nuances when learning Brazilian Portuguese can lead to misunderstandings and missed connections, which are among the mistakes English speakers make in Brazilian Portuguese. It is not just about mastering grammar and vocabulary, but also understanding the customs, social norms, and context that shape communication. From knowing when to use formal versus informal language to appreciating local customs, diving into the culture enriches your language experience. Embrace the rhythms of daily life, delve into traditions, and engage with native speakers to truly bridge the gap between words and understanding. By respecting and embracing the cultural subtleties, your command of Brazilian Portuguese will shine with authenticity and depth.
Caminhos Language Centre is the largest and most exciting Portuguese school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We have an excellent infrastructure, over 15 experienced Brazilian teachers, and a friendly multilingual support staff. We are the only school in Brazil able to offer Portuguese group courses throughout the year on 10 different levels. Moreover, our school also offers more than just Portuguese lessons for foreigners, we offer you the complete Rio de Janeiro experience. Every day we organize 100% free and fun activities for you to socialize and practice your Portuguese. We can also help you with a student visa for Brazil and accommodation in Rio de Janeiro. Follow us on Instagram for some Portuguese tips and news.