There is significant variation in accents across different Portuguese-speaking regions and countries. However, here are some general characteristics of standard European Portuguese pronunciation:

  • Vowels: Portuguese vowels tend to be longer and more exaggerated compared to English. Common vowels include the open “a” sound (similar to “cat”) and closed “e” sound (like “me”).
  • Consonants: Consonants are usually sharply enunciated. The vowels surrounding consonants also influence their sound. For example “nh” is pronounced like the “uñ” in “Spanish”.
  • Nasalized vowels: Vowels before nasal consonants like m and n are often nasalized, giving words a singsong quality.
  • Rolling r: The trilled or multiple-tapped “r” sound is considered standard in Portuguese. It’s a throatier sound than the English “r”.
  • Stress timing: Syllables receive stress, making Portuguese rhythmic. Words generally stress the penultimate or last syllable.
  • Intonation: Rising intonation indicates a question versus a declarative statement. Pitch fluctuates more than English.

Some regional or Brazilian Portuguese characteristics include dropping final consonants, replacing “lh” with a yod/i sound, and a smoother pacing compared to European varieties.

Overall, key features are melodic vowel sounds, crisp consonants, rolling r’s, tonal stress patterns, and an up-and-down cadence. Portuguese has a pleasurable musical quality to the native ear.

Josh Plotkin Changed status to publish August 25, 2023