July 3, 2012 | Portuguese
Portuguese: Some Initial Impressions
Most of which have to do with pronunciation.
So, I am a few days into Portuguese, and I am still struggling to get my mouth around the pronunciation. It is like Spanish, and like Italian.
The Books I Ordered for Portuguese
It is also unlike Spanish, and unlike Italian.
One of the biggest pronunciation challenges at present involves the l’s. Or rather, the absence of l’s. I am so used to saying molto in Italian (for “much” or “very”), and it is muito in Portuguese, which sounds like moy-to. I keep wanting to stick the l in there. My tongue is getting quite unhappy with me.
Another pronunciation challenge involves words ending in m, such as bem (meaning “well”). In my Pimsleur lessons, I am hearing a concluding sound not like my notion of an m. Also not like my notion of an n. Maybe it is something like an ng sound, but it remains too hazy for me to pin down.
Finally, there is the fact that the letter combination de in Portuguese apparently (or often?) sounds like the English exclamation “gee” as in “golly shucks gee,” at least according to my Pimsleur lessons, which are based—I am told—on the dialect of São Paulo. The actual word de, which means “of,” is in fact pronounced like the word “gee.” I am used to de (French), di (Italian), and de (Spanish)—all of which begin with solidly d sounds.
The first syllable of the Portuguese word dia (day) is also pronounced like “gee.” Bom dia means “hello”* (literally “good day”) and clearly corresponds to bonjour in French (also meaning literally “good day”), Guten Tag in German (also “good day”), buenos días in Spanish (oddly plural, but same concept), and buon giorno in Italian. We don’t greet people with “good day” around these here parts too often, but we could try it if we really wanted to, I suppose!
Back at Apple Store, Shopping for More Language-Learning Tools
Anyway, looking at the word dia while saying jee-uh is a tricky one for me. It is hard enough for my brain that I fear I may be undoing some of my Spanish skills while practicing. In my experience if you study a language that is very similar to another language with which you are familiar, yet different from it in subtle ways that are initially hard for your brain to process and your tongue to pronounce, it tends to put dents in your existing skills.
That happened with Dutch; it dented my German.
I suppose Italian did not very seriously damage my Spanish, though. I think the pronunciation was similar enough that it just wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t have to struggle so much to learn Italian pronunciation; I found Italian natural to my sense of how words should be pronounced. Dutch was a bit of a battle (the g’s in particular), and similarly, Portuguese is creating some mental conflicts in my brain.
However, I am going to wrestle this thing to the ground.
To assist me, I just found myself back at the Apple store, buying a new Nano so that I could take Pimsleur lessons on my runs again if I wanted. I had one a year ago, but these things are so small I lost it.
Nanos are very multilingual, I learned, when I was setting it up!
The Multilingual Nano
Some More Tongues