Gringoes > Portuguese Language > 6 Common Mistakes Foreigners Make Trying to Speak Portuguese in Brazil
6 Common Mistakes Foreigners Make Trying to Speak Portuguese in Brazil

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
June 17, 2015

When travelling to foreign countries, it is always worth making an effort to learn and speak a few words of the native language. When doing so, it is impossible to avoid making mistakes, which are part of the learning process. That being said, there is nothing stopping you from preparing in advance for the pitfalls ahead. Listed below are 5 common mistakes made by foreigners when speaking Brazilian Portuguese.

1. Mixing up gender articles: In English, articles are gender-neutral. The Portuguese language however, has not only male and female articles but also nouns. A "pedra" (rock) for example is a female noun, while an "armrio" (closet), is a male noun. Because of that, "the rock" translates to "a pedra", while "the closet" in Portuguese is "o armrio". It is recommended for foreigners to learn the gender of the most common nouns.

2. Saying thanks in the wrong way: Saying thanks is one of the first things people learn when studying a foreign language. Because Portuguese is not a gender-neutral language, foreigners get it wrong all the time. The word for thanking someone in Portuguese is "obrigado", which roughly translated as "obliged". A female person would say "obrigada", which is the feminine version of the word.

3. Using the wrong gender for third person possessives: Like articles, the gender of possessives is defined by what is being possessed, not by who possesses it. The word "my" for example, as in "my wallet", has a feminine (minha) and a masculine (meu) version. So the correct of saying "my house" is "minha casa", since "house" is a feminine noun, while "my book" would translate to "meu livro", as "book" is a masculine noun.

4. Using Spanish expressions: Whether from Spanish speaking countries or not, many tourists who visit Brazil have a background in Spanish. This background can be very helpful when trying to understand Brazilian Portuguese, since both languages are quite close. That being said, foreigners with a background in Spanish tend to let it spill into their attempts at speaking Portuguese, with Spanish words such as "quiero" (want) and "muy" (much) being frequently used.

5. Speaking too formally: The Portuguese that Brazilians speak in their daily lives is really different from written Portuguese or from the Portuguese one learns taking classes. Foreigners tend to be too formal when attempting to communicate with Brazilians, which makes it harder for them to understand. One should also be aware that grasping casual Portuguese is harder than it sounds, since it varies a lot from region to region.

6. Talking in a robotic way: Brazilian Portuguese has a smooth and uninterrupted rhythm. The way most foreigners speak Portuguese isnt only strange and robotic in the eyes of native speakers, but also makes it harder for them to understand what is being said. A wave is a good analogy for the rhythm that Brazilians apply to their sentences. When speaking Portuguese, you should speak your sentences in a tone that increases and decreases. Do not forget to transition smoothly from word to word, in an uninterrupted way.

You can contact Pedro via pedro@gringoes.com

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