Brazilian Portuguese has a mellifluous (sweet sounding) sound to it. It flows like honey. If you are going to Brazil for business and you want Brazilian reais to move your way, like bees to honey, then you need your Portuguese to be sweet, smooth and melodic. The closer you sound to native, the easier it is for people to understand you and accept you. In all my travels, and I’ve been to over 50 countries, I saw that the better my accent was, the friendlier and more accepting locals were of me. People like to be around others who sound like them. Here are some helpful hints to get there:
1. Tune your ears to Brazilian Portuguese
Learning Portuguese means you have to change your key and tune. Speaking Portuguese while still using the rhythm of another language is like dancing Brazilian samba to Polish mazurka music. Let yourself take in the sounds of the language as though you were listening to a new piece of music, and try to reproduce the melody.
Even if you are just a beginner and barely know any words, you can still learn by listening. Pay attention to how people speak and listen to the words spoken to you. Does it seem like they are reading a phone number or rattling of a list of numbers? Are they angry? Happy? Sometimes, you have to shut off your brain and inclination to interpret and analyze. Your intuition can tell you a lot.
2. I am not in Brazil. How do I get to listen to real Brazilians speaking?
Listen to Brazilian radio: CBN. You can listen to it live or download podcasts on all sorts of subjects (economics, music, health, alternative living, etc). Or, watch Brazilian TV online for free: Globo, featuring Brazilian news, sports clips, television programs and soap opera clips.
3. Melodrama to the rescue!
How dare I mention honey and Brazil without explaining the pedagogical import of Brazilian novelas (soap operas)! Yes, melodrama can help you learn Brazilian Portuguese and be entertained at the same time.
Melodrama is easy to understand because the facial gestures and hand movements are overly dramatic. Even without knowing all the words, you will be able to “get the gist” of some of the action. The images of the characters will tell you what they are talking about. Tune into HOW they are speaking and the words they are using to describe the images that are appearing on the screen.
4. Look for subtitles
The use of subtitles while watching TV and movies, especially authentic programming, is extremely useful in improving your language abilities.
You can find Brazilian soap operas on You Tube with subtitles in English. Just type in the name of the novela and “English subtitles”. If you are looking for subtitles in Portuguese, use the name of the movie or show you are looking for plus the word “legendado” or subtitled in Portuguese.
Viki is a website run by volunteers which features original TV programs and movies from all over the world and adds subtitles in a multitude of languages. Use of Viki is free. Currently, there are six Brazilian TV shows (including soap opera) and one Brazilian movie with subtitles in various languages including Portuguese, English and Spanish. (Some only have English subtitles.)
5. Connections and differences between Brazilian Portuguese and English
Luciana Lage of Street Smart Brazil made a video of words that sound similar in Portuguese and English. Check it out so that you can hear how she pronounces the words that you see on the screen so you can hear how familiar words are pronounced in Brazilian Portuguese.
If the sounds of Brazilian Portuguese don’t sound like honey to you just yet, listen to Brazilian music. There is a wide variety of Brazilian music from samba to pagode to forro. Find what you like. Absorb the music. Sing along, even if you have no idea what you are singing. Each language has its musicality. Learn the music of Portuguese. For more on the connection between language and music, watch my CBS interview on the ties between language and music and how to learn languages easily.