Addressing the Armadillo in the Room

An Armadillo by Hayes Roberts
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When people find out I'm from Texas, they automatically assume that I have "that Texas accent." I remember when I arrived in Brazil and was looking for work as an English teacher, this seemed to put a damper on potential interviews, until they actually talked with me and said, "...but you don't have the accent!" Apparently they weren't interested in people sounding like Tommy Lee Jones when speaking English.

I personally love that accent, since it reminds me of several folks that I know back home. However, I think we all know by now that accents vary from country to country, region to region, state to state, city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood.

Just as movies and media tend to fixate on Rio's beaches & bikinis, favelas, and soccer games; they seem to only showcase the 8% of Texas that is desert and drawl.

Austin, the capital city of Texas, has a whole host of accents from the many different people who, in the past couple of decades, read any of the Top 10 Best Cities in America [for something appealing] lists, made the jump, and now call Austin home.

Although I don't have the accent because I was raised in "the big city" (not to mention, my mom says one of my elementary school teachers was a Yankee, which directly influenced my pronunciation of the word "town") I say y'all because it is a legitimate contraction ...but I also use it interchangeably with, "you guys."

On the other hand, I have learned Portuguese with a Goianiense [pronounced: (nasally) "Goy-ahn-nee-en-see" ] aka big city version of the Sertanejo accent, which is stronger on the "d's" and "t's"... and that is how I teach Portuguese pronunciations for foreigners. I try to break Brazilian Portuguese words into recognizable General American English phonemes (or phonetic creations that I think are the easiest to understand).

Image found at Microsoft Office Clip Art home page

There are 14 main accents in Brazil, not counting the variants within the dominant regional dialect, depending on the location and populace (influence of immigrants, etc.). Personally, my favorite Brazilian Portuguese accent is found in the Northeastern region of Brazil as it is a lighter, effortless, almost Spanish accent. I like it so much that whenever I have the opportunity to travel to that region, I use that accent the entire time I'm there.

You may have heard the Rio ("Carioca") accent in films or songs. It is a much stronger accent, and is heard quite often on national television and radio programs. If you would like to learn Portuguese with the Carioca accent then I highly recommend the book Portuguese in 10 Minutes A Day by Kristine Kershul.

While I recognize other Brazilian accents, I don't feel that I'm fluent enough to correctly relay the pronunciations. I hear the Carioca accent daily, on the news, but I don't feel I can truly pass on any tips beyond the obvious: "S's" are pronounced "sh". On the other hand, I hear the city slicker Sertanejo accent 24/7... in person... so I can share what I learn to make it a little easier for those English speakers who are learning Portuguese—but it's going to be com o sotaque goianiense (with a Goiânia accent).

I had a buddy that used to love to tell people he was trilingual. Whenever someone asked which languages he speaks he'd say that he'll try to speak any language. Ha-ha! I guess I'm try-lingual, too.

I'm going to try to convey the pronunciations the best way I can. I hope that it helps English speakers who are trying to learn Portuguese. However, this may not be the best resource for someone who speaks British English. This was an issue when my sister-in-law gave me a program to learn Portuguese. The only problem was that the audio compared Brazilian Portuguese sounds to sounds of British English words, which slowed me down a bit by the need to further break it down to an American English equivalent. But then again, I'm not the brightest crayon in the box.

I welcome suggestions and donations of Dr Pepper, but, alas, one is easier to come by than the other...

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