I’ve heard many Brazilians say that English is a simple language to learn. I agree that English grammar in many respects is less complicated than that of Portuguese. There are fewer verb conjugations, far fewer versions of pronouns (Já desisti de usar os pronomes corretos em português), and our sentence structures are often more compact. All of these factors, of course, make it easier to learn the basics.
But what about pronunciation? When I was a kid, spelling bees (competições de soletrar) left me in cold sweats. Because of the complex history of the English language there are 24-27 consonant sounds and 14-20 vowel sounds, yet there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. And, unfortunately, English speakers don’t have the benefit of accents as Portuguese speakers do. So you can imagine winning a spelling bee was no easy feat (não era nada mole, não)!
Take a look, for example, at the letter combination “ough” in this sentence:
“Although I have a rough cough, I can still climb through the boughs of the tree”, thought the man.
(“Embora eu tenha uma tosse seca, eu ainda consigo trepar nos galhos da árvore”, pensou o homem.)
Let me give you an idea of how to pronounce the various oughs in the above sentence:
- In “although” it’s similar to that of “oe” in “toe” (dedo do pé).
- In “rough” it’s similar to that of “uff” in “puff” (sopro).
- In “cough” it’s similar to that of “off” in “coffin” (caixão).
- In “through” it’s similar to that of “ue” in “true” (verdadeiro).
- In “bough” it’s similar to that of “ow” in “how” (como).
- In “thought” it’s similar to that of “o” in “hot” (quente).
Others will tell you there are even more pronunciations to this letter combination, but these are the most commonly used. And as far as I’m concerned they’re enough (“uff” as in “puff”)!
Tchau for now!