Tag: Portuguese language

Total 2 Posts
Latin optimised through the years for poetry and song! It's subtly different to other Romance languages - even Brazilian.

Why Portuguese stress patterns sound natural to English-speakers

Compare Erika Ender singing Despacito in Spanish to Ana Moura singing Ninharia in Portuguese. How easily can you spot the key words and how many can you spot? If you are a native or fluent English speaker you may find your ear picks up the clues more easily in Portuguese.

Erika Ender singing in the syllable-time language Spanish
Ana Moura singing in the Portuguese of Portugal, a stress-timed language

You can find out more about these two compelling songs at Erika Ender sings Despacito and Ana Moura sings Ninharia. Here we'll focus on a key difference in the sound patterns of the two languages, which applies as much or more in spoken Spanish or Portuguese as it does in song.

Stress and rhythm in languages

One welcome thing about the Portuguese of Portugal - if you are coming from a language like English, German or Russian, is that the stress pattern tends to sound natural. This is because European Portuguese, like English, German and Russian, is stress-timed.

By contrast, all the Latin-based languages of Europe apart from Portuguese - Italian, French, Romanian, Spanish and Catalan are syllable-timed. As, to a large extent, is Brazilian Portuguese. Many other languages are too - Hindi in India, Yoruba in Nigeria and Welsh in the UK.

For English speakers, this similarity in stress pattern between English and the Portuguese of Portugal is useful if you are trying to understand a song. The words the singer seems to be emphasising - say coraSOWng (coração - heart), SHOOva (chuva - rain) or desTEENoo (destino - destiny), really are the important ones for the meaning.

Meanwhile the syllables they mumble, or sometimes

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A vocabulary of Portuguese song

some fado lyrics

Table of contents

Top 30 favourite Portuguese song words

Words you're certain to hear

PortugueseWhat you hearWhat it means in English
aindaeyeEENdastill, anyway, one day
alegriaaleGRREEa****happiness, joy
barcoBARcooboat, small ship (the general word)
céuSAYoosky, heaven,
cidadeseeDARDcity, town
coisaCOYzathing, matter
comigocoMEEgoowith me
esperarespehRAR****to wait (for), hope, expect
fadoFARDoo, FARD*****fate, fado song
genteJZHENT*people, folks, we, us
lembrarlengBRAR***to remember
não NOWng**no, not
partirparTEERto leave, depart, break, be exhausted
perdido/aperDEEDoo / perDEEDalost, desperately in love (adjective m/f)
queroKAIRooI want (from verb querer)
saudadesowDARDlonging, yearning, pining, resigned sadness
sempreSENGpree***always, forever
sonhoSONyoodream (noun), I dream (from verb sonhar)
souSOI am (i.e. I am defined by being)
sozinho/asoZEENyoo / soZEENyaalone (adjective m/f)
terraTERrrrrra****land, homeland
tristezatrrreesTEZa****sadness, sorrow

For more words see below.

Notes on Portuguese pronunciation

Key to symbols

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