The enigmatic Portuguese R (long version)

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2022-01-14 13:00:10

While sitting in the Panama City airport, waiting for my flight to Rio, one of Copa Airline’s Panamanian employees came on the intercom to announce that the flight to “Rrrrio de Haneiro” would be boarding soon. The long rolled R caused several of the Brazilians around me to turn to each other and chuckle. Later, while waiting to take off, the Brazilian flight crew announced that the trip to “Hiu gee Zhaneiru” would take about 7 hours.

Nothing could better highlight the stark differences in pronunciation between Portuguese and Spanish, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the sound of R. A flight like this might be one of the first situations in which many tourists encounter the beautiful, enigmatic Portuguese R.

As with many languages, R in Portuguese can take on a kaleidoscope of different sounds depending on its placement within a word and the dialect of the speaker. It’s pretty much impossible to give any hard and fast rules that apply across all dialects. But I’m going to try here to give you a sense of the huge variation that exists.

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