ELL Assessment for Linguistic Differences vs. Learning Disabilities
Home Languages Cultures Examples Resources About Us
The Power of linguistically and culturally responsive classroom assessement
Spoken Language
Main Page
Written Language
Home› Languages› Portuguese Language› Spoken Language

Phonological Influences

Portuguese speakers may demonstrate the following tendencies when learning English pronunciation:

Portuguese English
Short sound of "a" (as in hat) does not exist in Portuguese. Short sound of "a" is usually substituted by a short "e" (het) in auditory discrimination, as well as, in reading and spelling. NOTE: Portuguese speakers do not hear the distinction between short “a” sound and short “e” sound. Words with short “a” are spelled with short “e” (“hat” might be misspelled or misheard as “het”).
The letter "h" is silent in Portuguese. The sound associated with "h" is often substituted in English by the Portuguese sound "rr" - "home" is read as "rome."
The sound "ch" in Portuguese sounds like "sh" in English. It may be substituted by "sh" - "chair" is usually read or spelled as "shair."
Letter "j" in Portuguese sounds like "measure" in English. May be substituted by Portuguese "j" in reading and spelling in English - measure is read or spelled as "meajure."
The "th" sound (like "thin") does not exist in Portuguese. It may be substituted by "s" or "f" ("sin" or "fin" for "thin).

Source: Adapted from Roseberry-McKibbin (2002 p. 85) & Shipley (1992 p. 371)

Grammatical Influences

Portuguese speakers learning English may change the following morphological markers:

Portuguese English 
Structure Possible Miscue Structure
a. João não saiu.

b. Não fales! (imperative)
John no go out.

No speak.
John didn't go out.

Don't speak!
a. O carro vermelho.

b. É mais alto.
a. The car red. (word order)

b. Is more tall. (comparison)
a. The red car.

b. He is taller.
3rd person present tense
Rosa gosta do Manuel. Rosa like Manuel.
(omission of "s")
Rosa likes Manuel.
a. É Domingo.

b. É professora.
a. Is Sunday.

b. Is teacher.
(omission of the pronoun)
It is Sunday.

She is a teacher.
Preposition after a verb
There is no equivalent.

To call on /to visit/to ask

To call up /to telephone
A mãe do rapaz. The mother of the boy. The boy's mother.
To be . . .
a. Tenho 8 anos.

b. Tenho fome.

c. Tenho sono.

d. Tenho medo.
a. I have 8 years.

b. I have hunger.

c. I have sleep.

d. I have fear.
a. I am 8 years old.

b. I am hungry.

c. I am sleepy.

d. I am afraid.

Semantic Influences

Portuguese speakers may demonstrate the following tendencies when learning English:

Cultural differences through words
Kinds of Words
Words similar in form and in meaning
Words that are similar in form but represent different meanings (false friends)
"assistir" means "to attend"
"assist" means "to help"- A Portuguese-speaker will say, "I assisted a class" to mean, "I attended a class."
Words similar in meaning but different in form
Regionalisms: words that are used mainly in a certain geographical area or country
Bolsa in Brazil is mala in Portugal. Vermelho in the Azores is encarnado in mainland Portugal.
"Sneakers" in northeastern U.S. are "tennis shoes" in mid-western U.S. Pants/slacks in the U.S. are "trousers" in England.
Word Connotations
Jesus! (asking for help in prayer)
Jesus! (cursing)
Unusual meanings The street level of a building in Europe is usually the ground floor. The street level in the U.S. is usually labeled as the first floor.
Portinglês (Cabral,1989) This term refers to English words that have been incorporated into the Portuguese vocabulary of Portuguese speaking communities in the U.S.A.





Pragmatic Influences

Portuguese American Majority Culture
Teachers are expected to show respect for parents or other adults by addressing them as Senhor (Mr.) or Senhora (Ms./Mrs.) Silva. IMPLICATION: Addressing Portuguese-speaking parents by their first name may be perceived as less than respectful.
Students in Portugal and other Portuguese speaking countries tend to address his or her teacher by the title - Sra. Professora

IMPLICATION: Students may address the US educator as “Teacher” instead of Ms or Mrs. Rich, for example, because of their Portuguese cultural experience in showing respect for a teacher they are expected to say, “senhora” or “professora”.

Portuguese-speaking peoples often initiate a conversation on a personal note. When they ask a personal question it does not mean they want to pry, it is instead a sign of consideration and caring. IMPLICATION: This is important information to better establish a culturally responsive relationship with Portuguese-speaking families.
Children show respect by avoiding eye contact thus looking down or away when talking to parents, teachers or other adults. IMPLICATION: Teachers or administrators viewing this through the eyes of the U.S. majority-cultural perspective may assume that such behavior demonstrates something other than respect. It is possible to cause unintentional shame or a feeling of humiliation by pointing it out. For the unknown observer this may also be misinterpreted as a sign of a disability such as ADHD, pervasive developmental disorder or autism.
©2005 Maria de Lourdes Serpa.
All Rights Reserved. Term of Use
Home | Languages | Cultures | Examples | Resources | About Us | Site Map Lesley University