Sotaque. This is the word for “accent” in Portuguese. As in the way a person speaks.
“Sotaques brasileiros” depend on the region that one is from. I used to think that there was just the Portuguese accent and the Brazilian accent, and that was it. While it is true that accents within Brazil bear more similarity to one another than any of them do to the Portuguese accent, there is still a massive difference between an accent in the North and the South of Brazil, for instance.
Brazil has 27 different states, each of which is found in one of the following regions: North, Northeast, South, Southeast and Central West (the regional division is very strict: Rio is in the Southeast but not in the South, for instance). Take a look at the map below to see what I mean:
All of the states, and sometimes even individual cities, have their own, unique “sotaques.” I came to see this accent variation firsthand when speaking with some Brazilians through the language-learning website, live mocha. To give you an idea of just how much the accents differ, I will introduce you to some of them…
To start with, the paulista (someone from the state of Sao Paulo) accent is probably the most standard Brazilian Portuguese accent. They pronounce the “R” like Americans do. For instance, for the word “porte,” they say “porrrrrrrtayyy.” Watch this video to get an idea:
If you watched the video of the lovely Rodrigo Santoro in my first blog post, then you have already heard the carioca accent before. A carioca is someone from the city of Rio de Janeiro. People from the state of Rio are called fluminenses (and their accent is completely different from the carioca accent). Because the second largest television network in the world, Rede Globo, is based in Rio, the carioca accent is the most famous of Brazil. So, just like most American movies feature the standard American accent, most Brazilian movies and TV shows feature the carioca accent.
This accent sounds totally unique and different from the rest of Brazil. Cariocas love to sing when they speak; they exaggerate their words, sounding almost Italian. This laid-back way of speaking makes sense given the easygoing culture of Rio.
The main distinction of the carioca accent is the “shhhhh.” For instance, while other Brazilians will pronounce the word “mais” (more) like “micccce,” cariocas pronounce it like “mishhh.” They also use the “R” in another way. “R” has the same sound as “H.” For instance, “Rio” is pronounced like “hio.” Take a look at this video to see what I mean:
Quick side note: There is an intense rivalry between cariocas and paulistas. They will always criticize each others’ accent (amongst many other things). So pick a side and stick with it! Or just stay neutral.
While cariocas say the word “gente” like “gent-tsh,” nordestinos (those in the Northeast of Brazil), pronounce it like “gen-tee.” Watch this video to get an idea of how they speak:
There are also the gauchos, which are people who come from the state Rio Grande do Sul, a state in the very south of Brazil, just bordering Uruguay. So it makes sense that they use the “R” in the same way as Spanish-speakers, like “rrrr.” They also speak with longer syllables and like the cariocas, sing when they speak.
Finally, mineiros are people from the state of Minais Gerais and like cariocas, they soften the “R” and pronounce it like “H.” They speak quite slow and much of the time, they remove a syllable from a word. For example, “um litro de leite” (a liter of milk) is spoken “um li’ de leite.” “Debaixo da cama” (under the bed) is spoken “debai’ da cama.” Look at the video below to get an idea of how they speak:
I could go on and on…but you get the picture! It’s interesting that the accents sound so different when speaking Portuguese, but also when speaking English. I found that paulistas have almost a Spanish or Hispanic accent when they speak English. Perhaps this is because the accent is a bit more flat and less sing-songy. Meanwhile, when a carioca or a mineiro speaks English, their voice intonation changes much more and consequently, they sound completely different.
Some of my personal favorites? Definitely the mineiro and the carioca accent. I love the exaggerated syllables and the tone variation. The carioca accent is what drew me to Brazilian Portuguese in the first place. I’m a fan of the “shhh” – I think it sounds really cool.
What are some of your favorites? Can you even tell the difference?