Tá Falado

November 9, 2006

Lesson 5:  Pronunciation of /a/ in Stressed and Unstressed Position, Self-Checkout at the Supermarket

Filed under: Pronunciation — @ 3:32 pm

There is a tendency for almost every vowel in unstressed syllables in English to turn into what is called a “schwa”. It is the sound like “uh”. Listen, for example the “e” in “delivery”. When learning Spanish, one of the great challenges is to stop saying “uh.” “It’s “nada” not “naduh”! However, in Portuguese Brazilians also pronounce unstressed /a/ as a schwa. You see, all this time you thought you had bad Spanish and you really just have good Portuguese.

As to the cultural situation in this lesson, both Michelle and Valdo had to get used to the self-checkout lines at the supermarket.



  1. Beautiful side and very well made. Further so: -)


    Comment by orartepoluese — August 30, 2007 @ 3:13 am

  2. Isto não é tão difícil para mim já que minha boca e minha língua são muito preguiçosas. Rsrsrs! ^_^

    Comment by Lisa Martinez — September 18, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  3. Eu gosto desta lição. Fiqei sorprendio de cuanto o esphanhol e o portuguêse estão pròxima relacionados.

    Comment by Leonel — September 20, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  4. Minhas orelhas americanas não podem sempre ouvir a diferença entre os sonidos. Ao pensar aos exemplos especificos, os posso reconhecer, mas parece que a shwa aparece en quase os mesmos lugares que em inglés.

    Comment by Justin Hubbard — September 20, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

  5. Eu tinha essa dúvida sobre o som “uh” ao final de palavras que terminam em “a”. Obrigada por a boa lição.

    Comment by Tatiana Reinoza Perkins — July 1, 2008 @ 5:22 pm

  6. Nao tenho certeza, mas eh que a schwa eh nasal? Me parece que eh um pouco mais nasal do que a schwa no ingles.

    Comment by Ebony Jackson — September 12, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  7. Eu acho que cada vez que tenho dizer uma vogal aberta, sempre soa muit estranho. E muito difícil para que eu pronuncie vogais abertas.

    Comment by Kyle A. — September 13, 2008 @ 9:43 am

  8. Todo esse tempo eu pensei que eu estava dizendo “duh-livery” em vez de “delivery” porque sou de Texas 🙂 Mas o “schwa” é uma coisa do sotaque americano, ainda seja na fala informal. Quando os americanos falam na televisão e nas situaçoes formais, eu acho que eles procuram não usar o “schwa.”

    Comment by Shannon Zamora — September 18, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  9. Estou feliz que eu falo inglês e espanhol, se não, as vogais abertas e fechadas me matariam.

    Comment by Rodolfo Cortinas — September 18, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  10. Concordo com Kyle. Sempre é muito difícil saber se estou pronunciando bem as palavras e, sobretudo, quando tem vogal aberta. Acho que poderia ser útil ver os vídeos que fazemos nas quartas-feiras para ver onde temos problemas na pronuncia.

    Comment by Erin Daley — September 18, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

  11. Bom, eu tenho uma confissão. é muito raro que eu posso escutar a diferença entre os vogais fechados e abertos.

    Comment by Elissa Wev — September 18, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

  12. I also hear a bit of nasalization in the vowel when it is unstressed. Is this pronunciation regional or is it pronounced this way throughout Brasil?

    Comment by Golden Dale Oehlke — September 18, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  13. Porque os viúvas não saiam meio-dia?

    Comment by Eduard Keller — September 18, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  14. Vôce poderia nos falar sobre como fazer a pronunciasão de MINHA, porque eu estou intentando como pronunciar agora esa palavra com a regua de -ah ao final da palavra e eu sento que e muito nasal.

    Comment by Lorena — September 18, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  15. For me (Spanish speaker). The open “a” sound at the beginning of a word, as in “aqui” or “atendiminento” is a bit hard to hear.

    Comment by Carlos Barrera — June 14, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  16. Regarding the pronunciation of the “uh” sound when “a” is at end of the word… is this pronunciation necessary? or is it just common? in other words, is this a rule and it would be incorrect to pronounce the spanish “a” sound in words like “nada” or is this pronunciation just the most common way to pronounce it?

    Comment by Mary Slosar — June 15, 2009 @ 7:42 am

  17. Oi Mary,
    Necessary vs common… I’d say that the normal everyday standard pronunciation is “uh” and since most americans have a schwa in their pronunciation anyway, it’s probably what most say. You might as well consider it necessary.

    Comment by orkelm — June 15, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  18. Lousy Spanish = good Portuguese… what a good way to put it! Funny, and I’ll be able to remember it well.

    Comment by Franklin Strong — June 16, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

  19. Schwa sounds are so common in Russian that at least here I don’t have trouble with pronunciation!

    Comment by Marina Potoplyak — June 19, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  20. acho interessante que neste diálogo Valdo disse “como se usa essa coisa” e ele usa “se”, há alguns verbos que geralmente os Brasileiros usam com “reflexive pronouns” porque parece melhor?

    Comment by Christina Skaliks — February 9, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

  21. Essas viúvas são tremendas. Eu tambem fico sem pão. Eu nem ouvia a diferença entre a (com schwa) e a (normal). Acho que foi a espectativa que eu levaba do Espanhol.

    Comment by Josh Starks — February 10, 2010 @ 12:01 am

  22. Loved the comment on the bakery line.. I felt the same frusteration, but in my case it was when I was in line at the bank. Every time I thought that I would be next to do my transaction, a little old lady (maybe a widow, maybe not, lol) or a grumpy old guy get in front of me. Its funny what you find interesting when you are the foreigner.

    Comment by Abby — June 23, 2011 @ 9:42 am

  23. Thank you so much Abby for verifying my bakery experience! I totally agree, the banks can give you the same sensation.

    Comment by orkelm — June 24, 2011 @ 10:02 am

  24. About the comment on the bakery line, or bank , or metro… Seniors (above 60) have preferential treatment. Can be woman or man. It thought t it was strange at the bank when old ladies and old man just sailed by in front of everyone else… so I asked. If you are above 60 it is ok for you to pass in front of the younger crowd.

    Comment by Roz — February 17, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  25. Thanks again! In the summary it says “However, in Portuguese Brazilians also pronounce unstressed /a/ as a schwa.”
    To clarify, is that only in unstressed word-final position?
    (Although, in actual native rapid speech, might some extra schwas slip in here and there?)

    Comment by Mark — April 2, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

  26. Mark,
    I agree with your clarification, and thanks for your observation. Additionally, you are also right about how in rapid speech, unstressed /a/ sometimes drops entirely, which BTW, is something that gives Portuguese a much different sound than Spanish.

    Comment by orkelm — April 3, 2014 @ 7:07 am

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Brazilpod  |  2023-06-01, 06:10:22 PM