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How to Say: Praia da Luz

15:39 UK time, Monday, 14 May 2007

A guide to the words and names in the news from Martha Figueroa-Clark of the BBC Pronunciation Unit

There have been a number of Portuguese pronunciations in the news recently. José Ramos-Horta, pronounced zhuuz-AY RAM-uush OR-tuh (-zh as s in "measure"; -ay as in "day"; -uu as in "book"; -uh as in "the"), won the Presidential elections in East Timor.

In São Paolo, pronounced sow(ng) POW-loo in Portuguese but usually pronounced sowm POW-loh or sow POW-loh in English (-ow as in "now"; -oh as on "no"), up to one million people were expected to gather to watch Pope Benedict XVI canonise Brazil's first saint, Friar Antônio Galvão (pronounced an-TOHN-yoo gal-VOW(NG).

But perhaps the most prominent news item concerns the disappearance of three year-old Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz (pronounced PRY-uh duh LOOSH; -y as in "cry"; -uh as in "the"; -oo as in "boot") in Portugal.

Perhaps because of the orthographical (among other) similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, many English speakers assume that the pronunciation of Portuguese is the same as in Castilian Spanish. Recent examples of this are mispronouncing Portuguese Luz (above) as LOOTH (-th as in "thin") and pronouncing António Santana Carlos (Portugal's Ambassador to the U.K.), as an-TOH-ni-oh san-TAA-nuh KAR-loss, instead of a more Portuguese uhn-TON-yoo suhn-TAN-uh KAR-luush (-uh as in "the"; -oo as in "boot"; -uu as in "book").

Note that the pronunciation of Antônio/António in Brazilian and European Portuguese respectively is not the same, owing to different vowel qualities in the two varieties of Portuguese (indicated by ô and ó orthographically), as well as because of a tendency in European Portuguese to reduce vowels (e.g. pronouncing the first syllable of António as uhn- not an-), which is less common in Brazilian Portuguese.

(For a guide to our phonetic pronunciations, click here.)

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