Image (Don't speak) by Gustavo Devito (CC BY 2.0)
I met a lot of people that learn Portuguese and pronounce the words with "NH" in a very interesting way. For example, they pronounce the word "amanhã" as "amaniã".
The "NH" sound is a nasalsound. Nasal sounds are that ones where the air goes out from the nose when you pronounce it. So you pronounce the word "amanhã" using a nasal sound correctly, you will feel the air flowing from your nose. This won't happen if you pronounce it as "amaniã".
The "NH" sound is very common in Portuguese. For example: caminho[path], vizinho[neighbor], cozinha[kitchen], estranho[strange], tamanho[size], montanha[mountain]... Also, it's very common in diminutives: cafezinho[litle cofee], beijinho[litle kiss], Ronaldinho[Ronaldo's nickname], Aninha[Ana's nickname... So, if it's so common, why the "NH" sound can be so hard sometimes?
To answer this question, I remember about the way I use to explain the "NH" sound in Portuguese:
- To native Spanish speakers, it's pronounced as the "Ñ" in the word "NIÑO";
- To native French speakers, it's pronounced as the "GN" da palavra "CHAMPAGNE";
- To native Italian speakers, it's pronounced as the "GN" da palavra "GNOCCHI".
But, and for you that speak English? How can I explain it? Well, I use to say
- It's similar to the "NY" in the word "CANYON"
- It's similar to the "NI" in the word "ONION"
Could you notice? To the ones that speak Spanish/French/Italian I say "it's pronounced as...", but, to the ones that speak English I say "it's similar..." Yes, similar! It's not the same. It's simply the situation where I can't find a match sound in English and this is the most similar example I know to explain you the "NH" sound.
Well, now you already know what is the real pronounce of the "NH" sound. I know it's not easy sometimes. Bellow there are some tips to practice the "NH" pronounce:
1) Try to use these songs to practice your pronounce of "NH":
- "Efêmera": AUDIO | VIDEO | LYRICS
- "Pintinho Amarelinho": AUDIO | VIDEO | LYRICS
2) If you like tongue-twisters, follow this nice one. You can record your own voice and send em the audio ;-):
"A aranha arranha a jarra, a jarra arranha a aranha; nem a aranha arranha a jarra nem a jarra arranha a aranha."
3) Try to speak word with "NH" two times: one time holding your nose and another time without holding your nose. If in the two times the sound is exactly the same, this means that you are not pronouncing it properly. Bellow you can see some examples of nice prhases to practice the "NH" sound:
- É de manhãzinha.
- A casinha da Joaninha.
- Julinho acompanhava de longe seu irmãozinho manhoso.