The Nasal Sound in Brazilian Portuguese
Nasal sounds in Brazilian Portuguese are produced when the consonants m or n, either at the end or in the middle of a word before a consonant, are used to nasalize the preceding vowel.
Look at these examples:
In the word monte (hill), the m makes the o sound become nasal, like the on in don’t.
The same occurs when you say cama (bed): the first a has a nasal sound like the un in bunch, but note that the second a is not nasalized and sounds like the a in father.
Likewise, when a word ends in m, the preceding vowel has a nasal sound, as in tem (has), bom (good), and um (one). Note that even though an m sounds like an n when it comes at the end of a word, the preceding vowel has a nasal sound, as in falam (they speak).
An m or n does not form a nasal sound with a vowel if it comes at the beginning of a word. For example the words nada (nothing) and macaco (monkey) do not have a nasal first syllable.
Nasal sounds are also produced when a word has nh + vowel. For example, in the word unha (fingernail), the a has a nasal sound, as does the o in punho (wrist).
Finally the vowels with the tilde accent ã and õ also produce nasal sounds, as in não (no) and mãe (mother).
Nasal sounds require a certain amount of practice. Just remember that these sounds are produced when air escapes through the nose, in contrast with oral sounds produced when air escapes through the mouth.
Repeat these words several times to practice reproducing the nasal sound.
tempo – time
campo – field
pântano – swamp
penso – I think
também – also
homem – man
ninho – nest
ponho – I put
fronha – pillowcase
irmão – brother
órgão – organ
capitães – captains
maçã – apple