Sound and the Portuguese Language

Teachers of any language know that it is impossible to learn to speak a language without hearing it. And today, of course, there are more tools than ever before at a teacher’s disposal to give students experience listening to the language. The recordings made available by the Câmara dos Deputados, however, are an especially valuable resource for Portuguese-language educators because, unlike TV shows, films, or commercials, which largely reproduce the accents of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the Câmara recordings feature speeches from deputies from all 26 of Brazil’s states and the Distrito Federal. What does a tocantinense sound like? What about a gaúcho? A potiguar?

In addition, a comparison of the written transcripts with the audio recordings quickly reveals significant differences, due largely to the stenographers’ concern with correcting the non-standard grammatical usage of deputies from the working classes, or from poorer or more rural states. By reading the transcript as they listen to the recording, students can gain an appreciation for the vast differences between spoken and written Brazilian Portuguese, differences that are largely dependent on class. It is also possible to determine how the language used in Congress has changed over time, from stilted, formal language full of obscure tenses and constructions, to the almost conversational tone used today.

The sample provided here is a brief excerpt from a speech given by then deputy and future president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, on May 13, 1987, to announce a labor-related event. Lula, however, had only a fourth-grade education, and both his poor grammar and lack of respect for parliamentary decorum appear to have given the college-educated stenographers fits.

Compare this with the words Lula actually spoke.