Ela and Ele
Every time I do a lesson I keep getting these two mixed up. How do you discern the pronunciation between the two?
Ele seems like Aylee. (http://pt.forvo.com/word/ele/#pt - look for Sirasp's pronunciation, thatra's is the second best. The others are TOO european)
Ela sounds like Ellah. (http://pt.forvo.com/word/ela/#pt - look for thatra's pronunciation, Flowerchild's is the second best, the other is European)
I don't think that I completely understand your question, but if you're talking about hearing the difference in fast conversation, I would suggest using context clues in conversation. For example, if you have been talking about João in a situation, it would be weird to think the other person said ela unless João interacted with a girl and she has previously been discussed in conversation. For example, João falava com a Maria todos os dias. Ela gostou realmente dele. Also, I would suggest you look at the adjectives in the sentences. If the adjectives end in -o/-os, the other person is referring to ele. Sorry if I did not understand your question!
I had two problems with the pronunciation of "ela" and "ele."
Recognizing and using the two different vowel sounds for "e", as others have already explained here. They sound very different!
Using the correct syllable break. I had been incorrectly saying "el.a" and "el.e." I wasn't getting the vowel sounds right, because the "l" was interfering too much with the first "e".
It should be "e.la" and "e.le." I know this sounds trivial, but once you separate the first "e" from the "l," it can make a difference in your pronunciation.
A practice exercise that I found in a book was to start with the second syllable, then do a long chain of them, like this:
For "ela": la.e la.e la.e la.e.........ela" And for "ele" it is "li.e li.e li.e li.e.....ele" (the "li" is pronounced as Portuguese "li," of course).
Yes, I know it looks ridiculous, but doing this really helped me a lot because I finally was able to hear the difference.