How does the pronunciation vary with the special letters. For example, is é different sounding from è and ê? Thanks!
Ê is similar to Spanish e, to French é and to the vowel of "let" in Australian English.
É is similar to to French è, to the vowel of "let" in American English and to the vowel of "bad" in Australian English. An exception is when it is used with nasal vowels in words like "também" and "contém"; in this case it has the same openness as ê.
To the best of my knowledge, è is only used in some dictionaries to indicate the same vowel sound as é in unstressed syllables.
Actually, nasal vowels have different degrees of openness, just like many of the unstressed ones. They are always closer in São Paulo and the three southern states of Brazil, but very often open in Northeastern Brazil, Portugal and the African Lusophone countries. In the rest of Brazil, we have a preference for closer but it varies. (I'm from Rio de Janeiro and I pronounce "menos" as "ménos" and "quente" as "khénte"* sometimes.)
- Unlike Spanish, Portuguese sometimes has that small puff of air after stressed [t], [k] and [p], it's just a lot softer than English's. Japanese is also in that in-between area.
Assuming that your first language is American English, é and ê are two phonemes that are quite distinct from one another.
"É" is closest to the letter "E" in words such as "get", "let" and "met". You should have no trouble in pronouncing this sound as it is identical to the sound, both in quality and length, found in English.
"Ê" is a little more difficult as it is a monophthong in Portuguese but a diphthong in English. Imagine the words "pay", "day" or "may". In English, the vowels found in each word consist of two parts: the nucleus "e" and the glide "i". Therefore, the phonetic spelling of these words would look like "pei", "dei" or "mei". If we were to take out the off-glide "i", then we are left with the pure vowel "e". This would be the sound that is closest to the Portuguese "ê".
From what I know, "è" would be an unstressed "ê", i.e., ENEM /è'nẽ/.
"pei", "dei" foram os melhores exemplos hahaha
just notice that there is no word in brazilian portuguese spelled with è
also, "peidei" means I farted
I wouldn't say our é is just like the English set vowel. I have the cat vowel in pedra and many of the other words in which Spanish has "ie". But well, it is not phonemic so it doesn't matter much.