Pronouncing it right is a challenge

I was once on a train in England and two girls in front of me were chatting about whether they would get off in Reading or Slough. I immediately knew they weren’t local as they were referring to Slough as ‘sloth’. There again perhaps they knew what was in Slough, this was in the 1980s after all!  Olhao markets and marinaAs usual though I am getting sidetracked.

The point I am attempting to highlight is how we pronounce a place-name is often a good indication as to whether or not we are first time visitors, tourists or a local. Shrewsbury is an absolute classic in England, and it certainly took us a while to work out Olhão. So if you are anything like me with attempting to get your head (and tongue) around place names you will probably like the list we came across a year or so ago in Len Port’s ‘Get to Know the Algarve’. He’s very kindly allowed me to produce the list here for you.





Armação de Pera

armasau de peara























Praia de Luz

pryah de loosh



Quinta do Lago

keentah dough lahgo

São Brás

sau brash









Vila Real

villa reeal

bold type indicates emphasis!

Faro railway station

Len’s book might be a couple of decades old now but we really like it. And we think his ‘pronunciation of place names’ list was and still is one of the most useful things we have come across in a guidebook. Obviously they are approximate and are designed for the English tongue, so if you know of a different way to help someone pronounce one of these place names or have come across another pronunciation guide then do let us know by leaving a comment below. By the way Len still writes about the Algarve, and has a great blog reflecting on Portuguese current affairs. The blog is Portugal Newswatch, do visit.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

17 thoughts

  1. This sounds about right! The ã sound is notoriously hard (as is the “rr” from Ferreiras) but any Algarvian would know what you are talking about if you follow these phonetic tips.

  2. Thank you Becky. We have certainly been in need of a lesson re place names. Had no idea we were that far off on some of them. Think I will make some flash cards to practice :0)

    1. I know some are not at all what you expect, and I have to remind myself of a couple each and every time we visit the town!

  3. Your list of Portuguese place names doesn’t include those with one or several nasals. Those are the real challenge. 🙂

    Anyway, nothing beats Welsh place-names IMHO. Whenever I boarded a bus in a Welsh speaking area, I found it almost impossible to pronounce my destination. “But Welsh is so much easier than English”, someone tried to explain to me. “You just pronounce it exactly as it is written.” (That was a lie.) The alternative English place names weren’t helpful either. They were on the map, but not on local time-tables.

    1. Arggh yes Welsh – definitely a challenge and definitely not as written. Once you know though I’ve found I always remember how unlike Portuguese which seems to take me ages!

    2. So how to you pronounce Algarve? I’ve come across two very different ways. One as Al-garve the other Al-garv-a. I know enough Spanish to lead me astray with Portuguese. Thank you for this extremely helpful list.

      1. Ooh good question. We do former but thinking about it I rarely use it when talking to the Portuguese as then I always refer to Olhão! I’ve never heard the latter and there is no accent on e so am sure you are fine with Al-garve

  4. We’ve been pronouncing some of these totally wrong, yikes! Some though we’ve got correct. I used to work in Sloth several year ago now and my wife and I call it that!!!

    1. Love it about Sloth, when I was in Basingstoke we called it Basingrad and still do!!
      I’m sure you are not alone with the pronunciations – I never remember Loulé for some reason. Robert’s always correcting me!

      1. We have funny names for some places and some aren’t all that polite at times or a bit mean! Well later this year the Lewis family will be visiting car-wher-oo if that’s how it’s pronounced? Lol!

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