We distinguish between nasale and orale vowels. In English we have only orale vowels. That means that you can pronounce any English vowel holding your nose closed. It doesn't make any difference, just try. That has the big advantage that your pronunciation doesn't change if you got a cold.
(The case of nasale sounds is completely different. M and n for instance are pure nasale sounds, only the nose serves as a resonance body. If you press your noise the air stream can be parked for a second in the mouth, if there is no space left in your mouth, your m and n stopps. Just try.)
In French and Portuguese there are nasale vowels as well. Very probably the nasale vowels are a heritage of the celtic, they gave this way an individual note to latin. In the case of nasales vowels the nose is used as a resonance body.A nasale vowel can be distinguished very easily from an oral vowel if we hear it and therefore we will hear several hundreds of example in this introductory chapter about the pronunciation and several thousands in the whole book, but it is difficult to explain what it is. The first thing we have to understand is that the mouth and the nose are connected and this connection can be opened or closed by the uvula. (That is this little peace above at the end of the oral cavity you see if you look with the open mouth into the mirror and that hurts sometimes if you get a cold. If you don't see that this connection can't be closed, pronounce a t or a d. In the case of a t or a d you have to stow the air behind your tongue and let it out suddenly. In order to do that, you have to close the connection between the nose and the moth, otherwise it wouldn't be possible to stow air your moth, because the air would flow out through the mouth. Therefore it is cliear that you can interrupt the connection by lifting the uvula. This is done inconsciously therefore perhaps you have never noticed it, but it is possible, otherwise you wouldn't be able to speak.
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