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Saturday April 25th, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 33-
How to Distinguish Between the Consonants /b/ and /v/
: This podcast improves your accent by teaching you how to pronounce /b/ and /v/ distinctly and correctly.


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn how to pronounce the consonants /b/ and /v/.

Learning to hear and say the difference between /b/ as in 'best" and /v/ as in "vest", will make your pronunciation more accurate and will make your accent sound more like a native speaker's.

This Lesson is Useful for Everybody

*If your first language is Spanish, Japanese or Chinese, this lesson is especially important , but everybody, no matter what your first language is, need to know how to pronounce these sounds and needs to understand the difference between them.

In last week's podcast, we learned the difference between "stop consonants" and "continuant consonants."

I recommend that you listen to podcast #32 before listening to this one, if you haven't already.

We're going to use some of this background information for improving our pronunciation of /b/ and /v/.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning how to pronounce the consonants /b/ and /v/ distinctly, like a native speaker.
  • Learning and practicing the difference between these two sounds in some key words and a special training exercise.

How to Pronounce /b/ :

So let's begin by learning how to pronounce the sound /b/.

This sound is not too difficult as most languages have a sound similar or even identical to the American /b/. However, it is necessary to first go over the rules of articulation before we compare /b/ to /v/.

How to Pronounce /b/: Press your lips together, stopping the air flow.
Let the air pressure build for a split second and then release. Be sure that both of your lips are touching each other, and that the air flow is completely stopped before releasing.

Last week, we learned about "stop consonants" and "continuant consonants". /b/ is a stop consonant because we use our lips to stop the air flow.

In podcast #30, we learned about voiced and voiceless consonants. /b/ is a voiced consonant because our vocal folds vibrate when we say it.

Exercise: Listen and repeat: /b/ ... /b/

Exercise : Listen and repeat the following words containing /b/

beat ... back ... about ... rubber ... Bob ... tab

Next , let's learn how to pronounce /v/, like in the word "very".

How to pronounce /v/: Bring your lower lip up, so that it gently touches your upper front teeth.
Exhale( and vocalize), letting the air flow through your teeth and lips.

Exercise : Listen and repeat: /v/ ... /v/

Tips forAccurate Pronunciation of /v/:

  • Don't press your lip too hard- Press gently. You should feel a light vibration almost ticklikg your lower lip when you say /v/.
  • Contact is made between the middle of our lower lip and the edge of our upper front teeth. Press the middlle of your lower lip against your upper teeth. Don't turn your lip inward or outward . Just raise it upward.
  • Most importantly, do not bring your lips together. Your upper lip does not move when making this sound. Only the lower lip moves.
  • Exercise: Listen and repeat: /v/ ... /v/

    Notice how when we say the sound /v/, the air flows continuously between our lower lip and our upper teeth. Because the air flows continuously, /v/ is a "continuant consonant".

    Also notice how when we say /v/ our vocal folds are vibrating. You can put your finger tips on your adam's apple to feel the vibrations. /v/ is a voiced consonant.

    Exercise : Listen and repeat the following words containing /v/:

    van ... vote ... event ... invest ... love ... save

    Distinguishing between /b/ and /v/:

    Now that we've learned how to pronounce /b/ and /v/ correctly, let's work on developing a clear distinction between these sounds.
    *If your first language is Spanish, Japanese or Chinese, you may be confusing these sounds.
    The most common mistake students make is substiting /b/ for /v/.
    For example, instead of saying "very", a student might say something that sounds like "berry". "Berry good!" instead of "Very good."

    The reason for this of course is that in Spanish, the letter <v> is often pronounced like a /b/.
    In Japanese, the sound /v/ doesn't exist.

    So we're going to do a special training exercise to help you develop a clear distinction between /b/ and /v/.

    Before we do that, let's review the key differences in articulation between /b/ and /v/:

    • lip position :For /b/, we close both of our lips completely.
      For /v/, we only bring only our lower lip up to our front teeth.
    • Air flow: For /b/ we stop the air completely using our lips.
      For /v/, we let the air flow continously through our teeth and lip.
    *I recommend that you look in a small mirror when practicing this sound so that you can see the difference in lip position.

    Exercise: Let's begin by alternating between /b/ and /v/.
    Please listen and repeat paying careful attention to your form:

    /v/.. ./b/...

    Exercise: Listen and repeat the following pair of words.
    The words are exactly the same except that the first contains the consonant /b/ and the second contains the consonant /v/.
    Listen and repeat, paying careful attention to form, stopping the air completely on /b/ and letting the air flow through you lower lip and upper teeth on /v/.

    /b/                 /v/

    best             vest

    berry            very

    ban              van

    boat             vote

    curb             curve

    Mastering the distinction between /b/ and /v/ is an important part of learning to speak English clearly and correctly. To the ears of an American, these two sounds are completely different and distinct .

    Learning these sounds is one more important step toward speaking English with a standard American accent.

    The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

    Learning to speak English with a standard American accent is gradual process, but if you work at it regularly and practice as often as you can, you're going to improve!

    It's important to have right training tools in order to improve your accent.

    That's why I recommend that you check it out my English Pronunciation Course in mp3 format- Best Accent Training mp3s!

    . Best Accent Training mp3s contains all the consonants of English with step by step instructions and practice exercises.
    You'll learn how to pronunce the sound just like a native speaker and then practice it in words and common expressions and idioms that Americans use all the time.

    You'll also get all the vowels of English, syllable stress lessons, intonation lessons and connected speech!
    Every lesson comes with a complete transcript (pdf) so you can read along if you want.

    Best of all, Best Accent Training is a fast and easy download that you can put on your mp3 player and take with you wherever you go!
    I specially designed it for that purpose!

    Download Best Accent Training today and practice your pronunciation wherever and whenever you want to!

    Any questions, comments or suggestions ? Contact us at:  contact@englishpronunciationpod.com

    Thank you and see you next time!


    After practicing with Best Accent Training daily,
    I can say that my English communication has improved 100%. "

    - Domingo Ponce Rodriguez- - Marketing Manager USA (Spain)

    Get the full English pronunciation course now

    Full Pronunciation Course
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