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Saturday May 9th, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 35-
How to Distinguish Between the Consonants /w/ and /v/
: This podcast improves your accent by teaching you how to pronounce /w/ and /v/ distinctly and correctly.


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

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

Depending on what your first language is, you may find it difficult to pronounce and distinguish between these sounds.

More specifically if your first language is Central European such as German, Polish or Czech, Eastern European such as Russian, Serbian or Croatian or if it's Asian such as Japanese, Chinese, Hindu or Punjabi, you may be confusing these two sounds.

One of the most common mistakes is to confuse the sound /w/ with the sound /v/.
So a word like "very" might sound like 'wery" (or vice versa).

In podcasts #33 and #34, we learned how to pronounce /w/ and /v/ correctly and in full detail..

I recommend that you listen to those podcasts before listening to this one, if you haven't already.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning how to hear and say the difference between /w/ and /v/ , like a native speaker.
  • Learning and practicing the difference between these two sounds in a special training exercise.

How to Pronounce /w/ :

So let's begin by reviewing how to pronounce the sound /w/. For a more detailed lesson on /w/ see podcast #34.

lips: Brings your lips forward and tense like in the sound /u/.
Make them tense and move them back quickly back as you vocalize.

Tongue: slightly back and raised in the back but it moves quickly into the position of whatever vowel follows.

"It's all in the lips"

The most important part of /w/ is the motion of your lips.
Your lips should start in the same position as the vowel /u/ like in the word "moon"- forward and tense, like you're about to kiss somebody or you're making a "fish face."
The next step is to move them back quickly and vocalize at the same time.
Be sure that both of your lips are moving as you make a vowel sound.
You can think of /w/ as /u/ in motion.

*I recommend that you use a small mirror to check the position of your lips.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat /w/:

/w/ .../w/ ....

Next , let's review how to pronounce /v/, like in the word "very". For a more detailed lesson on /v/ see podcast #33.

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 and feel the vibration between them.

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

Tips for Accurate Pronunciation of /v/:

  • Don't press your lip too hard- Press gently. You should feel a light vibration almost tickling your lower lip when you say /v/.
  • Most importantly, do not bring both your lips together. Your upper lip does not move when making this sound. Only the lower lip moves up to the teeth.
  • Distinguishing between /w/ and /v/:

    Now that we've learned how to pronounce /w/ and /v/ correctly, let's work on developing a clear distinction between these sounds.
    The most common mistake students make is substituting /w/ for /v/ or substituting /v/ for /w/.

    It depends on what your first language is.
    For example, instead of saying "very", a student might say something that sounds like "wery" or instead of saying "west" a student might say something like "vest".

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

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

    • lip position :For /w/, both our lips move forward and back quickly. In out and out of "the kiss" position.
      For /v/, we move our lower lip upward to touch our front teeth.
    • Air flow: For /w/ we let the air flow continuously without interruption through the hole between our lips. There is no contact between our lips and teeth.
      For /v/, we make contact between our lower lip and our upper teeth and create friction through th at small space. Feel the vibrations on your lower lip.
    *I recommend that you look in a small mirror when practicing these sound so that you can see the difference in lip position and lip movement.

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

    /w/... /v/... /w/ ... /v/

    In this next exercise, were going to continue developing our ability to distinguish between /w/ and /v/.

    Exercise: Listen and repeat the following pair of words.
    The words are exactly the same except that the first contains the consonant /w/ and the second contains the consonant /v/.
    Listen and repeat, paying careful attention to the differences in form.

    /w/                 /v/

    west             vest

    we                "v"

    wane          vein / vain

    went            vent

    worse         verse

    wheel             veal

    Mastering the distinction between /w/ 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 best way to learn a new a sound is to practice it slowly.
    In fact, the secret to speaking English clearly and quickly is practicing slowly and accurately. 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!

    The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

    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!

    No matter what your first language is, Best Accent Training has the lessons you need for speaking English clearly and correctly.

    . Best Accent Training mp3s contains all the sounds of English with step by step instructions and practice exercises.
    You'll learn how to pronunce the sound of English 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, all the consonants, 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)

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