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Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 120th episode.
There are not very many sounds in English that we can actually see the production of. Most sounds occur inside our mouth, and must be learned by learning to hear the sound and then mimicking it. For instance, a lot of non-native speakers have trouble learning the difference between the long e sound and the short i sound. The long e sounds like (long e) and the short i sounds like (short i). When I say those sounds (long e, short i), hopefully you can hear the difference, because you can't really see the difference just by watching my face.
Today I'm going to talk about two sounds that you can see: the f sound and the v sound.
The f sound and v sound are fricatives. A fricative is a sound that is created when air is pushed through a small opening in the vocal tract. For the f sound and v sound, the small opening occurs between the back our bottom lip and our top front teeth.
Watch as I say these sounds:
f sound (f sound)
v sound (v sound)
Something that you couldn't see, but could hear, was that my vocal cords, deep in my throat were vibrating during the v sound, but not the f sound. If you place your fingers on the front of your throat during these sounds, you can feel difference.
So, it's the friction of the air passing through that small space between my bottom lip and top front teeth that causes the f sound. The same friction, plus the vibration of the vocal cords causes the v sound.
Here's the most important thing about the f sound and v sound: don't curl your lip under your top front teeth. Don't do this:
(curled) f sound
(curled) v sound
You shouldn't have be able to hear much of a difference between (curled f sound, good f sound) and (curled v sound, good v sound). They really do sound nearly identical. So it isn't because it will sound bad that I don't want you to curl your lip; it's simply because it's too hard to do and is completely unnecessary.
In English, you need to be able to transition quickly to and from sounds. If you're overproducing sounds, you lose the ability to easily move to it and from it. There is no need to go through all the effort of curling your lip. You can make the sound by just barely tipping your bottom lip back until it lightly, really lightly, touches your top front teeth.
Let's practice. I'm going to say some words that include an f sound, and I want you to repeat after me:
Now I'm going to say some words that include an v sound:
There are a lot of languages that have trouble between the English v sound and the w sound. Remember, the v sound is a voiced fricative. I need to have my vocal cords vibrate, and I need to push air out a small opening. A w sound is an approximant. Approximants are more like vowels, and the vocal tract is more open.
To create a w sound, I push the air out of my mouth while making my lips into small circle. It looks and sounds like this: (w sound). Inside my mouth, the back of my tongue is also raised, and that is important, but for contrasting between a w sound and a v sound, we'll focus on the lips.
I can feel the vibration of the w sound equally on both my top and bottom lip. This is quite different from the v sound, in which I only feel the vibration on my bottom lip.
Watch me say a v sound, then a w sound:
Hopefully you can see that these sound look quite different. To a native English speaker, they also sound very different.
To practice, repeat these v sound/w sound minimal pairs after me:
vine, wine (whine)
Does that all make sense? I hope so.
As always, you can read the transcripts for this podcast by visiting www.pronuncian.com/podcast. Since there is always more you can learn, we link to the free Pronuncian lessons associated with each show from that show's transcripts page.
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That's all for today everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn.