July 15, 2015

V & W - Mother Tongue Influence Reduction Tips for Indian Speakers of English

V and W are two letters and sounds that are clearly distinguished in American English. V and W are often not distinguishable in many Indian languages, with one letter/sound that almost combines the two English sounds into one. The image to the left shows the v/w symbol in most major Indian languages including Hindi, Tamil. Malayalam, Bengali and others. 

Because of this, when many Indians speak English with American (or other Western) native English speakers, the native speakers are not able to hear the pronunciation clearly. This post will provide some tips to help reduce the Mother Tongue Influence (MTI) regarding these important sounds.  

Some examples are: 
When saying “vest”, “van”, or other words starting with a “v”, the v sounds like a w. Sometimes, the Western speaker cannot identify the word even within the context of the sentence. 

What does a native English speaker hear?
When the v comes in the middle of a word, the v often sounds like a w or as though it's absent. 

For example:

  • Mover becomes mower or mooer.
This image shows one transliteration
of "stove" on Malayalam.
Transliteration: gyas sttou (gas stove).
  • See the photo above for the next lesson.
    Stove becomes stow (another word in English) or stovvah (with Malayalam accent)

    The photo below says "gas stove" in Malayalam, but actually transliterated says "gyaas stou" which sounds to an American like "gas stow." Stow is an English word, and so is stove. In some cases, stove can also be written in Malayalam with a double v. All of these spellings are transliterations of English into Malayalam (so yes, below, for those who can't read Malayalam it actually says "gas stove" in English!).



  • See the red highlighted portion of the photo above for one more example
    The Malayalam here again is actually English words transliterated into Malayalam. It says 'veggie wash'. Note, that in English veggie starts with a v and wash starts with a w, but since Malayalam (and many Indian languages) use the same letter to represent v and w, veggie and wash actually start with the same first letter - വ. Due to this, we need to improve the enunciation between these two sounds when speaking in English to reduce the MTI influence.

    Cultural note- if you are in the US in a Subway and want to order a veggie sandwich. Instead, ask for a vegetarian sub. Why? Veggie is not a word typically used in the U.S., and also since the v may sound like a w to an American, you may get funny looks when asking for a 'weggie sandwich' which will sound like a 'wedgie sandwich.' (Wedgie is a slang meaning pants caught in the behind!) 
    We can see that sometimes when the sound changes, the native English speaker hears a totally different word (mower for mover, stow for stove) or a non-existent word (mooer or stovvah).

    Let’s learn some techniques to say and spell these two letters correctly.

    Below the written tips are a few video tutorials from other tutors. To understand if you are creating the right sounds, ask an American or Western English speaker to listen and critique you. People also hire me to teach them how to make and refine these sounds.


    V – English Pronunciation Tips W - Enunciation Tips
    1. Top set of teeth touch bottom lip slightly
    2. Lips lie flat on face
    3. Lips do not open wide or high, small opening
    4. Tongue stays on the bottom of the mouth
    5. Vibrate vocal cords.*
    1. Teeth stay inside of mouth, do not touch lips
    2. Lips – rounded, protrude away from face, like a fish face (pucker lips)
    3. Tongue stays on the bottom of the mouth
    4. Do not vibrate vocal cords


    Saying/Spelling the letter “V” Saying/Spelling the letter “W”
    When spelling a word with the letter “v”, we will say the letter as it sounds followed by “ee” – “Vee”.

    Example: Spell “Vivek”

    Vee- eye- vee- eee- kay”

    When spelling a word with the letter “w”, the letter does not sound like the sound at all. “Double u”

    Example: Spell “West Bengal”

    “Double u- ee- ess- tea, bee, eee, en, gee, ay, el”

    *Test vibration with one of these two tricks; place one hand on your neck to feel the vibration or place both hands over your ears to feel a vibration and an echo in your head.

    Test lip position two ways:


    Transliterating the Malayalam, it says
    "joollaree workks" (jewelry works).
    1. Keep your hand in front of your mouth.
    • For “v”, your hand will be against your face, if needed, push your lips against your face. Lips should not protrude away from your face. 
    • For “w”, as you pucker your lips, they will come away from your face, and your hand will naturally move away from your face.
    2. Look at your side profile in a mirror.
    • For “v” your lips will remain flat to your face. 
    • For “w”, you will see your lips pucker and move away from your face. At first, you may want to exaggerate this movement, just so your facial muscles can get used to it.


    Here are some videos to help you on your way.


    This video will show you how to make the V sound.
    Click here to see this on YouTube


    Differences in pronouncing V and W with pictures, descriptions and practice.
    Click here to see this video on YouTube.


    This article is the intellectual property of Authentic Journeys Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. Copyright ©2012, Updated 2012, 2017, Jennifer Kumar. All Rights Reserved. Do not reprint without permission. 


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