Malayalam MTI Reduction Tips with P, B, MP, MB Words (മ്പ)

Posted On: July 9, 2014

“Pai Dosa. Where is this?” 

We asked this driving around Ernakulam one night. I asked as well as my husband who’s a native Keralite (raised in Delhi and lived in the US more than 10 years), asked. We were utterly confused when no one understood us. Finally, someone repeated what we said back to us, but it sounded to our ears, and especially to my American ear like “By Dosa.” 

I was befuddled to say the least! Not only did the Malayalees we talked to not understand my P sound, but in their making the P sound back to my American ear, it sounded clearly like a B. 

Signs in Palarivattom
(Click on the photo to see a bigger size.) 

As Indian languages have the alphabets p, ph, b and bh, there are many sounds to distinguish in native tongues. However, English only has two sounds, and we have to assure that they are made clearly so that the native speaker can hear you clearly over the phone. The photo to the right says the office for “The Western Speaker” is next to the petrol pumb instead of pump. This is a clear example of how not hearing the right sound can impact the written English as well. Especially for Malayalees, the mother tongue has a unique letter/sound “imba” ( ). 

How can I reduce the MTI of the Malayalam imba or impa (മ്പ) letter/sound?

There are two steps to reduce the MTI (mother tongue influence) of this sound. 

First step: To help you perfect these sounds, read and watch the following tips below. 

P – English Pronunciation Tips B – Enunciation Tips
  • Flatten your lips like a straight line.
  • Press them together softly.
  • Make a sound from your throat (buzzing b)
  • Push the sound out through your lips, that open slightly, as you drop your jaw. (The lip shape does not change.)
  • All the time your tongue stays on the bottom of your mouth.
Follow all the rules for B, except:

  • Do not buzz in your throat.
  • When releasing the sound, drop the jaw and release a little air.

To know if you are making the buzz sound, place your hand on your throat. Do you feel the vibration? This vibration should not be made for P.

To know if air is coming out while making this sound, hold a piece of tissue in front of your mouth. If you see the tissue move, you are doing it right. It may move for B, but the movement for P is much more. One can exaggerate this at first by trying to release air only with P and avoid it with B. Can you hear and feel the difference?

Saying the letter “P” Saying the letter “B”
When spelling a word with the letter “B”, we will say the letter as it sounds followed by “ee” – “Bee”.
Example: Spell “Bobby” 
Bee- oh- bee- bee- why 

When spelling a word with the letter “P”, we will say the letter as it sounds followed by “ee” – “Pee”.
Example: Spell “Pradhy” 
Pee – are – aee- dee- eh – why 

Cultural Note:
Saying “pee” or “pee pee” is a slang for “urine”. Often little kids say this before they have to go to the bathroom.

Second Step: Listen to these tutorials with English words with mp or mb

For more tips

Videos for learning and practicing the American English P & B sounds: 

Basic Tips of B and P and Word list practice 
Step by step pronunciation practice for B and P 
B and P practice – American Accent Lessons 

Author Jennifer Kumar is a native American English speaker, Managing Director of Authentic Journeys, based in Infopark. For in-person as well as virtual accent and culture classes contact Jennifer today.  

Want to improve your English Pronunciation with other sounds?

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