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.
In fact, some people find this blog by searching for “Why can’t Indians pronounce the v sound?” While this may appear to be a valid question, there are debates online that suggest that there are some people from some parts of India who could possibly make this sound, while others confuse it with other sounds. However, once we learn how to make this sound with our teeth, lips, mouth, and voice box, it may be possible that this sound does not exist in many, if any, Indian languages (video tutorials at the end of this post will be helpful in demonstrating this).
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.
|This image shows one transliteration
of “stove” on Malayalam.
Transliteration: gyas sttou (gas stove).
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
V vs. B mouth positions
Some speakers of Bengali make this mistake in India. Why? Because it appears that the mouth positions are the same, but they are actually different in one critical way – notice the v mouth position. The top teeth are touching the bottom lip. With b, there is no need to use your teeth. For V the lips will not touch or vibrate off each other as they do with B (some Spanish speakers make this same mistake). Note that V and F are pronounced with the same mouth position in English, the only difference is V is voiced (with sound) and F is voiceless (air only). See videos below for tutorials). Image taken from slideshow on B vs. V tutorial here.
Saying/Spelling the letter “V”
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”
Saying/Spelling the letter “W”
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.
Transliterating the Malayalam, it says
“joollaree workks” (jewelry works).
Test lip position two ways:
1. Keep your hand in front of your mouth.
2. Look at your side profile in a mirror.
Here are some videos to help you on your way. Not made by Authentic Journeys or Jennifer Kumar.
See blog with tutorials of about 60 words techies can pronounce more clearly in English.
Jennifer Kumar (in the video above in the Park City t-shirt) works with expats and international teams working with US Americans or in the US. We help you communicate more effectively with US Citizens on virtual teams and across cultures. Contact us.