You may have been studying English for some time now but you just can’t seem to grasp the sounds. Are you hearing /f/ when it should be /v/ or maybe it is /s/ instead of /z/?

Whatever the case may be, we are here to help. Pronunciation comes with practise and
the more you hear and use the word the easier the sound will be. But before we get
there we need to understand English sounds.

Imagine your friend says to you “I’m fine” but they decided to vocalised the /f/ sound so it ends up sounding like /v/as in “I’m vine”! One of the greatest forms of
miscommunication between students in and out of the classroom lies with the difficulty
in understanding the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds. English
pronunciation relies heavily on understanding the sound especially in terms of minimal
pair words, such as vine and fine.

Let’s practise. Take your fingers and gently rest them on your vocal cords. As you exhale,
try to say the /f/ sound as in “fan or flower”. You shouldn’t feel any vibration. Repeat
this, without changing the shape of your mouth but begin to use your voice by making
the /v/ sound in “Van or Very”. Can you feel the vibrations? This is a short exercise to
demonstrate the difference between the unvoiced /f/ and the voiced /v/ sounds. You can
continue with the same exercise but using the /s/ and /z/ sounds. The /s/ sounds like a
hissing snake unlike the /z/ which mimics the buzzing bee.

Now practise with the following minimal pairs.

Fan van   Price Prize
Ferry very   Bus Buzz
Leaf leave   fussy fuzzy
Belief believe   ice eyes
Fail veil   spice spies

Let us know if you can find any other examples of minimal pair
/f/ and /v/ or /s/ and /z/ sounds!

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