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I live in Thailand and we pronounce "w" and "v" the same. When I spoke to American people they told me that the "v" sound was different from "w". They told me to move my lower lip to the upper teeth, then say "v", but I don't get it.

I want to know how to pronounce "v" in English. If you can suggest me how to practice it, that would be great!

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11  
An animated library of the phonetic sounds of American English available from that page of the University of Iowa. It gives description of each sound, video-audio and articulatory diagrams. –  Laure Jan 1 '12 at 8:40
    
I endorse @Laure's recommendation. –  Barrie England Jan 1 '12 at 9:39
    
+1 for the link to the animated library. –  sarah Jan 1 '12 at 13:10
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I wish I could mark @Laure comment as the answer of this question. :) –  Anonymous Jan 1 '12 at 16:46
    
Not to interrupt anyone, but English has pronounciation rules for anything smaller than "words in a given context"? –  tohecz Jan 29 at 11:01
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6 Answers

I think the closest sound in English to 'v' is probably 'f'. Check out this web page and video:

http://www.rachelsenglish.com/consonant_vf

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They are both labio-dental fricatives. /v/ is voiced. /f/ isn't. –  Barrie England Jan 1 '12 at 8:53
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  • 'v' in English is a voiced labiodental fricative: bottom lip behind top teeth, letting air pass between, just like an English 'f' but also humming the vocal chords.
  • 'w' in English is a voiced bilabial glide or rounded semivowel: a kissing movement of the lips, never coming close to closing, humming the vocal chords like a vowel.

To English speakers, these sound totally different. In many other languages, 'v' is a voiced bilabial fricative, which, still sounding much like the English 'v', is much closer in articulation to 'w'.

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+1. Where/how does the "labiodental approximant" fit between 'v' and 'w'? (Also the velar approximant, which according to Wikipedia is what Thai has.) –  ShreevatsaR Jan 2 '12 at 6:34
    
This webpage says that w in Thai is a bilabial continuant (I believe they use the word continuant to avoid specifying whether it should be 'v' or 'w'). The bilabial w is made with your lips, while the velar approximant is made at the back of your mouth; it should be easy to tell which you are using. –  Peter Shor Jan 2 '12 at 12:56
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@PeterShor, velar approximant is just an unrounded version of English approximant /w/. That's why /w/ is labio-velar approximant (co-articulated). If you take away the co-articulation, this is how sequence goes near the velum: velar stop /k/ > velar fricative /x/ > velar approximant /ɰ/ > close back unrounded vowel /ɯ/. What matters in this sequence is the space between velum and posterodorsal part of the tongue. All you tube teachers just emphasize the bilabial aspect (roundness) to foreigners, instead of what's going on. –  RainDoctor Mar 16 '12 at 22:07
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Let me show you with the examples, vent and went. When you pronounce went, it should sound like oo'ent(take the last syllable of this). And while pronouncing vent, your mouth should read like fent without voice. Let me know if I am not clear.

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Thanks for providing clear examples. While the correctness is subject to the scrutiny of people who know better, terms like voiced labiodental fricative and voiced bilabial glide or rounded semivowel are Greek to those who are not trained formally in phonetics. +1. Can you add another example to the excellent ones here? –  Vaibhav Garg Jan 2 '12 at 7:49
    
@VaibhavGarg: The link which Laure provided is still likely to be the best guide. /v/ and /w/ are clearly illustrated. Look under 'frictive' for /v/ and under 'glide' for /w/. –  Barrie England Jan 2 '12 at 8:35
    
Sure is, @BarrieEngland, but clear examples go a long way. I have a talking dictionary software, but unfortunately it says that 'v' and 'w' have their usual sounds. –  Vaibhav Garg Jan 3 '12 at 4:07
    
@VaibhaGarg: The link by laure is a very good one. Would you still like me to demonstrate another example? –  javaDisciple Jan 3 '12 at 5:10
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My suggestion:

Practice saying of, and think of how it contrasts with off.

Say it slowly and hold the end of the word. Practice making a constant sound while your mouth is in the closed position of of.

When you are comfortable with this, pop your bottom lip off of your front teeth and try oven.

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'w' is bilabial sound and 'v' is labiodental. Bilabial sounds are pronounced by putting lips (upper and lower) together, while the production of labiodental sounds we have to put our upper front teeth on the lower lip.
Examples:

woman ..... very
watch..... vast
war ..... van

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This link http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/v-v_1# has written pronunciation and sounds recordings for American and English pronunciations of the letter v.

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