Lots of kids have spelling problems with the letters B and V because they sound the same in Spanish.
Native speakers pronounce them in 2 different ways -and none of them sounds as in English.
Actually, English B sounds similar to Spanish letter P.
Spanish natives can normally guess what you mean if you pronounce these 2 letters as in English.
Not always, but normally.
However, the pronunciation of the letters V and B tell apart Spanish native speakers. And it may cause some misunderstandings.
In this post we’ll see:
- The 2 ways to pronounce the letters B and V in Spanish.
- How to produce each of the 2 sounds and some tips.
- When to say each of the sounds.
Table of contents
- 1 What are the 2 ways to pronounce letters B and V in Spanish?
- 2 Differences between STOPPING and BLOWN B and V
- 3 Common misunderstandings with the letters B and V
What are the 2 ways to pronounce letters B and V in Spanish?
1. STOPPING B and V
- International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol: [b].
- Sound: Similar to English B. Similar, not the same.
Tips to pronounce STOPPING B and V
- Your lips are together and the sound is produced when they are separated. Open your mouth slowly.
- STOPPING B / V sounds softer than the English B (which is more sudden and clear). It sounds similar to the letter B in chamber and embrace – but smoother.
When should I pronounce STOPPING B and V?
1. At the beginning of the word.
barco, beso, bien, bueno.
vivir, viento, volar.
hambre, cambio, hombre, lombriz
3. After N.
Vive en Barcelona.
Lo hice con buena intención.
¡Tiene un barco enorme!
envidia, envolver, invierno
Quiero una tarta con velas.
Juan vive en Viena.
2. BLOWN B and V
Latter you will understand why I call it BLOWN.
- IPA symbol: [β].
- Sound: This sound doesn’t exist in English.
Tips to pronounce BLOWN B / V
- Your lips are not hermetically sealed.
- The sound is produced by letting a trickle of air escape from your mouth, as you do when you pronounce the English V. But there’s one difference.
- When you pronounce the Spanish BLOWN B / V [β], you produce the sound with your upper and lower lip. Your teeth don’t make any function.
When should I pronounce BLOWN B / V?
1. In the middle of the word.
abrir, hablar, abuelo, sabor.
cava, ave, uva, calavera.
2. In the middle of the sentence.
Me gustaría ir a Barcelona en barco.
Te mereces una buena recompensa.
El barco no puede zarpar.
Viví en Nueva York mucho tiempo.
Al volver del viaje vi a un viejo amigo*.
Could you guess why the letter B in “en barco” and the letter V in “un viejo amigo“ aren’t blown, – like the rest of B’s and V’s in the examples?
It’s because there’s an N before (un viejo, en barco). The letters B and V are blown when they’re in the middle of the word or sentence. Except after N and M.
Differences between STOPPING and BLOWN B and V
- To produce the Blown B/V/ your lips don’t touch each other. If you want to pronounce a STOPPING B/V, your lips should be: first together and then get separated.
- You can hold the BLOWN B/V sound as long as you want. Or until you run out of air. The STOPPING B/V sound lasts only a few milliseconds.
Common misunderstandings with the letters B and V
When a Spaniard speaks in Spanish and say a word which starts with [p] (pala, pecar, parra, pazo), English natives might think we are saying a word which starts with [b]. And the other way around.
Because Spanish P sounds closer to English B.
|An English native sais/understands…||A Spaniard understands/sais…|
|An English native sais/understand…||A Spaniard understands/sais…|
These are only 2 of the 37 sounds of Spanish. The more sounds you master, the more fluently and naturally you’ll speak and the better you’ll understand Spanish natives.