What is/are the correct pronunciation(s) for the letters "B" and "V" | SpanishDict Answers
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3 Vote

In Spanish Grammar --> Pronunciation --> The Alphabet (version 2) It reads.:

"v: It sounds exactly like a Spanish “b”. We cannot tell apart “b” from “v” when we hear words in Spanish."

In Flashcards --> Numbers / Los números. Numbers 9,19 and 20 are pronunced with a " V ".

Am I wrong or is it some sort of mistake or misunderstanding ? Is it localized to some countries ?

ex.: Winter --> the word i hate this time ! ¿Cómo se pronuncia "invierno" en español?

Like : ine-vier-no or ine-bier-no ?

Gracias

  • Posted Dec 18, 2010
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  • Just try saying the English words "Vet" and "Bet" but with your lips no touching. - ian-hill Dec 19, 2010 flag

14 Answers

1 Vote

Go to phonetics and select the Spanish flag on the opening screen.

1) When the second window opens up, select "oclusivis" (near top) and then the 'b' in brackets. This will give you what some call the "hard" b/v sound (the sound that is almost the same as the sound of 'b' in English) Note the list of words that appears in the right-hand frame. Some are spelled with 'v' and some with 'b' because these letters are not distinguished in Spanish pronunciation).

2) Select "espirantes" in the second window (near top) and then the "beta" in brackets. This will give you what some call the "soft" b/v sound (the sound that does not exist in English) Note the list of words that appears in the right-hand frame. Some are spelled with 'v' and some with 'b' (because these letters are not distinguished in Spanish pronunciation).

Clicking on the various words in the right-hand frame will allow you to hear the pronunciations. Clicking on the "play" below the cutaway diagram of a human head will provide an animated illustration of how the sounds are produced.

Final note: the teeth are not involved in the production of either sound. There is no voiced labiodental in Spanish (although there is the unvoiced 'f').

  • Please see my second answer to this question. - Sabor Dec 19, 2010 flag
3 Vote

Hi, JD. Welcome to the forum. Great question.

"v: It sounds exactly like a Spanish “b”. We cannot tell apart “b” from “v” when we hear words in Spanish."

This is correct, although like you, I occasionally think I hear a distinct "V" at the beginning of a word like "verdad."

I simply ignore what I think I heard and try to mimic native speakers.

When I say "verdad" I start with barely letting my lips touch and allow the air to pass through them to say the "v." Then I end with "dadth" because I have definitely heard the ending "th" sound with words that end in "dad." E.g., ciudad, verdad, paternidad, etc.

Read Lazaus' alphabet again and practice speaking some words over and over. You will then say them automatically when engaged in a conversation.

2 Vote

Hi and welcome to the forum! smile And welcome to the place where people are confused because of the same thing! Hehe no, it's not a mistake, the letter v is pronounced like something between v and b OR all I can tell you is:

"Beati hispani, qvibvs vivere bibere est..." (A latin proverb.)

"Dichosos los hispanos, para los que vivir es beber..."

"Happy the Spaniards, for whom to live is to drink..."

  • The V is pronounced exactly like the B. Exactly! - lazarus1907 Dec 18, 2010 flag
  • Sometimes, but only sometimes, it may be a little softer, anyway the focus was the proverb, please! jejeje - culé Dec 18, 2010 flag
2 Vote

The Spanish b has a much softer contact than the English.

Like : ine-vier-no or ine-bier-no ?

The answer is neither if you are referring to the English b and v. In Spanish, b and v are most often pronounced identically. The sound is intermediate between the bilabial b and labiodental v of English. This is possible because the contacts are so soft.

2 Vote

The V sounds exactly like the B, unless the native speakers are bilingual and in the other language that they speak, the V has a different sound, so they often force the V pronunciation in Spanish. The rest of the natives pronounce them exactly the same, which is why natives constantly get their B and V badly mixed when they spell.

0 Vote

You can google pronunciation of Spanish alphabet and come up with many different sites. Below is one which indicates that the B and V are a similar pronunciation. Hover your cursor over the letter to get the sound. To repeat just keep clicking on it.

Spanish Alphabet

0 Vote

besides, you have to take into account that preceding consonants have an effect on pronunciation of v or b to make them sound a bit different from initial v or b.

0 Vote

the letter v is pronounced like something between v and b

This would be much clearer if you instead wrote "the Spanish letter v is pronounced like something between English letters v and b" Of course, one could say precisely the same of the Spanish letter b.

Lazarus' comment, too, could be made slightly clearer by saying "The Spanish V is pronounced exactly like the Spanish B. Exactly! "

How best to describe the sounds of Spanish using the sounds of some other language is a different problem (and, usually, an exercise in approximation). Pointing to a picture or a real automobile provides a clearer understanding than saying "an automobile is something between a bicycle and a train."

0 Vote

Typical rule(in Spanish): When a B or V is at the beginning of a word, it's pronounced like an English B, when it's not at the beginning of a word, it takes the sound of an English V.

  • No, it doesn't! It has a sound that does NOT exist in English, and that many English speakers normally pronounce badly. - lazarus1907 Dec 18, 2010 flag
  • It's basically impossible to distinguish them correctly, ESPECIALLY considering the syllable speed of Spanish speakers. It's VERY safe to say that they're the exact same sound and you'll sound fine saying it as such. - RommpinCrab Dec 18, 2010 flag
  • For me, it is so impossible to distinguish that I turn to anyone sitting in a reasonable proximity of my computer and ask "What do you hear' and it isn't an opinion from anyone taking Spanish... - Ann-Frances Dec 19, 2010 flag
0 Vote

Samdie,

These animations are based on what the average native speaker does. There is no rule that all speakers must use the articulators in the same way to produce the same sound, and in fact it does not happen. JDNR005 describes himself as intermediate in English and a beginner in Spanish. My response was based on the presumption of knowledge of English b and v and how that knowledge could be applied to facilitate pronunciation of the same orthographic symbols in Spanish.

0 Vote

My response was based on the presumption of knowledge of English b and v and how that knowledge could be applied to facilitate pronunciation of the same orthographic symbols in Spanish.

A knowledge of the English pronunciation of the letter 'b' can help. The only difference is that the English 'b' is plosive while the Spanish "hard b/v is simply an occlusive (a plain stop without the "puff" of air). The difference is sufficiently small that if one uses the English 'b' most Spanish speakers will hear nothing "odd".

The "soft" b/v, on the other hand has no similar sound in English and using the sound of the English "v" will be painfully obvious to Spanish speakers.

In this day of easily accessible recorded sounds, it is a waste of time trying to explain Spanish in terms of fancied approximations to sounds of English (or any other language). Who cares if it sounds "more or less" like X or "midway between X an Y when one can easily find recorded pronunciations of what it actually sounds like? In the days before recorded speech (or easy access to such recordings) and in the absence of a native informant, these kinds of rough analogies to the sounds of other languages may have made some sense but now one can easily listen to the "real thing".

The animations are, of course, simplifications/idealized representations but the pronunciations of the words are actual recordings (not synthesized). What the animations make clear (and this is not an artifact of their being idealized), is that the Spanish sounds do not involve contact between the lower lip and the teeth. "Bilabial" means both teeth, "labiodental" means the lower lip contacts the upper incisors (if there is a language in which the lower incisors contact the upper lip, I've never heard of it and linguists would need to invent a new term to describe the distinction). In any event "midway between "bilabial" and "labiodental" ought to mean the the the upper lip almost (but not quite) touches the lower lip and, at the same time "almost but not quite" touches the lower incisors. As far as I can see, this would require the upper lip to be in two places at the same time (I know of nobody whose lower lip and lower incisors are in the same place).

Both sounds (hard/soft) in Spanish are bilabial (both lips, no teeth). The difference is that one (the "had" 'b/v') is an occlusive (the flow of air is stopped) while the "soft" 'b/v' it flow of air is merely restricted/constrained.

0 Vote

Simply, I would say that a b is pronounced like a b, and a v is pronounced almost like a b. help? it does vary a bit in different countries, but in reality they are completely interchangeable - you will even see plenty of typos where bs and vs are in the wrong place!

0 Vote

I live in Dodge City, Kansas which has nearly 50% Hispanic population. More than once I've told someone my last name which starts with a B and they repeat it back to me with that B/V sound. It's kind of cool.

0 Vote

In Flashcards --> Numbers / Los números. Numbers 9,19 and 20 are pronunced with >a " V ".

Am I wrong or is it some sort of mistake or misunderstanding ? Is it localized to >some countries ?

While others have been having a great discussion about the proper pronunciation of B & V, it seems to me that they have failed to answer this question. (For the record, always side with Lazarus and Samdie on things like this.)

Now to answer your question. I think you probably heard wrong. To explain why, let me get you to do an exercise.

Try to make an English V sound without touching your lower lip to your teeth. Try saying "victory" that way. The only way you can make that sound that way is by buzzing your lips together.

But that sound, or something very near it, is what happens sometimes with the Spanish b/v. Now that's not an English V sound at all, but if, in your mind, you knew the letter was a V and you heard that sound, you might think they were pronouncing it like an English V, because you are absolutely certain it wasn't the familiar B sound, right? (And in your mind, those are the only two choices there are.)

Someone may correct me sternly for this, but this is how I arrived at my present understanding. Because I, too, kept thinking I was hearing people pronounce the Vs as in English, and when I reached this conclusion and really began to listen more closely, this is what seemed more and more to be the reality of it.

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