Pronunciation Pointers

by John Steele


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Lesson 1:Perfect F and V Sounds

This site has been designed to help my Korean students with some common pronunciation problems. Having taught Korean students for four years, I have noticed several problems with my student's pronunciation. I believe the main reason for this is that, at an early age, Korean students learn English through Korean. Therefore, they never really get a good grasp of the English alphabet. This leads to a constant struggle with pronunciation, until they are shown the correct way and practice over and over. And, that is what we are trying to do here.

Most Korean characters match up almost perfectly in sound with a letter from the alphabet. Let's take a look at some examples........

Korean Character Near Alphabet Sound










While the sounds of the Korean characters and the corresponding letters of the alphabet are not an exact match, they are extremely close. So, in these cases, a pronunciation problem does not occur. The problems arise when a letter of the alphabet does not have an equivalent Korean character. So, Korean students will substitute the closest Korean sound. In some cases, it's fairly close. In others, not at all. Today, we will be looking at two letters, "F" and "V", that my students constantly struggle with.

The F Sound

In Korean, there is no character that sounds like "F". So, Koreans make up for this in one of two ways. First, if it is a soft "f" sound, or if the "f" is immediately followed by an "a", like in "family", the ㅎ character is used. This character sounds like an "h" in English, very different from "f." Some examples are "hwemily" (훼미리, family) and "hwanta" (환타, Fanta).

If the sound is a hard "F", as in "finish", they use a ㅍ, which sounds more like a "P." So, let's take a look at the word "finish." If Koreans learned to pronounce this word using Korean characters, it would sound like "pinishee" (피니쉬). Now, in this lesson, we aren't even going to discuss the "-shee" ending. That is an entire lesson in itself.

So, now that we know the root of the problem, let's get down to the solution. How should you be pronouncing "F"? 

  • First, put the bottom part of your upper teeth on your lower lip.

  • Force the air out of the mouth between the bottom lip and the upper teeth.

  • Very Important! Don't let your vocal chords vibrate.

The V Sound

The letter "V" is another one that gives my students fits. Unlike the "F" sound, which has two replacements, "v" only has one. It is the ㅂ character, which sounds very similar to "b". So, let's look at an example on how Korean students typically pronounce words that start with "v". Violin is the first to come to mind. Koreans would pronounce this word "ba ee ol lin" (바이올린). Since this word is the same in Korean as it is in English (except for the minor pronunciation difference), it is one that is heard a lot.

What is the correct way to pronounce the "v" sound? Well, it's almost exactly the same as voicing the "f" sound.

  • Once again, place the bottom part of your upper teeth on your lower lip.

  • Force the air out of the mouth between the bottom lip and the upper teeth.

  • Now, here is the difference. This time, let your vocal chords vibrate to make that humming sound.

Now, listen to the audio files to hear the correct way to make each sound, and compare the two sounds. Listen carefully and, as the saying goes, "Practice makes perfect." These are the words you will here.


F Words

V Words

fat vat
file vile
face vase
focal vocal

F Sound

V Sound



After you have practiced these sounds and feel comfortable, have some fun with these F and V tongue twisters.

F  -  Friendly Frank flips fine flapjacks.

Try it!!

V  -  Vinny visits Vincent in his van.

Good Luck!!

Well, that's all I know about F and V. Please keep practicing, and if you have any questions, leave me a voice message above.