Home / English Lessons / [p] vs. [b] | English Pronunciation Lesson for Arabic Speakers | US & UK English | تعلم اللهجة الامريكية على الانترنت, كلمات انجليزية أمريكية

[p] vs. [b] | English Pronunciation Lesson for Arabic Speakers | US & UK English | تعلم اللهجة الامريكية على الانترنت, كلمات انجليزية أمريكية

An interesting pronunciation issue that native Arabic speakers in particular have is the difficulty distinguishing the [p] and the [b] sounds when speaking English. To a native English speaker, these sounds are very different.

Note that native Arabic speaking students don’t seem to have a problem hearing the difference between the two sounds or saying the two sounds differently when done intentionally. (This isn’t always the case, such as with Japanese-speaking students and the [l] and [r] sounds).

[p] vs. [b]

[p] and [b] are said with the same exact mouth position — the lips press together and then a puff of air is released.

  • [p] as in “pet’
  • [b] as in “boy”

The only difference between the two sounds, then, comes from the vibration in the vocal chords.

Practice

vocal chord vibration ElementalEnglish.com

Step 1) Put your fingertips on the front of your throat, and say the sound [p]. What do you feel?  [p]

Step 2) Keep your fingertips on the front of your throat, and now say the sound [b]. Does this feel different? [b]

 

[p] is a voiceless sound with no vibration in the vocal chords.

  • [p] – You should NOT feel any vibration when you say [p]

[b] is a voiced sound, with vibration in the vocal chords.

  • [b]You should feel vibration in the vocal chords when you say [b].

Do you feel the difference? Repeat the sounds.

  • [p] [b]
  • [p] [b]

Notice that the mouth position is the same for both sounds. So the vibration — or the lack of vibration — in the vocal chords make all the difference between [p] and [b].

(A note for all my students before we practice: if [p] and [b] are easy sounds for you, just practice the vowel sounds [iy] vs. [ɪ],  and [æ] vs. [ɛ], as well as syllable stress and de-stressing, in the following words.)

Listen and Repeat (US English)

  • “people” [PiY  pəl]
  • “pepper” [PɛP  pər]
  • “pebble” [  bəl]
  • “public” [  blɪk]
  • “potato” [pə  TeY  dow]
  • “butter” [  dər]
  • “beeper” [BiY  pər]
  • “back” [BÆK]
  • “baking” [BeY  kIng]
  • “helicopter” [  lə  kɑp  tər]
  • “duped” [DUWPT]
  • “debit” [  bɪt]
  • “prohibit” [prə    bIt]

 

Listen and Repeat (UK/British English)

  • “people” [PiY  pəl]
  • “pepper” [PɛP  pər]
  • “pebble” [Pɛ  bəl]
  • “public” [Pʌ  blɪk]
  • “potato” [pə  TeY  dow]
  • “butter” [Bʌ  dər]
  • “beeper” [BiY  pər]
  • “back” [BÆK]
  • “baking” [BeY  kIng]
  • “helicopter” [Hɛ  lə  kɑp  tər]
  • “duped” [DUWPT]
  • “debit” [Dɛ  bɪt]
  • “prohibit” [prə  Hɪ  bIt]

How to Improve Your Pronunciation of [p] and [b]

Students who tend to mix up the two sounds, [p] and [b], in particular native Arabic speakers, should practice being extremely conscious of these sounds when speaking. Consciousness can come from paying close attention to these sounds and intentionally practicing them repeatedly. The more you practice on purpose and become aware of your speech, the more you can self-monitor, and the more the correct pronunciation of words can occur naturally.

(You can learn more strategies in the lesson called 10 Steps to Improving Your English Language and Pronunciation Skills | Part 2).

As always, post your questions and comments below. And if this lesson was helpful to you, feel free to share it with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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7 comments

  1. You have been very helpful. thank you

  2. Thank you so much
    You are doing a great job on your website, and that was more helpful to me than my English school in Georgia.
    You must be a teacher, teach non native speaker.

    Warmest regards,

  3. thanks, that was so helpful.

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