This video tutorial is about the American English /f/ sound for native Korean speakers. The /f/ sound does not exist in Korean, so it is often replaced with a close sound that does exist in Korean, the /p/ sound. Watch the video tutorial above to increase your awareness of /f/ in English while hearing the examples and practice pronounced from a native speaker. You can also read along below for the written version of the tutorial.
How the /f/ Sound is Made
Lets first talk about how the /f/ sound is made, and then do some practice words.
In linguistics, the /f/ sound is called a “labiodental fricative.” You do not need to memorize this term, but this label does give clues to how the /f/ sound is made. Lets break down the term:
“Labio” refers to the lips, and “dental” refers to the teeth. This means that /f/ is made with the top teeth making contact with the lower lip.
“Fricative” refers to the type of airflow required to make this sound. You want to feel a continuous stream of airflow flowing from the mouth. If there is not a stream of airflow, the air may be stopping in the mouth, an indication that /f/ may be replaced with a /p/ sound.
The takeaway for how to make the /f/ sound is “top teeth making light contact with lower lip” and a “continuous airflow stream from the mouth”
Try making this sound in front of a mirror so you can have the visual feedback and you can see your teeth and lips touch. When practicing, place your hand on your neck, because you should feel “no vibration in the throat area” when making this /f/ sound. We are not going to focus on vocal cord vibration in this tutorial, but just note that you are not feeling vibration in the throat, because this is an important concept that we will work on in future videos.
Let’s practice some word pairs, what is called “minimal pairs.” Minimal pairs are word pairs that differ only in one sound, the sound that we are working on. These word pairs are words that differ only in the /p/ sound and /f/ sound. These two words should sound different. If the word pairs sound the same, it may be that you are replacing the /f/ with the /p/ sound. You don’t have a trained accent professional to give you feedback, but increase your awareness with these 4 word pairs:
lap laugh (the last sound in this word spelled as "gh" is pronounced as /f/)
Exercise 3 is to practice these 3 phrases following my model as a native speaker. These are a little more challenging because the /p/ and /f/ sounds are close together, so be extra aware of these sounds:
If you want additional practice on the /f/ sound, go back to the /f/ words in the minimal pair practice, and put the words in your own sentences, trying to maintain that /f/ sound, like “I laughed for hours.” These words again were four, fair, laugh, fork.
I hope that this tutorial was helpful for you, the accent student, in increasing your awareness of the /f/ sound in American English. Since each speaker is an individual, you may be pronouncing the sound correctly, or you may need extra support from a professional accent teacher. These tutorials are designed to empower the accent student, to increase the awareness of your own pronunciation and sound trends.
For more information about accent coaching or to schedule a free online 15 minute consultation, please send fill out the contact form on the All About Accents website.
You can also send an e-mail directly to Leann@allaboutaccents.com
Enjoy speaking English with confidence and your language journey!
Leann Rhoades, M.S. CCC-SLP
Accent Coach/ Speech Language Pathologist
All About Accents