I may have actually made a difference today, I’m not sure. But I think I taught someone something. In class we were going over some exercises, and the word vegetable came up. Anytime there’s a tricky word, I make the class repeat after me so they can hear the correct pronunciation and improve themselves. It’s probably the most useful thing I can do for them.
One student, Cristian, read the sentence and said “begetables.” The “V” and “B” pose a lot of problems for Spanish speakers. In Spanish, the difference between the two letters is more subtle, and many words with “V” actually have a “B” sound. I had Cristian say it again, and again he said begetables, nodding as if he obviously got it. “No, no, keep practicing,” I said. But I wanted to get this down. So I showed him that he has to put his teeth on his lower lip and make a vibration sound. I dragged out the sound “Vvvvvv” and watched as he tried, but continued to purse both lips together and make the “Bbbbbb” sound.
Again I showed him and made it as simple as possible. After saying the word 5 times or so, he finally got it right and said vegetables. The whole class applauded and laughed as Cristian took a bow. I told him not to feel bad about it, and that many English speakers can’t roll their R’s in an “Rrrrrr” fashion.
Hopefully he keeps practicing it and gets better. But even if he doesn’t, at least he’s got one more word he can add to his vocabulary correctly. So I think I earned my pay today.