Korean students in particular have problems pronouncing the unvoiced /f/ and the voiced /v/ sound. Below (#2) is a speaking activity you can use to practice these sounds. First, however, you should work with minimal pairs.
1. Use Minimal Pairs to Elicit Differences (15 minutes)
Put two minimal pairs on the board (e.g. ‘fan’ and ‘van’) and, with your students, work out the differences between the two sounds (hint: /v/ is voiced, i.e. your vocal chords vibrate, while /f/ is unvoiced, so the sound is mainly air blowing out of your mouth).
Example minimal pairs for /f/ and /v/:
Have your students repeat the words after you.
Afterwards, say a word on the left or the right side (e.g. fan or van). After you say it, have yoru students tell you whether you said the right-side word or left-side word.
Next, have students practice with a partner. They can say either the word on the left (‘fan’) or the right (‘van’) and their partner will listen and respond “right” or “left” depending on what they think was said. Have students who are having difficulties practice with the whole class.
As an extension (15 minutes), the classic pronunciation telephone number activity is also great to do with minimal pairs.
2. Speaking Activity: /f/ & /v/ Jumbled Story Game (20-25 minutes)
The /f/ & /v/ Pronunciation Story
- Last night, Victoria fried some fresh fish.
- She fried the fish in half a vat of fat.
- It smelled foul, so she turned on the fan and opened the window.
- Today, I saw that Victoria had failed to turn off the fan and close the window.
- A thousand flies had flown and many leaves had blown into the kitchen.
- I feel it was all her fault.
This activity is a combination of tongue twisters and a jumbled story. The activity can be conducted as follows:
- Cut up each sentence on strip of paper. There are seven sentences. If you have 14 (or more) students, then make extra copies of each sentence as needed. It doesn’t matter if some students have the same sentence (it will just take less time).
- Give a sentence to each student.
- Tell your students that there are seven sentences (six not including the one they have). They should say their sentence to a classmate, who will listen and write it down. They will also hear other sentences from their classmates, which they will write down. When they’ve heard and written down all the sentences, they can sit down. (Note: Make sure you tell your students to say the sentence, and not read it; this is a speaking activity, not a reading one. To avoid this problem, you could make them memorize their sentence.)
- Let them mix and exchange sentences. If might be a good idea to review the phrase “Sorry. How do you spell that?” beforehand.
- When they’ve all finished, tell them that the sentences make a story. Have them order the story from sentence one to seven.
- Give the winner a high five.
Give the activity a try. I did it today and it worked well. However, some students put the fifth sentence (A thousand flies had flown…) after the third sentence. I had to remind them of the meaning of past perfect (‘had flown‘) and how it meant that an action happened before a previous action (“I saw” — in sentence four) and not after the action of opening the window.
My students enjoyed it. Give it a try and let me know if you have any comments below.
Enjoy your English classes.
— Matthew Barton / Creator of ESL website Englishcurrent.com