Are the Spanish b and v the same sound? No, at least not with my Native Costa Rica friends.

Created: 2024.02.25

Spanish, I made the comment in San José Costa Rica that b and v sound the same in Spanish. I was immediately corrected being told that no, v is done starting with your top front teeth touching your bottom lip at the back/inside and a bit down, then pulled away to make a vee sound, but b was pronounced, best I could understand, starting with the top lip touching the same inside/back part of the bottom lip .. where the teeth touch with their v, then pulled up and away to make the bee sound.

They told me the b/v sounding the same is a mistake English people make by not watching closely and not listening carefully enough. I didn't argue but wonder if this is a regional exception.

Anyway, I compare that to how I learned English where v starts with top teeth touching top of bottom lip

and b starts with top lip starting by touching the top of the bottom lip.

I came away with this observation: the b and v in, at least their Spanish, sound as a closer pair of sounds than the English b/v pair. If I think of the English b as 0 and the English v as 10, the Spanish b is 2 or 3 and the Spanish v is 7 or 8. Same general difference but more subtle than the English b/v pair.

I suspect that, since I was talking with native Ticos that this may not be true for all immigrants to Costa Rica.