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My wife is a native Spanish speaker. I'm a native English speaker. At home we speak both languages nearly interchangeably. But now she has a job speaking English.

How can I most effectively help her improve her pronunciation in English?

It's common that during a conversation, she'll mis-pronounce a word, and I'll interrupt her with a correction. She appreciates these corrections, and doesn't consider the interruptions as "rude", but I fear it's not an effective teaching method (in part because she tends to make the same mistakes repeatedly).

Regardless of the language involved, how can I, as a language "tutor", help someone improve pronunciation in the most effective way(s)?

  • Is -the exact- pronunciation really important? I mean i have a similar situation and my wife has a funny and well understandable pronunciation. – Medi1Saif Apr 7 '16 at 6:12
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    She wants to improve. Is that not enough reason? – Flimzy Apr 7 '16 at 6:21
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    She has other hurdles, too, and I will ask other questions about those. – Flimzy Apr 7 '16 at 6:27
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    @Medi1Saif The primary use of a language is to communicate, and to communicate in various situations, including a professional environment where "funny" might not be the most interesting feature. – Laure Apr 7 '16 at 8:48
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    Please leave comments for improving the posts. On-going discussions should be moved to chat. – Flimzy Apr 7 '16 at 9:18
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It's important first to determine what difficulties she has with pronunciation. It could be:

  • Difficulty producing English phonemes that don't exist in the L1.
  • Difficulty remembering how certain words are pronounced, especially when the spelling is confusing.
  • Difficulty using English intonation and stress patterns.
  • Difficulty producing certain phonemes together, especially in complex consonant clusters.

Although each of these can be dealt with in different ways, for each one the learner will benefit a lot from continued exposure and continued use of the spoken language. The more she hears, the more familiar she'll be with the sounds and words of English, and she'll gradually start producing those sounds and words more accurately.

If the problem is with pronouncing the sounds of the language, then watching and imitating pronunciation-focused videos can be helpful - there are many available on youtube. Also, becoming familiar with phonetics and looking at mouth-organ diagrams for various phonemes can be helpful.

If the problem is with learning incorrect pronunciation because of confusing spelling, there are some answers here.

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One thing that helps a lot towards improving one's pronunciation is knowing how a sound is produced, what phonatory organs are involved and how to place those. With a willing adult you can try a scientific approach. Here is what I personally find a very good tool (I'm aware others might disagree) on the site of the University of Iowa, insofar as it has diagrams and videos. It is apparently being refurbished but seemingly available on a smartphone ; unfortunately I haven't been able to test this new version but if someone has/does it might be a good idea to tell us what they think.

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In many approaches in TESOL, there is a big push away from "correct" pronunciation as this is context specific. What is really important to many is comprehensibility. If people are able to understand what you are saying, this is an acceptable level of pronunciation for many.

If there is still a need to develop better pronunciation. An alternative to you constantly correcting your wife would be to use some form of technology that will do this for you. There are many different types of software that help with speaking skills.

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