g2narat

How do you correct someone's pronunciation politely?

Recommended Posts

For me the first thing that I do is to determine how well do I know the person oand vice versa. If it's a close friend I would definitely tell him/her right away without hesitation. We do that all the time. We correct each others' mistakes whether pronunciation, spelling, grammar etc. if it's someone I do not know, or just an acquaintance, I wouldn't correct them because I don't know how they will take it. They might get offended even though your intention is good. So I guess it really depends on the scenario or who you wanted to correct.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If a person is learning a language, then one would assume that they want to learn how to speak the language correctly, otherwise, what's the point?  A good teacher has to correct a student, even if that student is a friend.

You just have to be tell your friend that you care about how he is learning languages, and that you want to make sure that he is speaking correctly when speaking to someone.  He should be open to being corrected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Correcting people is always an awkward situation because if you do it wrong, the person will become offended and stop speaking. And that's worse than him/her making mistakes. So, my advice is...

1. Ask him for permission, nicely and gently. Maybe even drop a compliment while you are asking. If he says yes, then you know he's open to corrections and agreeing to them.

2. Be subtle. Sometimes you can do a correction by just using the same word in a reply but pronounced the right way. Just drop it casually into whatever you are saying as if you didn't know he made a mistake.

3. Don't correct everything. That's like getting your essay back from the teacher covered in red ink. It's so depressing you forget the fact that learning can be fun. So, correct only what's necessary and only a bit at a time.

4. Don't correct in front of other people unless they are students too and you are correcting them as well. Otherwise, you risk embarrassing your friend and yourself and maybe even turning off the others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd probably ask him once if he wants to be corrected, and if he answers yes then only then would I start to correct his pronunciations. If he doesn't want it then I would let him have his way, but if it starts becoming tedious for me to try and understand, then I'd maybe just try and guess with the right pronunciation each time in hopes that he might get the hint and try to correct it.

This is something I would do myself. If I notice an error with someone's pronunciation, I normally just ask in the guise of a hypothetical question. What if you said something wrongly, would you want a person to point it out to you? If the answer is positive, then I'll go ahead with making the correction. Otherwise, I would just let it slide. But normally, when I do ask the question I readily get a "why? did i say something wrong?' The question itself already serves as a hint to the person who mispronounced the word.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just do it with a smile on your face, not the kind of smile that would make him feel like you're making fun of him, but rather one that will give him the right impression, that you simply want to help him out to improve his pronunciation so that people can understand him easier. Don't over-do it though, one might not like being corrected too often. It all depends on how he is as a person.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well hopefully you being friends should make it a little easier, if he's sensitive about that kind of thing just make sure to put it gently and explain that you understand he's really eager to learn, so you want him to learn properly. Sometimes you could just repeat the word/phrase that he pronounced improperly, in the correct way...like how you sometimes repeat or rephrase something to indicate that you're listening? Or add your own thought to the end of it? That way he hears the correct way to pronounce it without feeling like he's being corrected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know how it is to not know how to politely correct someone when it comes to pronunciation or even the spelling of a word. I'm especially more-so at unease when I'm correcting someone trying to learn English. I keep worrying that I'm going to come off rude rather than polite and it sometimes gets me in trouble.

In the end, if it's a person I know offline, I'll just politely tell them that their pronunciation is wrong and show them the right one. I'll let the cards fall where they may after that. On the other hand, I'm a total scatter brain when I need to correct someone online. I think it's because I don't know them personally.

Either way, the best way to teach anyone is to correct them if they truly want to learn the language. I've found that most people don't find it rude; which is good because I keep getting worried about stepping on people's toes online.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let him know your intention to help and properly explain to him that his pronounciations are wrong then tell him the correct one. I am pretty sure he will understand and will be grateful for your help. Don't worry if he'll get offend or something. You mentioned he is eager to learn so surely he will be thankful for being corrected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sometimes it can be overwhelming when you're being corrected occasionally, so knowing when to correct someone is also very important. Those words which are fairly frequent will be difficult to correct - no matter how many times you say it right, it just doesn't bear fruit. Once you've wrongly learnt something, your mind simply rebels. (We had a student who put the emphasis on the last syllable for every word he'd read in Greek - it was practically impossible to help him with accent). But correcting someone politely, in a normal tone, shouldn't be a problem, especially if that someone is a friend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As most people are saying, it's best to address it privately and simply ask if he would like you to correct his pronunciation. As a language learner, it is disheartening when people correct you all the time but it is really necessary to improve. And I'd rather improve than have my ego intact  :grin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a problem. My friend likes to try different languages, I like to teach him because he's such an eager student. The problem with that is that his pronunciation is all over the place. It's so tough to correct him because he gets so enthusiastic when speaking another language, not knowing people have a hard time understanding what he's saying because of his pronunciation. How do you deal with that?

I don't think he will mind as long as you do it for the sake of him learning the correct pronunciation. Without any sign of rudeness, just point out his mistake. You said you liked to teach him as he is an eager learner. So as his teacher, you should correct him just like a teacher would. I don't see any problem with it since that's what you're supposed to do as his teacher. He might even feel bad if others would correct him when all along he's been saying those words to you and you're not pointing it out to him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As long as you tell him nicely to slow down and offer to help him pronounce words, then there shouldn't be a problem. You just have to be nice about it, and also be encouraging. Say something like, "Hey, you're doing great! But, you need to pronounce this word like this...," and there shouldn't be an issue. If he's eager to learn, then he should take your suggestions kindly. I hope he wouldn't react angrily if you tell him politely. I can't imagine that he would. Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I assume you have your friend's best interest's at heart so the best approach would be to be open with him.Sit him down and let him know that you admire his enthusiasm but he has to correct his mistakes if he really wants to be perfect.Don't be judgmental as you will only succeed in making him prone to more mistakes. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice topic. I worked with a Korean woman that used to get mad at customers because they would ask her to repeat herself often. I also had a hard time understanding her at first, but I got used to it, and learned. I never pointed out when she pronounced something wrong or hit the wrong syllables. I think a lot of foreign speakers are going to sound different. They are never going to sound like native speakers. As long as they are doing pretty well, why frustrate them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whenever I am texting and someone misspell a word, I would normally send a message using the same word but with the correct spelling instead of telling the person directly that the word was incorrectly spelled. I think the same could be applied when having a conversation, just respond politely using the proper pronunciations, not making it too obvious that it's a correction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would tell him the things he is doing well.  If he is good at everything except pronunciation, I would start with that.  Then I would say, "we just need to work on your pronunciation a bit."   Then help him with it as you had planned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have a read of what I can say to correct them, “That’s great pal. You seem to be coming real hard on the language this days and that’s a very good sign. You see to be making significant progress more than any other person I know. However as you put a pin on that, we need to learn the language in a classy way that would charm and stern a native, alright? First we shall alter the pronunciation just a little bit, then we shall more on to some sweet phrases people are welcome to hear all the time. Alright?” Won’t this approach work? Remember I have taken out any instance of debasement that would agitate the learner and I have replaced that with an assurance, affirmation and congratulation of some sort. I think it would work this way. Any opinions?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally I think it's important to correct them. If they are learning a language then they need to show enough respect to the culture and the language to learn it right. Straightforward but polite is probably the best way. Like was mentioned up above slow him down and explain to him that you know he's excited to be learning which is a great thing but an important thing is for people to be able to understand what he's saying, and in order for that to happen he's going to have to try slowing down and taking a deep breath and let him know that when you catch him doing this you'll touch his arm on the elbow or some type of reminder that isn't necessarily verbal so it won't embarrass him that will be a reminder to him to slow down and take a deep breath and try his phrasing again. Also encourage him to encourage constructive criticism, when i'm signing something incorrectly I ask my D/deaf and hh friends to let me know, and in the Deaf world they are't so gentle but very shoot from the hip, but I appreciate it because I want to do this beautiful language justice and respect the people, the culture and the language enough to do it right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is really not that much of a problem. When he's speaking to you and you hear his pronunciation errors, just repeat it in the correct way as if it is a passing comment and then continue listening casually. He'll probably repeat it after you in the correct way and from then on he'll remember it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Correcting a person's pronunciation is like saying they got something between their teeth. You have to be really careful with what you say to avoid offending the person. But it's something you have to do to save the person from further embarrassment.

I've had friends correct my pronunciation before. I feel embarrassed for a while but it passes and it becomes something we can laugh about after.

Wanda Kaishin likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Law said:

This is really not that much of a problem. When he's speaking to you and you hear his pronunciation errors, just repeat it in the correct way as if it is a passing comment and then continue listening casually. He'll probably repeat it after you in the correct way and from then on he'll remember it.

I agree with this. It's a subtle way to tell someone they're wrong and allow them to see the mistake and correct them on their own. No one likes being told they're wrong so correcting someone's pronunciation can be a difficult situation to navigate. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If your friend is sensitive, one good way to phrase a correction would be to say, "Or, you could also say ..." And maybe keep using the correct pronunciation of the words? Just casually slip them into the conversation. I did the same thing with a friend of mine and quinoa. I went on and on about its benefits and how expensive it is. Pretty soon, my friend's saying it the way I prefer, and the whole thing stopped bugging me. Haha, manipulative much?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This could really offend someone if you do not know him well because trust me I've tried it and sometimes it turns out bad but hey it just might be the attitude of that person. I however have some tips on how to correct someones pronounciation politely.

Tell them  It's not pronounced like that and then you show them how but keep it kind don't make it like you are bragging about it, don't laugh either just give a good smile and that should be it, they shouldn't take it bad and if it is for a friend then you just tell that's not how it is how you are supposed to say that and then you show them but yeah if the person is a friend you shouldn't worry at all. Most of the people will appreciate why you corrected them in the future :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just say "hey you might be understood better if you say it like this". You probably shouldn't do what my dad does to me, which is laugh loudly, ask me to repeat what I just said in front of family or guests, mock me and encourage everyone to mock me for 5 minutes, laugh again and then correct me like he's teaching a 5 year old. Lawl. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If there's a mistake that they continuously make, it's not their native language and I know they're learning, then I'll just pick them up on it. Plus I'll let them know that I'm only telling them to help them out in the long run. Surely it's just easier to tell them flat out because as Zabina12 says, if they're a friend, they shouldn't find it offensive. They should take it as good constructive criticism from a native speaker. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now