I'm writing my MA thesis which is
to create a program through internet/intranet to help
students like those I taught to improve their
pronunciation. I'm trying to find a possible and
practical way or method.
My first advice to E2L students is to direct them to the online sound
files. Encarta, AHD4 and the University of Pennsylvania have such
Encarta and AHD have very slick, very professional voices, while
U.Penn is closer to English as she is spoke (i.e., their speaker is
consistently inconsistent, as normal 'General American' is; compare
wok and walk), whereas the other two can be called 'citation English',
i.e., the kind of English only a trained voice can manage.
These only do individual words, unfortunately. This, of course, gives
no information on how English modifies pronunciation in word clusters,
but it is **considerably** better than nothing.
Of course, the student has to be carefully instructed and often,
*shown* how to make certain sounds.
True story. Twice in my life, I've explained to a fluent non-native
speaker exactly how the English th-sound (edh, thorn) is made: they
had never had this explained to them (it did take a bit of
demonstration), but can be stated as 'make an F by flicking your
tongue against your upper teeth' (and yes, certain dialects of English
do seem to confuse certain occurances of /th/ with /f/).
The usual American English values of L and R, of course, are much much
harder to explain, and this is where much of the problem occurs. In
fact, I am unable to explain exactly what I do when I make my Rs. The
phoneticians themselves (as I think Piotr will agree) have never been
able to write a plain paragraph on the topic that any native-speaker
of English untrained in phonology would immediately understand.
With China, the biggest problem is the 'Great FireWall of China',
where everything is censored by very poorly educated apparatchiks.