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A friend was asking me why there aren't any programs that can analyze a user's pronunciation of words and then give feedback/suggestions.

Indeed, given an accurate phonetic transcription of a predetermined set of words, determining if a user's pronunciation of each word is standard/correct — or, say, determining someone's regional accent — should be trivial.

However, my sense was that Automatic Phonetic Transcription (APT) is not nearly accurate enough to analyze a user's pronunciation in that way — though my knowledge is about 10 years out of date.

Still, it made me wonder: even if APT of spontaneous speech does have a low accuracy — in a context where each expected word (and even possible alternate pronunciations) is known ahead of time, would accuracy conceivably high enough to give a user feedback on pronunciation?

Edit: arjan pointed out that Rosetta Stone claims to be able to give pronunciation feedback; how does such a system work (and how well)?

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    I don't know how accurate it is, but Rosetta Stone offers it in a commercial product, so it must have at least some merit. From their website: "Our exclusive speech-recognition software monitors your pronunciation – every syllable, word and sentence – and offers instant, feedback." (link). A problem with this (promotion of a commercial product) may be a lack of published and verifiable findings - or are there? – arjan Jan 10 '12 at 23:46
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True automatic transcription is still nonexistent, unfortunately. The closest thing that I know of is this thing called Blitzscribe, which seems to be reasonably accurate (88–94%). This is what was/is used in the Human Speechome Project, which is also very interesting.

Here are some sources for further reading: The Study on the success of Blitzscribe and Ted Talk by Deb Roy, the guy who started the Human Speechome Project

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