My girlfriend speaks English as her third language, but not yet fluently.
Her vocabulary is quite extensive, especially due to the fact that she reads a lot (fiction and non-fiction) and regularly watches movies and news channels in english.
The main problem she's facing is that she can't stop translating too literally from her mother tongue (namely Armenian). I've noticed at least three patterns that lead her to make mistakes:
- Wrong use of prepositions. For example she often says "look on" for "look at".
- Wrong use of verbs. For example she would use "enter" in lieu of "get in", "stop by", "visit", etc.
- Wrong word order. E.g. putting the subject after the verb in a statement, failing to invert or use the auxiliary "do" in questions.
All the phrases that sound awkward (or plain ungrammatical) would make prefect sense in her mother tongue if translated back literally. Also, she knows she is making a mistake and no matter how many times I correct her, she can't help but make the same mistake again.
If she still manages to convey the meaning of her sentences when speaking, things worsen when she has to write something (say a report for her classes). In this latter case it's difficult to find a phrase that makes complete sense or at least that doesn't sound odd.
To come to the point, I'm looking for tools and techniques to overcome these difficulties and improve her fluency.
The first thing that would come to my mind is to increase her exposure to the language but, as I said, she already reads in and listens to English a lot. We also communicate in English with each other and we live in a country where English is not the first language, but is more or less everywhere spoken at a decent level.
Edit (after reading the comments): from my question it might appear that she's in the process of learning English as a new language. Rather the opposite: she learnt it many years ago, probably taught by incompetent teachers. The errors sedimented and now form habits that are difficult to break. That's why I say that she knows she's wrong, but she keeps making the same mistakes over again. My question would then be: are there techniques apt to change these automatic behaviours when speaking and writing?