Karen Van Hook, Ph.D.

About Karen Van Hook

I have a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California at San Diego. For seven years I was an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I’ve written and published several books and articles on English (my last name is spelled “van Hoek” on those publications). I’m a member of VASTA, the Voice and Speech Trainers’ Association.

I have 16 years’ experience in accent reduction. Clients I have worked with have included speakers of Chinese, French, Igbo, Korean, Polish, Hindi, Russian, Japanese, Czech, Portuguese, German, Farsi, Ewe, Spanish, Italian, Thai, Ga, Arabic, Urdu, and many other languages.

My Philosophy

I want clients to feel empowered: to discover their ability to master the sounds of American English and to sculpt their accent into the sound they want. My role is to facilitate the process by providing techniques, information and feedback to help clients unlock and refine their abilities.

I believe that it’s important to take an integrated approach: not merely to provide information on individual sounds such as “th” or “r”—though we do work on individual sounds in great detail—but to set that work in the larger context. Clients explore the bigger picture of the American sound: where the sound is located in the body, how the muscles in the mouth, tongue and throat shape the sound, and how it feels to speak with American rhythm and tone of voice.

Accurate, clear information is a high priority. I explain everything clearly and give clients the tools to understand exactly what they need to do and why. I don’t believe in giving clients watered-down or oversimplified information. Some accent reduction books and programs give students a “ballpark idea” of how to produce each sound but leave out crucial details. A learner could follow the instructions in those books and still mispronounce the sounds. I believe in giving clients all the details: exactly what native speakers are doing with the tongue, lips, throat etc. I work with clients in depth, helping them to identify and correct errors at any level.