Karen Van Hook, Ph.D.

News, Articles & Sample Lessons

Learning a New Accent is Like Driving on the Other Side of the Road (except less dangerous)

When you learn a new accent, you learn new muscle habits: new ways of moving the tongue and jaw and lips, new ways of using the muscles in the throat. Of course, the habits of our first accent are very deeply rooted. It’s very important to understand: we can’t expect the new habits to become automatic instantly. Speaking with our first accent is so automatic that it feels as if we’re not doing anything at all. Naturally, we want the new accent to feel effortless as well—and it can. But we need to take a step back and give the new accent a chance to get established.

The first time I went to the United Kingdom, I thought that driving on the left side of the road should feel just like driving on the right—except, of course, that it would be “mirror image”. I actually studied before our trip: I learned UK traffic signs and road markings, and I watched youtube videos of “dash cam” footage from the UK, to get used to how things would look on the left. I thought I was very well prepared. But the first few days of driving on the left were a nightmare.

Online Workshops for Japanese Speakers

I’m now doing online intensive workshops for small groups of native Japanese speakers. Information in Japanese is available at this link.  Information in English continues below.


Schedule a Free Consultation Now

Schedule a free half-hour meeting online or in my office. We will evaluate your pronunciation and talk about your goals. No obligation.

When is a Foreign Accent an Asset?

Some speakers of English as a foreign language want to retain aspects of their own accents, and there are good reasons for them to do so. The key is knowing when and how a foreign accent becomes an advantage.

American Accent Setting: Foundation for an excellent accent.

Some accent reduction programs focus only on correcting individual sounds. Why a more comprehensive, integrated approach gets you better results.

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