I Interviewed a World Leading Linguistics Professor Who Speaks *Phenomenal* Chinese and Has Designed a Technique to Help **Everyone** Acquire a Near Native Accent. What She Told Met Blew My Mind Into a Thousand Pieces!
I haven't listened to the podcast episode but from what I've seen in the comments, it appears to be a method also used by Idahosa Ness, that is, echoic memory. You guys should check out the Mimic Method (https://www.mimicmethod.com/). Some of it is a bit bland, but ultimately it has a lot of useful resources and it is free! His mini-course on Audacity was great and I am currently using some of his methods to approach Norwegian.
So I have been keeping up with this, around 5-10 minutes a day, and I still not sure how impactful it has been for me as I am not the best at hearing subtle differences in my own speech.
But... fun anecdote. I went to an æbleskive breakfast yesterday, and on the way taught my wife how to say æbleskive and a few sentences that may be "useful" (everyone speaks English). Well even in a 10 minute ride I could hear how much better her pronunciation was. Nogle was still the hardest by far.
The difference between this and simply shadowing or parroting was significant for her. With shadowing there was never any improvement I could hear, and I think the difference is forcing that time to think about what is being said/heard.
I enjoyed this podcast quite a bit as well as the shorter one with Jeff Pepper / graded readers.
I thought for sure Karen was a native Chinese speaker. She reminds me a lot of my Mom, although I think Karen is closer in age to me. My Mom was a professional singer and narrator and is now 82, but she still sounds like a 35 year old with lots of energy on the phone.
Small world too! Our first daughter was born in St Paul and we became good friends with a Chinese immersion school teacher there. Also, a couple of my serious first languages were German and Spanish, just like Karen's.
I chuckled a little bit thinking about what her partner must go through. Are you listening to me or are you rehearsing what you're about to say!
I think the Echo Method is genius. I took the practice drill along with Mischa while listening to the podcast and definitely felt stronger waiting for the echo as opposed to jumping in quickly. I'm going to apply this to Japanese.
Thanks for listening. Yes Karen is very insightful and was great to talk to. Her echo method is very original and different to methods I've used in the past for improving my accent. I can see that it could be very effective.
"It's interesting, thank you"
In case anyone is interested, the TED talk mentioned is available on LingQ (traditional) https://www.lingq.com/en/learn/zh-t/web/reader/5907104
Professor Karen Chung has some excellent points, her method is very practical, I like it. I'm not so familiar with the echoic memory, and I'm not sure I understand why it is better to wait to repeat, instead of repeating right away; but I will definitely give it a try.
This whole approach reminds me of Scott H. Young who is a well-known productivity blogger. See for example: https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/04/03/practice-loop/ Some might also know his book "Ultralearning", in which he advocates self-directed learning based primarily on deliberate practice and feedback loops. The book is available in Chinese as well, I am reading the Taiwanese Mandarin version here on LingQ, it is called "超速學習".
I believe the role of deliberate practice is, in the realm of physical activities and especially in the field of sports hardly controversial. For some reason, it doesn't seem to be universally accepted in the realm of "mental activities".
In general, I think there is a human tendency to prefer the easy to the difficult, the fuzzy-warm to the hyperborean, the immersion to the practice.
This is especially likely to become problematic if we are engaged in an activity that involves failures and possibly embarrassment, as is the case with language learning. Avoidance behavior is a potential consequence, this can lead to one's never properly developing certain skills like, "getting the tones right" or improving one's accent. I will be the first to admit that I am very much guilty of that myself. For example, English is a language I know quite well - I claim to read it with pleasure and understanding. In fact, I have read more English than German in my life. Writing, however is another thing altogether; most likely due to a lack of practice, I struggle quite a bit. Definitely one reason for writing here in the forum is to practice my English. I hope you'll forgive me, but I for one do not believe in progress without practice.
I am aware that Peter has written extensively about the avoidance problem in the past, so I don't want to harp on this. But my point is that I believe this might be another reason why people resign themselves to their accents, at least once they become comprehensible to native speakers.
By the way, a suggestion Mischa, if possible could you get yourself a pop-filter for your microphone, I'm sure this would increase your podcasts's the production value :)
if possible could you get yourself a pop-filter for your microphone,
Great idea! Just placed an order for one on Amazon. Should arrive in time for my forthcoming interview with arguably the world's most famous language learner.
Regarding pop-filter, can you not just use software to achieve that filter effect (e.g. using OBS)? [I am ignorant on that matter, just asking]
With sound there are a lot things that have low tech, real world solutions that can be solved in software, but definitely not perfectly and not necessarily easily.
Pops from B's and P's are probably one of the easier things to solve in editing or OBS, but the audio might sound weird and pop filters are like $10.
Ich habe das hier gefunden und es sagte:
- Die Beseitigung von Knacklauten (auch bekannt als Plosive)
- Die Begrenzung des Speichelkontakts mit dem Mikrofon
An "Speichelkontakt mit dem Mikrofon" habe ich nie gedacht, und wünsche, es bleibte so.
"I believe the role of deliberate practice is, in the realm of physical activities and especially in the field of sports hardly controversial. For some reason, it doesn't seem to be universally accepted in the realm of "mental activities". (@)
Hard to say, but I've two guesses here:
1) We often apply variations of "deliberate practice" without knowing that we do. For example, when
- using an SRS for memorizing medical, legal, technical, etc. facts or for SLA
- learning how to program
- doing small math, IT, engineering exercises
- playing an instrument
2) The problem is that schools, at least in Germany, don't seem to talk about "spaced repetition-based learning", "deliberate practice", etc. very much. Therefore, my teenage students (and their parents) were still completely "old school" when it came to effective and efficient learning techniques.
This situation changes when students enter university and find that their usual learning styles are no longer sufficient, esp. in law, medicine, and the "harder" sciences (IT, engineering, etc.). Therefore, my adult students (in companies) with an academic background were far more sophisticated learners...
However, people need this knowledge earlier (say when they're 10-12 years old). It's much too late if they acquire this knowledge only in their early twenties - or never.
Nice Sunday to y'all
"Writing, however is another thing altogether; most likely due to a lack of practice"
That's true for any language. including L1(s).
In other words, even native speakers tend to write very poorly if they don't practice writing.
In short, "(oral) fluency first" doesn't automatically produce good writers.
College in the US is where not learning effective methods haunts people. For most people High School is "free" and does not require a lot of active study. They simply get the gist, without any of the nuance, but never learn that need to do things deliberately.
Then they get to college and don't understand why they are getting C's, and why there are always these challenging topics at the end of the course.
With language learning, and any "mental activity", there needs to be some deliberate effort put in, at least if you want to get really good.
I think the trap some fall into is they choose an L2 that is near to their own, so they get a lot "for free", pick a method to get them through the intermediate stages like R+L, and then for a long time can feel like they are making progress without the need to practice.
Learning really boils down to:
- Being made aware of the thing and any "pitfalls". -- This can be done by a teacher, by someone not understanding you, reading about it online, etc., etc., etc.
- Practicing the thing. -- Practice it so much that you want to vomit, but not all at once.
My accents are "pretty good", but have started using "A Scandal in Bohemia" to use the echo method and hopefully to make them that much better. I chose this because it is translated into any TL I could want, I could recite it in my sleep in English (well almost), I tend to like narrators, and the translations retain the more complicated grammar Sherlock uses (which the narrators say effortlessly).
"With language learning, and any "mental activity", there needs to be some deliberate effort put in, at least if you want to get really good."
Yes, if I translate this insight into my lingo then I'd say:
"Higher learning is always associated with (a bit of) discomfort.
Unfortunately, many people strive for completely effortless learning."
"College in the US is where not learning effective methods haunts people."
However, it depends on the disciplines:
Having effective and efficient learning methods is a nice-to-have in the humanities and the social sciences. But it's a must-have in the fast-paced IT world, for example. If you aren't an effective and efficient learner in IT, esp. in SW engineering, you'll probably have no future in IT at all.
"It's interesting, thank you"
"I disagree because"
"My method is..."
"No, all is input"
"Who are you comparing to this professor"
"You know, Matt said that..."
Something about Dunning-Kruger
"No, all is output"
Something about how our brain works
"All right, all right, partly I agree"
"It all depends on one's goals after all"
Lol. Too true.
I disagree because the only thing controversial about this post is the title. But I guess something like "I talked to a professor about how to best acquire a native-like accent" doesn't please the LingQ algorithm as much. Something about our brains loves to get involved when it becomes a religious discussion.
Haha yeah, no sorry. I tried posting sensible titles for months and nobody here knew my podcast existed. So this is what you're getting now lol.
I also like how deeply buried under 40 posts, someone will ask something like "Hey Steve, do you agree with this guy; should will generally be speaking before or after A2"--as if their subscription includes a genie in a bottle, multi-millionaire who owns several businesses, father/grandfather combing through every post, poised and ready to answer any and all of our questions at a moment's notice. The naivete is kind of sweet though. A few years ago, Steve used to read and participate in the forums a lot more than he does now.
Doesn't require getting a Chinese girlfriend as part of the method, so eh why not give it a try.
The top level strat would be to get a Chinese girlfriend, then repeat everything they say on a 5 second delay!
Hm, nice idea.
But why mistreat your Chinese girlfriend when you can buy a talking parrot (say an "African Grey": https://beakcraze.com/how-many-words-can-a-parrot-learn/) that can not only learn the 1000 most frequent words in Chinese, but also imitate a Chinese doorbell (at which a girlfriend will probably have to admit defeat)?
And the main advantage is:
The parrot will repeat these words over and over and over.... until he dies.
In this sense, it will work as an SRP, i.e. a spaced-repetition-parrot :-)
I like the idea! But who teaches the parrot the 1000+ words so it can teach me? Do I buy used or does the Chinese girlfriend do that?
The "procedure" is as follows:
1) Mine sentences (Michilini and Refold style) that are highly relevant to your conversational fluency.
2) Ask your Chinese girlfriend to train the parrot with the mined sentences (ca. 5 a day).
Et voilà, after 200 days, you'll have a fully trained parrot with perfect (but limited) fluency in Chinese,
Of course, you should give it a break from time to time: let's say 1 day off every 3 days. So the whole procedure will take a bit longer.
BTW, it would be good (to increase the dehabitualizing shock value) to include some interesting sounds like "doorbells", "smartphone vibrations" etc. Hearing them, esp. in the early morning hours on weekends, could be an unforgettable experience, don't you think?
However, I'm against mistreating girlfriends and parrots. Therefore, we probably need an AI for Chinese: a kind of ELSA SPEAKS MANDARIN (one with the correct CCP ideology and another one with the correct anti-CCP ideology).
The English version is already available. See: https://www.dell.com/en-us/perspectives/ai-app-helps-non-native-english-speakers-ace-pronunciation/
Kudos to ELSA founder Vu Van, but we need something similar for as many languages as possible!
Ergo, a best-of-both worlds approach would be:
- Let the AI take care of the big data.
- Let the spaced-repetition-parrot take care of small data, i.e. sounds that really matter in our lives such as doorbells, smartphone vibrations (which give you the illusion of an Internet connection, even if the connection has just been interrupted), screaming boy- or girlfriends, etc.
And the next evolutionary step is probably not "Homo Deus" (Y.N. Harari), but "Parrot Deus" (the AI-enhanced version of the SRP).
However, the basic SRP-version is only for the so-called "free world". For the CCP, there will be a "Parrot Deus" with advanced surveillance technology integrated.
This is gonna be a relapse of the famous movement.
Epic LOLOLOLOL. +1000
Joking aside, a few years ago I had the idea of whether the differences of plants could be converted into human language with the help of AI.
When I mentioned this on Twitter, a guy (I think from Down Under) said he was already working on such a project.
So, why don't we use this for language learning?
I mean, the real fun starts when "Parrot Deus" meets PPs ("Polyglot Plants")
- and "silence" in our houses/apartments is no more :-)
Has anyone tried such a pronunciation assessment service? I'm unfamiliar with Dell's offer, but since I'm in the process of trying various transcription services, I have access to Microsoft Azure's "Speech Services" which include a pronunciation assessment tool.
Follow this link for more information:
They have English (various), Spanish, French, German and Mandarin Chinese. I might give it a try tomorrow.
Would be good to know if such a tool could actually play a part in the language learning process.
Just to get back to you, I have tried it now and it works basically as advertised. All the important information is on the MS website already. For the purpose of demonstration I hesitantly offer my own example. Today being July 4th, I gave my interpretation of an American accent. Microsoft seems to think I did a pretty good job. But I would prefer if my pronunciation / accent didn't become a topic...
The system breaks words down into syllables and phonemes, each get an accuracy score; the details can be found in the JSON file. To be perfectly honest, I don't really know what to do with this information and how to act on it, but it's certainly good to have it. The "fluency score" doesn't get broken down, so I don't know how that is made up, I did notice that I had to read pretty fast to get that number up.
Some limitations I encountered: the website "Speech Studio" seems to be limited in regard to the length of the audio, at least for me it didn't process anything after 40 seconds or so. Annoyingly Azure accepts only uncompressed .WAV audio files. Those can get pretty big which combined with the German Internet results in long upload times, failed uploads etc. Maybe it's designed for small inputs only? This system is probably best used via the API, if anyone is interested there are various code samples available:
Here is the JSON output:
Here is the input audio (low quality, sorry):
The input text is from the Microsoft website.
Hope this helps, if there is more interest in these services, it might be best to create a new thread for more visibility.
Thanks for testing Azure's Speech Services and sharing your results / experiences with us!
We should definitely open a new thread for this topic where we can not only discuss other AI pronunciation tools, but also human-based pronunciation evaluations, for example in "Speechling".
Great podcast thank you! I think Karen's echo method is really interesting - I'm going to try it out.
Thanks Essie glad you liked it :)