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!

Link to podcast: How to Achieve a Near Native Chinese Accent with Professor Karen Chung (Podcast) – I'm Learning Mandarin

On today’s podcast, I chat with a very distinguished guest. Someone who has designed a technique she believes can help learners of any language achieve near native accents.

Professor Karen Chung from the USA has lived in Taiwan for more than 30 years and for most of that time has worked as a linguistics professor at the National Taiwan University.

We explore how her own language learning journey inspired her ‘echo method’ for mimicking native speech. We also discuss why she disagrees with conventional language learning opinion which argues accents don’t matter as long as we can more or less make ourselves understood.

She also kindly agreed to give me a brief demonstration of her method to help improve my own Mandarin accent. Check out the podcast here:


Great podcast thank you! I think Karen’s echo method is really interesting - I’m going to try it out.


Expected comments:

“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.


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.


In case anyone is interested, the TED talk mentioned is available on LingQ (traditional) Login - LingQ

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: Designing the Perfect Practice Loop - Scott H Young 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 :slight_smile:


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.


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.

Stay. Tuned.

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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.

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!


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]

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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
    Was ist ein Pop-Filter?

An “Speichelkontakt mit dem Mikrofon” habe ich nie gedacht, und wünsche, es bleibte so.


Thanks Essie glad you liked it :slight_smile:

Hm, nice idea.

But why mistreat your Chinese girlfriend when you can buy a talking parrot (say an “African Grey”: How Many Words Can A Parrot Learn? – Beak Craze) 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 :slight_smile:


"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”. (@bamboozled)
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
  1. 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.

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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?


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).