Fads and fashions come and go. What’s in vogue one day may be out the next. Hence the expression, “XXX is the old YYY.” For example, “the 70′s are the new 60′s” (for active seniors), “sushi is the new hotdog” (for cuisine), and “brown is the new black” (for fashion).
What if I want to reduce my accent? Definitely “listen and repeat” is passé. (For those of us who are former French students, does ‘ecouter and repeter’ sound hauntingly familiar?)
Twenty years ago, when I was learning French and desperately wanted to lose my accent, I learned the fundamental process for accurate pronunciation. I had my first phonology course and learned that making sounds that don’t exist in your native language is a process. And it’s one that requires a lot of focus and attention. The process involves becoming very aware of the position of your lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, etc. in relation to each other. For example, to make the ‘v’ sound, your top teeth should touch your lower lip. To make the ‘k’ sound, the mid-section of your tongue needs to touch the roof of your mouth. Of course we don’t bring together the two parts and then leave them there indefinitely; we quickly release them and move on to making the next sound in the word.
In order to help our students learn English pronunciation, our instructors demonstrate where one part of the mouth needs to make contact with another. Then our instructors hold the two parts together for three or four seconds. This is not to emphasize the sound. Rather, it’s to help our students become aware of what it FEELS like when, for example, the tongue touches the gum ridge (the ‘d’ sound) or the lips touch each other (the ‘p’ sound). Our instructors use this no-fail strategy in each and every one of our accent reduction courses. Being mindful of what it feels like to make a new sound is a key step in the language acquisition process.