The Art of Shadowing

Shadowing is the process of learning a language by mimicking natural speakers. It helps new learners improve and integrate pronunciation and intonation. Most people use shadowing instinctively when...

Shadowing is the process of learning a language by mimicking natural speakers. It helps new learners improve and integrate pronunciation and intonation. Most people use shadowing instinctively when they’re learning a new tongue, but following a proper method can help. Here’s a brief look at what this process is and how it works:

What Is Shadowing?

Speech shadowing is an advance learning technique where a student listens to a model carefully before repeating what they are saying, exactly as they say it. The idea is to mimic every word, every sound, and even a model’s cadence as accurately as possible. Shadowing is very different from older techniques like listen-pause-repeat because it emphasizes on speed rather than accuracy.

Don’t worry about meanings; focus entirely on the sound of the words. Learners should repeat words immediately after hearing them, without pausing for even a second. This technique does wonders for a  non-native’s enunciations and confidence; it helps them sound like a natural speaker.

How to Use the Technique

While speech shadowing sounds easy, it can be quite challenging. You will stumble, make mistakes, and frequently take long pauses. There’s something in our brain that resists repeating words right after we hear them. We want to contemplate words for a moment before saying them. Overcoming this barrier is tough, but it is possible with some practice. Here’s a look at this technique:

1. Tools Needed

  • An audio or video player
  • Good-quality headphones that deliver clear audio
  • Shadowing material like audio clips, speeches, or YouTube videos
  • A quiet place to rehearse
  • Transcripts of the text (optional)

2. Method

  • Find a comfortable and quiet space before playing the text. 
  • Give yourself a moment to become familiar before replaying it. 
  • Repeat what’s being said along with your clip. 
  • Speak loudly enough to be audible over the clip. 
  • Match accent, speed, and cadence. 
  • Use transcripts if necessary. 
  • Keep at it until you’re confident and understand what the text says. 

Keep experimenting with different texts every day until you’re entirely comfortable with L2 sounds. It is easy to find text material online. Students can use podcasts, cartoons, historical speeches, TEDTalks, movies, audiobooks, etc. Pull from a diverse range of materials but be mindful of different accents and dialects. Shadowing will become very complicated if you’re learning multiple accents or dialects simultaneously.

How to Get the Most Out of Shadowing

Just repeating what the native speaker model says isn’t enough. Language learning isn’t a solitary affair, so students need to get out and interact with other speakers. Engage in conversations, seek out immersive environments, and look for stimuli even when you’re not shadowing.

For example, keep a podcast playing in the background or listen to L2 music while jogging. This helps learners absorb a language fully, which improves overall proficiency. Students sound very natural and comfortable after learning a new tongue with this technique. As you listen to more material, you’ll develop better vocabulary, grammar, and become more confident.

LanG.
The Language Garden is for anyone who loves learning foreign languages. We get together every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00pm-9:00pm to practice speaking various languages.