What is the shadowing technique?
Speech shadowing is a pretty interesting learning technique.
It consists of the following steps:
- listening to someone speak in the language you’re learning;
- repeating exactly what they said;
- using the same words and grammar;
- imitating the pronunciation and intonation.
As you can see, this doesn’t require much active effort. In fact, listening is a relatively passive skill.
However, when you practice speech shadowing, your brain is processing a lot of information. It’s absorbing new words, grammar rules, and sounds.
So, in the end, it’s being very active and productive.
If you want to make it more active, you could just go for a walk while listening to an audio recording in the language you want to learn.
Walking keeps you mentally alert and, in this case, helps ensure that you really focus on the language you’re listening to.
Do I need to have an advanced level to practice speech shadowing?
You don’t need to have an advanced level to practice speech shadowing.
In fact, this is an extremely useful technique for beginners.
Think of babies and young children. How do they learn?
They, of course, don’t understand a word of what’s being said when they’re a few months old, but after a few months and little by little they end up becoming fluent native speakers.
When people move to a new country and they don’t speak the native language, they first struggle but with time they pick up the language.
So, you might not understand everything the first day you practice speech shadowing, but give it a few months and you’ll definitely improve your listening skills.
How can I practice speech shadowing?
The best way to practice speech shadowing is by listening to reliable sources.
If you’re working on Italian, these are some sources you could listen to:
You’ll quickly go through a lot of new words and expressions, and learn the language without even realizing it.
To learn more, check our review of Ripeti con Me.
Here’s an important tip: you should not look up grammar rules or the meaning of the words you heard until you repeat the audio several times.
You don’t necessarily have to understand the whole audio. Understanding a part of it is great!
You will be able to develop a better understanding over time, with practice, patience, and perseverance.
Does language shadowing work?
There’s no doubt that language shadowing works.
Of course, only using this technique is not enough.
If your goal is to learn or improve your Italian, then you have to work on different skills, as well as grammar, and vocabulary.
Language shadowing should be a supplementary learning technique.
Having said that, language shadowing works because this way you’re not only practicing your listening skills but you’re also improving your speaking skills.
Your brain is doing a huge effort to differentiate, understand, and imitate the sounds you’re actively listening to.
This means your brain is definitely multi-tasking. So, well done!
What are the benefits of the speech shadowing technique?
Speech shadowing helps you improve your listening skills
This may sound pretty obvious: if you’re listening of course that you’re practicing your listening skills.
However, this involves so many different aspects such as improving your understanding, picking up new words, and grammar rules.
Speech shadowing helps you improve your speaking skills
The first step of speech shadowing is listening.
However, the goal is to imitate what you heard, so you end up improving your speaking skills.
If you want to work on your speaking skills, we recommend our post about speaking practice.
Speech shadowing helps you improve your pronunciation
When you practice speech shadowing, you focus on listening to the language instead of, say, reading it.
When you listen to how a word sounds instead of reading its spelling, you inevitably end up improving your pronunciation.
Also, you can grasp the accent and intonation of the language you’re learning.
Speech shadowing helps you improve your vocabulary
Think about this: in a 10-minute speech, there are more or less 1,300 words.
Just imagine how much you can learn with just 10 minutes!
Now, imagine if you practice speech shadowing every single day!
To make it even more effective, you could write down those words you liked the most or found useful.
Speech shadowing helps you become more fluent
Since you’re basically imitating a native speaker speaking at a normal pace, you’ll certainly improve your fluency.
You’ll first learn how to imitate a native speaker’s speech. But with time, you’ll be able to say common expressions when having a spontaneous conversation.
Speech shadowing helps you pick up grammar rules
When we are repeatedly exposed to oral language, our mind starts processing all the grammar and sentence structure.
So, involuntarily we start framing the sentences the same way.
Think of yourself as a child who’s starting to speak a new language.
Like them, you’ll structure your own sentences by following structures you’re used to listening to.
Please note that speech shadowing means repeating what you hear, whoever the subject of the sentence is. That’s different from reported speech.