What Is Shadowing And How Can It Make Over Your English
What is the primary goal of every English learner? To speak English fluently! What is the most intimidating skill in English learning? Speaking! Moreover, speaking clearly so that everyone can understand you is even more challenging! So how can you fix your pronunciation in English and acquire a desirable native accent? Practice the shadowing technique! Don't know what shadowing is and how it can improve your speaking? Then this article is a must-read for you!
What Is Shadowing In Language Learning
Perhaps, at some point in your life, you have heard that if you want to become a master in something, you should become a shadow of someone who has already succeeded in what you are interested in. Such a concept can also be applied to language learning because only dedication helps to make any skill proficient. And that is what the shadowing technique is about.
Shadowing is a popular language learning technique based on listening to a clip with desirable pronunciation or accent and repeating word for word aloud with as little delay as possible. Basically, the learner has to become a shadow of the speaker they choose.
Even though shadowing can't be determined as a new language-learning technique, it was popularized only in the 2000s. Back then, professor Alexander Arguelles, a professional linguist, and polyglot, introduced the shadowing technique to the audience of language learners. He created a series of videos explaining and demonstrating what shadowing was and how it worked.
The language enthusiast came up with shadowing to immerse people in the melody of the target language. Alexander Arguelles believes that the shadowing technique helps learners to focus on the correct sounds of the language and develop better pronunciation that reminds a native speaker. In addition, this method is beneficial for building natural cognitive connections with the language in your brain. So, as a result of practicing shadowing, your speech will be more fluent as you subconsciously memorize new vocabulary, grammar rules, and sentence structures by constantly listening to the audio.
Reasons Why This Language Technique Is Effective for English Learning
The shadowing technique is considered to be an advanced method for language learning. And the reason for that is not because it is difficult. The thing is that people start working on their pronunciation closer to the second half of their language-learning journey, especially when they learn English. Why? Because English is a complex language, the spelling and pronunciation of the words somewhat differ. So, to memorize how the words are written, learners tend to spell them in their minds with all the sounds from their native languages. For instance, Slavic English learners will voice every letter as they are in their native language in their head to write down the word "language."
However, shadowing in English should become a more common practice for beginners as it helps to make your speech more precise and more understandable for other people. So, what are the biggest benefits of the shadowing technique in learning English?
1. Articulation training
The ability to reproduce different sounds directly depends on articulation – how our tongue, lips, and face muscles move. But, if you think about it carefully, there are a lot of sounds in English that don't exist in your native language. So, your speech apparatus wasn't trained to produce them. That means you need to teach your facial muscles, lips, and tongue to move in how they can form sounds you want to pronounce. The only way to do it is to break the articulation patterns of your native language. And the perfect way to do that is shadowing in English. Think of a shadowing technique to learn English as gym sessions for your articulation. The more you practice, the better you get. Eventually, your mouth will give up and adjust to making the English language sounds with less effort.
2. Picking on the rhythm
Rhythm is one of the key components that makes excellent pronunciation in English. As a non-native English speaker, you need to understand the rhythm of the English language – when to stress some words and not to stress others. That will make you sound more natural and help reduce the picking of your native language patterns. Practicing shadowing will give you an understanding and develop a sense of which words should be and should not be stressed in the sentences.
3. Learning to link
On top of that, the spelling and pronunciation of the words are different in English. When you put words in sentences, they might sound even more different than by themselves. The reason for that is linking. People link words to make them easier to pronounce one after another without unnecessary pauses or inconvenient sounds gathering. Linking is a difficult thing to learn in theory. Of course, you can remember that "have to" can be pronounced as "hafta." However, in other cases, the rules can be less specific. So, shadowing is the best way to train your mouth to link words in English naturally. In no time, you will learn how to do it subconsciously without thinking of the rules. In speaking, there is no time for that.
4. Accent reduction
The main goal of a shadowing technique in learning English is to bring your speaking patterns closer to those typical for the native pronunciation of English sounds. Practicing shadowing regularly will benefit in reducing your native accent. Over time, it will be much more difficult for people to guess what country you are initially from or what your first language is. Accent reduction will help you speak more transparently and understand at all times.
Don't get us wrong, having a natural accent is not the end of the world. However, it can lead to miscommunication and some language errors that might be crucial. For instance, not being unable to distinguish long /i/ and short /i/ in words such as "beach" and "b*tch" can be a disaster. In the long term perspective, shadowing will save you from such awkward situations in the future.
5. Acquiring a native accent
The best outcome of practicing the shadowing technique in English is fully acquiring a native accent of your choice – American, British, or Australian. If you pick just one specific person for shadowing, you can gain a local accent from one of the US states or United Kingdom's lands with which that person speaks. Be ready that with a new accent, you will also create a bit of a new personality.
Start Shadowing: Step-By-Step English Technique Instruction
As with any training, the shadowing technique requires some theory to be performed correctly to achieve desirable results. So, let's better understand how to improve your English pronunciation through shadowing with easy instructions.
1. Find an audio clip with preferable accent
First, decide on what English accent you want to work on – American, British or Australian. Then find a video or audio with preferable pronunciation and a tone of voice and divide it into pieces (max. 5 minutes). Remember that you need to shadow English language patterns only of one person at once.
The best sources for shadowing are YouTube interviews, TED Talks, podcasts, and TV shows. It would help if you listened to people in real-life situations with genuine emotions and reactions. It's better to follow the actors' speech because they had special training to make it well-articulated and clear.
2. Listen to the full clip once
To understand the details and nuances of another person's speech, we recommend listening to the chosen audio at least once. It will help you get on the right track and prepare for your shadowing session. It's like stretching before the actual workout.
3. Repeat right after the speaker
Now we are getting specific. When you do shadowing, you can't pause the clip and must repeat word after word after the speaker. Of course, you might not pick up on every word or phrase, and that's okay. However, you must try your best to mimic the speaker's voice. Once you feel stuck, you can pause and go back. Try to shadow one clip for as long as possible.
Professor Alexander Arguelles, who popularized shadowing, recommends getting yourself out of your comfort zone while practicing. He means that you should move while repeating after the speaker. It will help you to focus and adapt to talking in English with the correct pronunciation while doing the usual activity. Also, the language professional recommends maintaining a good posture and repeating aloud in a well-articulated manner while practicing shadowing.
4. Record yourself and listen back
Unfortunately, when we speak aloud, we simultaneously hear ourselves with our inner and outer ears. That doesn't give us a clear impression of what we really sound like. So, to track the progress in shadowing, you have to record yourself. If you haven't recorded yourself before, it will seem that it's not your voice in the audio, and you might not like it. That's normal. You must get used to listening to your voice and hearing pronunciation errors.
5. Practice daily
Only practice makes perfect. The same applies to shadowing. You should practice for 10-15 minutes daily to build new English speech patterns. Your mouth needs to adapt to new movements of your facial muscles, lips, and tongue. When you can follow the speaker at the same speed while keeping your speech well-articulated, it's time to move to another audio.
How To Integrate Shadowing Technique In Learning With Promova
Improving your English speaking, including pronunciation and the native accent of your choice, is crucial for learning the language. However, not many language learning apps cover all the language learning aspects. Instead, they choose to focus on one or two features. Fortunately, the language learning platform Promova is unlike the other sources. We offer our students the opportunity to learn English through English combining various language learning options such as bite-sized lessons in the mobile app, conversational club, group classes, individual training, social media interaction, and educational blog posts. We ensure you keep all your English skills well-rounded while concentrating on your strengths and fixing your weaknesses. And shadowing is one of our all-time favorite techniques for improving English. You can practice it using Promova in several different ways.
- Shadowing single words and phrases on the Promova app. The perfect introduction to shadowing in English is repeating single words or phrases after hearing the correct pronunciation in Promova flashcards. It's not a secret that English is quite a complex language because the spelling and pronunciation are rather distinct. So, it takes extra effort to remember all the details when you speak English out loud. That is why Promova implemented the feature of voicing words and phrases in our flashcards. You can click on an icon with a speaker right after a piece of vocabulary you need to learn, and the AI will pronounce it so you can repeat it. It has a neutral accent, so it is perfect even for beginners.
- Shadowing short clips. After getting on good terms with shadowing single words and phrases, you can move down to short video clips. Not to go far with researching, you can use lessons from the Promova video section. There you can find educational lessons about English grammar, vocabulary, writing, pronunciation, and motivation for learning. The teachers in our videos have different English accents, so you will have various options to choose from – British, American and Australian. Also, you will love practice shadowing with the example clips from the series that had been used for learning English with TV shows.
- Shadowing with a mentor. The best variant for practicing shadowing in a guided manner would still be individual tutoring. Promova offers 1-to-1 tutoring lessons for English learners with professional certified tutors with years of teaching experience. On our platform, you can find a tutor who will expose you to English using the shadowing technique by explaining the pronunciation theory beforehand. You can learn American, British, or Australian English and gain the according accent. The best part is that with Promova, you can book not only standard 50 min or long 90 min lessons but also 25 min classes to practice the shadowing technique. The teacher will help you find the right clip for your level and guide you. Shadowing lessons could become a great addition to your English learning plan.
The other features of the Promova platform, such as group lessons, conversational club, social media, and blog, will help you to keep up with shadowing your inner voice. Yes, everyone kind of hears what they read or think with the same pronunciation they have when speaking out loud.
Achieving proficiency in English requires learners to stay in touch with all the possible techniques and methods that help improve language skills. And practicing shadowing is another level of exposing yourself to the language. In addition, clear pronunciation in English and a native accent will help you to create a great image at work or university. Now when you know another way of gaining a beautiful English accent – American, British or Australian, you can level your skills and achieve more in your personal and professional life.
Is it too late for shadowing if I am over 30?
Risking to sound basic, but it's never too late to start doing anything in your life, and shadowing is no exception. However, we won't lie that the easiness of reducing your native accent in English has nothing to do with age. Unfortunately, after the teenage years, our ears stop naturally detecting sounds in different languages. So, because of that, adult learners will need to do some ongoing work to make themselves recognize the nuances in what seems to be the same sound in different languages. Only after you learn to perceive the sounds will you be able to start recreating them yourself. However, the shadowing technique is not limited to detecting and reproducing the sounds of the target language. It also includes the practice of what linguists call the natural "melody" of the language. In addition, to make your speech in English more fluent, you need to improve intonation, pauses, stressing, and linking words. The bottom line is shadowing will work for you even after 30, but it may take more time to achieve desirable results.
How many hours will it take to neutralize the accent with shadowing?
Since you need to change speech habits that you've had for your whole life, be ready to dedicate a lot of time to shadowing. Practicing this English technique will require persistence. The progress will depend on the accent in your native language, English level, ear for music, vocal abilities, and dedication. The more you practice, the better you will get. On average, you will be able to hear a noticeable improvement in your accent within three months of regular training.
Should beginners try shadowing in English?
Even though shadowing might seem a complex technique for beginners, it is better to implement it in your learning plan from the early stages of your learning journey. With the shadowing technique, learners who start with English can boost their language skills and see results faster. Not only shadowing puts you on the right track in terms of pronunciation and accent, but it also helps you develop listening comprehension so you can follow the speech with less effort, adapt your brain to perceiving spoken structures and slang, and practice speaking when you don't have an interlocutor next to you.
Will I sound the same as my favorite actor after I am done with shadowing?
Sounding like someone else is not the goal for shadowing. With this technique, you will acquire some speech patterns of the person you chose along with your natural speaking nuances and voice; if you want to sound like someone else, you need to practice vocal impressions like people on TikTok do, for instance. However, for that matter, you need to learn how to play with your vocal cords, tongue, lips, and facial muscles to mimic people. That is much more difficult than improving your accent through shadowing.