Ever heard of shadowing? This is a language learning technique used to improve pronunciation and to help you remember the words you are repeating. If you don’t have time to train yourself in pronunciation, I suggest trying this technique.



Shadowing In Short


Shadowing involves exact copying (like following a shadow), of someone's speech, trying to correct your own mistakes as much as possible along the way. This method was developed by Professor Alexander Arguelles in Germany, and then in South Korea. On YouTube you can find a selection of shadowing videos you can use.



Shadowing In Three Steps


  • Listen to the audio without reading the text. Try to understand what is being said. If you need to, listen to it several times. Make sure you understand the general sense of what is being said.
  • Repeat the speaker's words (giving yourself extra help with the text when you need it), maintaining a slight delay of about five seconds over the audio. Try to match the speech, the sounds, the pauses and the pitch exactly. Do this exercise multiple times to become more familiar with the sounds of the language. If it is too fast, you can decrease the speed or choose a simpler audio file. Finally, check any words you do not understand using a dictionary.
  • Repeat as above, but without reading the text.


You can change these steps and add new or intermediate steps. It all depends on your level. The important thing is to try to repeat the sounds as closely as possible to those you are listening to.


A lot of people have their own method of shadowing. Some people like to repeat short phrases because they forget longer sentences. You can also do an exercise by looking at the text occasionally, but refrain from trying to read as much as possible so you can concentrate on the pronunciation.



Sources Of Material For Shadowing


Anything with an audio recording and scripts is good practice: a movie, video, audiobook, audio children's story, grammar book with a CD, and so on -- but it must use a native speaker’s voice. There are lots of free sources online, as well as plenty of books you can use for this purpose. But shadowing is easier if you use movies, cartoons or a TV series, as each syllable is usually pronounced clearly and slowly.


Watch movies and cartoons. Get hold of some DVDs (with subtitles) or watch cartoons online. These are easy and fun ways to get an idea of the sound and structure of your target language. If you feel particularly active, try to pause a video after a simple sentence and repeat it.


You can also listen to music and radio. Listening to music and/or the radio is another way to immerse yourself in your chosen language. Even if you cannot understand everything, you can try to grab the keywords which will help you understand the meaning of what is being said.





If you can practice 10-30 minutes per day, you’ll quickly improve speaking in your target language. You can improve your pronunciation and also recognize the patterns that make up the sentences you are listening to. This means it will become easier to create your own correct sentences in future. Shadowing is a good way to start speaking in a foreign language from your first day of learning.


Of course, this alone is not enough to improve your language skills. You also need to study grammar to speak the language properly. You cannot avoid it and if you know your native grammar well, then you will better understand a foreign one. There will often be many significant differences between the grammar of your native language and the language you’re learning. For example:


  • The word order (subject – verb - object complement in English) is not the same in every language.
  • Some languages omit the subject of a sentence when the person to whom it refers is known to both the sender and the recipient.


Shadowing is also a good method for learning the alphabet properly. One of the most common mistakes among students is failing to learn the foreign language’s alphabet. Beginners must learn the correct pronunciation of the alphabet right from the start, or they will have problems later.


Thanks to shadowing, your pronunciation should improve quickly. Pronunciation is very different from language to language, and it can take a long time to be able to pronounce words correctly. So don’t feel disheartened if it takes a lot of practice to get this right. Keep going, and you’ll be surprised by the amount of progress you make!


Hero image by inbal marilli on Unsplash