Do you use shadowing when practicing English?
Shadowing, or echoing, is an imitation technique where one is imitating another speaker, or certain aspects or elements of someone else’s speech.
Shadowing in English is one of the best ways to improve your English speaking skills as it helps improve pronunciation, intonation, and vocabulary. It can also help you unconsciously improve other things in English such as rhythm, stress, grammar, and more.
There are two ways you can go about shadowing:
1. Listen to an audio or video recording and echo the speaker without pausing. This option is great if you’re on the go but still want some practice time.
2. Listen to an audio or video recording, pause after each line or a certain chunk of words, and echo the speaker. And then move to the next line. This option is perfect if you have time to go deeper into the speech.
Whichever option you choose, the most important thing you should do is to set an intention. Don’t just repeat and become a parrot of someone else. Focus on specific elements of their speech and practice them.
Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar. And this is episode number 197. And today we are going to talk about the shadowing technique.
All right, everyone. How are you? I hope you’re well, today’s a Friday, but you’re listening to this on a Tuesday. But I’m recording this on a Friday, just so you know. And today I’m going to share with you a practice technique that I love. I think it’s great, and a lot of my students love as well. And I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how to do it properly.
Now, as I’m recording this, this is like, before we get into the episode, I’m going to share with you a moment of reflection. I need like a special musical effect here. *A moment of reflection*. So, I just got out of Pilates class. Yes, I do Pilates. And she did something really interesting there. There is this drill or exercise that we do every single time. Actually, the whole idea of a Pilates class that you do the same exercise again and again and again. And it kind of train your body to do it, and every time you just go deeper.
And today she did something, one of the regular exercises, but she added a twist to it, which made it feel like a totally new exercise. And I thought to myself that it was really interesting. It was a lot more interesting to do it this way. And the only way I was able to do it is because my body was so used to doing the exercise, the original exercise, so that I could add it without getting overwhelmed or confused and still do it right.
And because I always think about English and about our work when I do pretty much anything else in life, I was thinking about speech exercises and the things that we do. And how, even though we’re repeating the same drills or exercises – whether it’s pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, fluency, whatever it is that you’re doing, you know – what can we do every time to do it slightly different just to keep it interesting, and yet the core of the drill, the core of the exercise is still there.
So, this is a question that I often ask myself when, you know, the team and I are creating content for our students. But at the same time, I think that you, as an English learner, speaker, a person who practices English – I don’t want to define you as a learner because you’re much more than that.
So, as a person who makes English a part of their life, I think it’s important that you know that you got to keep it interesting. And it’s okay to do the same thing and go deeper each time. And like, you don’t have to do different things every single time, you know. And I have a tendency of sharing a lot of practice techniques. If you ask my New Sound students, they have like about a hundred different practice techniques by the end of the program. But I also think that the good old shadowing technique or pronunciation drills are so incredibly efficient. So, we need to think about ways to make that more interesting.
So I hope that this episode is going to help you make it more interesting and help you understand if you’ve been doing imitation or shadowing exercises for a while, like, you’ll understand how you can go a little deeper and make it more interesting. And if you haven’t, then you will learn about this really cool, fun exercise that you can do to develop a strong intuition in English and to practice pretty much everything about your English in a fun way. Especially a way that you can do on the go. You know, you don’t have to sit by your computer to do this work. You can do it in your car, walking around, and it’s a lot of fun.
When I first started doing this English work as a teacher, actually, I used to call it the echoing technique. I didn’t know it had a name. I was like, “I invented a name for an exercise. You should do the echoing technique.” So, I am more fond of the phrase ‘echoing’, but then most of my students would be like, “What are you talking about, Hadar?” Because everyone uses ‘shadowing’, which is also great, yeah. I mean, ‘echoing’, ‘shadowing’, you get the point.
Echoing, shadowing, imitation – whatever you want to call it – that’s an exercise where you follow someone’s lead. Right? Whether that person is a male, a female, native speaker, non-native speaker. Whatever accent they might have, you just need to like their voice and how they sound. Because, you know, when you’re practicing imitation, you’re modifying your voice and pronunciation and intonation patterns. So that, you know, you want to find someone that you love. So that’s the idea. But I am going to talk about it in a more thorough way in today’s episode.
So, I will not keep you waiting, and we’re going to listen to the episode. But before that, just a quick reminder that the way this podcast gets to more and more people is through reviews and ratings. So if you haven’t yet and you can take a moment and just rate the podcast, that would be amazing.
You don’t have to give it five stars, but it would be great if you do. I’m not trying to influence you, but if you like the podcast, I would really appreciate your rating and review. Which is, you can think about it as a great way to practice your English writing, right? Let’s try to leverage it into English improvement.
So anyway, that would be great. And if not, then simply enjoy the rest of this episode. Here we go.
Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today we are going to talk about how to do the best possible shadowing exercise. If you have no idea what a shadowing exercise is, then you are in for a treat because it’s really one of the best ways to improve everything about your English.
And if you’ve been doing this for a while, then you might want to stick around as well because you’ll learn the biggest mistakes English learners make when doing the shadowing exercise. And also, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to improve it and optimize it because I love efficiency. If you’re already practicing, it might as well work really, really well for you. And this is what this video is all about.
But before that, if you are new to my channel, then hello. My name is Hadar. I’m a non-native speaker of English and I am here to help you sound confident, clear, and proud when speaking English. Now, pride is not something that you hear, but it’s something that you feel when someone else is speaking. And I want you to be very, very proud of your English. Because it’s your second language, or third, or fourth and you should be very proud no matter what the outcome is.
Now, if you want to find out more about how I can help you, then I highly recommend that you visit my website hadarshemesh.com, or you can also follow me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway, where I share a new piece of content every single day. So I have a feeling that you’re going to like it. I’m going to put all the links below this video.
Now let’s talk about the shadowing technique. The shadowing technique is basically you shadowing someone else speaking, meaning you’re repeating what they are saying. Now, you can also call it the imitation exercise or, as I like to call it, the echoing exercise, where you’re just like echoing what someone else is saying.
Now, before we get into how to do it and how to avoid the biggest mistake, the reason why it’s so good is because, first, it helps you develop intuition. What does that mean? It helps you understand things in English on a deeper level, a level that is not logical or intellectual, but you feel it in your body, you feel the rhythm of the words and sounds. And there are things that you can’t put in words or you can’t find the logical explanation to why something sounds the way it does. And when you’re imitating someone, it’s like when you’re singing along or humming along with a melody, you’re tapping into different layers that usually don’t exist when we just think of the language as spoken language or words. So that’s the first reason.
The second reason it can help you understand and listen to sounds in a way that you usually don’t listen to, especially if you’re paying attention. You also start noticing things like melody, intonation, rhythm, all of which are very, very important when communicating in English. And they give you that extra sense of confidence and ability to express yourself and how you’re feeling and your attitude towards things.
Now, if you’re only focusing on the words and sentences, then you’re losing a lot of the elements that we have in normal speech – things that we don’t think about, but we feel and hear when other people speak. And this is why imitation exercises are really, really cool. Also, it’s something that you can do on the go while you’re driving or doing the dishes or walking your dog. So it’s a very efficient exercise that you can leverage, basically, any situation when you’re doing something and you don’t have a lot of people around you into a practice opportunity. Which is also a plus.
Now, before we talk about the biggest mistakes learners make when doing these shadowing exercises, I want to talk about how to do it, okay? And I want to give you a few tips on how to do it.
So, the first is to just play the audio and then echo the person you’re listening to, or shadow the person you’re listening to. Right? So basically, you’re not pausing, you’re not doing anything, you’re just repeating it a split second after them. Now at the end, I’m also going to give you a few tips on how to optimize this exercise, but for now I want you to know that this is the first option that you have, right? And this is something that you can do on the go, as you’re driving your car or doing the dishes.
“Because I have worked. A working class job. I’ve waited tables in restaurants. I have ridden the subway. I have walked the streets. In New York city.”
The second option is when you are more concentrated, seated at your desk or on your couch. And ideally, you might want to have the script of the speech that you are shadowing. And what you want to do is to play a line, pause, and repeat. Okay? So basically, you play a line, then you pause and don’t wait till the end. Like you can take a short chunk and then pause, and then repeat.
“I started doing this because…” I started doing this. I started doing this because. I started doing this because.
“I was having.” I was having. I was having. “This incredible…” This incredible. “Response.” Response.
Now, the advantage of this exercise is that you can go deeper, you can pay attention to more things because you’re more focused and concentrated. You have more time to listen to things to repeat it. So, this is a great way to go deeper, but the advantage of the first option is that you can do it any time and pretty much anywhere. Well, not really anywhere because if you do it while you’re at the dentist or just at the bank, that would be a little weird, or in the middle of a very important meeting. So maybe then you shouldn’t be doing the shadowing exercise. I mean, you know, it’s just a suggestion.
Now, the biggest mistake you might be making when doing a shadowing exercise is that you do not set an intention as to what you’re paying attention to and trying to improve. The idea of the shadowing exercise is not just a copy-paste or become a parrot of someone else. Okay? No. The idea is to try to follow someone else’s speech pattern, voice, intonation, rhythm, melody, and sounds. Yes, great. But also you want to improve specific things and you want to pay attention to it.
The brain filters out a lot of information as you’re listening to other people and as you’re speaking. When you’re just repeating someone on autopilot, you’re missing out a lot of information when your brain is not paying attention to specific things. So, you know, you’re just repeating it, but you might not be repeating some of the key sounds that are important to you. Or maybe you’re not paying attention to that intonation shift that could be beneficial for you to use more. Right?
Because you filtered it out, you did not listen to it. Because you’re listening to other things, you’re very focused on getting the words right. Right? Or you’re, you know, thinking of vocabulary or maybe something else. Or maybe you’re doing other things and you’re really not concentrated, and you have no intention as to what you’re trying to improve.
So, my biggest piece of advice would be to always set an intention as to what it is that you’re trying to improve in addition to doing the shadowing exercise and all the benefits that I’ve discussed at the beginning. And to that we’ll add, you know, vocabulary and flow and connected speech and all of these great things that, you know, are added value when you’re doing these shadowing exercises. But you want to set an intention, you want to know what you’re listening to and what you are trying to change.
So for example, if you’re working on distinguishing between the ‘sheep-ship’ vowel pair, then when you’re listening to someone else during those imitation exercises, you want to detect every time they use either the tents ‘ee’ or the lax ‘I’.
Or especially, when they’re using tricky words, that could be, you know, either-or, like ‘cheap-chip’ or ‘least-list’, right? Minimal pairs. So you want to be mindful of that. Because when you’re mindful of that, so for example, you say, “I’m going to listen closely to these two vowel sounds”, then you will notice it. All right? When, usually, if you’re not setting an intention, you’re less likely to notice it. And then when you notice it, you’re more likely to do it. And when you’re focused on getting it right, that’s when you start to change things, that’s when you start to rewire your brain.
That’s how you start to get rid of old pronunciation habits or speaking habits, and you start to acquire new ones. Not that there’s anything wrong about how you used the say it, but if it affects your clarity, and you’re self-conscious about that pronunciation, then you can shift only with intention and repetition. So, paying attention to those things and making sure that you’re saying them is going to significantly improve the quality of your practice.
Now, it’s not just about sounds, it could also be intonation patterns. So, let’s say you want to improve or vary your intonation patterns when speaking English. So maybe you might want to pay attention to how this person ends their sentences – whether it’s going up or going down. You want to pay attention to the stressed words only and see how they’re being stressed, whether they’re prolonged, or maybe that person raises their pitch. Right? And then you want to imitate just that.
Now, of course, you’re imitating a whole lot of other things, you know – new words, connected speech, different sounds. But you’re paying attention to stressed words. You’re paying attention to the intonation pattern at the end of sentences. This is gold. Because when you do, you might actually make a change in how you say things. And that change will stick if you say it enough times.
Now, before we wrap up, I want to give you a few more tips on how you can optimize your shadowing practice. First, it’s very important that you select a person that speaks in a voice that you like and even love, that resonates with you, that you want to master a sound similar to their sound. Why? Because if it’s someone that has a voice that you don’t like or that doesn’t give you all these great feelings and emotions, then you might be practicing it with a slight resistance. And that is not very effective or practical. So, you definitely want to find someone that you love their voice.
Second, remember that you can slow down the pace. If it’s really fast, or if you’re not paying attention to all the things, then slow it down and play it at half the speed or 75% of the speed. You can do that with podcasts, you can do it with YouTube videos. It’s super easy. You just go to the settings at the bottom and then change the speed of the video or audio. And it allows you to pay attention to more things.
“And I have encountered this type of harassment, right in the subway in New York city.”
Another thing, and I’ve mentioned it, is to make sure that you have the script ready. So you can see the words in front of you. You can even put it on a Google doc and then edit it, right? Maybe highlight words that are stressed or divide the sentences based on thought groups. So, you can do a lot of things with the text: you can underline words that are more challenging, you can highlight sounds that are more challenging for you so you can pay attention to it. So, working with a script is great if you have the time. If you’re not driving, because, you know, don’t work with a script when you’re driving, it’s not very safe.
Now, one more thing you can do to optimize your practice is to record yourself shadowing the person. So for example, you play the audio, you pause, you repeat, and you record the whole thing. And then you listen to the recording. I know it sounds like a lot, but again, if you do that, you will gain so much more out of it that you would actually need to practice less to get the same results. Listen to me, I know.
So you play it, you repeat it, you record the whole thing, and then you listen to it and you look for the differences. Because a lot of times when you listen to something from the outside, when it’s not inside your head, you notice a lot more things. Okay? So, recording yourself would be the last thing. And again, I want to repeat how important it is to set an intention. You can even write it down or put it on a post-it: R’s, word endings, stressed words, reductions, right? All of that good stuff that you want to pay attention to.
Now, the last thing I want to add is don’t be afraid of repeating the same phrase or paragraph or part of the video. You don’t have to do the entire video or the entire podcast episode. No, you can take one paragraph and do it again and again, and again. Now, don’t try to do a lot. You can do less, but be very thorough. So you can take one paragraph and just listen to it and shadow it again and again and again, and again. Quality, not quantity, my friends. Quality, not quantity.
Okay. That’s it. My question to you is, Do you like to do the shadowing practice? And do you do it? Is that a part of your English practice routine? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven’t yet, I invite you to join the InFluency community, where we practice together on video. And we do a lot of shadowing techniques there.
There’s been a thing recently, where community members have been shadowing my videos. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Because it’s like me speaking with so many different other amazing voices, and they’re doing an incredible job. So, a shout-out to all the InFluency community members for your amazing job doing the shadowing practice. And if you’re not a part of the InFluency community, then what are you waiting for? Join us. I’m going to post the link to it in the description below.
All right, that’s it. Thank you so much for watching. Don’t forget to connect with me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway. And subscribe to my channel if you haven’t yet. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I’ll see you next week in the next video. Bye.
Here are some of the tips I mention in the video, that will help you optimize your shadowing practice:
1. Select a speaker that you like, or whose voice you love. Whether it’s how they pronounce a certain sound, or certain melodic patterns they use.
2. If the audio or video is too fast for you, slow down the playback speed. 75% the speed can really help you pay closer attention to certain things.
3. Use a script or a text, and even edit it in a clear way: You can change the size of the font, highlight words, use color-coding, whatever works for you.
Here’s a list of apps and resources you can use for shadowing:
1. TED Talks
9. Repete Plus
11. Puzzle English (for Russian speakers)