I have one 1-year-old student, who absolutely cannot be called “well-behaved”. He is very active, all the time comes up with pranks, tells funny stories and makes faces. Sometimes it’s a bit tough to put up with all this …

Anyway, one thing that amazes me about him is that he has quite a good pronunciation when he reads in English and, in particular, when he repeats after somebody. He enjoys doing it. He has a better pronunciation than the majority of adults. 

Why does it happen?

He has some artistic abilities, he adores doing impressions of people. And this desire to imitate helps him in our classes. He imitates not only the sounds but an intonation too (what students of beginner levels usually don’t do).

 

So, it’s time to learn to convert into a parrot and start imitating! 

Of course, if you want to improve your pronunciation.

SHADOWING

This method consists in repeating after somebody speaking English, imitating their sounds and intonation. If you put some time in analysing the differences and do it on a regular basis, soon you´ll have quite a decent pronunciation!

 

How can you do it? With the help of audio recordings and videos.

TWO STRATEGIES

 1: without a script.

If you understand almost everything the speaker says, you can do shadowing without a script. 

You can also take a video/audio where people don’t speak fast.

     1. Listen to the video, make sure you understand almost everything.

Repeat after the speaker. Try to do it simultaneously. You have to become his/her SHADOW. 

YOUR GOAL is to fully imitate the speaker: sounds, intonation, pauses, rhythm.

     2. For the better result take short pieces, work on one and then move to the next.

 2: with a script.

It’s better to have a script if you are a beginner, but it’s of a great use for students of all the levels too.

      1. Read the text. Translate unknown words and phrases. You have to understand what it says. Thus, you’ll feel better the intonation, understand it. And? You’ll memorize new phrases.

      2. Watch the video, following the text.

      3. Underline or highlight:

Words that are pronounced together;

Difficult sounds;

Silent letters (letters which shouldn’t be pronounced);

Intonation (if it goes UP or DOWN);

Pauses;

Stronger and weaker words in every phrase.

      4. Watch the video, paying attention to the way the speaker’s lips (and his tongue) move.

      5. Practise imitating his speech, repeat after him at the same speed.

Variants:

  • You can repeat after the speaker the whole text.
  • You can divide the text into several parts and work on one of them at a time. Then you can pronounce the whole speech.
  • You can switch from time to time: you repeat after the speaker, then you read it on your own.

TIPS FOR BETTER RESULTS

“Magic mirror in my hand, who has the best accent in the land?” Work on the text LOOKING IN THE MIRROR, try to imitate the mimics of the speaker (mouth/tongue/lips movements). You can start with working on short phrases.

RECORD YOURSELF. It’ll be great if you record yourself on your mobile. Then listen to it and compare to the original talk. Work part by part.

ANALYSE. At the beginning, it seems quite tough, but with practice, you’ll get better at analysing. You have to understand which sounds you don’t pronounce appropriately. If consonants are more or less clear, the vocals will make you sweat.

You can repeat after the speaker, again and again, the same difficult word. Try to understand the nature of the sound: it’s short, or deep, where the tongue is situated, etc.

RESOURCES

TEXTBOOKS for language learning

Nowadays textbooks go together with CD for improving listening skills. After doing a test on listening, you can use this recording to practise shadowing.

ADVANTAGES: you can choose your level, thus, grammar, vocabulary, speed of speaking will be adequate.

DISADVANTAGES: texts in these books are sometimes just boring (not always, though).

If it’s only an audio recording, you can’t imitate speakers’ mimics.

 

The good news is that you can practise shadowing not only with studying materials.

 

AUDIO-BOOKS

For beginners, it’s a good option. Usually, the speed is pretty low.

ADVANTAGES: interesting. You can always work on a book you feel like reading.

You always have (or can find) a script (book) for your recordings.

DISADVANTAGES: normally the speech is a bit monotonous.

It’s not real life speaking, it’s artificial a little (or a lot).

Without video, you can’t imitate the reader’s mimics.

MOVIES

You can choose a certain monologue or a dialogue from a movie or a TV show you are watching now and practise this method.

ADVANTAGES: you can act out real-life dialogues (it’ll be more fun to do with your friend or partner).

You have subtitles.

It’s interesting to work with.

DISADVANTAGES: there are not a lot of monologues to work with (although you can just pick one character and follow him/her in all the dialogues).

In many cases, a camera doesn’t show one person for a long time so you can’t follow his/her mimics through the entire speech.

You can integrate Shadowing in your movie watching sessions. 1-2 minutes per episode/movie, for instance.

 

 YOUTUBE VIDEOS

Pick an entertaining talk-show or a blogger and work with these videos.

ADVANTAGES: you can choose almost any topic you like.

You can work with mimics.

DISADVANTAGES: usually there is no transcripts. If subtitles are automatic, they have many mistakes.

In talk show it’s difficult to work with the speech of one person, cause they talk in turns.

When you start practising Shadowing, you’ll find out that you pay a great deal more attention to the way people speak, you’ll be more perceptive to pronunciation peculiarities in foreign languages. It’ll boost your pronunciation improvement.

Don’t forget that with this method you also expand your vocabulary and train listening skills!

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