Hey there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast  episode 25: Shadowing Technique To Boost Your Speaking Skills

My name’s Ola and I teach English online to individual students.

This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation,  but above all, you’ll see how to have a tense-free conversation with another English-speaking human being! Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Hello everyone! Hello new listeners, I know we have some Metallica fans here. I know you liked the episode about the lyrics of ‘Unforgiven’. I know it because you shared it in Metallica Family Poland group on Facebook! Thank you all for a warm welcome, sweet comments, and I hope you’ll stay longer with us.

I’d also like to say to all of you  I’m so proud of you making an effort listening to this podcast in English. Today you’ll learn one technique that will make your fluency through the roof. Prepare yourself, because it can really be a game changer in you English learning process. It’s not rocket science,  but one simple activity that will take you few minutes daily, and if you stick to this practice for longer, if you stay consistent you’ll see amazing results.  Finally, right?

Words and sounds blend together when spoken naturally. It happens in every language. We create shortcuts we want to deliver the message as quickly as possible. I don’t think I need to explain it any further, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. We obviously follow the same pattern in Polish. Nobody wants to sound like a robot. I mean, nobody – wants – to – sound – like – a – robot. Ok? We just squeeze almost all the words together, because: Nobody wants to sound like a robot. Repeat after me:

Nobody wants to sound like a robot.

Learners have this tendency to speak as clearly and correctly as they can, and guess what? They end up sounding like robots. Speaking clearly isn’t your goal actually.

How the hell can you learn to understand and produce a natural, native-like way of speaking? Well, there’s a great technique to help you achieve that, and it’s called shadowing.

In this episode I’m going to tell you what shadowing is, I’ll give you an example of shadowing doing it right in this episode. I’m also going to tell you how I use shadowing technique, why you should start doing it, and I’ll tell you if it’s perfect, who it is for and finally, how to tweak it, adjust to your needs.

The first thing, what’s shadowing?

Shadowing is repeating the text immediately after listening to it. It’s better to say that it’s listening and speaking at the same time. It’s doing two things at once. You hear a sentence and repeat it 2-3 seconds later and you don’t pause, you don’t stop the recording.

The theory says you should be doing it while walking. Do you know why? To make sure you’re focused on shadowing, and no distractors draw your attention away. Secondly, walking especially outside imitates natural speaking environment. I also think that walking speeds up the process because you engage more muscles. Nevertheless, it’s not necessary. It truly depends on the individual learner. Now, I’ll walk you through the steps:

  1. Pick an audio material. It can be a podcast, a cartoon, an episode of some tv show, a youtube film, a song. The best is to choose an interesting piece of content.  It also should be relevant to you. If you wanna learn British, American, Australian, Canadian, accent pick the right audio. At first, I recommend choosing short recordings. Few minutes, like 3-4 minutes maximum. Please choose something you have a transcript for. Most podcasters offer transcripts, not always free, but usually free. What’s more, podcasts are literally about everything. Whatever your hobby is, no matter how narrow the niche, I’m sure there’s a podcast in English about it. Do your research. I listen about learning piano, business, marketing, news, inventions, and learning Spanish.
  2.  Listen to the material a couple of times without speaking. Just listen, think about the meaning, find out what it’s about, how much you understand, feel the rhythm, feel the speed. And if you’re tempted to check any words in a dictionary, hold your horses, I mean take a deep breath, listen again maybe, do not look up words at this point.
  3. Play it again and immediately start speaking along with the recording. If you can’t keep up, don’t worry. Don’t you even think about accuracy or mumbling. I still mumble some words and I don’t care. Especially if I listen to it the first time. The thing is, you are speaking at the right speed. Hear yourself speaking. Repeat the process at least twice. Or, preferably,  as many times as you want. When you stop mumbling that’s probably the best moment to move on to step 4. Before that, try to get the meaning of the words using your intuition, take into consideration the context. Make out the meaning on your own.
  4. Use the transcript. Don’t skip this part, you need to compare how much you’ve understood, to compare now what you’ve heard with the real text. Is it fully accurate? Have you made any mistakes? What are they? Clear them up, do the shadowing again.

Now, I’m going to give you an example. I’ll shadow a short text, I’ll use my Google Podcast App, this is where I listen to my favourite podcasts. And I’m gonna go for… Quick Piano Teaching Tips Podcast, why not? Episode: Five Brilliant Practice Habits. Well this guy, he speaks really slow and it’s American accent, so I will just skip number one, which is ‘listen before starting speaking’. I’ll just start shadowing right away. So, listen.


Ok, I think it’s enough, it gives you the idea how it should look like  or sound like.

Now. How do I use it? Well, I’ve been using this for years. I didn’t even know there’s a method called ‘shadowing’. I do it by reflex, I don’t even think about it, and you know what? It became my second nature, I turned it into a habit. I thought it’s my own method really so, I used to call it ‘fake it till you make it’. Now, it’s natural for me, I catch myself doing it from time to time, whenever I hear a nice phrase, a regional accent, difficult word, or if I listen to a podcast I really like, I shadow the whole recording. I don’t check the transcript, I don’t have such need, but bear in mind that if some passages are hard to get, definitely you should , you have to check them.

Let’s talk about takeouts. The reasons why the technique will serve you. I have 4 enormous advantages of shadowing to share with you.

  1. Shadowing helps to boost your pronunciation. So often pronunciation is ignored by students and teachers. If you’re learning on your own you’re prone to neglect the pronunciation. Pronunciation, I mean the whole package: accent, rhythm, stress, intonation, sounds, elisions, linking, all of it. It’ll just skyrocket.
  2. Shadowing expands your vocabulary.  This is another method to help you create those shortcuts, I talked about in episode 21. In that episode, I was talking about 4 best tactics to help you sound more natural. You can listen to it at teacherola.com/21, I’ll also link it in the show notes. What’s happening during listening and repeating is, learning whole sentences, phrases, collocations by heart. You eventually assimilate the vocabulary and structures in a very natural way.  When you speak then later you see how it works. Whole sentences roll out from your mouth naturally, without too much thinking.
  3. Shadowing boosts your fluency. You get used to listening, and understanding on the spot. Only by ear. Rember, you have to check the transcript, but only after you’ve done your shadowing, preferably couple of times.  Your brain starts to process the information in the same pattern. It speeds up your speaking skills and boosts the ability to understand people speaking fast.
  4. Shadowing technique helps to set achievable goals. Very often learners set either no goals or too general goals. If you’re listening to this episode on the day it was released, it’s the 18 of December, we’re just before Christmas, and right at the end of the year. Many of you make New Year’s resolutions. Believe you me, the hottest season in my business is December, January and February. New Year’s resolutions of course. And I think that’s great, it’s amazing people feel the need to make a change, to improve, to develop, I never laugh at it.
  5. I make New Year’s resolutions as well, I have them written down and then I monitor through the whole year my progress. But, enough about me. What I wanted to say is that setting a goal like: I’ll learn English in 2020 is so unclear. Set more specific goals. Your goal might be, I’ll do 2 minutes of shadowing every day for the entire 2020. And your speaking will skyrocket if you stick to your goal. Your goal might be: I’ll shadow the whole 80-minute episode of my favourite podcast show. Minute by minute, day by day, step by step you’ll meet your goal. And this is a good goal.

Let’s have a look at drawbacks. Is shadowing perfect? Well, it’s not, of course it’s not. There’s a trap, there’s a risk to it. Be smart and don’t trip on it. The main risk is you pick something too difficult, too fast or too complicated in terms of vocabulary. You may end up mumbling. Not speaking words, but just mumbling without any sense. If the amount of mumbling is large, change the audio. It needs to be adjusted to your level. It’s not only about repeating things you don’t understand. You need to understand the majority. Later you can check the transcript for things you couldn’t catch, but you have to be able to get the main idea of the recording. If you’re not, change, choose something else, something less challenging.

Secondly, it’s difficult. It takes some time to get used to listening and speaking at the same time. It’s not a secret quick magic recipe to make you speak fluently in no time. No such methods exist, please know it.

Who is it for? I would say it depends on the materials. I heard that it’s for advanced learners. But, is it? Face it, if you pick a cartoon, like Peppa Pig, it’s not that advanced. By the way, with Peppa Pig you’ll learn British English really quick, it’s so good. My son used to watch it, I watched with him, he picked up so many phrases.

The last thing I would like to recommend you now is: how to tweak it to employ the idea even smarter. It’s already quite smart learning. But I’d like to give you an extra tip. Just to make sure you don’t make the big mistake, which is mumbling, you can check your speech. Record yourself. Listen later, compare with the original, make sure you sound just like the original. The same speed, intonation, rhythm, sounds and stress.

Above all be positive, appreciate your mistakes. Remember that the more mistakes the better, don’t forget it.  Be consistent, do it on a regular basis. There’s no shortcut. It takes time. You can achieve that fluency, but you have to do the shadowing every day. This method is so effective, at the same time it’s free, available to everyone and you can basically start today. Once again, the results will come, but you have to be patient.

Your turn. Tell me please, have you ever heard of this technique before? Have you ever tried it? What’s your opinion?

Go to teacherola.com/25, there you’ll find full free transcript as well as the worksheet to this episode.

If you know someone who should listen to this episode, please share it.

Next episode is all about Christmas, Polish traditions. I thought this vocabulary section is usually problematic, and maybe you’d like to talk to some foreigners about how you spend Christmas time. Next week on Christmas Day I’ll release this Christmas episode, and I hope you’ll tune in.

Have a great week, don’t go nuts with Christmas preparation, keep calm and carry on. Till next Wednesday, happy learning, bye bye!