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How does shadowing improve fluency?

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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ProfArguelles
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foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 25 of 39
23 March 2008 at 8:04pm | IP Logged 
Mr. Iversen, to separate the actual talking from the listening process does away with the notion of shadowing altogether. If an experienced polyglot like yourself feels more comfortable learning in this more traditional fashion, then by all means you should continue to do so without giving shadowing another thought, but let us just call what you do “careful listening” rather than “shadow-thinking.” Indeed, listening carefully and subsequently reading aloud is basically the methodology prescribed in the introductions to the kind of Assimil and Linguaphone courses from which I have learned so much. The technique of shadowing the materials they provide is my own innovation. Because I personally have found it to be so much more effective, this is what I have taught to students who have taken classes like “the effective study of foreign languages” with me. In such classes, I have always had a number of students who initially evinced feelings similar to the ones you articulate above. In the context of these classes, I have always insisted that all students a) learn how to shadow properly and then do b) so every single day for one week. That gives them a comparative basis for determining the efficacy of the method. After that week of proper practice, they are free to return to abandon the practice if they do not feel it is more effective than what they were doing before. Hardly any avail themselves of this option. Beginning and intermediate students who may struggle initially to keep up with the flow of the recordings initially as you describe above are precisely those who profit most from this method—more advanced students who can speak already do not really need it. If you personally are still interested in this approach, then I might suggest that you turn off your conscious mind—the one that coined the notion of “shadow-thinking” and forget about the thinking and understanding if you can, for a while at least, and focus instead purely upon the flow, upon the sound, upon the phonetics until it becomes easier. It is a shame that we are separated by continents and oceans — I believe I would enjoy being able to show you, in person, just how to do it.

Ruan, I can see how, if your main goal is to read great classical texts in the original, you might view the learning of languages as only a means to that end, and thus you might find the learning process, albeit necessary, to be not very exciting. However, although I certainly share the ultimate aim of reading great works in their original tongue of composition, I also find the study of languages in and of itself to be, if not actually “exciting,” then still at least completely engrossing.

Patience, Mr. Button, patience: you should not expect to be able to keep up with an excellent narrator of an audiobook when you first try this. It is an art, a learned skill, a technique that requires much practice in and of itself. You must give it time to become proficient. It is a shame that New Zealand and Northern California are worlds apart, for as with Mr. Iversen, I believe that if you and I could somehow spend several afternoons in a row working on this one on one, you would swiftly come to appreciate the advantages of the method.

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Iversen
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 Message 26 of 39
31 March 2008 at 12:40am | IP Logged 
I'm sorry about my belated answer, but I as I indicated in my earlier post I have spent several weeks in Belarus/Russia trying to get my Russian up and rolling.

It is certainly true true that most of the idea behind shadowing disappears without the actual production of sound. However people who aren't fluent readers are known to make micro movements in their speech organs while reading (which is normally seen as a problem). Similar measurements on me while 'listening actively' would probably show the same kind of movements, and I do feel that when I'm following a speaker closely I'm so to say reproducing the speech within me (which is not the case when I'm listening for the meaning of what is said).

It certainly isn't the real thing, but it has some advantages, and one of these is that I'm able to do it here and now without training. But as you say, I would have to spend some time trying to do true shadowing to really be in a position to judge its merits.

It reminds me of some of the reactions I have had on my word list techniques: people try them out, find that they don't really feel at ease doing them (maybe because of the choice of one variant in a situation where another would be more relevant), and then they give up, saying that words only be learnt within a context. The conclusion is wrong, but the immediate reaction may be correct - for that person. I would certainly not doubt the benefits of true shadowing just because my half-hearted attempts didn't work out as expected, but here and now I stick with my 'active listening' which has shown its efficiency for me.

A note on a related item: I have spent a lot of time copying texts by hand (mostly in my weakest languages), and I have recently started to pronounce the phrases either before or while I'm writing (as in your scriptorium method), so there I actually do speak. But of course without hearing the correct pronunciation at the same time.



Edited by Iversen on 02 April 2008 at 4:21am

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zorglub
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 Message 27 of 39
16 April 2008 at 3:58am | IP Logged 
Your lip movements while listening to people speaking, peol^ple you see, are most interesting.

They may be related to the mirror neuron system. Those neurons are in the motr part of the primates' brains. They get activated for specific group of movements (reaching a cup etc... when you do the movement or when you see someone doing the povement or even when you detect someone's intention to do the moement.
They are thought to play a role in learning by imitation, and language learning. Their activation while you see someone doing he movement can be tected by brain imaging (or electrodes pricked into an ape's brain) but also through the recording of muscular activity which then shows activation in the groups of muscles that would be involved in performing the same movement than that the subect is watching (beeing done by another subject).
Fascinating.




Iversen wrote:
I'm sorry about my belated answer, but I as I indicated in my earlier post I have spent several weeks in Belarus/Russia trying to get my Russian up and rolling.

It is certainly true true that most of the idea behind shadowing disappears without the actual production of sound. However people who aren't fluent readers are known to make micro movements in their speech organs while reading (which is normally seen as a problem). Similar measurements on me while 'listening actively' would probably show the same kind of movements, and I do feel that when I'm following a speaker closely I'm so to say reproducing the speech within me (which is not the case when I'm listening for the meaning of what is said).

It certainly isn't the real thing, but it has some advantages, and one of these is that I'm able to do it here and now without training. But as you say, I would have to spend some time trying to do true shadowing to really be in a position to judge its merits.

It reminds me of some of the reactions I have had on my word list techniques: people try them out, find that they don't really feel at ease doing them (maybe because of the choice of one variant in a situation where another would be more relevant), and then they give up, saying that words only be learnt within a context. The conclusion is wrong, but the immediate reaction may be correct - for that person. I would certainly not doubt the benefits of true shadowing just because my half-hearted attempts didn't work out as expected, but here and now I stick with my 'active listening' which has shown its efficiency for me.

A note on a related item: I have spent a lot of time copying texts by hand (mostly in my weakest languages), and I have recently started to pronounce the phrases either before or while I'm writing (as in your scriptorium method), so there I actually do speak. But of course without hearing the correct pronunciation at the same time.


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Shinn
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 Message 28 of 39
24 May 2008 at 12:02am | IP Logged 
I think shadowing is one of the best techniques for improving fluency and I definitely swear by it. I was advised to try shadowing on this forum and it did wonders for my Spanish (apart from instilling in me a life long love for Julio Cortázar). It's the reason I got past my DELE Intermedio with a high score (also, I was the only one in the exam room who wasn't sweating bricks during the aural test :P).
I'm no expert but I guess shadowing allows you to familiarize yourself with the sounds of the language and speech patterns and sort of internalize them because I noticed my speaking abilities also improved greatly and I no longer had to fumble and do the whole "think-in-English-translate-into-Spanish" procedure in my head as often.
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Mark0704
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 Message 29 of 39
28 June 2008 at 7:13pm | IP Logged 
Could you tell us what you shadowed to improve your Spanish so much? I have already shadowed and internalised 85 lessons of Assimil 'Spanish with Ease' but am very aware that I am still far away from being able to easily understand general reading material (newspapers etc) and from being able to freely and easily express myself. I intend to do the same with the Linguaphone Plus Spanish course from 1997 which I have just managed to obtain on e-bay and I then may move on to internalise Assimil 'Using Spanish'. However am I ever going to get to (near) fluency with this shadowing method or should I change to a more traditional teaching method such as Platiquemos?
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Sunja
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 Message 30 of 39
29 June 2008 at 1:35am | IP Logged 
Shin, I'd like to echo Mark 0704...I'm also very much interested in hearing what you used.

I'm of course not ready for conversational Spanish, this being the most advanced level --- I'm always on the look out for audio that's "just right" for me to shadow. I watch ebay and buy up ex library copies of language programs --- anything I can get my hands on, really :D

I'm already using the Professor's techniques for my Japanese (and am awaiting a response in this thread for my "shadow" post, hopefully tomorrow ;)) and have made great progress with it.
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Shinn
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 Message 31 of 39
29 June 2008 at 4:39am | IP Logged 
I basically shadowed anything I could get my hands on that was available online for free :P

I used a lot of audiobooks, especially those at Leer Escuchando. Plus various recordings of Julio Cortázar's works in his voice. Podcasts also helped me a lot, especially the ones at Rojas Spanish. They're interesting, informative and come with full transcripts. Apart from that I also tried watching Spanish movies with Spanish subtitles (even though they don't always follow the dialogue exactly). I recommend Hollywood movies dubbed into Spanish for this because for foreigners, the language used is simpler and the enunciation is clearer.

Apart from the audio, I read a lot of simple reading material. For example, blogs or newspaper articles, such as those from El País.

I also signed up on Polyglot and was lucky enough to find someone from Chile who shared my interests in poetry and literature. Although we spoke online a few times, we IMed each other a lot more and even that helped in applying my Spanish to a real life situation.


These are mostly intermediate level materials and I'd be lying if I said I could follow the vocabulary and grammar perfectly (especially for the audiobooks since understanding literature seems a little tougher than understanding everyday language). I took a more literary and cultural approach to shadowing because the reason I even started learning Spanish was because I loved the authors and poets and movies.


I haven't used either Assimil or Platiquemos so I can't comment on that. I did try out a bit of FSI Spanish Progammatic which seems pretty good, if a little tiresome in the way it constantly tries to hammer things down your throat.


My advice is to try and immerse yourself in the language in ways that you find interesting. For example, I love Japanese manga. So instead of reading an English translation I simply read it in Spanish (although I am forced to admit it wasn't as satisfying as in English :P). Even if I didn't understand all of the audio, I still ploughed through it to atleast get a feel of the sound and speech patterns. I can't claim to be fluent yet and I think maybe that requires a bit more than shadowing but shadowing is possibly the best technique apart from an immersion programme that I've come across.

Anyways, all the best to the both of you, mucha suerte :)
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zorglub
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 Message 32 of 39
29 June 2008 at 5:14am | IP Logged 
Mark0704 wrote:
Could you tell us what you shadowed to improve your Spanish so much? I have already shadowed and internalised 85 lessons of Assimil 'Spanish with Ease' but am very aware that I am still far away from being able to easily understand general reading material (newspapers etc) and from being able to freely and easily express myself. I intend to do the same with the Linguaphone Plus Spanish course from 1997 which I have just managed to obtain on e-bay and I then may move on to internalise Assimil 'Using Spanish'. However am I ever going to get to (near) fluency with this shadowing method or should I change to a more traditional teaching method such as Platiquemos?


I'm surprised you can't read newspapers easily. As a British person, there are so many cognates that you shoul be very much at ease (slightly less than an Italian of French person) understanding word never met before.

As for being able to express yourself I suspect you've not been through the "active" phase were you are to translate the English text into Spanish and check your trnasation. I noticed this boosted my abilities (did it for German Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. It does take time.

If you still have difficulties speaking new sentences in Spanish, I suggest you try Michel Thomas. I noticed it unblocked my wife and my son in English and Spanish respectively (MT programs for French speakers. You'll find it uselesss at the beginning, but go through it the way he tells (laid back). This type of teaching is indeed very smart (I experienced Arabic and Mandarin) and efficient/ It boosted my scarce Arabic abilities.

Edited by zorglub on 29 June 2008 at 7:33am



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