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Message 1 of 5610 March 2008 at 10:47am | IP Logged
I have made a short video to demonstrate the proper form for using my technique of shadowing or listening to and simultaneously echoing a recording of a foreign language.
In order to shadow most effectively, it is important to observe three points:
1. Walk outdoors as swiftly as possible.
2. Maintain perfectly upright posture.
3. Articulate thoroughly in a loud, clear voice.
Whenever I have taught this technique to groups of college students, they have inevitably found it difficult to develop proper form. Initially, they find it strange to study while in motion and would prefer to remain seated. Once moving, they find it hard to break out of a comfortable stroll, and they are chronically inclined to slouch. They are also very much prone to muttering hesitantly or even just listening silently.
Different people learn in different fashions, and it may well be that the most effective way for you to use this technique is in a less military fashion than I am demonstrating. However, I have experimented with every manner of using this technique, and I have always found that compromising any of the above three points even slightly reduces the efficacy of the method to a very great degree.
Thus, I encourage you to treat this technique as a genuine form of exercise and to attempt to learn the proper form just as I am demonstrating it here (I am marching back and forth for the sake of the camera; you may find such a defined space congenial, but you may also prefer to hike a trail). In the context of a college class meeting twice a week, it generally takes at least a month under my tutelage for most students to develop good form. However, I think that more motivated students learning it under more intense circumstances could certainly learn it more swiftly.
In the video, you see me initially shadowing without looking at a book, then while looking at one. You will want to shadow without a book when you are in the very initial stages of language study, focusing on phonetics only (= “blind shadowing”), before you study any individual lesson, and then again finally after you have worked through your lessons thoroughly. The ideal book for shadowing contains the transcription of the recording on the left hand page and an annotated translation on the right hand side of the page. In several distinct sub-stages of shadowing, you read these texts in different ways to come to understand more and more thoroughly what you are saying.
Thus, in order to use my method of shadowing most effectively, you need:
1. The proper form and correct procedure, as demonstrated here.
2. The right kind of manual and other equipment (e.g., earphones rather than headphones).
3. The discipline to practice with systematic regularity—15 minute sessions are probably ideal, though you may want to start with only 5 or 10 and you may work up to 30—at assigned intervals throughout the day (the more intervals, the faster the progress).
4. The knowledge of how to pace yourself correctly in terms of finding the proper balance of review and new material.
I have gained my foundation in most of the languages I have taught myself by shadowing in this fashion. Now, as you can see in this video, I am using it to finally have a real go at modern spoken Chinese. I studied some Mandarin a decade ago, but never got very far as the sound of the language disagreed with me at that stage of my life, and I thought I had definitively abandoned the endeavor. In the past few months, however, I have revised volume 1 of Assimil’s Chinese course in this fashion, and now in early March 2008, I am just embarking upon the 2nd volume. In order to make this video, I found that I had to be doing the authentic exercise, and as this is the only language I am actively learning at the moment, I had to do it with this. My Chinese pronunciation is confessedly atrocious, but it is infinitely better when I am shadowing than when I am not, so this should in no way be seen as a negative reflection upon the method, but rather quite the contrary in fact.
Edited by ProfArguelles on 22 April 2009 at 6:24pm
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Message 2 of 5610 March 2008 at 11:27am | IP Logged
I would like to say that I was very excited to see this video and the shadowing technique in action. Thank you very much for posting this. I particularly like the idea of studying whilst hiking a trail, making language learning both a physical and mental activity. I do have one question, however.
You mentioned that you might consider making another video; if you do find the time to do so, I would be particularly interested in hearing what you are listening to whilst you are speaking. The main point of confusion both myself and others appear to have expressed is whether one is to speak at the exact same time as the recording, or leave a split-second gap. That is to say, speaking in sync with a recording with no script for the first time seems an impossible endeavour in my mind. Thus, I can only imagine that your first time with a recording is shadowed with a gap of a fraction of a second, and only becomes synced after listening to the recording a number of times. Is this correct? I realise that playing the recording through speakers rather than headphones would go against the foundations of the technique, but I believe it would be helpful for demonstration purposes.
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Message 3 of 5610 March 2008 at 3:07pm | IP Logged
The main thing that struck me in this video is that you walk extremely fast, and that you walk from on end of a short bridge and back again with very abrupt turns. I had expected a slow, but continuous walk without narrow turns where you could get into some sort of a trance while listening to a MP3 player. In fact I had expected the walk to be a clever device to keep your body occupied with some continuous action so that it wouldn't interfere with your listening and speaking. But after this I probably have to revise my whole conception of what it is to shadow.
Niels Johs.Legarth Iversen
Edited by Iversen on 31 March 2008 at 12:52am
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Message 4 of 5610 March 2008 at 10:47pm | IP Logged
I imagine either would do the trick, though sound-isolating ones would probably be preferable, as you can more easily tell whether your intonation matches that of the audio. I think it has to do with the fact that because your ears are blocked, you can hear or feel the "vibration" of your voice and subsequently the pitch at which it coincides with the audio.
Professor, thank you very much for this video. I have now finally begun to practise shadowing and have started in the comfort of my lounge during the early morning hours. I have not attempted it outside, partly for reasons of self-consciousness and always worrying (rather pathetically) about being within hearing range of someone.
Edited by Fränzi on 19 March 2008 at 6:00pm
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Message 5 of 5611 March 2008 at 1:33am | IP Logged
I have always followed the audio silently, never shadowing out loud, since in my neighbourhood, if I were walking around chattering to nobody in Russian or German (for example), it would make me look like either a head-case or a show off. I wish I wasn't so self-conscious about it.
The interesting part is that when you don't shadow the audio aloud, the slightest distraction can cause you to miss words and sometimes whole sentences. I always find myself "rewinding" my iPod to hear that word or phrase that I just missed, but when you are shadowing, you are forced to focus on the audio. Also, the fact that you are mobile means your brain has plenty of oxygenated blood.
Shadowing aloud while on the move seems to me to be the way to go.
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Message 6 of 5611 March 2008 at 8:16am | IP Logged
I will say that one of the benefits of walking is that it makes it harder to get bored. Since your body is actually doing something, then it tricks your brain into letting it concentrate for longer periods of time.
Then again, boredom is a bourgeois creation, and may not be apparent to him.
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Message 7 of 5612 March 2008 at 9:03pm | IP Logged
Thanks Professor. That was awesome and inspirational.
| M. Medialis|
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Message 8 of 5614 March 2008 at 4:20am | IP Logged
|The main thing that struck me in this video is that you walk extremely fast, and that you walk from on end of a short bridge and back again with very abrupt turns. I had expected a slow, but continuous walk without narrow turns, where you could get into some sort of a trance whilee listening to a MP3 player. In fact I had expected the walk to be a clever device to keep your body occupied with some continuous action so that it wouldn't interfere with your listening and speaking. But after this I probably have to revise my whole conception of what it is to shadow.
Niels Johs.Legarth Iversen
I suspect that the efficiency of this slight military approach is due to the fact that you continuously tell your subconscious mind that something very important is going on. A bad posture and a overly relaxed way of walking may signal "relaxation" to the brain, which then could steal priority from the ongoing language acquisition.
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