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Shadowing demonstration video

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Russian FederationRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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2 posts - 2 votes

 Message 17 of 56
30 March 2008 at 11:33pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for the video on shadowing. Please read my post in the beginners' room, titled Found a 1956 Assimil
Russian without Toil.

Your recommendation of the Assimil method is giving me new hope, and I'd really appreciate your comments
about the audio, which may be lacking. Since I live in Moscow, I can hire a teacher to provide the audio. Would
appreciate your comments.

I feel really equipped now because of the video.

Thanks, awaiting your reply.

Elisa Pardo

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United States
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8 posts - 8 votes
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Russian, Mandarin

 Message 18 of 56
31 March 2008 at 1:47pm | IP Logged 
Professor Arguelles,

Thanks for the video, it's interesting and viscerally quite motivating to see shadowing in action.

I have a question about your process in learning the audio in the first place. You said you are using excerpts from Assimil which are generally about 90 seconds long. When you learn a new excerpt, do you repeat it until you can do it perfectly? When you practice with a series of excerpts, do you rewind the tape (or skip back a track if you're using CDs) in order to repeat the excerpts that give you more trouble?


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United States
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 Message 19 of 56
06 April 2008 at 9:30pm | IP Logged 
Ms. Pardo,

That book did indeed come with a set of three audio cassettes, and even though you can replace or supplement them by your live contacts, they are so artistically done and such an integral part of the course that I would really encourage you to make an all out search for them. The actual name for them on the tapes themselves and on the slip-case in which they come in is Russian, Русский язык без затруднения, but they would also have been sold under the names of the teaching languages of the manual, so Russe sans peine, Russisch ohne Mühe, Russian Without Toil, etc.

Best of luck to you!

James, there are a number of different ways you can first learn a new excerpt. You can repeat it over and over again until you get it “perfectly,” and you can rewind (old-fashioned force of habit and necessity, I suppose, but I actually and truly prefer using cassettes to CDs or MP3 files) in order to go over problematic areas just after you stumble over them. However, I personally always found it preferable to trust that trouble spots work themselves out over time if I continue to treat the language holistically, and by that here I mean using a segment of the overall recordings at a time, integrating review, learning, and pre-learning by shadowing 15-minute segments of the tape at a time, thus blind-shadowing each lesson before you learn it, and reviewing it repeatedly after you do. Rereading what I have just written it does not seem like a very good explanation, but I do not think I can do any better right now as there are so many other responses that need to be written, and in any case this is the truly the kind of thing that needs to be demonstrated and drilled in person rather than merely described.

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Senior Member
United States
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121 posts - 118 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German

 Message 20 of 56
31 May 2008 at 8:31am | IP Logged 
A few tardy thoughts to add to this discussion of shadowing.

One day while studying German, I absent-mindedly picked up my guitar. I play little tunes and chord patterns without active thought -- it is almost as autonomous as walking. Interestingly, I felt that I had a superior learning session that day. A repeat performance a few days later convinced me.

My mini-theory is that language learning is enhanced when a minimally intrusive activity keeps the mind from becoming overly analytical -- a condition which for me seems to inhibit language learning.

Prof. Argueslles' brisk walking, in addition to getting the blood flowing, has this same effect. You can't walk briskly and pay complete attention to the material you are studying. If you did, you'd likely fall on your butt.

I'll wrap up with a question: Has anyone tried the shadowing method on a treadmill or bicycle trainer? Due to health issues and Michigan weather, I cant' always get out for a stroll and was curious if others had tried this as a workaround approach.

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Bob Greaves
United Kingdom
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Japanese

 Message 21 of 56
31 May 2008 at 10:04am | IP Logged 
Bicycle trainer: what a brilliant idea. I have not yet started shadowing, but intend to shortly and I have been wondering where I could walk while shadowing without attracting attention (I live in the suburbs of London). I have a bike trainer that is not being used at the moment (bike trainer-pedalling: the most boring exercise I have ever encountered).
I won't be able to give any feedback very quickly as I need to evaluate walking/shadowing versus pedalling/shadowing. But thanks for the idea!
p.s. one possible benefit of the trainer comes to mind - you can fairly easily prop up a book in front and not worry about tripping over.

Edited by Bob Greaves on 31 May 2008 at 10:07am

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United States
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Speaks: English*, Russian
Studies: French

 Message 22 of 56
01 June 2008 at 11:45pm | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
Regarding the length of the material to be shadowed, that can vary greatly. If you find 30 seconds or 1 minute to be optimal for concentrated repetition, certainly you should work with that. The lessons in the Assimil Chinese manual I am working with are closer to 90 seconds, and if I were actively learning them one by one, then I would indeed repeat that length of material several times in a row. However, these days I take a more global approach and cycle through all the material on the tape.

I think I finally understand the technique a little better including the concept of blind shadowing. I could be completely wrong of course.

Now that I own some Assimil courses, I understand how they fit in so well with the technique. Short segments of all target audio, 1-2 minutes in length.

For blind shadowing I'm going to try a length of audio that I believe I could repeat in sync with the audio after 15 minutes of repetition.   If it is a completely foreign language may only be 15 seconds, which would give 60 repetitions in 15 minutes. For one that is not so foreign, maybe 1 minute, to get 15 repetitions.

The key goal I see in this concept of blind shadowing is to acquire some 'questions'.   I view courses / grammar books as the answer portion. Until I have questions it does little good to look at the answers.

Goal will be to repeat as quickly as possible after the speaker until I get to the point where I can speak in sync with the audio, and finally repeat without the audio.

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
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Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Italian, Dutch, Greek

 Message 23 of 56
02 June 2008 at 4:49am | IP Logged 
Walshy wrote:
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.

Dear Professor,

I feel that the above quotation raises an important point - one which has perhaps hitherto been rather neglected in this discussion.

The issues surrounding self-consciousness and the breaching of behavioural norms in public places must surely constitute a very grave problem for many learners who would otherwise be keen to attempt this technique?

Shadowing is evidently a very effective learning method. Yet those people who are genuinely concerned about the personal image which they are projecting will most probably feel unable to march around at a high tempo, while talking loudly (and apparently for no very good reason) in a foreign language!

It occurs to me that the situation may perhaps be different in the United States? Perhaps Americans are generally more tolerant of (and indifferent to) the way in which other people conduct themselves in public places?

For my part, I would have to concur with the earlier poster whom I have quoted above. I am quite certain that anyone who properly and vigorously carried out the technique of shadowing in an English public park would be considered by most observers to be either mentally disturbed, or - worse - to be attempting to evince some kind of bogus intellectual superiority in front of strangers.

I would be most interested to read your general observations on this. I would also be interested to know whether you are absolutely adamant that the technigue could not be adapted for use within an enclosed private space. (Another of the posts here mentions, for example, an exercise bicycle.)

--Jon Burgess

Edited by JonB on 02 June 2008 at 6:56am

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Rollo the Cat
United States
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Studies: Italian, Russian, Ancient Greek

 Message 24 of 56
03 June 2008 at 5:59pm | IP Logged 
In America, walking rapidly and talking to yourself is as certain an indicator of mental instability as it is in England.
Or maybe I should say, it was. Now, people have bluetooth devices and headsets for their cellphones and walk
around the streets or malls seemingly chattering to themselves. If anyone asks, just pretend you are talking to your
girlfriend in Chile, perhaps.

Rollo Terson

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