“Become” a Native Chinese Speaker with the Character Shadowing Technique

In How to by Angel Huang

Ever heard of Shadowing as a language learning method?

The basic idea of the method is that you listen to an audio recording of a native speaker talking at normal speed and try to repeat what you hear, as accurately as you can, right after you hear it. (For more background on shadowing as a complete language learning method, check out this article by Donovan Nagel.)

The reason this simple concept is so powerful is that it forces you to focus like a laser beam on the sounds, rhythm and intonation of the speaker, and naturally helps develop your listening ability along with pronunciation and fluency.

Now, to really connect with the language and make the process more fun, I approach shadowing a little differently…

As the final step in the video shows, the goal of character shadowing is not simply to copy every word you hear.

Nope, take it further!

Bring out your inner actor and make the character’s message your own. Imitate the body language and synch your speech perfectly to that of the character. Imagine that you’re in that conversation right there and then.

“Become” the speaker!

Of course, having used this technique a lot recently in my quest to learn Swedish, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s no cinch… at first.

You might stumble over words and find it hard to speak at the same speed as the person you’re shadowing… at first.

Just keep going!

With enough repetition, the phrases will soon roll of your tongue. You’ll start to feel more closely “connected” to the language and sound more natural when you speak. Don’t take my word for it though. Find a character to shadow and give it a go yourself!

If you want to try out the technique with something fairly slow and easy to get a feel for it, shadow one of the characters in the short video below.