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Learn Chinese Through Shadowing
Listening and speaking are two of the hardest skills to cultivate when learning a language. After a while, memorizing vocabulary, taking grammar notes and writing out sentences becomes easier.
But nothing compares to the frustration that comes when you can’t understand your target language, or just can’t get a sentence to come out of your mouth.
Enter shadowing. This little-known technique is developing a reputation as an effective way to achieve fluency in a new language. Shadowing Chinese requires you to listen actively, react quickly and speak without thinking too hard. In short, it trains your brain to talk like a native speaker.
Why Practice Shadowing Chinese?
Dr. Arguelles defines shadowing as repeating a native speaker word-for-word, almost simultaneously, while also referring to texts or transcripts of the audio in both the target language and the learner’s native language. Another common name for shadowing is “parroting,” because that’s what you’re doing: being a parrot of the native speaker.
So, what makes shadowing such a superior method for improving listening and speaking skills? And why should you adopt it as part of your language-learning routine?
Shadowing improves your listening skills, your speaking skills and improves your accent.
We can talk about shadowing and its benefits all day long. But how exactly do you do it?
5 Easy Steps to Shadowing Chinese
Step 1: Find a Good Audio Source
Although you can practically shadow anything that comes out of a native speaker’s mouth, you want to make sure it’s worth your time. Not all audio sources are suitable for shadowing, and some are far more beneficial than others. Good sources are slow to moderate past, short, spoken by native speakers and enjoyable.
Step 2: Listen to the Audio Once in Full
Before shadowing the audio, listen to it all the way through. Not only will it allow you to prepare, but it’s also a great way to put your audio source to the test.
If you’re watching a video that has subtitles in Chinese, read them while listening. Reading along with the audio encourages active listening, which is much more beneficial than passive listening.
Finally, enjoy the content while listening. Shadowing can be a stressful task, especially for first-time users, so it’s important that you enjoy the content you’re listening to.
Step 3: Rewind the Audio and Slow It Down
After watching or listening to the audio once, at its original speed, rewind and adjust it to a lower speed. If you’re using an audio course, make sure you’re using a lesson easy enough for you to shadow. That could mean going back to an old lesson at a lower level.
Step 4: Repeat After the Native Speaker Sentence-by-sentence
Before jumping into simultaneously repeating, try repeating each sentence. Parroting sentences is a much easier version of shadowing, and the perfect preparation for the “real deal.” Another great thing about this approach is that you’re able to focus more on mimicking the accent and pronunciation of the native speaker.
If you’re having trouble parroting each sentence, try making it every few words. The point of this step isn’t to test how long you can remember words you don’t know. The goal is to modify shadowing to an easier level before doing it simultaneously.
Step 5: Repeat After the Native Speaker Immediately at the Original Speed
Finally, you’re going to rewind the audio yet again and start simultaneously shadowing. Only this time, you’re going to do it without any modifications to the speed or the way you shadow (such as sentence-by-sentence).
As soon as you hear a word, say it. If necessary, pause or rewind the audio. Even if you’re using a relatively easy audio source, repeating each word while listening for the next can be an overwhelming task.
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