Beyond traditional study methods for learning Spanish, there is an innovative technique that promises to fast-track your speaking abilities – speech shadowing.
You can immediately start practicing with this great interactive roleplay video brought to you by Spring Spanish teacher Paulísima:
Many language learners have discovered that to truly master Spanish pronunciation, they need to go beyond the textbooks and immerse themselves in the sonic qualities of the language. This is where shadowing Spanish steps into the spotlight, offering an active method to enhance your pronunciation and intonation while building up your listening skills and fluency.
What’s even more better is that you can freely combine shadowing with Conversation Based Chunking. Conversation Based Chunking is a method for understanding natural language by breaking down dialogue into manageable pieces – chunks. You can immediately learn more about this method by clicking the button below, and request the Spanish chunking starter pack!
1. What is the shadowing technique?
The shadowing technique is a language learning strategy that involves listening to a piece of audio in your target language (in this case, Spanish) and simultaneously (or 1-2 seconds later) speaking along with it, trying to mimic the pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation as closely as possible.
Speech shadowing can be thought of as following the contours of spoken language in real-time: much like your shadow follows your movements on a sunny day.
This technique emphasizes auditory and vocal repetition to internalize the sound patterns and rhythm of the target language.
It helps in the development of both listening and speaking skills, as you must listen attentively and instantly reproduce what you hear.
Shadowing Spanish, in particular, provides an excellent opportunity to tackle the unique phonetics of the language, including those difficult words and sounds that aren’t present in one’s native language. It might be a challenge for some, so first, I advise you to check the Spanish alphabet.
2. How to practice shadowing Spanish?
The basic idea: you listen to a recording of a Spanish native speaker and, with just a slight delay (1-2 seconds), you repeat what that person says.
This will not only help your pronunciation, it will also help you internalize the Spanish rhythm and cadence.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to shadowing
- Find a speech, podcast or other audio in Spanish (e.g. on YouTube). Take a slow one if you’re not that proficient yet. You could also slow down the audio/video a little on YouTube, or with with an app like Audacity.
- Use headphones, but only in one ear—you want to hear yourself talk.
- Play the audio and repeat what’s being said. If you want to focus solely on pronunciation, repeat what the speaker says as quickly as possible, with minimal delay (when the speaker finishes a word, you want to start saying it). If you want to train your memory as well, you can increase the delay between what you say and what the speaker says to a couple of seconds.
- That’s it! You’re listening and speaking at the same time. Now marvel at your brain’s capacities and experience the improvement in your memory and pronunciation.
- Start with slow conversations or speeches (find Spanish podcasts for example, or YouTube videos), and slowly work up your way toward materials played at normal speed.
- Then amaze native speakers with your flawless accent and comprehension.
I wrote a little bit about shadowing in the Spanish for beginners article.
Initially, it’s best to use material at a normal speed that you can comprehend fairly well.
For example, check this sample audio:
You can download the PDF example of the transcript by clicking the button below. Bonus: the PDF comes with explainer footnotes for better understanding.
As you become more comfortable with the process, you can move to blind shadowing, where you repeat the audio without any text aids, focusing solely on the sounds you hear.
The Speechling app also provides you native-speaker audio to work with, and lets you record yourself repeating what you hear. You can get pronunciation feedback from real-life coaches, listen to their recordings and then improve your own. It’s a great way to practice pronunciation.
And if you have any doubts: check out our Speechling review.
3. Perfect your pronunciation with Speech Shadowing technique and Conversation Based Chunking
The ultimate goal of the speech shadowing technique is to improve pronunciation, and one effective method within shadowing is the aforementioned Conversation Based Chunking. This approach focuses on practicing speech shadowing with entire phrases or lexical chunks of language – rather than individual words.
By doing this, you learn how to use the right intonation and rhythm natural to native speakers, which is one of the most important steps for sounding authentic in Spanish.
But keep in mind that when you’re shadowing, it’s not just about repeating the words; it’s about capturing the real sounds of how those words are said. This means paying close attention to the language’s accent and intonation, trying to reproduce them as close to the original as possible.
If you practice Spanish shadowing or practice any foreign language, you inevitably improve your pronunciation and intonation. You become more accustomed to the little things of the language and how to pronounce words within the flow of normal, everyday speech.
Spanish has certain phonetic elements that are especially challenging to English speakers, such as the difference between ‘b’ and ‘v’. Speech shadowing lets you practice these sounds in context, integrating them into your language skills.
All in all, speech shadowing is a powerful tool in your language learning arsenal.
Let’s recap the key takeaways to remember for the time when you want to practice this technique into your routine:
- Shadowing is an active learning technique: By simultaneously listening and speaking, you bridge the gap between passive understanding and active use of Spanish.
- Choose appropriate material: Start with audio or video that matches your comprehension level to build confidence and gradually work your way up.
- Focus on chunks: Practice with phrases and sentences to master the pronunciation and intonation of Spanish as it is naturally spoken.
- Mimic closely: Try to emulate the sounds, rhythm, and intonation patterns of the native speaker as closely as possible.
- Be consistent: Regular shadowing practice will yield the best results in improving your language learning efforts.
- Embrace challenges: Difficult words and phrases present an opportunity for growth, so don’t shy away from them.
- Have good posture and breathe: This can help with concentration and proper vocalization during shadowing exercises.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to improving your Spanish pronunciation and elevating your overall proficiency in the language.
Happy shadowing with Conversation Based Chunking!