Does shadowing improve listening?

General discussion about learning languages

Does shadowing improve listening?

yes
19
86%
no
3
14%
 
Total votes: 22

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leosmith
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Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby leosmith » Wed Nov 22, 2023 12:10 pm

(Edit: My bad for not being clearer. By "shadowing" I mean simply listening to and repeating phrases, preferably trying to match every aspect of the native pronunciation. Something like one does for Pimsleur. I'm not necessarily talking about Prof. Argüelles's or Olle Kjellin's simultaneous shadowing.)

Does repeating a sentence after a native speaker, making an effort to match all aspects of pronunciation (including prosody), improve your ability to understand said sentence, or similar structures, when you hear them? (Yes, there is an L1 definition involved – see technique below)

Personally, I believe it does. If I carefully listen to and try to copy native pronunciation, then I’m sort of teaching myself the correct way to produce it, better understanding how a native really pronounces, perhaps even predict it a bit.

This came about when I researched intensive listening techniques. I was specifically looking for things other than “listen a lot” and “listen repeatedly” because I feel that those are part of every successful language learner’s routine. I was looking for something in addition to those. Something that would serve as a catalyst to a beaker full of pure listening, so to speak. I’m seeking a technique to speed up listening improvement specifically with hard languages (I’m targeting Korean, but Japanese, Mandarin, Thai and Russian will be next if it’s successful) since pure listening takes so long for those languages. Shadowing popped up as one of the many techniques during my research.

Proposed Technique.
I want to be able to watch (listen to) K-dramas effortlessly. I’ll watch the first episode until I hear the first line of dialog, pause, repeat it out loud, turn on the Korean subs to check my accuracy, turn on the English subs to check the meaning and make an anki card if I don’t understand (note that I will fail cards only if I don’t know the meaning of the sentence, not if my shadowing is off). Then I will go to the next line of dialog, and continue until I have 20 anki cards. I’ll do this every day, the theory being that the amount of time I watch per day will increase. At the end of each episode, I’ll discuss it with a teacher who has seen it. I’ll do this until I finish the K-drama, then start another one, and repeat for as many as necessary.

Anki card design: the front side will be the Audio, back side Korean, English and Audio. Fail if I cannot understand.


With no special tool, things like pausing, scrolling back, repeating audio, etc., are really tedious. When I pause, often the subs are already gone, so I have to scroll back for them. I always want to play the audio again, which requires scroll back. And sometimes I’m not accurate with clicking a scroll location. Fortunately, it sounds like Migaku will do everything I need a special tool to do (works with Netflix, easy to play/replay audio, view/re-view either Korean or English subs (off to the side or something as necessary to keep me from cheating), and create anki cards with original audio (not TTS like Language Reactor) with a single click. I am in no way connected to Migaku btw.

In closing, here is ChatGPT’s response to the poll question:
Absolutely! Shadowing is a fantastic technique for improving your language skills. By mimicking a native speaker's pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm, you're training your ear and mouth to work together in a way that enhances your overall understanding and fluency. It helps you internalize the natural flow of the language, making it easier to recognize and reproduce similar patterns when you encounter them in real-life conversations. Plus, it can boost your confidence in speaking and listening.
Last edited by leosmith on Fri Nov 24, 2023 8:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby Cainntear » Wed Nov 22, 2023 12:53 pm

I'm going to use what has been one of my favourite words recently: superficial.

My issue with a lot of techniques is that the advice is often based on the superficial actions of carrying out the activity, rather than the deeper thinking that the learner goes through while doing it, and I strongly suspect that the difference between the succesful and unsuccessful user of a technique is in the deeper thinking that's never discussed.

When I was learning Spanish, I'd often mutter along with Spanish films, basically shadowing in real time. I was mimicking native speaking professional actors (although often I'd only be mimicking the lead actor, not everyone) but I was specifically thinking about the phonemes of the language and how they realised them. I went into it with a well above-average understanding of phonology in general, and with limited (although still above average) understanding of Spanish phonology. I was listening for the way Gael García Bernal pronounced certain letters and I was trying to replicate that with my own mouth movements.

[Editing to add: I was also a reasonable way into learning Spanish when I started doing this. I was doing it more and mor as I improved, and I was really just watching the films as films, and I was viewing any langauge I picked up as kind of a "bonus item".]

People who use the phonemes of their own language whenever speaking foreign langauges aren't likely to gain much at all from shadowing, because they're not going to notice, interpret and replicate what they're actually hearing. (I'm thinking the "yo-w know aahblow" crowd hear.)
People who have middling accents in their foreign languages are likely to get better results from shadowing.

I can't recommend it in general because I can't bundle up the advice in a self-contained way -- there are just too many factors acting as preconditions to whether it will work. Not to mention how to choose stuff for shadowing, which is a whole pot of worms.
Last edited by Cainntear on Thu Nov 23, 2023 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby battlegirl » Thu Nov 23, 2023 7:51 am

Fortunately, it sounds like Migaku will do everything I need a special tool to do (works with Netflix, easy to play/replay audio, view/re-view either Korean or English subs (off to the side or something as necessary to keep me from cheating), and create anki cards with original audio (not TTS like Language Reactor) with a single click. I am in no way connected to Migaku btw.


I looked up Migaku. It sounds wonderful! But... their website is all tagged "coming soon". Then I realized you yourself said "it sounds like Migaku will do...". What a disappointment! I thought it already existed. :D

On topic: I do support shadowing, but I realize that it's not the right solution for all students. As Cainntear says, not everyone is self-critical enough to figure out whether they're shadowing correctly. Those who do are usually naturally great at learning languages, and naturally shadow what they hear. That said, it's good to push a student towards trying to be more self-aware, and this surely does that.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby leosmith » Thu Nov 23, 2023 12:17 pm

battlegirl wrote:What a disappointment! I thought it already existed.
Edit - I see where you and Cantear got confused now. The new version is beta; don't use that. On the download page, download the Legacy Extension and the Anki Addon.
migaku downloads.jpg

not everyone is self-critical enough to figure out whether they're shadowing correctly. Those who do are usually naturally great at learning languages, and naturally shadow what they hear.
Listening to and repeating sentences is pretty standard advice. Sure, some get more out of it than others, but I don't think you have to be "naturally great at learning languages".
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Last edited by leosmith on Fri Nov 24, 2023 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby Cainntear » Thu Nov 23, 2023 2:24 pm

leosmith wrote:
battlegirl wrote:What a disappointment! I thought it already existed.
I haven't used it, but many have/do, like this guy, so maybe you are looking in the wrong place?

Migaku.com has lots of images promising features “coming soon”, which is a really bad idea. If it’s good enough now, sell it on what it does. If it’s not, don’t sell it on the promise of things that may never be made.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby Kraut » Thu Nov 23, 2023 4:30 pm

Cainntear wrote:I'm going to use what has been one of my favourite words recently: superficial.

My issue with a lot of techniques is that the advice is often based on the superficial actions of carrying out the activity, rather than the deeper thinking that the learner goes through while doing it, and I strongly suspect that the difference between the succesful and unsuccessful user of a technique is in the deeper thinking that's never discussed.

When I was learning Spanish, I'd often mutter along with Spanish films, basically shadowing in real time. I was mimicking native speaking professional actors (although often I'd only be mimicking the lead actor, not everyone) but I was specifically thinking about the phonemes of the language and how they realised them. I went into it with a well above-average understanding of phonology in general, and with limited (although still above average) understanding of Spanish phonology. I was listening for the way Gael García Bernal pronounced certain letters and I was trying to replicate that with my own mouth movements.

People who use the phonemes of their own language whenever speaking foreign langauges aren't likely to gain much at all from shadowing, because they're not going to notice, interpret and replicate what they're actually hearing. (I'm thinking the "yo-w know aahblow" crowd hear.)
People who have middling accents in their foreign languages are likely to get better results from shadowing.

I can't recommend it in general because I can't bundle up the advice in a self-contained way -- there are just too many factors acting as preconditions to whether it will work. Not to mention how to choose stuff for shadowing, which is a whole pot of worms.


If "shadowing" is a simultaneous thing, then there must be some pre-study of the sequence, otherwise the mental load is too high: what do you concentrate on, articulation or meaning, and I also want to memorize something.
I have always used a consecutive approach for what I hear or listen to, and for the drills a Sony MDS-JE530 minidisc recorder that allows extremely easy editing and handling with pressing only one button.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Thu Nov 23, 2023 8:32 pm

Kraut wrote:If "shadowing" is a simultaneous thing, then there must be some pre-study of the sequence, otherwise the mental load is too high: what do you concentrate on, articulation or meaning, and I also want to memorize something.


It gets easier over time. No need to pre-study anything. No memorization. From a musical perspective, shadowing is similar to ear training, and in later stages, learning stuff by ear (in this case, there is of course an element of memory work). Those who never play by ear find it impossible, while those who do will get better and better at it.

(This has nothing to do with perfect pitch. It's a basic skill that can be trained.)
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby lingohot » Thu Nov 23, 2023 8:53 pm

That is very interesting. I don't know if shadowing helps to increase the fluency in a language or not. But there's definitely something happening in the brain; I don't know what it is and how to explain it, but in my experience it is important to understand what you hear (so I don't think it's the best exercise for beginners who don't understand a lot) and that you mimic it in a declamatory fashion as if you wanted to convince somebody of what you are saying. So I would say it does improve listening because it reveals mercilessly any shortcomings in listening comprehension.

On the other hand, just parroting sounds you hear is a waste of time in my opinion.
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby Cainntear » Thu Nov 23, 2023 9:15 pm

Kraut wrote:If "shadowing" is a simultaneous thing, then there must be some pre-study of the sequence, otherwise the mental load is too high: what do you concentrate on, articulation or meaning, and I also want to memorize something.

Why?
I didn't do any specific pre-study preparing for the films I watched -- it was just something I did in my time off from "serious" study, and I'd done a fair bit of that before I started watching.

So maybe it's just something you need to do more of later in your learning, then...
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Re: Does shadowing improve listening?

Postby jackb » Sat Nov 25, 2023 1:36 pm

Shadowing is one of those techniques that the definition varies wildly from person to person. One person's shadowing is another person's chorusing, etc. In this case I'm using the Arguelles definition:
definition.
It's the thing most people point to when recommending it as practice. I tried it daily for a few weeks and it wasn't a listening exercise. It was reading aloud with audio. I found that the memorized sections were the only ones I could concentrate on not reading. I answered no in the poll.

Can it be used to improve listening? Yes, but it needs to be so heavily modified that it's hard to talk about because everyone has their little twist that works for them.

The playing by ear analogy only works if you are learning to play the instrument by ear. Replicating a sound I already know and can reliably recreate is very different from creating a sound I can only recognize in isolation and have trouble reproducing.

I used Migaku for a month or so. It's a cool plug-in. There are tons of bells and whistles that didn't apply to my situation. I didn't continue because it tied me to Anki more than I like. Think of it as Subs2SRS on steroids. You are also at the mercy of the accuracy of subtitles, which I've found are less helpful as I advance. The parts I'd like to use it for (super fast/wordy/slurred) differ so much, it's better for me to just copy that clip and slow it down in Audacity to parse the sounds to figure out what is said.
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