How to ‘Shadow’

Long time no see people! I apologise for disappearing without a word. I had to prepare for my final semester exams that were due last week. But it doesn’t mean I slogged day in and day out for it. Actually, the exams threw me off balance because I had been interning at a PR agency full-time and hadn’t visited my university in the past three months. It did not feel good to be reminded that I still had exams to study for after having had such a glorious time being an ‘adult’.

I’m so happy that that chapter is finally behind me and now that I’m back I hope to keep up with my weekly blogging goals.

Today I want to talk about Shadowing. I did mention it in my previous post where I talked about using it to overcome my fear of speaking Japanese.

What is shadowing? It means to follow and observe someone closely and that’s what we will be doing for language learning as well.

Shadowing helps practice your speaking skills: As the name suggests, Shadowing is a technique that requires you to imitate or shadow a native speaker. This involves speaking out loudly in the same manner keeping in mind the speed, intonation, pauses, choice of words etc. The whole point of this exercise is to internalise the speech and replicate it while sounding as much native as you can.

Shadowing helps practice your listening skills: All you need is a video or an audio in your target language. If you have a transcript for it, well and good. If not, you could make one yourself. This will help you practice your listening skills in the process. You might also learn new vocabulary. A total win-win!

Shadowing exposes you to natural ways of speaking your target language: Often times in our quest to speak a language we forget that the native speakers have a certain way of expressing their emotions that is not quite obvious to us. The way they show surprise, anger, sarcasm, excitement etc is truly noticed and understood when we try to do the same ourselves and Shadowing provides an excellent opportunity to speak like the natives.

Shadowing also helps overcome the challenge of finding language exchange partners: There are a lot of resources out there for finding the right language exchange partners eg: iTalki. But due to reasons like money, time or lack of confidence,  you might not be able to make use of them. In times like these, Shadowing acts as a supplement and helps you familiarise yourself to how the sounds are created in your target language. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with speaking in your target language.

Materials needed:

  1. An audio file
  2. A printed copy of the transcript
  3. Pen/ pencil
  4. Highlighter
  5. Audio recorder


  1. Play the audio and use your printed copy to make note of all the pauses in the speech as you come across them.
  2. Look up new vocabulary and make a note of it in the margin. It would really help if the transcript were written in the script of the target language rather than romaji so as to help you get some reading practice along the way.
  3. Play the audio again and speak out loud the words as soon as you hear them. You might not be able to keep up the first few times and that’s perfectly okay. It’s important to keep trying.
  4. By now you are familiarized with the transcript and are comfortable with the speed of the audio. Take out your audio recorder and record yourself shadowing. Once done, listen to it and make a note of areas to improve on.
  5. After a few more tries put aside your transcript and practice shadowing by only listening to the audio. Record yourself doing it and see the difference. Note down areas to improve on and try shadowing once again.

Here is an example of how Shadowing is actually done. Although the video is aimed at people wanting to learn English, I’d say the tips are applicable to any language as long as you have an audio file to listen to.


Happy studying!


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