Shadowing Technique

Shadowing Technique

Shadowing is quite popular with people learning English as a foreign language. Many say that they find it useful; it helps them improve on their pronunciation, listening and speaking skills.

When you listen to a text and read/speak it along at the same time or immediately after, you are doing shadowing.

You will need to following to do speech shadowing:

  1. An audio or video text
  2. A transcript of the above
  3. A headphone
  4. An audio/video recorder
  5. A quiet place


  1. Listen to the text to get the overall meaning
  2. With the transcript, listen again and speak along.
  3. Repeat no 2 and try to be more accurate this time
  4. Listen and read along again, but this time without the transcript
  5. Once you have become fairly confident that you can say the text accurately, you can have your voice audio/video recorded. You can then send your recording to your friend for feedback.

After several rounds of shadowing, seek opportunities to practice speaking with classmates and friends. This way you can try out words, phrases and expressions you have acquired from shadowing in real life conversations.

For maximum benefits, you need to do shadowing as often as possible. If you can, do this 15 minutes a day over a period of 6 to 12 months. Students who do shadowing regularly can expect to reap the language learning benefits of speech shadowing, which include improved listening skills, increased spoken vocabulary, more sophisticated spoken grammar and more accurate pronunciation. Informal observations suggest that students become more confident in using the newly acquired language skills for oral communication.

Do note however that serious research on the topic is rather limited. The few articles (and a book) I have seen were written by a Japanese professor, Yo Hamada. I would encourage you to read the professional literature to familiarize yourself with the theory and research of speech shadowing.

Further reading

Hamada, Y. (2014). The effectiveness of pre-and post-shadowing in improving listening comprehension skills. The Language Teacher38(1), 3-10 (Free download).

Hamada, Y. (2016). Teaching EFL Learners Shadowing for Listening: Developing learners’ bottom-up skills. New York: Routledge.


5 Replies to “Shadowing Technique”

  1. As soon as I read this post, I suggested to one of my former Ethiopian students that he should try this technique. He comes from a very poor family in Ethiopia, but he got to university and is now an instructor, who managed to obtain a spectacular Erasmus Plus scholarship. He has just spent 6 months in Austria, is in Finland right now, will go to China next and then to Germany. Altogether two years’ of study and a massive amount of academic writing, so we are working on that together remotely. His pronunciation is not bad, but is not always intelligible. I told him to look for TED talks on education (his course is educational technology and innovation) and try shadowing. TED talks can be watched by putting on the subtitles, you can also print out the transcript and I think you can also slow down delivery. We’ll see how it goes, but I love the idea…

  2. I used to use a near similar technique when I taught interpreting. I did not even know that the name of it was Shadowing Technique. It is good to be reminded, will use it again in class for listening.

  3. It’s quite new technique to know for me. It’s great article. By shadowing, learners loows themselves to practice and acquire the language Imore independently.

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