Refresh Your Memory: 7 Effective Memorization Techniques For Language Learning
What is the most powerful tool for learning a foreign language? It is our memory.
If you are an active person or just want to add a bit more physical activity to your life, you should really consider adding language shadowing to your learning efforts.
While it’s still important to have one-on-one sit down sessions with a native tutor to gain fluency, language shadowing is a pretty interesting supplementary learning technique.
When you language shadow, you basically go for a walk while listening to an audio recording in the language you want to learn.
Adding some regular language shadowing sessions to your routine means that not only are you getting a bit more time to immerse yourself in a language and familiarize yourself with the speech patterns and accents of native language speakers, you're also getting the chance to stretch your legs!
When you try to learn a language using language shadowing, you are basically listening to a foreign language, usually an audio recording, and repeating what you hear.
Language shadowing or speech shadowing as a language learning technique was developed or popularized by the American linguist Alexander Arguelles. The idea behind the technique is it gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with the sounds of the language that you are trying to learn.
Languages are made up of specific phonemes which are small but meaningful units of sounds. Combining these sounds make up words. One of the most basic ways that a baby or a child learns language is they learn to distinguish these sounds and how they are put together.
Adults who want to learn a language also need to first distinguish the common phonemes. This allows them to understand spoken words and familiarize themselves with the proper pronunciation of the words and even the accent of native speakers.
Aside from increasing your familiarity with the language, the benefits of language shadowing allow you to start to develop and expand your vocabulary, get a better feel of grammar rules, and familiarize yourself on how to construct sentences naturally.
If you are wondering if language shadowing works, Arguelles is the living proof of it, as he himself speaks 50 languages! Check out his YouTube channel where he talks about this technique and demonstrates how he learns languages using language shadowing.
According to Arguelles, his ability to learn so many languages comes down to having the desire to learn and put in the time to learn. He would study a language for up to 16 hours a day and a big part of his study involved language shadowing.
He would take plenty of brisk walks outdoors while listening to recordings of the language he was studying and repeating what he was hearing out loud.
While you don’t necessarily have to mimic what Arguelles did completely, studying up to 16 hours, there’s plenty of evidence that there are benefits to taking a few language shadowing walks every week.
If you want to start adding language shadowing to your language learning routine, here are the steps that you need to take as outlined by Arguelles himself.
Your first language shadowing sessions should be short, maybe about 10 to 30 minutes – however long you feel that you are physically able to keep walking.
With regards to what you should listen to, the content isn’t that important. Neither does it matter if it’s one recording or a playlist, what’s important is that there is a transcript available – both in the language that you want to learn and in your native language.
We will explain the importance of the transcripts a little later. But they are an important part of the speech shadowing process. If there is not a transcript available, you might want to create one.
Podcasts are usually a good resource to use while language shadowing, you can find a variety of podcasts ranging from as short as three minutes to longer, many podcasts also provide transcripts of their episodes. Finally, the advantage of a podcast is that you can download it on your mobile device so it’s perfectly suited for listening while walking.
You can also consider listening to music or a short audiobook.
What makes speech shadowing different from other language learning techniques that place and emphasis on listening is the physical component. You are supposed to listen to the audio and mouth along to it while WALKING.
Listening can be a passive activity so, if you’re just sitting somewhere and “listening” it’s easy to drift off. Walking keeps you mentally alert and helps ensure that you really focus on what you are doing.
You should listen to the whole recording at least once while you walk.
After listening to the entire audio at least once while walking and mouthing along, find a quiet and safe place to sit and listen to the recording again.
Again, mouth along to the recording, but this time do so while reading the transcript in your native language. This will not only help build your familiarity with how the language is supposed to sound, but also help you begin to learn the meanings of the sounds that you were just mouthing along to.
This step will help build your comprehension and allow you to start associating meanings to the sounds you were just mouthing along to while listening.
Again, sitting down in a quiet place, listen to the recording. Mouth along with the audio and, this time, read the transcript of the audio in the language it was made in.
As you read, take note of not just how the words sound but also how they are spelled. Take care to notice which are pronounced phonetically and which are not. Eventually, you should be able to recognize and understand the words as they are written as well as how they are spoken.
Language learning requires dedication. This is something many language teachers and Arguelles himself emphasize. You cannot really learn by just going language shadowing “when you feel like it”.
Set aside a few minutes every day to do language shadowing and make it a part of your daily routine. It will help you gain fluency by ensuring that there is a period, every day, where you are hearing and “speaking” the language you want to learn allowing for an immersive experience.
By going shadowing daily, you are not just getting some extra language immersion time, you're also making sure that you get some regular exercise.
Walking regularly for extended periods of time – not just from the couch to the kitchen or bathroom – has health benefits. Walking also requires your mind to be more focused and alert, the better to absorb the new sounds and words you hear in the audio.
By listening intently to the audio, you are familiarizing yourself with how new words sound. The fact that speech shadowing also requires you to read a transcript also helps you grasp the meaning of these words and recognize them when you see them in a text.
One reason that language shadowing is effective in increasing fluency is because it requires you to “speak” the language. Mouthing along with the audio helps improve your familiarity with the proper pronunciation of words and phrases and also allows you to pick up the proper accent. This can increase your confidence in your ability to hold a conversation because you know that you won’t “sound funny”.
In order to achieve fluency, you need to be able to understand a language as it is spoken by native speakers.
One of the best and most entertaining ways to familiarize yourself with a language as it is really spoken and used by native speakers is to listen to content created in that language.
Language shadowing utilizes the art of listening to improve not just your language comprehension but also to improve your grammar and pronunciation.
We recommend that you take some time every day, maybe after your tutoring session with a native speaker, to go on a language shadowing walk.
What is the most powerful tool for learning a foreign language? It is our memory.
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