Shadowing – It’s much harder than you think

Repeat after me

Shadowing is what people in the language learning community call parroting. It is listening to audio of someone speaking, and saying what you heard. Language teacher and YouTuber, Professor Arguelles teaches that it’s a great way to learn a language.

This would benefit any language learner right? Rounds like a no-brainer, right?



It’s mind meltingly, embarrassingly hard.  A beginner doesn’t have a good enough “ear” for the language to understand what sounds were in the audio, let alone the skill to produce them.  He only has enough of an “ear” to know his own speech is far from correct. A lot of the time the learner can’t get himself to parrot much of anything at all.

It’s like asking a baby to say a string of sentences like, “Is your wife feeling well today, Mr. Jones?”  That is way out of a baby’s league.  You’d ask a baby to say, “ball,” after mentioning the word 20 times a day.

Before I realized how hard this technique was, I tried using it with my children and it was a flop.  They mostly just stared blankly and didn’t say anything – like a baby who’s has been told to say, “I bought these tea cups while I was on vacation in Mexico.”

I wasn’t much better at it than they were.

Save this technique for when you are fluent already. Below is a video which overcomplicates shadowing, but has an impressive example of it at the end.  Skip to 9:40 to hear some crazy-good shadowing. I couldn’t even shadow this well in my native language!


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