How we practice spoken foreign language via shadowing and echoing
如何通过影子跟读 & 回声跟读提升外语听力口语水平
Have you been wondering why you have watched a bunch of videos in foreign language but still fail to utter the word appropriately and fluently when you need to. That's probably because you watch but never practice based on what you've watched.
What we need to make it communicating fluently and finding the exact expression fitting the certain context when we speak? Basically three elements, familiarity of the wordings, pronunciation you are confident with, and swift reaction to what you've heard. Simply put, to manage a conversation well you need to know what the other party means, figure out the suitable words you would like to apply to convey what's in your mind, and pronounce it accurately enough for others to understand. If you stagger in any part mentioned above, the conversation lacks the fluency and agile state of mind to go smooth.
You may find that people good at talking with foreigners have a lot in common, and that's far from coincidence. First of all, their listening comprehension of foreign language won't get in the way of further expression. They make it understanding what the other is talking about in seconds, and the faster it is, the less time it takes for him to respond.
Second, they are resourceful in the volume of expression available. The wordings seem automatically come into mind whenever the idea hits. And they are connected to memory by pronunciation instead of written form.
Finally, they are confident in their pronunciation. It doesn't necessarily mean the pronunciation is accurate or native without flaws, but it sounds not too weird for the native speaker to get it, so it won't make them too shy to speak out.
To make a progress in spoken language, we need to be familiar with the pronunciation, and the meaning corresponding based on how the words sound instead of the way they are written. Therefore, we could react quickly when we hear and get the words with the least struggling when speaking. How may practice echoing and shadowing help with the improvement?
Every time we watch a video in foreign language, especially those with titles, we read the meaning through the written language instead of understand it purely via pronunciation. And we've thought we get it, but actually we just don't focus on the connection between pronunciation and meaning good enough to make us well prepared to the future conversation with similar expression as the potential content. We may find it would be easier for us to realize what it means based on written form instead of reflecting its meaning the minute we hear it, since the connection between pronunciation and meaning hasn't been well developed.
Both echoing and shadowing help us build and strengthen the connection between what we actually hear and what it means. When we echo what we hear, we try to repeat and imitate the pronunciation and lessen the inconformity between what we hear and the way we pronounce. The more consistent it is between them, the less time it costs for us to reflect what's said and further what it means.
Echoing also improves our muscle memory of the pronunciation and meaning of the words since we are practicing speaking up, which makes it relevant to our daily activity. Memory does serve better to the things we frequently apply than those we have ignored. We have paid little attention to the pronunciation when we watch videos without noticing the voice but the titles, or are too hurried for the meaning to notice how it is spoken. However, echoing brings us close to the pronunciation, which will be closer if we echo the video without titles and with scene where we could see how the commentator moves his mouth muscles.
Pronunciation has something to do with oral movement, and it will be a guidance of how to pronounce by watching how it is pronounced by others. Reading the meaning from lips will bring you closer to the meaning, too. It means the connection among movement, pronunciation and meaning is established. You don't need to reflect the written form to know what it means when hear it, and you can simply move your lips for the certain vocabulary when the thought strikes you.
When you are easy with echoing, it is worthwhile to take a further step to shadowing, which means repeating and imitating without pause. Unlike echoing where we finish hearing each sentence and hit a pause before we repeat, where we have more time to react and polish the way we speak, shadowing leaves us limited time to respond or polish since we are repeating almost simultaneously with the video.
Shadowing requires familiarity with the language, so that you are less likely to make mistake when imitating, and it means a higher level for reaction, which you cannot reach without former practice in echoing.
Imitation with consciousness is the shortest and most efficient path to mastering a skill, so it counts when you compare your pronunciation with the standard model and fill in the space of improvement if there is any. Make every move effective in boosting spoken language by echoing then shadowing.