Shadowing is usually associated with the name of Alexander Argueys. It was he who turned simple imitation into one of the most effective methods of learning a foreign language. At the same time, listening comprehension, reading, spelling, pronunciation, fluency, vocabulary, grammar are trained at the same time. Who, if not a professor, linguist and the most famous polyglot in the world, who speaks more than 40 languages, can be trusted in this matter?

What is shadowing

In short, you listen to an audio recording and at the same time try to repeat it out loud, as close as possible to the original.

For Shadowing you will need:

1. Audio made by a native speaker.

  • It should be a pure narrative (without pauses and extraneous inclusions).
  • Movies, TV programs or radio shows are not suitable here.
  • The material must be original. It doesn't matter what it is: an audio course, children's, modern, classical or special literature; journalism, etc.

2. It is desirable to break the record into fragments with which you can work.

  • At the initial stage, a comfortable duration is 1-1.5 minutes (10-15 sentences).
  • At the next stages, you can use the chapters of the book or simply "cut" the recording into 5-10 minute passages.

3. Full verbatim transcript of the audio (text version of the audio book) and translation into the native language.

The electronic version of the text is preferable, since you can print the native and target versions (separately, as a parallel or interlinear translation). The author uses Assimil courses for work.

Shadowing Procedure

Includes more than 10 stages. Each takes 10-15 minutes (you repeat a one-minute passage 10-15 times, a 5-minute passage - 2-3 times, respectively).

I have combined some of the stages, highlighting the five main ones and dividing them by day.

Day 1.

Blind shadowing (blind imitation):

You listen to the passage once or twice and start imitating the narrator (to shadow), his pronunciation and the rhythm of speech.

In the beginning, it is unusual and even unpleasant to repeat things that you do not understand. Sometimes they are barely distinguishable, it's just noise. Therefore, the first attempts are far from perfect. But it is not important. The feeling of being lost passes quickly. And most importantly, with each stage (that means every day), performance improves.

Day 2

Comprehensible shadowing, as I called this stage .

You continue to do what you did on the first day - listen and imitate the same passage. But now - looking at the translation.

Day 3

Proper shadowing (shadowing technique as it is commonly understood).

Same as the second day, but looking at the text of the target language.

Day 4

I called this stage independent work (independent work).

You read aloud the text in the target language, but without audio, and try to imitate the narrator “from memory”, sort out the nuances.

Day 5

Scriptorium (written work).

Read each sentence aloud; write it down by hand, pronouncing each word; you pronounce the written sentence as a whole.

Shadowing method

Shadowing is a system that you use every day. You work with several passages at the same time, using all the described techniques. What does it look like?

Let me remind you that you have a long text (or audio course), divided into separate passages (text No. 1,2,3, etc.). You consistently work with each of them for 10-15 minutes daily, according to the following scheme:

Day 1.

Text #1 - Blind shadowing (without looking at the text).

Day 2

Text No. 1 - comprehensible shadowing (looking at the translation).

Text #2 – blind shadowing.

Day 3

Text #1 - proper shadowing (looking at the target text).

Text #2 – comprehensible shadowing.

Text #3 – blind shadowing.

Day 4

Text No. 1 - independent work (read aloud, looking at the target text without audio accompaniment).

Text #2 - proper shadowing.

Text #3 – comprehensible shadowing.

Text #4 blind shadowing.

Day 5

Text number 1 - scriptorium (write the target text by hand, speaking out loud).

Text No. 2 - independent work.

text #3 – proper shadowing.

Text #4 – comprehensible shadowing.

Text #5 - blind shadowing.

Day 6

It is, in fact, the beginning of a new cycle. From this point on, it will be repeated - until all the material is worked out. Text #1 is no longer used. Added text #6.

That is, on the sixth day, the schedule will be as follows:

Text No. 2 - scriptorium.

Text No. 3 - independent work.

Text #4 - proper shadowing.

Text #5 – comprehensible shadowing.

Text #6 – blind shadowing.

Periodically (on the 7th day) you can repeat the learned lessons “in a circle”. In fact, this is blind shadowing on a new level, when the content of the text is clear and familiar to you. This is what the ideal system looks like.

My version of shadowing

It is not always possible to perform the procedure exactly. After various experiments, I have excluded written work altogether and work with only three passages at a time, listening to them as follows:

  1. Without looking at the text.
  2. Looking into translation.
  3. Looking into the text of the target language.
  4. Repeating aloud, simultaneously with the narrator.

So I can borrow during the day as soon as I have time. When I have the opportunity to read, I do independent work (I just reread the text, deal with grammar, etc.).

Why shadowing works

First , the success of the method depends on how many different channels we can use to get the language.

In this case, the language comes through hearing and sight, at the same time you reproduce it. You don't have time to translate, you actually think in the target language. Shadowing leaves no room for bad execution. It does not allow you to make mistakes, because you imitate the real language of the native speaker.

Secondly , about mastering a skill (including language) involves regularity and repetition.

However, this usually means boredom. If you're bored, you lose focus. Practicing without concentration is useless. Shadowing solves this problem. Every day you receive a portion of new material and repeat the old one. Every time you dive into a language, you master it at a new (deeper) level:

  • At the level of physiology. Listening and repeating new sounds, you get used to them; you try to distinguish individual sentences, expressions, words.
  • At the level of understanding the general meaning. It is at this point that learning begins. Understanding the language, the brain masters it.
  • At the level of clarification of details and connection of the meaning of what was heard with the text. You discover words and sounds that were previously indistinguishable in the flow of speech; refine the nuances of pronunciation. At this point, a number of very interesting things happen. The brain creates a connection between words and their spelling.
  • At the level of conscious analysis. Not being limited by the rhythm of the audio, we independently concentrate on the moments that interest us. The goal is to deal with the details at a comfortable pace. At this stage, you understand how the new grammar works.
  • at the motor level. You learn to write, you get the language in a completely different way. You are completing a very important skill acquisition cycle.

In order to use the technique most effectively, A. Argeyes insists on the importance of movement in training.

“Walk as fast as possible; maintain a straight posture (shoulders deployed, chin raised) and clearly pronounce (articulate) in a full voice.

He can't explain why, but it always gives the best results. Not so long ago, scientists found an explanation for this. They established a direct link between movement and learning as such.

It's all about a small area of the brain, the cerebellum (The Cerebellum). Previously, it was thought that it was only responsible for controlling the movements of the body. But then it is not clear why this relatively small part of the brain (1/10) is so complex. It contains over half of all brain's neurons and more than 40 million nerve fibers.

It turned out that the human cerebellum contains a department that is responsible for the transmission of cognitive information - directly for the process of thinking (cognitive (thinking) information). This department is absent in animals and plays a key role in the process of "thinking" (thinking). There, the data is processed before being sent to the cerebral cortex (the thinking part).

Physical movement stimulates this part of the brain. This makes the process of further processing of information and, consequently, learning more efficient. Thus, motor activity should become part of the daily learning process.


Development goes through two stages: active and passive practice and generalization (consolidation).

By learning a language in the way described, you get a huge amount of information that you are not physically able to learn. The conscious part of the brain is not designed for this.

At the same time, you are doing everything possible for effective development. The unconscious does all the work, it is there that a new language arises. It will become “native” for us when the brain creates the necessary number of necessary connections. All it takes is time.

In fact, we learn while we rest. Practice only starts the mechanism. It's like muscles that grow between workouts in response to training stress. Therefore, the almost complete ban on "learning" is an important characteristic of the method, and its advantage. After completing the procedure, you should not try to “learn” words or rules. It is useless and only hinders the process. You need to get out of your head everything related to learning, and get on with other things. Nothing else depends on you.

If “along the way” things still remain incomprehensible that prevent understanding the text, you just need to find and look through the corresponding word or rule, without trying to remember. Everything else can and should be ignored.

Terms of language acquisition

All the basic grammar of the language and 90% of the vocabulary (about 2000 words) fit into a 2 hour story at a moderate pace. To master it, you will need about 6 months of daily practice (working with each passage in the described way). You will speak the language at a basic level and at least understand it.

Further progress occurs according to the principle of a snowball, along with the time that you devote to the language (listen, read, see, speak, write; use - in one word).