“Shadowing” is a technique that empowers people to learn and adapt to a changing environment. The idea is incredibly simple, but sadly most people have never heard of it and therefore can't use it intentionally. I started using shadowing unconsciously for language learning, but have become more intentional over time. I was able to become fluent in four different languages by using the shadowing learning technique. I shadowed a friend to learn German and a colleague for French. I learned how to speak Portuguese and Chinese in addition to learning about heartbreak from 2 of my (ex-)girlfriends.
So shadowing works, but how to do it effectively?
What exactly is shadowing?
Shadowing is a learning technique that allows one to learn things by imitating or copying. Think of a master performing their craft, and you are just looking at them and learning by paying attention to what they are doing. You behave like an echo or a shadow of someone. This leverages the mirror neurons in your brain, and over time you'll master the craft yourself, especially if you imitate the master while watching them.
How to benefit from the shadowing learning technique?
To show you how effective this technique really is here is a step-by-step guide of how you can learn a new language by applying the shadowing learning technique. Keep in mind that with small modification this works for other skills than language learning too!
- First, select the master you want to shadow: someone who's already fluent in the target language. This can be someone you know or a YouTuber. In the latter case choose a video with a maximum video or audio of 5 minutes and just one person speaking.
- Listen closely as to what is being said or told. Get used to the accent, rhythm, and intonation. Before you dig deeper and start the shadowing process, ensure that you have heard it for at least one time.
- Start shadowing. It will be challenging at first, as learning is not an easy process. But things will start getting easier from there. Listen to what the speaker is saying or showing in the video and just start imitating the same without stopping the video. Try to mimic the speaker’s voice and actions; you will start learning what they are doing or saying.
- Repeat the same video several times, and don't move on to the next one until you feel you've mastered it.
- If you are confident that you have learned something, record it immediately and celebrate!
- Listen back to the recorded version of yourself before moving to the next video.
Shadowing is a tried and tested technique that has helped people learn faster and more efficiently for ages. Technology now enables us to connect to anyone with any skill, opening up huge opportunities for shadowing which we've only begun to explore.