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3B: Pronunciation

Because of your extensive listening practice, your ear should be well trained to hear the sounds of your target language. However, just because you can hear a sound doesn't mean you can reproduce it.

Pronunciation is a physical skill. There are muscles in your mouth that need to be strengthened and trained. It will take several weeks of regular practice for your mouth to get comfortable pronouncing the new language.

Shadowing

There are many exercises you can use to practice your pronunciation, but the most important one is shadowing.

Shadowing is when you listen to a recording of a native speaker and attempt to say exactly what they say, exactly how they say it, in real-time.

Shadowing is an excellent way to improve pronunciation because you can hear the discrepancies between your speech and the recording. This gives you immediate feedback on your pronunciation and helps you hone in on what you need to change to sound more natural.

Watch this video to see an example of shadowing in English:

How to Shadow

When you first start shadowing it will be difficult to keep up. You will probably only be able to shadow a few words before you lose the thread of the conversation. This is OK. Just keep going, even if you're only catching two words per sentence.

Eventually, it will become easy to keep up. You will automatically be able to hear audio and immediately reproduce it. Once you can easily keep up with the audio, switch your focus to your pronunciation and cadence. The goal is to sound as much like the person you're shadowing as possible.

Choosing What to Shadow

When you’re first developing the skill of shadowing, you can shadow any content you like. However, once you can keep up with the audio you should switch to only shadowing your parent. If you try to imitate multiple people then your accent will become a mix of all of them. By narrowing your focus to a single person, you can learn to speak with a natural and consistent style.

Choose content where your parent is speaking naturally. Ideally, it should be unscripted and unedited. You should have at least level 5 comprehension of any content you choose to shadow.

We also recommend that you do some of your shadowing with video content instead of just pure audio so that you can see your parent's facial expressions and body language. Your brain will subconsciously absorb this information, which will allow you to better mimic their speaking style.

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