Here’s what you need to know about using the shadowing technique to learn Russian

A particularly useful language-learning technique was developed by polyglot Dr Alexander Arguelles , called ‘shadowing’. It is very useful for improving pronunciation and involves a period of intensive listening combined with the repetition of what is said in the precise manner in which it is done. Read on to learn how to shadow .

1. Choose an audio / video-based resource of your choice which is accompanied by a transcript or closed caption subtitles which accurately match the dialogue.

2. Repeat after the speaker in Russian, until you have committed the script to memory through extensive repetition. Listen carefully to the words being uttered by the speaker and try to emulate them as closely as possible, whilst reading the text. Aim to imitate not only the pronunciation, but also the speed and cadence of the speaker.

3. Once you feel more comfortable with the text, turn off the subtitles, or hide the transcript, then write what you hear in Latin script or Cyrillic (choose what you feel most comfortable with at this time), placing accent marks above the stressed syllable, whilst continuing to repeat after the speaker aloud.

4. Engage in mindful reading and comparative analysis, poring through the translation whilst thinking carefully about what each word in your native language corresponds to in the Russian version of the text. This will help you to memorise the text more easily.

5. Move around whilst you shadow, as even gentle aerobic activity such as walking has been shown to boost attention and enhance memory in countless studies. Such gentle exercise can keep you more alert by boosting the circulation of oxygen to your brain , which reduces fatigue and leads to better focus. In addition, walking as you shadow helps the brain to both generate new cells in which new information is stored and establish new connections between existing brain cells. Finally, walking increases the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain which handles the movement of information from our ‘working’ memory to our long-term memory).

6. As you memorise more and more of the text, shadow the speaker simultaneously.

7. You will know that you have successfully mastered a text, when you can read it aloud in Russian with confidence – that is, without stumbling through the text.

8. Be sure to incorporate regular review into the use of shadowing in order to move the newly-acquired vocabulary from your working memory to your long-term memory. The best way to do this is by testing your ability to recall the text whether in written or spoken form, in order to exercise and strengthen the neural pathways governing the text you previously studied and attempted to commit to memory.

Engaging in listening practice on a regular basis will help you to improve your pronunciation , mastering the rhythm, tone and intonation used by native speakers in the various registers of a language (in our case, Russian). The benefits of this method extend beyond that of stronger listening and speaking skills and a native-like accent. You will also see a significant improvement in your reading and writing skills as you rehearse the text and re-write it in order to commit it to memory.

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