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Shadow English: What is it? How can you use it?

6 years ago

“Repeat after me…”
How many times have you heard that in class or with your tutor?
Are you starting to feel silly repeating the same old English words and phrases?
Repeating spoken English—also known as shadowing—is an effective method for improving pronunciation, intonation and overall English Skills.
But maybe you’re searching for something a little more exciting to shadow.
But first—what’s the point of shadowing, anyways?

What Is Shadowing and How Does It Help?

Shadowing involves repeating a piece of English audio word-for-word as you listen. You might already have done this in class when you repeat a new phrase along with your teacher. You may also shadow when you sing along to your favorite English songs.
Shadowing is a great method for beginner English learners. That’s because it gets you in the habit of speaking English out loud right from the start.
While you may not understand everything you’re saying, you’ll be mimicking correct English pronunciation, which will set you up for success in spoken English. It’ll also get you more comfortable and confident speaking English in general.

How to Shadow Correctly

Before you start shadowing, make sure you’re in a quiet space where you won’t be distracted. You need your full concentration on the English audio to be successful.
You may want to listen to the clip a few times before you start shadowing. When you’re ready, press “play” again and repeat what you hear while you listen. The idea is to speak along with the audio, so you learn the natural pace, rhythm and intonation of English.
Some shadowing experts recommend adding your own expressions once you’re comfortable. Varying one or two words allows you to test what you’ve learned and practice participating in an English dialogue.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed, you’ll only want to shadow with short audio clips. Start with only a few lines of dialogue at a time. This will allow you to listen more carefully and shadow more precisely. The more you practice, the longer you’ll be able to shadow.

Why Short Films Are Great for Shadowing Practice

Short films allow you to listen to real-world English that isn’t too long and overwhelming. Many short films are no more than 20 minutes and some are less than 10. You can view them on your work break and practice the dialogue all day. It helps to have a written transcript if one is available.
Since short films are brief, the dialogue is typically limited and simple to follow. And since films rely on visual communication, it’ll be easy for you to determine what’s going on, so you can make the connection between the spoken English and the situation.
If you have transcripts in your native language and in English, you can shadow knowing exactly what you’re saying. Later, you can use the scripts to learn vocabulary. If no transcripts are available, use subtitles. You may even find it helpful to copy the subtitles and review them this way.

4 Fun Short Films to Practice Shadowing in English

Since there are so many short films available, it may be overwhelming to find a place to start. Here’s a list of some films to get you started. They vary in subject matter so you may find one that interests you.
Of course, your options aren’t limited to this list. Use it as a starting point to find much more to practice your English speaking skills. If you’re already using films, the shadowing technique is a way for you to get even more practice.

“If Women Ruled the World”

This is a short film about a young professional woman who finds herself in a world ruled by women.
What to listen for:
  • American accent
  • Workplace vocabulary
  • Debate-style dialogue
The comedic film takes place in an office environment, so you’ll have the chance to practice workplace vocabulary and business English. Since the message of the film is gender equality, much of the dialogue and vocabulary will be centered on this topic.
Note that there are also some common English swear words throughout this film.

“The Gift”

This is an animated short film about a young girl who wants to give a gift to her parents. It’s a cute short film that’s a great start if you’re new to shadowing.
What to listen for:
  • Questions
  • Simple verbs
This film contains very little dialogue as it’s mostly centered around action, but the little dialogue you do hear is simple to shadow. You’ll practice verbs such as “to be” (I am/I was) and I need.

“The Expert”

This is a movie about an office meeting.
What to listen for:
  • British accent
  • Workplace vocabulary
  • Introductions in English
You’ll find this one a bit challenging, but you need to push yourself if you want to learn, right?
Not only do the speakers use British English, but they also speak quickly. Still, it’ll give you an opportunity to use your new shadowing skills while listening to English spoken in a comedic fashion.
You can always slow down the audio on YouTube (click the gear icon, then “Speed”), just be aware it may warp the intonation a bit. Practice shadowing on a slow speed and gradually get faster and faster to regular speed.


This is a charming short film. It’s focused on a woman who’s curious about a man she meets and a large box he’s carrying. It’s a great example of a casual, informal conversation in English.
What to listen for:
  • Introductions in English
  • Descriptions of people
This film contains automatically generated subtitles from YouTube. You can choose one of the characters to shadow, or if you’re feeling confident, try shadowing both.

Again, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the films on this list. Do some digging. What topic interests you? There are too many films out there to count. Get started with English shadowing by using short films and you’ll find your speaking skills grow!

I hope this helped! If you need more practice with speaking and basic conversation, please sign up for a trial lesson or a one hour private lesson. Good luck!