How To Practice Speaking English Like A Native At Home

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You want to improve your English speaking skills, but you don’t have any native speaking friends around. You wish you were speaking to a real person, but instead you just flip through a vocabulary book.

We all heard the common advice on learning the second language.

“Imitate the native speakers.”

But what if:

  • You don’t have any native speaking friends.
  • You are too busy to go to a language institute
  • You just need to practice your speaking skills for a specific occasion – an interview, negotiation, or presentation – but you do not need it on a daily basis.

Don’t worry.

You can improve your English speaking skills, even when you are practicing alone.

Yes, there are Skype lessons and that’s one option. But there is a practice method that interpreters use to acquire native speakers’ accent and intonation.

It's called, shadowing.

Shadowing is when you listen to a speaker and repeat exactly what he or she said. For example, you find one of Steve Job’s presentations on Youtube, and you can repeat after him as you listen to his speech simultaneously, or a phrase by phrase.

But if you just repeat without paying attention to your diction, it’s not going to be as effective.

That’s why I adapted and devised the Shadowing SOG Technique, so that you can truly hone your skills and get the native speaker’s accent and intonation.

The letters SOG stand for sound, one at a time, and guess. S-O-G. It’s a framework you need to use to effectively monitor your shadowing process. Each one of these has a specific training goal, and I’ll explain what they are and what they stand for.

Watch the video in Korean!

S – SOUND FIRST – FOCUS, AND MIMIC EXACTLY WHAT YOU HEAR

The first goal of shadowing is to be able to mimic the intonation. You are training your ability to perceive and reproduce the same sound and melody of the English language.

When you learn to play music on an instrument, such as violin, playing the right notes is not enough. You also have to connect each note and play them smoothly, just like your teacher.

Learning English through mimicry is the same concept. Notice where the speaker puts the emphasis, and where she pauses. Where does the sentence rise in pitch? When does it go lower? How about the rhythm? When does the speaker rush through a sentence, and where does the speaker slow down? You’ll discover the speaker’s speech pattern.

Before you start to analyze the meaning of each word, start with a focus on the sound. If you need to, it’s ok to start and stop the Youtube video or the audio player to double check whether you've heard the audio correctly. It'll be challenging at first, but over time you'll get the gist of it.

O – ONE PHRASE AT A TIME – DON'T RUSH IT

After you go through several iterations of this practice, you can then focus on comprehension and learning the words the speaker uses. Here comes the O part of the shadowing SOG technique. The letter O stands for one phrase at a time.

You will play the video or the audio, hear a phrase or sentence, pause the player, and repeat the phrase or sentence out loud.

On the surface, you might be doing the exact same thing you were doing in the first step. But instead of focusing on the sound this time, you are focusing on your comprehension, memorizing a chunk of words and phrases with their meanings in mind, and adding them to your active vocabulary set.

In the second step, you want to understand, say the longer sentences, and memorize them.

Memorizing and saying phrases once or twice won’t be enough for you to make them a part of your active vocabulary set. You need to do kind of practice periodically so that it will engrain these phrases in your memory. You will then be able to recall and use them in your conversations later. You will also feel more confident when you are able to speak in longer, well-structured sentences.

You don’t have to go through the entire 20 minute Steve Job speech in one setting. Break down the speech in smaller segments, and practice one at a time.

 

G – GUESS, SPEAK, AND COMPARE

If you’ve come this far, give yourself a pat on the back! I'm about to show you an advanced technique. The letter G stands for guess, speak, and compare. You are going to test how quickly you can create a sentence based on the presented context.

Play, and pause the speech. Guess what the speaker will say next. Say it out loud, and then playback the speech. Compare what you just said with what the speaker actually says. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How accurately did I guess? Where did I make the error? Was it prepositions, tenses or articles?
  • Did I say what's appropriate in this context?
  • If I was completely off, where did I go wrong? Did I misunderstand the context of the speech, or did I not know certain words?

Act like the speaker in the video, and try to think and speak from the speaker’s point of view. If you guessed them accurately most of the time, congratulations! You have almost memorized the speech.

Even if your guesses weren’t correct, you can at least say things that make sense in the situation. You can then improve your responsiveness, spontaneity, and the ability to construct a well-thought sentence quickly.

WHICH VIDEO TO PRACTICE WITH?

There are many Youtube videos to choose from. It’s important to note that there are many different formats, and each may serve you a different purpose and a result.

Speeches – Useful if you want to learn the presentation skills, appear confident, and become used to speaking in front of a large audience. Try presidents, CEOs, and speakers from TED talks. Some of my recommendations are here.

How-To Videos – Learning from How-To videos are more practical than speeches. In How-To videos, you instruct, or describe a process. I'm sure you already do that to your friends and coworkers in your daily life. Watch how tennis coaches, chefs, and excel experts teach you how they do what they do.

Interviews and Dialogues – These are also great. You don't get much chance to give a speech to a large audience, but you do talk one on one every day. Watching how people respond to interview questions and how they react in a dialogue will help you get a grasp of real spoken English.

Songs – Some students reported improvements in their accent by learning songs.

Don't wait, and start practicing now.

 

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Josh

About Josh

뉴욕 출신 일본계 미국인. 현재: 비즈니스 영어 강사 및 생산성 코치 (productivity coach)로서 활동. 전: 파고다 어학원, 현대백화점, 인천도시공사, 동시통역사. 출연: 재이 재능 티비, 아란잉글리쉬, 한국일보. 3개국어 능통자. 더 많은 영어 학습 팁과 영어 회화 레슨을 받으시려면 이메일 뉴스레터를 구독하세요! 바로 구독하기 »

  • jeonghee

    안녕하세요~쉐도잉 방법 질문드려요.

    질문1. 인터넷에서 쉐도잉의 방법을 찾아보니.

    아래와 같이 방법이 약간 다르게 설명되어 있는데요…

    물론 일정 수준 이상이시면 1번과 2번이 같은 뜻이다~~라고 하시겠지만

    제 수준엔 아직 두 방법이 확연히 다르네요..어떤 방법이 더 효과적인가요..

    방법1. 쉐도잉을 시작하면서 흔히 범하게 되는 오류 중에 내용을 전부 이해하면서 쉐도잉을 해야 한다고 생각하는 분들이 의외로 많습니다. 쉐도잉은 순수하게 소리감각을 먼저 터득하고 그 다음 단계로 내용을 효과적으로 파악하게 되는 학습법입니다. 물론, 처음부터, 내용까지 이해하면서 쉐도잉을 할 수 있다면 금상첨화이긴 하지만, 처음부터 내용까지 이해하면서 하기에는 쉽지 않기 때문에 너무 내용에 집착하지 않아도 된다고 봅니다.

    방법 2. 쉐도잉의 가장 큰 목표는 발음도 중요하지만 일단 지문의 내용을 이해하면서 따라하는 것입니다.
    쉐도잉을 하다보면 문장 구조에 대한 이해도가 높아지고, 영어 문장에 익숙해 지기 때문에
    문장을 문장 단위로 이해할 수 있는 능력을 길러 줍니다.

    —————————————————————————————————————————–

    질문2. 한문장이 끝나고 저 혼자 영어로 말하면 그럭저럭 비루한 영어 발음이라도 되는데..

    쉐도잉으로 1초정도 성우말하기의 뒤에 바짝 붙여서 동시에 말하기로 하면

    아~하~~ 진짜 듣기 창피할정도의 발음도 아닌 너덜너덜한 버벅거림만 있습니다.

    이건 뭔가요?? 공부의 과정인가요?? 아니면 제가 뭔가 잘못하고 있는 건가요??

    도와주세요~