I first saw this idea on Douglas Orme's blog which I have linked to here.
He uses it in his Speaking & Listening Focus Class in Canada.
I have adapted his words to the situation here in Austria (EFL and not ESL).
Q: What is shadowing?
A: Shadowing is a technique in which a Non-native speaker (NNS) listens to a native speaker (NS) and then tries to repeat every word they hear just after the native speaker.
Q: How will this help me?
A: If you practice it consistently, you can expect to improve several features of your English.
1. Your rhythm and speed (fluency)
2. Your tone or emotion. (Delivery, naturalness)
3. Accuracy (You are practicing natural, authentic speech)
4. Listening (You have to catch the words in order to repeat them)
Q: How long after the NS do I repeat?
A: Try for less than about 1 second. The shorter the gap the better.
Q: Do I simply repeat every word they say?
A: No. Not exactly. You should try to catch and copy the emotion (tone) of the speaker and use the same style, rhythm and speed they use.
Q: What if I can’t catch a word or two?
A: Don’t stop. Just say "bla bla" (if you miss two words) and keep on going!
Q: How many types of shadowing are there?
A: There are 4 levels of shadowing.
1. Silently (shadowing the words in your mind only)
2. Lip movement (moving your lips, but with no sound)
3. Whispering (very low level speech)
4. Out loud (normal speaking volume
Q: Which of the 4 types is the most beneficial?
A: Shadowing out loud is the most beneficial because it’s like real speaking. Silently is the still helpful, but less so. On the other hand if you’re shadowing people on the subway, silent shadowing is probably the best choice!
Q: If I’m shadowing TV, should I just shadow everyone on the show?
A: No. I'd choose 1 character only. Also, choose someone you respect or admire— someone you think you want to sound like. If you shadow Homer Simpson, you'll begin to sound like Homer Simpson!
Shadowing A Taped Source: TV, DVD etc.
1. Record the source on tape or MP3 etc. Listen 2 or 3 times for meaning, rewind and then shadow the third time only. You need to understand the meaning, vocabulary and the situation first, then shadow. Get a transcript if possible.
2. Record a TV show and shadow one character. (E.g. Rachel on "Friends") Listen X2, then shadow.
3. Record NPR or BBC radio and shadow the interviewer or interviewee. Listen X2, then shadow.
4. Get an audiobook in English or a podcast, listen 2-3 times and then shadow one of the speakers.
A much tougher challenge. (15 minutes should exhaust you if you’ve done it right)
6. Go to the Office Pub and silently shadow someone who’s talking to a friend.
7. Silently shadow one character in a movie, on TV, on the radio etc.
8. Shadow your teachers and professors. Especially if they are boring!
9. Include ‘shadowing’ as part of your weekly goals and see if it works for you.
* If you can’t shadow about 80% of the words, then you need to make a recording and listen 2 or 3 times before you shadow. Listen first, then shadow.
* When you shadow, always try to copy the feeling, the tone, and the emotions of the speaker: be an actor.
Here is more advice from a Japanese site:
Shadowing on your own:
1. Choose any listening. Cassette tapes are better than video tapes because they are easier to rewind and pause. Just hold your small tape recorder next to your speakers! Try to pick sources for which you can get a transcript so you can see what you don't understand just by listening.
2. Listen to the tape (about one or two minutes) and try to understand the general meaning. (2 times)
3. Listen again and this time try to shadow as best as you can. Repeat what you hear as soon as you hear it. Pause when you need to pause.
4. After you finish your first attempt at shadowing, look at the transcript carefully. Underline the areas that you couldn't shadow well in pencil. If you don't have a transcript then try to tape yourself and compare your shadowing to the original. Or just do your best to compare your shadowing and the actual recording.
5. Shadow. Do not look at the transcript.
6. Shadow again. If you are having great difficulty shadowing, look at the transcript for help. Do not look ahead to the next sentence. Only check the transcript to assist your shadowing. When you shadow, it is very important to try to say what you hear and not what you read. Don't trust your own pronunciation or your own intuition on how you think something was said. Rely only on your ears.
7. Continue to shadow, increasing the speed and the amount you shadow. Erase the underlines as you get better. Continue to shadow increasing your ability to repeat exactly what you hear.
THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT IN SHADOWING
The most important point about effective shadowing is to really, really listen first and then to say what you hear. Learn to speak through listening and not by reading or memorizing the transcript. Try to repeat what you hear as exactly as possible.
THE GOALS -
1. Be able to shadow exactly what you hear at the same speed.
2. Shadow longer phrases as you get better.
Please do this three times a week. Do this while commuting or while getting ready for class, or before going to bed. Make it a habit.
Please listen to your own tapes, the radio, movies, music, tapes, videos, DVDs and any of the Listening Links at Cyberopps -- anything and everything!