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Mimic Perfection: The Role of Imitation in English Speaking Practice

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Mimic Perfection

Language mimicry is the cornerstone of learning any language. As children, we imitate our parents and the way they speak. We notice how their lips move, how they relate to different sounds around them etc. One example of this is ‘ baby talk.’ Babies hear syllables and sounds made around them and then imitate them, such as by saying ‘ga ga’ etc.

 

The Science Behind Imitation in Language Learning

The brain uses imitation for language learning by picking up sounds around itself and then using these for stimulus and response in the environment. For example, a baby will hear their father say ‘ga ga’ and then make the noise and see what the response is.

 

They also do this with smiling, facial movements, etc. When we smile and we notice it elicits a big response from our parents and they smile back we will do it more often.

 

How to Use Imitation in English-Speaking Practice

Imitation is a no-substitute way to approach your English. This means that there is really no way to approach your English without mimicry. You will mimic not only at the start of your journey but also throughout. 

 

For example, I am a fairly advanced English speaker but I still regularly mimic others. You may notice ways of speaking, pronunciation, and emphasis that you like. Also, I commonly notice vocabulary words I do not know.  For example, when I went to the zoo I saw the names of a bunch of animals that I did not know. When I hear a word or phrase I do not know I make an effort to look it up. This really only happens through mimicry. For example, if I hear a word and I do not know it then it is only through mimicry that I become aware of it and learn it.

 

I also really encourage you to choose 5 or 6 English speakers you like and mimic from them. This is a great way to shape yourself not only in English but in all areas of life. In Neural Linguistic Programming, it is referred to as modeling. For example, Obama is the speaker I find the most bombastic and compelling. Therefore, I love to listen to his speeches, especially the earlier ones, and mimic sounds, ways of pronouncing vocabulary, etc. It has made me a more compelling teacher.

 

I also really like Shallon Lester for speaking directly. She is very good at getting to the heart of the matter. Finally, I think Oprah Winfrey is the most persuasive speaker I know.

 

Listening: The First Step Toward Imitation

Active listening is the key to language mimicry. Without it, you will not have success in mastering a language, let alone becoming a proficient English speaker quickly. It is sort of like watching sports on television. I love to watch competitive sailing but if you put me on a boat I would have no idea what to do.

 

English works the same way. We need to engage actively to become proficient in this.

 

Luckily, there are a plethora of ways to do this. One I have been engaging with recently is chat rooms. Chat rooms force you to engage, ask questions and respond back. In contrast to passive listening where you are just letting something roll over you; this is a very participatory use of the language.

 

One of my favorite ways to engage in active listening is finding a Youtuber that I like and regularly listening to their content. This way, I can follow the topic and they commonly use similar vocabulary. For example, Shallon Lester covers topics such as war, personal philosophy, and celebrity lives. I enjoy listening to what she is saying and following the trajectory of her ideas over time. Because I am engaged, I listen more accurately. I love to see how it compares to her past work etc.

 

Shadowing: Follow in the Footsteps of Native Speakers

  • Definition and explanation of the shadowing technique
  • Steps to shadow effectively
  • Tips on how to incorporate shadowing into daily English-speaking practice

Shadowing is also a neat technique to develop your English competency. Shadowing is when you listen to something and then repeat it back directly as you heard it. The goal is to match what was said as closely as possible while retaining comprehension. Babies frequently engage in shadowing. They will repeat what their parents have said. For example, if their mother says ‘mama’ they will repeat this back. Frequently, when parents want their children to learn a new word they will say the word and encourage them to repeat it.

 

To shadow effectively, first, make sure that you are imitating someone who is correct. There is nothing worse than learning something backwards and then needing to go back and try to unlearn what you just did! Therefore, opt for an English teacher who has the experience and is a native or highly proficient speaker as your first shadow partner. You can find many on Youtube or join a program such as KrisAmerikos for added participation.

 

Recording and Reviewing: Your Key to Accent Reduction

  • Importance of recording oneself and reviewing for accent reduction
  • How to effectively compare one's pronunciation with that of native speakers
  • Suggestions of apps or tools to aid in this process

 

I LOVE to record myself and see how I sound. While this might seem intimidating and scary at first, it really does help. It will also boost confidence because you can see how well you are doing, and adapt over time. For example, record yourself making a speech or even just individual phonetics. Notice where there is mispronunciation. You can then hone in on these areas. For example, when I was recording myself I noticed it was difficult to hear my articulation between words. Sometimes it was a strain for me to understand what I had just said, and I was the one who had just spoken it!

 

You can pair this technique of recording and reviewing for accent reduction nicely with the shadowing technique we just described. Choose a leader whose speech you want to imitate, or whose vocabulary you want to pick up. Listen to them, then repeat what they are saying and record it. Listen again to their recording and compare. Keep re-recording until you get to a place where your recording matches theirs exactly. Voila!

 

This is my favorite app for online voice recording. It can also be helpful to save the recordings and check your improvements over time. You can also send them to a friend, partner or teacher for their critique. This is also a great way to prepare for a particular thing such as a speech at work.



Imitation as a Stepping Stone to Fluent English Speaking

Remember that imitation is a stepping stone to fluent English speaking, and your journey will not happen overnight. As Martha Beck, my favorite social anthropologist (someone who studies people) says, it is important to reward small progress. Maybe at first, just reward yourself for doing the activity. Then, reward small improvements. For example, if you used to confuse ‘d’ and ‘t sounds then reward yourself when this improves. Remind yourself that this is how children learned, and how every English-speaking master you look up to learn as well. Keep in mind, even lions did not know how to growl and walk till they learned from their mothers!



Cultivating Authenticity: Beyond Mere Imitation

Developing your own voice in English will come not from going it alone off the bat, but rather from imitation. This might seem ironic but let me explain. We first learn the basics of something from observation. For example, I first learned how to cook through eating and watching other people cook. It was only after I learned how to turn on a stove, heat vegetables, etc. that I expanded beyond that. I now have my own unique style. For example, I like to use a lot of fat and herbs in my cooking. I would not have developed that if I tried to cook on my own first. For example, if I tried to cook but didn't even know how to turn on a stove I would have gotten frustrated and quit.

 

Every single person who has developed authenticity in an area started with imitation. For example, Barack Obama learned from many teachers, read every book in the library at Yale etc. before developing his own voice.




Embracing Imitation: The Key to Perfecting Your English

In conclusion, imitation is essential but you will eventually develop your own voice from this. Knowing that you will one day have your own voice and be a dynamic, unique, compelling English master on your own can motivate you to want to pursue imitation. That's a great thing! Also, I encourage you to learn from a variety of unique voices so you can tell what you like.

 

Please try implementing the strategies above and let us know how it goes. We would love to support you on your journey.

 

Further Resources for English-Speaking Practice

  • Links to other relevant articles or resources on your website/blog
  • Suggestions for additional materials or platforms for English-speaking practice

 

We have many videos on our Youtube channel that you can access for correct English imitations. You can view them here. We also encourage you to access news broadcasts, public speeches etc; really anything that resonates with you.

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✅ Two Mastermind Calls Per Week: We run two learning calls per week that are approximately 1 hour each.

✅ Spotlight Seat Calls: The spotlight seats are where you can bring any problem, question, presentation, email, or other problem to the table and we'll help you solve it.

✅ Theory Calls: The theory calls are where we go in depth about everything related to how to think to improve your English and we break it down into the details of how things work, why they work, and how you can use it yourself by giving you a deeper understanding.

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✅ Level Up Community: A private wall for posts and a private group chat for Level Up members only.

✅ Everything inside English-Everyday: daily live speaking lessons, 24/7 live room, group chat.

Learn more about Level Up

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  • Work on presentation, emails, work projects, or personal goals.
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  • Every lesson is focused on your specific needs.
  • Choose the best date and time for you.
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