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After only three months of shadowing, you can achieve a 50 to 60 point TOEFL score improvement. A researcher by the name of Ken Tamai used this technique and greatly improved his students' listening abilities.

What is shadowing?

While listening to recorded speech, you repeat exactly what you hear, immediately upon hearing it. You also try to keep up with (stay at the same speed as) the speaker.

Shadowing on your own:

  1. Choose a lesson/or any listening. Cassette tapes are better than video tapes because they are easier to rewind and pause.
  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 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.


  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 school, or before going to bed. Make it a habit.

Please listen to your own tapes, the radio, movies, music, tapes, videos in the listening library, your Interchange tapes -- anything and everything!

See an example from Meidai student listening diaries.

(Text by Linda Woo)