Shadowing is a technique for improving pronunciation popularised by the polyglot Alexander Arguelles. There are many YouTube videos about the technique; most of them don't demonstrate shadowing in the way it was described by Arguelles. A very popular example (by number of views) is Julian Northbrook's video How to improve your English Speaking and Fluency: SHADOWING.

In the YouTube video SHADOWING: Revisited (watch before you try ...), the Bulgarian language teacher Vladimir Skenderoff criticises the technique and claims that it "is mainly recommended for interpreter trainees", so it is only really appropriate for very advanced learners of a foreign language. The statement about interpreter trainees comes from a comment on one of his videos, so it does not come from what I consider a reliable source. So my question is: Is it true that shadowing is a technique for interpreter trainees? Obviously, I am looking for answers based on reliable sources.


I think shadowing is definitely not just for interpreters trainees. My source is the video that Professor Alexander Arguelles made. He clearly intends it to be used by beginners for the purpose of learning a language from scratch, and talks about Shadowing generally for the first 20 minutes, after which he dives into the details of how you could use the technique together with Assimil. Indeed, this is the method that he used to learn countless languages. That is not to say that shadowing shouldn't ALSO be used by interpreter trainees. And it's also not to say that shadowing (or any specific technique) is for everybody.

  • Thanks for your answer. However, I'm not looking for ways in which it can be used, but for its source or origin. Arguelles did not invent shadowing, as far as I know, so I am looking for information based on books, articles etc about the training of interpreters (unless that is not where it comes from). – Christophe Strobbe Oct 3 '18 at 18:23
  • 1
    As far as I know, Arguelles is the source. At the very least, the polyglot community knows about it largely from him. – AML Oct 3 '18 at 20:09
  • Arguelles is the source of his own version of shadowing, but, as far as I know he did not invent shadowing. – Christophe Strobbe Oct 4 '18 at 9:46

The article [1], from 1997, states that although shadowing is still occasionally used, it is not considered a good method. In the book [2], from 2003, it is briefly mentioned that

The move away from prescriptivism in interpreter training has led to the inclusion of activities such as the use of shadowing in training for simultaneous, simultaneous into B languages, the interpretation of non-spontaneous speech, the use in class of recorded source speeches and recognition of the link between translation and interpreting, all previously rejected or restricted by the ESIT model.

The book [3], from 2016, contains a longer discussion; see especially https://books.google.no/books?id=anxwCwAAQBAJ&lpg=PT10&ots=5HOsS9gMHM&lr&hl=no&pg=PT253#v=onepage&q=shadowing&f=false. It claims, with references, that the issue of using or not using shadowing divides the community and provides a longer discussion of the matter, with references.

One might want to check the scholarly works that cite these via Google scholar or another similar service.

Unfortunately, most of the content is behind a paywall. The legal means of accessing such documents include trying to find legally available versions of the documents via google scholar, Unpaywall extension, etc., visiting a local (university) library, and asking the authors. Asking for more details about this would be on topic at academia.SE, if it has not been done already.

[1] Déjean Le Féal, Karla "Simultaneous Interpretation with "Training Wheels"". Meta 42, no. 4 (1997): 616–621. https://doi.org/10.7202/003453ar

[2] Baker, M. (2003). Routledge encyclopedia of translation studies. Routledge.

[3] Pöchhacker, Franz. Introducing interpreting studies. Routledge, 2016.

  • Thanks for your research. Is it possible that there is a typo in the first quote ("simultaneous, simultaneous into B languages")? – Christophe Strobbe May 2 at 18:32
  • @ChristopheStrobbe It does not seem to be a typo. It might mean "... simultaneous [omitted: into A languages or something like that], simultaneous into B languages, ...". But I am not an expert here; I just did a search and followed the incoming citations. – Tommi Brander May 3 at 4:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.