Working on pronunciation karaoke style

 How the karaoke technique works

Working on pronunciation karaoke style


This is a technique also known as “shadowing”. It is a way of working on pronunciation in the widest sense: including melody, stress and intonation. It is the way we spontaneously learn to sing songs. We sing along with someone who knows the song or with a recording. It works because of a phenomenon known in physics as “forced vibration”. You may have seen this demonstrated at school using two tuning forks: when one fork was struck the other vibrated in unison. The sound energy is transferred from one fork to the other. We can use this fact to help ourselves produce sounds that “vibrate” correctly in the foreign language.

Students can do this working on their own; they just need a device connected to the Internet and a headset.

Step One

Find a short video or audio recording accompanied by a transcription. Choose one that you find easy to understand. Some suggestions:

Step Two

Find the built-in audio recorder on your computer.

  • On Windows 7: Start > Menu > Accessories > Sound recorder.
  • On Mac Lion: Applications > QuickTime Player.

Step Three

  • Turn on the video or audio recording (your source, for example, Michael below for example).
  • Follow the transcription while “subvocalising”. This means not speaking aloud, but using your lips, tongue and throat “as if” you were speaking. It’s easier to keep in time with the recording if you don’t actually produce any sound.

Step Four

  • Turn on the video or audio recording (your source, Michael below for example).
  • Turn on the computer’s built-in audio recorder.
  • Say the the text very quietly with the original recording. It’s important to speak quietly to be able to hear the original recording and be influenced by it.
  • It’s OK to miss out some words, but it’s essential to keep up with the recording and not fall behind.

Step Five

  • Check your recording.
  • Did you manage to keep in time with the original?

Step Six

  • The same as Step Four but speaking a little louder.
  • Continue re-recording the text, gradually lowering the volume of the original until you feel more and more confident.

Step Seven

  • The same as Step Four, but after the beginning turn the original recording off and continue speaking yourself.
  • After a little while, turn the original back on. Are you still in time with it?

Here’s a short Real English video, an interview with Michael, a New York policeman. You can use it to try out this technique.

Real English®

And here’s the transcription:

Interviewer: What’re you going to do tonight?
Michael: What am I going to do tonight? I can’t really say. I’m going to go home and have a … lot of fun with my wife.

Finally, a short except from Julian Kitagawa explaining how he does shadowing – just slightly different from what I’ve described above.

© Glenys Hanson 2015. An earlier version was published on the Une Education Pour Demain website in 2012.

Creative Commons License
“Working on pronunciation “karaoke” style” by Glenys Hanson licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.