Language Parroting: Part 2

In Uncategorized by Skritter

author photoThis week on the Skritter blog we’ll be exploring part two of the language parroting post. This week goes beyond the basic struggles we face mimic foreign sounds as beginners and explores some more tips and resources to improve in our language mimicking tasks.

In the last post we covered the following topics:

  • The struggles of hearing foreign sounds
  • The need for actual feedback (especially among beginners)
  • Observing native speakers
  • Assessing your own speech production
If you haven’t had a chance to read the article, you can find it here.
Managing how you listen to and mimic the language
As I mentioned in first post, it is important that we actually take the time to listen to ourselves speaking the language in order to increase awareness of how we actually sound and make adjustments accordingly. When you’re having a conversation with someone, or giving a speech in front of a class, it’s incredibly hard to assess your own mistakes as they’re taking place. Thankfully, modern technology has made personal language assessment easier than ever. Just about every smartphone, computer, or tablet PC on the market today comes with some kind of audio recording function. Next time you’re having a language exchange or giving a presentation, why not ask if you can record the conversation for later analysis?

Once you’ve recorded the sounds you want to listen to, it helps to have a good program that allows you listen to particular segments over and over again. Audacity is a great free program that is easy to use and full of some pretty amazing features. I highly recommend you try it out. In addition to being able to slow down a recording without losing sound quality, it also allows you record your own voice track and compare between the two. Wanna nail those nasty tone changes in a sentence? Have a native speaker record themselves reading the material and then practice over and over again from the comfort of your own home!

Finding appropriate material to parrot

While the tools you use are important to learning to successfully parrot native speakers and correcting mistakes, having appropriate material to parrot is crucial for success. A good language learning textbook should provide you with an audio CD to practice along with and that is certainly a great way to get started on your language parroting journey. Resources like ChinesePod or Popup Chinese, are also obvious choices for finding suitable parroting material.

If you’re looking to stray off the Second Language Learner path, however, you might want to consider pulling audio from TV shows or movies. Again, be sure to keep your parroting goal short and to the point. Start by focusing on just your favorite phrases to keep your interest. Rip the audio to Audacity and get down to business. Remember, language parroting should be fun, so only pick the stuff actually worth parroting and forget the rest for now, unless you have to memorize a dialogue for class, in which case, use parroting to blow your teaching and classmates away. If you don’t have a favorite TV show yet, you might consider scanning FluentU‘s list of videos for a bit of inspiration. Not only do they have fun, level appropriate videos, but you can also download an entire transcript of the video you’re watching to ensure that you can nail all the tones and words with ease.

Something that I would recommend to intermediate and advanced learners is trying to find a language muse: someone who you aspire to sound or speak like in the future. It could be a famous actor, a friend, or that awesome dude/dudette who sells baozi just down the road from your house. A good muse should have tons of material for you to practice from, and capture your interest in the same way that a movie or TV clip might.

Love the way your friend curses people out? Have them lay down a track for you and see just how closely you can parrot their tone and inflection. Remember, language parroting is about more than just proper pronunciation  it’s about actually sounding like a native! The goal should be to move beyond speaking “Chinese,” and trying to give your Chinese that little extra feeling or flavor. My own personal language muse is an artist and poet by the name of Jiang Xun (蔣勳). I first stumbled on a YouTube clip of his over winter and have been trying to sound more like him ever since. For more on my own personal parroting journey, check out a post I wrote on my personal blog here.

In sum, language parroting is a great activity that helps to not only increase awareness of how others speak Chinese, but also helps to identify your own problem areas at the same time. By using the right tools, and picking appropriate language parroting challenges, you’ll not only start to sound more “Chinese,” but you’ll have a blast along the way.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post!

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