Are you looking for the tutorial on the Imitation technique?
Below are my 6 updated suggestions for practicing Imitation.
1. If your English listening is poor, improve your listening skills first.
Some students try to practice Imitation when their listening skills are still poor, so they have trouble doing it because they don’t understand the person they’re imitating (or they often encounter words or phrases they don’t know.)
This is not good. In order to practice Imitation, your English listening skills must already be quite advanced. (You should be able to understand most native speakers.)
The goal of doing Imitation is to turn your passive vocabulary (words you know but can’t use in speech) into active vocabulary (words you can use in speech). It’s a speaking practice, not a listening practice.
So, if your English listening is poor, you must improve your listening skills first.
2. Don’t imitate in the third person.
This is imitating in the third person (what I taught in the video):
- Speaker: “I go to the beach every day.”
- You: “He goes to the beach every day.”
- Speaker: “But my brother hates going to the beach.”
- You: “But his brother hates going to the beach.”
In the video, I told you to imitate in the third person. I thought it was more challenging than repeating after the speaker word for word. However, I don’t recommend doing that anymore because of the following problems:
Problem #1: Imitating in the third person can cause you to make mistakes, especially if you’re a beginner. For example, you might say “He go to . . .” instead of “He goes to . . .”. So, it’s much better to just imitate the speaker word for word. This ensures that you will speak English like native speakers.
Problem #2: Turning a statement in the first person into a statement in the third person makes you think about grammar. For example, you might think, “OK. The subject of this sentence is ‘he,’ so I must use ‘goes’ not ‘go’.” This is not good. You should never think about grammar when practicing. If you do, you might develop the habit of thinking about grammar when having real conversation.
Because of these two problems, it’s better to imitate the speaker word for word. Don’t worry if the practice seems too easy. As long as you understand what you’re repeating (the content), the practice is working and effective.
So, when you practice, just repeat after the speaker word for word:
- Speak: “I go to the beach every day.”
- You: “I go to the beach every day.”
- Speaker: “But my brother hates going to the beach.”
- You: “But my brother hates going to the beach.”
3. If you think in your native language when practicing Imitation. Stop!!!
When some students try to speak English, they think in their native language first.
This happens when they practice Imitation as well. When they hear a sentence in English, they translate it to their native language (it happens automatically in their mind). And when they try to recall the sentence, they translate the sentence from their native language back to English.
This is not good. If something like this happens to you when you practice Imitation, you must stop practicing immediately.
If you find yourself thinking in your native language (or translating), you must fix this bad habit first. It’s impossible to improve your spoken English unless you get rid of this habit.
You can get rid of this habit by using the English speaking lessons in my English course. These lessons will train you to speak English without thinking in your native language.
Practicing with my lessons is easier than practicing Imitation. If you’re a beginner, you should use these lessons first. It’s a great way to learn to speak and think in English.
If you want to learn more, visit this page. On that page, you can download the first two lessons of my course. If you’re not sure if the course is right for you, feel free to download the lessons and give them a try.
4. If you’re a beginner, don’t try to imitate long sentences without pausing. (It’s too difficult.)
This is what I said in the video:
Start by imitating small portions of speech first like phrases and short sentences, then move on to imitating larger portions of speech like long sentences or even groups of sentences.
This advice is probably OK for advanced students. But for most English students, this advice is impossible to follow.
Many students have told me that they usually can’t remember and recall an entire sentence, especially if it’s a long one. They tend to forget the first words of the sentence.
This is my fault. When I was making the video, I was already an advanced speaker. And I forgot what it was like to be a beginner. I forgot that it was really hard for beginners to practice the same way I did.
So, my new suggestion is to always pause several times when you imitate each sentence. After a few words have been spoken, pause and repeat after the speaker immediately. Don’t wait until the speaker completes the sentence before you repeat after the speaker (unless it’s a very short sentence).
Then, after you’ve imitated the last part of the sentence, try to recall the whole sentence by saying it out loud. If you cannot do it, that’s OK. Go back to the beginning of the sentence, and imitate that sentence again (don’t forget to pause several times). Keep repeating the sentence until you can recall the whole sentence.
5. If you’re a beginner, ignore my suggestion about delivering the entire speech. (It’s impossible.)
Here’s another thing I said in the video:
…And finally, try to deliver the entire speech on your own.
If you’re a beginner, please ignore this suggestion. As a beginner, if you can recall 2 – 3 sentences at a time, that’s good enough. Or if you can recall a single sentence that’s really long, that’s good enough.
This suggestion is impossible for beginners because when beginners practice Imitation, they tend to memorize individual words. (This is what I did in the beginning as well.)
We can only remember a small number of words at a time. So it’s impossible for beginners to recall an entire speech (because they would have to recall every single word that they heard. Impossible!)
The reason I can recall an entire speech is not because I have amazing memory, but because when I practice Imitation, I don’t memorize individual words. Instead, I memorize the key idea. Since a single idea is easier to remember than a lot of individual words, I can easily recall the idea and then express it in my own words.
So, if you’re just getting started, wait until you become advanced before you try this suggestion.
6. Expect the practice to be difficult. (It’s actually a good thing.)
When most students start practicing Imitation, they find it very difficult; they can’t pronounce words like native speakers, they have trouble remembering sentences, and it takes them a long time to form a simple sentence.
This makes them lose confidence and motivation. They feel like the practice isn’t working. They don’t feel like the practice will improve their spoken English.
If you have these problems, let me tell you something that might surprise you…
If you find the practice difficult and challenging, that’s actually a good thing.
When I was beginning to use the technique, it was difficult and challenging. I often felt frustrated because the person I was imitating spoke fast, or because I encountered a lot of difficult speaking patterns or words that I wasn’t familiar with.
Oftentimes, the conversation that I tried to imitate was very complex. All I could do was repeating after the speaker mindlessly (like a robot). And I couldn’t recall most of the sentences.
At the end of many practice sessions, I felt like I hadn’t really improved anything. I felt like what I was doing was pointless.
However, I never lost faith in the technique. This is because I had the right mindset before I began using it.
Let me explain.
Before I started practicing Imitation, I had read a book called “The Talent Code“. (The book teaches how to improve a skill effectively.) The book taught me one important lesson: in order to quickly improve a skill, I must practice something difficult…something that would make me feel uncomfortable and frustrated. That’s the fastest way to push myself to the next level.
So, during my practice, if I felt like I was practicing something difficult, that’s when I knew I was doing the right thing. That’s when I knew I was stretching my English speaking abilities.
This mindset made me embrace difficulty. I didn’t see difficulty as something to avoid. I saw difficulty as a signal that I was on the right track.
There’s another thing that kept me going; it was the thought that, each day, I was doing something that would make me more valuable in the future. It was the idea that, if I kept going, a year from now, I would speak English much better.
I knew that if I quit just because the practice was difficult, a year from now, I would be one year older, but my spoken English would still be at the same level. This thought kept me going.
Don’t avoid difficulty. Embrace it. It’s an indication that you’re pushing your spoken English to the next level.