Does Imitation Work?

On the surface, at times it does appear that imitation does work when wanting to improve your pronunciation.  For the people who have heard something and imitated it successfully, they would be convinced that all you need to do is to imitate to get the pronunciation of a new language. This is a grave mistake and I will show you why here.

For some people, it may work sometimes. That's the important thing to note..."sometimes" It works sometimes because the person doing it has done the preliminary work at some point in their life. However, other times it won't work.  For many people it just does not work.

So, let's look at that and look at why. The fact that imitation does not work  in some situations, suggests that there is something more to it than meets the eye. Here is an example where I would suggest  nearly all of you will have trouble imitating. In the Khoisan languages of Africa, they use four clicking sounds. IF you could hear them all and distinguish them, that already would be something! If you cannot even hear the four how could you ever hope to imitate them? Impossible!

Listen to the following recording of the language ...
- Can you hear the clicks?
- Can you distinguish the 4 different kinds?

I could talk to you a lot about all that needs to happen for you to "hear the 4 sounds as different...and then a whole lot more of what it would take to say these 4 sounds.

Rather than do that, I will instead talk to you about the fat that we are talking about skills here.

Do you really think that you could use imitation to get to the level of Roger Federer, Andrea Bocelli, Jamie Oliver or Pablo Picasso? Imitation has never enabled anyone to reach the heights in any skill. Skill development requires steps. We could not even see the full range of skills that these people have acquired...so imitating what we cannot even see is impossible.

Best to put this strategy out of your mind, as all it will do is distract you from what you really need to focus on....
which is...

  1. Find some difference between your skill and the "locals"... the smaller and the more foundational it is the better.
  2. Improve your skill so it sounds closer to the target ( a step at a time). Distinguishing that movement IS essential.
  3. Work to make it a regular part of your performance. being aware of this again is critical. Without achieving this, real change has not been achieved.

So, stop trying to imitate and instead work to improve your skills.


 

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