1 Find an excerpt of coursebook audio suitable for the students to mirror the speaker/s. About 30 seconds of audio is fine, and it can be just one speaker, or a dialogue. I find the activity works best if the excerpt is from a coursebook one level below the students’ actual level, as the students need the slightly slower speed of speech and the easier lexis if they are to achieve mirroring.
2 Hand out the audio script. Explain to the students that you want them to read the script and speak along with the people on the audio, mirroring them. This means speaking at exactly the same time as them, following their stress, intonation etc. Then do the activity: play the audio several times, with students mirroring in chorus.
Apparently this activity is very popular in Japan, where students speak along with ‘famous’ speeches (Obama’s Inaugural Address to Congress is said to be a favourite). It’s an unusual activity, seemingly out of place in the modern communicative classroom, but that is no problem as far as I’m concerned. The obvious benefits are to practice connected speech, but I think that there are many other benefits relating to awareness of phonological chunking (how pauses separate chunks of meaning) and sentence stress (strong stress on the most important word/s). If achieved successfully the activity is also a confidence booster, allowing the students to experience native speaker speed and fluency – a bit like driving in fifth gear down a highway with a driving instructor at your side.
I’ve been using this technique for some time. In the case of Spanish, shadow reading and mirroring is extremely useful so as to achieve the characteristics of connected speech in a stress-timed language such as English: weak forms, ellisions, blending. Although challenging at lower levels, the sense of achievement is noticeable and that feeling in itself is a great motivator.