English Communication Confidence Blog

How Do You Imitate Someone's Speech?

Aug 14, 2023

With The Great Imitation Challenge coming up in a few weeks, I thought I'd set you up for success and talk about the best ways to transform your imitation game! I'm not talking about the benefits per se of imitating a Native English communicator – more so how you can ensure you're picking up on cues, techniques, styles and then embodying them like they're second nature. Read along to learn more! 


How Do You Imitate Someone's Speech?

I've talked about the power of imitation and the benefits of learning English through observing and mimicking the communication styles of a Native English speaker. I realize, however, that I've never gone over how and what someone should actually pay attention to and the steps to execute this. 

I thought about this the other day, as I was at dinner with my friends and the conversation quickly switched to Portuguese. Okay, I had my friends around me and it could have been easy to pick up on the gestures, the melody, their flow, etc. in the conversation, but they were just talking too fast and it was hard to break down their communication techniques all at once and get to imitating. 

This is something I definitely cover in my program, The Great Imitation Challenge, but I thought I'd write a little about it here as it's a strategy that is useful to continue practicing day-to-day even beyond completing my programs.  

Now, be careful, these tips will have you mimicking a person so well, you won't believe it! 

Let's start with the basics - make sure you choose the right speaker to imitate. Pick a speaker whose speaking style and voice you admire. This could be a politician, a motivational speaker, a celebrity, a stand-up comedian, or anyone that you've heard speaking publicly – this can be in conversation and everyday dialogue too! 

Let's get into some important steps in imitation: 

1. Listen carefully 

Start by listening to a speaker's speeches, talks, or interviews. Pay close attention to the pace and rhythm of their speech. Try to identify any distinctive characteristics that make their speaking style unique. 

One thing that helps me is making a chart with the headers "pace," "rhythm," "diction," "melody," etc., and writing down observational points under each title. This will give you an easier time breaking down what makes their speech so good or what makes them such an effective communicator. 

2.  Use the transcription 

Most online speeches today come with transcriptions. It's important that you use the exact words of the person you are imitating so you don't have to worry about the language as you build up your speaking skills via their speaking style. You'll also be able to listen to how your speaker breaks down their speech into smaller parts and analyze the speaker's use of language, intonation, and pauses. 

When I was an actress, way back when, I found that working with scripts was so much more comfortable than improvisation. I think you'll enjoy working with a script too! 

3. Seek feedback 

This is a step that often gets skipped easily – I get it, it can be very scary to seek feedback when it comes to your voice, especially in a second language! But, you will have to seek feedback from others to be sure you are moving in the best direction.  

Ask someone who is fluent in the language to listen to your imitations and provide feedback on your pronunciation, intonation, and overall speaking style. This will help you identify what you need to work on and then you can improve your skills further.  

4. Use different sources

I tell my learners to pick at least three public speakers to imitate. By imitating different speakers, you'll learn different speaking styles and you can find your unique, authentic self in your communication. This will help you develop a diverse range of speaking skills and improve your overall fluency in English, too. 

I know you might have that one person that you might admire in English. But look at a TV show – do you have your favorite character there? Or, even better, is there someone in your circle whose English communication style you admire that you can regularly ask them feedback? 

As usual, the trick with these tips is to really pay close attention to detail. This way you'll be able to perceive little cues, and trust me, they might seem like nothing, but the accumulation of all these little techniques is what takes someone from just getting their points across in English to an excellent, effective, and confident communicator! 

Remember that I'll be opening up The Great Imitation Challenge program. I've had two runs of it thus far and it's been a blast. All my students, including myself, look forward to every class and time spent learning together! Also, see if you can apply these tips and tricks when you're reading this coming week's Celebrity Sunday!


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