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The Mimic Method is an approach developed by language trainer Idahosa Ness to teach language learners the sound system of their new language.
Idahosa has learned Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and Mandarin Chinese – all as an adult – and he's found that the most effective way of learning a language is “by ear”.
The aim of the Mimic Method is to teach this “by ear” method to learning a language, so you can improve your pronunciation and accent, and sound more like a native speaker.
In Idahosa’s view, most language courses focus on vocabulary and reading, but miss out on the “sound system” of a language – and language is sound. Language is about speaking and hearing — so that means your learning should include both of these. As Idahosa puts it:
There is a reason so many of us are afraid of learning through hearing – our education system taught us to rely on learning through seeing. What’s the first thing we do when we want to learn a new skill? We find a book or article on the subject and get to consuming those little black squiggles we call “scripts” with our eyeballs.
The Mimic Method is a series of courses that involve learning languages through hearing.
Idahosa has been mistaken for a native speaker in a number of the languages he speaks. So his “learning by hearing” methods clearly work for him.
But does the method work for anyone? Can a simple course really help with pronunciation?
I decided to try out a Mimic Method Spanish course since it’s a fairly new language for me and my Spanish pronunciation has room to grow. I wanted to make sure I gave the course a fair shot before writing my review, so I worked my way through the entire course – not just reading and watching – but doing all the exercises and homework.
How did I get on with the Mimic Method? Here’s my Mimic Method review…
Mimic Method Review: The Elemental Sounds Masterclass
For the purposes of this review, I took the Mimic Method’s Elemental Sounds of Spanish Masterclass. It’s a six hour video course focused on pronunciation skills.
I went into the course feeling skeptical, and unsure of whether it was really for me. Pronunciation has never been high on my priority list when I’m learning a language. I figured that as long as the things I said were comprehensible to a native speaker, that was “good enough”.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a little more about how the course works.
The Elemental Sounds Masterclass is not a traditional language courses. The course doesn’t teach grammar or vocabulary. Rather, it teaches the sounds of the language. The course breaks a language down into all of its elemental sounds. For Spanish, this is 39 different sounds that you need to be fluent in Spanish. You learn how to create each of those sounds before combining them, then finally creating words and phrases.
Because of the focus on pronunciation, the Element Sounds Masterclasses are suitable for language learners of all levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced. That said, Idahosa advises taking his course as soon as possible after you start to learn a new language. In his experience, it’s easier to train your mouth to create the sounds of the new language when you’re starting out than it is to have to retrain after months or years of forming bad pronunciation habits.
I found the Elemental Sounds Masterclass structure really clear and easy to follow. There are a total of five modules:
- Course Introduction
- The Spanish Vowels
- The “Easy” Consonants
- The “Tricky” Consonants
- From Sounds to Syllables
The course is structured allows to give you a few relatively easy wins early on before moving onto more advanced material.
Each module includes two video lessons, a homework assignment, audio drills and a Q&A supplementary video. You also have access to a resources page where you’ll find a phoneme index, an elemental sounds checklist, and a 500-word frequency list (all of which are extremely helpful and detailed).
The majority of the course is made up of video lessons, and these are hosted online. You can download the homework assignments and exercises to work on offline as well as the actual lessons (though this isn't immediately obvious). Each of the video lessons is around 20 – 40 minutes in total, so you do need to set aside a decent block of time to work through them. The course is meant to be completed in order, as each unit builds on concepts in the previous units. According to Idahosa, the course usually takes between two and four weeks to complete, depending on the student.
While the scope of the course is limited – though I feel the word ‘focused’ would be the more appropriate description – it goes incredibly in-depth. Idahosa knows his stuff.
As well as learning to create the sounds of your new language, you’re taught the technical terminology for the sounds you’re creating and the movements that you’re making. You're often shown diagrams of mouth shapes, accompanied by the anatomical terms. And to top it off, you are taught words like “aspirated fricatives”, “flaps” and “trill”. It seems intimidating at first, but when Idahosa begins to explain how different movements and positions form different sounds, the information quickly shifts from overwhelming to clear. It’s a bit like a light switch going on in your brain, and you suddenly “get” how pronunciation works.
Idahosa even encourages you to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet (confession: I did not do this and had no interest in doing it). But he really breaks language sounds down in a way that, despite all of the jargon, makes sense.
Mimic Method Review: What Did I Learn?
As I said, when I started the Elemental Sounds course I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure I really needed to work on my pronunciation.
The biggest challenge for me when I’m learning a new language isn’t learning vocabulary or grammar. It’s not pronunciation either. It’s confidence. I’ve spent years developing my self-confidence. These days, I know that even when I feel terrified inside about speaking a new language (which I sometimes still do), I have the power to just get on and do it.
But anything that helps me build my confidence is a good thing.
And I found that working on my pronunciation gave me a big confidence boost. That was a surprise win!
Yet the confidence boost wasn’t even the biggest win I got from the course.
The most important thing that I took away from the course is that working on pronunciation didn’t just improve my speaking skills. I found that the Mimic Method is an incredible way to really boost listening comprehension – and listening is one of the biggest challenges for languages learners.
At the end of the course, after working through all 39 elemental sounds of Spanish, I was able to understand what I heard much more clearly.
This improved ability to understand also helped me to approach conversations with native speakers with more confidence.
The Mimic Method: What’s Not So Great?
I’d say this. The approach you learn in the Mimic Method aligns – in part – with the [Speak from Day One] approach we advocate at Fluent in 3 Months. But they’re not a perfect match.
With the Mimic Method, you focus is on individual sounds and pronunciation, rather than communicating. Ultimately, however, both lead you to the same goal – confident speaking.
Mimic Method Review: The Verdict
I found the Elemental Sounds Masterclass to be a high-quality course from the Mimic Method.
The material in the course flows nicely, and leads you towards impressive results at the close of module five.
I enjoyed that you can download the homework assignments and practice material. I was glad that I didn’t have to stay glued to my computer to work on the important stuff, the actual implementation. And because I spend so much time commuting, being able to load the audio to my phone allowed me to use my most valuable study time to work on the course.
The questions in the homework really make you think about the content of the course. It reminded me of a university-quality course, as it requires you to make sure you really understand what you’ve learned. This isn’t a course where you can just go through the motions.
Would I use the Mimic Method again? That is to say either of Idahosa’s courses, whether it’s the Elemental Sounds courses or the Flow program?
Yes, but not just to work on my pronunciation.
I found that having practised the sounds of Spanish, and the ways these sounds can be put I feel more confident in my ability to speak Spanish. I’ve noticed that I’m less likely to get tongue-tied when I’m speaking Spanish. And I no longer feel anxious ahead of Spanish conversation that I won’t understand.
In other words, the Mimic Method is a great way to build your confidence in speaking and understanding a language.
I also learned more about the physical process of speaking a language than I thought I was capable of understanding. It was certainly a nice #win as a language learner.
All in all, the Mimic Method is an excellent course.
If getting better at speaking or discerning the sounds of your language is something you’d like to work at, so you can sound more like a native speaker, and be more confident at speaking a language, then Idahosa Ness and the Mimic Method are the perfect guides.
How to Get a Free Mimic Method Course
You can check out Idahosa Ness’s Mimic Method courses here.
You can also sign up for free introductory Mimic Method courses for specific languages at the following links:
- Free Spanish Mimic Method course – sign up here
- Free French Mimic Method course – sign up here
- Free German Mimic Method course – sign up here
- Free Portuguese Mimic Method course – sign up here
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.