listen, repeat & playback for language learning

I would like to take a long audio file and play only one sentence, stop it, record myself repeating, play back my imitation and then try again or move to the next sentence in the recording. What’s the best way to do this in Audacity?

Perhaps I would need to record in another program, like TotalRecorder.


Have you looked at the Manual so you know what commands to use ?

Probably you want to select the sentence using your mouse, press the green Play button, press the yellow Stop button (or the Space key), then press Record, which will record from the start of the selection in a new track underneath.

You will have to decide whether you want to hear the selection in the original audio file while you are recording. If you do, set Transport > Overdub to “On” (it is on by default). Recording will stop when it reaches the end of the selection. Otherwise, set Overdub to “Off”. You won’t hear the original audio and you will have to stop the recording yourself when you reach the end of the selection.

Your recorded sentences will thus be in different Audacity tracks underneath each other. They will play and export in correct sequence but if you want to mix them into one track inside Audacity, hold SHIFT then click above the Mute/Solo buttons in all the tracks you want to mix (probably all except the original audio). Then choose Tracks > Mix and Render.

If you find it easier, after you record your first sentence then select the second sentence in the original track, do the following:

  1. Press ENTER on your keyboard to deselect the first track
  2. Press the down arrow key on your keyboard to move focus to the recording of your first sentence (note the yellow focus border around the track)
  3. Press ENTER to select this focused track
    4 Hold SHIFT and press Record (or press the R key on your keyboard) to append-Record at the end of the recording of your first sentence.

You can repeat those four steps for all the other sentences. Append-Record does not respect any selection regions that may be in other tracks, even if Overdub is on. I’m not sure if this is desirable behaviour, but if you use Append-Record you will have to stop the recording after each sentence.

You can try the different methods to see which suits you.


This still doesn’t do what I want, since I don’t want to hear a mixture of the original and my imitation and I want to hear the original before my imitation, but not during my imitation. I just want to hear the original only, record my imitation, then hear my imitation only. I don’t need to permanently record my imitation, since I only want to hear each attempt once and then try again.

I’ve noticed that I can mark the beginning and end of a sentence with CTRL+B, which is very handy, but how do I save that so it will still be there when I open the file again later? Is there a better way to mark the beginning and end of each sentence?

Oh, I forgot to mention something else: how do I select part of a track smoothly, without it jumping in one second increments?

That bit’s easy - you just uncheck the "Snap To box at the bottom left of the Audacity window.


If you turn off Transport > Overdub that will (as I already explained) prevent you hearing the original while you record your imitation.

In that case, press the “Mute” button on the upper (original) track when you want to hear your imitation only. Press Mute on that track again when you want to hear the next fragment of the original. In fact if you find it convenient you can press Mute on the original track after listening to the original and before recording your imitation of it. That would save the need to turn overdub off.

This might be a case where it would be handy to record into the middle of the same track (known as a punch-in recording, which Audacity cannot do). Most people wanting to do that are trying to replace bad parts of the original, but in that case it is usually preferable to keep the new part on a separate track so you can cross-fade the repair seamlessly into the original.

But feel free to ask for a feature to record your imitation in the same track following the original, which would let you hear the original and/or your imitation just by pressing Space to play and Space again to stop. You could then delete your imitation (again, without having to change track).

One good point about Audacity is that you could use different workflows to do what you want to do. We cannot really give you the steps, you should use those which work best for you.

You will have to save an Audacity project to preserve the labels (File > Save Project).


Thanks a million! It works great!

W. Joy