When it comes to mimicry and imitation, you’ve got two different ball games, my friend.
One might thinking that being able to repeat something that you have heard could be called either mimicking or imitation. While mimicking and imitation both have to do with the repetition (or replication) of something that is heard or seen, there is a significant difference between the two actions.
A mimic is able to repeat something, albeit not necessarily accurately. Mimicry is a superficial means of imitation. Take a moment now to think of a time when you mimicked someone or heard someone else, perhaps yourself, being mimicked.
This happens all the time with children. Kids mimic their parents, teachers, peers, and favorite characters. Their mimicry may not be spot on, but you get the general idea from their interpretation.
Another such example is of how parrots can mimic words that they hear. On the CBC radio program And Sometimes Y, a parrot named Alex was featured on the show, able to learn and remember 1000 English words. The depth of Alex’s full comprehension, however, is limited to his complete understanding of how language and context works.
If you missed the show this Saturday, listen in on Tuesday (tomorrow) to catch the episode again or go back to the And Sometimes Y website at the CBC to listen to the show at a later date and hear what some very intelligent people have to say about the difference between mimicry and imitation. As we’ve already established, while mimicry is one thing, imitation is quite another.
Imitation is a more sophisticated and deliberate means of recreating an action or a sound, consciously attempting to copy the tone, motivation, inflection, delivery, and phrasing of a particular sound or action. A good example of imitation and imitators are comedians and those who are called sound alikes and voice matchers in our industry. A good imitator can replicate an extremely close facsimile or produce an indistinguishable likeness to the voice of someone else.
An imitator identifies with the copy, the vocal behaviours, mannerisms, and essence of another person’s voice. In the end, mimicry is similar to an educated guess whereas imitation resonates more with research and critical thinking.