Shadowing Japanese: Super Resources to Get You Shadowing Better Than a Parrot
Parroting is just another word for shadowing, which is basically the natural way humans acquire language.
Think about how a child learns to speak—most little ones repeat what they hear (i.e., they mimic what’s being said).
This process works like a charm for our native languages, and it can work for second or third languages like Japanese, too.
Let’s check out some slick materials that’ll have you shadowing Japanese right away.
- What Is Japanese Shadowing?
- How Do You Use Shadowing in Japanese?
- Resources to Have You Shadowing Japanese Immediately
What Is Japanese Shadowing?
Shadowing, as a method of language learning, gained a good reputation thanks to Alexander Arguelles, an American linguist who’s fluent in 50 languages. He’s a proponent of shadowing as a spin-off of natural language learning.
He explains his shadowing method in detail in the YouTube video below.
The basic concept is only marginally different from what we all did to learn our native tongue.
The most obvious difference? Adult learners are able to read, so transcripts or subtitles can make shadowing easier.
How Do You Use Shadowing in Japanese?
Three steps—listen, read and repeat—are key to successfully shadowing Japanese.
Note that you don’t need to understand everything that’s being said or read.
The goal is to gain confidence and learn by speaking. Ideally, you should repeat the passages immediately after the initial speaker, or even at the same time as the speaker you’re shadowing.
This is a superb method for gaining pronunciation practice.
And don’t worry if you miss something. Just repeat and shadow again!
An important part of Japanese shadowing is using fun and interesting resources like the ones below. If you’re using your own, they should be engaging and, if possible, offer transcripts or subtitles.
Resources to Have You Shadowing Japanese Immediately
Japanese films on Vimeo are a fantastic way to practice shadowing.
For example, this Japanese film channel provides you with an array of Japanese movies. There’s something for everyone here—documentaries, short films and even animated pieces.
These videos offer some excellent conversational phrases for you to pick up and incorporate into your Japanese vocabulary. You can learn about the weather, wildlife, education and other cultural themes by watching videos on this channel.
Consider these two for some Japanese shadowing work:
This film is a sweet love story. It’s also about a family of foot shakers, which might sound a bit far-fetched, but you have to admit it’s a fun concept!
The main character, Yuriko, comes from this family, and—you guessed it—has shaky feet, too. When she meets a kind young man who tries to help her overcome this “problem,” her life takes a sudden and unexpected twist.
The conversations in this video are ideal for shadowing practice. The sentences aren’t too complicated, the pronunciation is authentic and it’s a snap to shadow the entire film since it’s so short. Watch it a few times, and your Japanese speaking skills will improve with each watch.
“Not Boiled Enough”
This video is both heartwarming and funny. The scenery is gorgeous, too!
Two young lovers head to catch a train, toting a box of lobsters that conceal a surprise. The young man takes his time getting to the heart of the discussion, and that makes the conversation even more interesting.
This is an exceptional film for Japanese learners to grab some shadowing practice, since the words and phrases are basic. It’s easy to parrot this video and gain pronunciation and speaking practice along the way.
I have to be honest. I watched this one three times—and enjoyed it every single time.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
“Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese — Beginner to Intermediate Edition”
This book is a great addition to your Japanese language program. It’s aimed at beginners and intermediate learners, so the featured conversations are uncomplicated.
Both male and female speakers engage in the dialogues, so there are different tones and cadences to use for shadowing. The downloadable audio that comes with the book makes it ideal for car trips or work commutes.
The program is conveniently segmented. You can make the most of this format by tackling one section at a time, repeating the shadowing technique until you’re able to easily accompany the featured speaker.
Learn Japanese Pod
Japanese podcasts work well for shadowing, too. And while it’s not necessary to understand everything that’s being said, it’s a bonus if the material is interesting. Sooner or later, you’ll grasp the content, so it might as well be interesting, right?
The aptly-named “Learn Japanese Pod” podcast covers an array of topics, including interviews, cultural issues, grammar problems, conversation starters and so much more. The podcasts vary in length, so if you’re pressed for time, you can always choose a short one. And if you have an hour or so to spend shadowing, go for one of the more in-depth episodes.
The audio is free and available to everyone. You can also download the podcast app to your iOS or Android device, so you’ll be updated every time they upload a new episode.
Learn Japanese Online With Bond Lingo
This YouTube channel has a ton of binge-worthy Japanese videos. There’s so much variety in the topics covered that there’s bound to be something you’ll like on here.
These are great for short bursts of learning, since many of them are only a few minutes long. Just turn up the volume and speak along with the videos!
For example, here’s a fun (and funny) one with tongue twisters.
A major bonus is that the words and translations are right in front of you. That way, you can read while you shadow. It took me several times to even get close to getting these tongue twisters right, but I had a ton of fun along the way.
If you’re interested in tongue twisters in particular, check out this post for more of them.
Shadowing is our natural language learning method. It’s the way we get a feel for the cadence of a language, learn conversational expressions and idioms and build a solid vocabulary.
And let’s face it—shadowing is fun!
Shadowing worked wonders when we were kids, and it’s just as effective now that we’re grown up.
Vary your videos and audio dialogue to keep your interest piqued. Remember, progress comes from practice, so the more you watch and shadow, the faster your skills will grow.