shadowing japanese

The Shadowing Technique for Learning Japanese

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?

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:

“Shaky Girl”

shadowing japanese

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”

shadowing japanese

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.



This app (available for iOS and Android) and website can be another good resource for shadowing.

FluentU uses authentic videos as a basis for its Japanese language learning program. The videos are organized by level and specific interests and include everything from movie clips and news segments to vlog interviews and funny commercials.

All videos are equipped with interactive dual-language subtitles that you can toggle on and off, depending on if you want your shadowing practice to be guided by text or not. The subtitles are written and checked by language experts, ensuring their accuracy.

These subtitles are also interactive, allowing you to check the meaning of any word by hovering over or clicking on it. You can add words to flashcard lists and study them with personalized quizzes that include speaking options. Flashcards include clips from other FluentU videos where the word appears, so you can practice shadowing those for additional practice.

“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.

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe