Funny word, isn’t it?
I know it always makes me think of a colorful bird and chuckle.
It probably does that for you, too, right?
But do you know that 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. They mimic what’s being said.
In other words, they shadow (or parrot) words and phrases. They don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying but they say it, nonetheless.
This process works like a charm for our native languages. We’re all proof of that!
It works for second or third languages like Japanese, too!
And, similar to the fast, fun way children shadow to learn languages, it’s a quick and entertaining method for powering up your Japanese skills.
Are you now wondering how you can start shadowing Japanese?
Are you also now curious about the resources available to get started on this path?
Wonder no more!
Let’s check out some slick materials that’ll 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 many languages. He’s a proponent of the shadowing technique that he developed—a spin-off of natural language learning.
Many have used his method as a means to foreign language success with relative ease.
He explains the method in detail in this YouTube video. It’s short and straightforward, so if you want to hear it from the man himself, take a peek.
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?
Listen, read and repeat is the sequence for this skill-building journey.
There’s no need to understand everything that’s being said or read.
You’ll gain confidence and learn by speaking. Optimally, you should repeat the passages you’re using 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 no worries if you miss something. Just repeat and shadow again!
An important part of Japanese shadowing is using fun and interesting resources. They should be engaging and, if possible, offer transcripts or subtitles.
Shadowing Japanese: Super Resources to Get You Shadowing Better Than a Parrot
FluentU is an excellent resource for Japanese shadowing!
What’s unique about FluentU is that the content you’ll find is actually content that native Japanese speakers make and watch, so you’ll be exposed to real-life Japanese, which includes idioms, slang and cultural tidbits. This is as close as you’re going to get to in-person immersion.
The interactive captions that accompany each video are particularly beneficial for shadowing. They’re also fantastic for vocabulary building, as well!
Here are a couple of videos to get your shadowing train chugging along!
“Kantarou, Little Boy of the North Wind”
This short and sweet video is actually a sing-a-long shadowing adventure! There are only 10 words to this children’s song in Japanese, and the tune is so catchy that it’s easy to jump right in and start shadowing!
Watch it on FluentU with interactive subtitles here.
“Shall We Talk Sleep over Pocky Sticks?”
This is a beginner level video that’ll make you smile as you shadow! It’s actually a commercial featuring a mother/daughter relationship and a slumber party. There’s limited—but useful!—vocabulary in this video, and the transcript is on the screen so it’s easy to follow along.
Watch it on FluentU with interactive subtitles here.
Japanese Vimeo films are a sensational way to practice shadowing.
The Japanese film channel provides viewers with an array of Japanese movies. There’s something for everyone here, with options that range from documentaries to short films—and even animated pieces!
These videos offer some excellent conversational phrases for learners to pick up and incorporate into their own Japanese vocabulary. You can learn about weather, wildlife, education and other cultural themes by watching videos on this channel.
I’ve got a couple of fun Japanese Vimeos for you to watch to get the Japanese shadowing ball rolling!
Consider these for some shadowing work:
This film is about a sweet love story. A family of foot shakers might sound a bit far-fetched, but that’s what this video showcases! Yuriko comes from this family, and, you guessed it, has shaky feet too. When a kind, young man reaches out compassionately to help her, her life takes a sudden and unexpected twist.
The conversations in this video are ideal for shadowing practice. The sentences are uncomplicated, the pronunciation is authentic and it’s a snap to shadow the entire short film. Watch it a few times, and watch your Japanese speaking skills grow better with each pass.
“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, but that makes the conversation even more appealing.
This is an exceptional means for Japanese learners to grab some shadowing practice. The words and phrases are basic. It’s easy to parrot this video and gain both pronunciation skills as well as speaking practice.
I have to be honest. I watched this three times—and enjoyed it every single time!
“Shadowing Let’s Speak Japanese Beginner to Intermediate Edition”
This book and CD are a great addition to a Japanese language program. It’s a beginner level to intermediate level resource, 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 CD makes this a very portable learning tool. It’s ideal for car trips or work commutes! The accompanying book provides a transcript of the material so there aren’t any untranslated passages.
The program is conveniently segmented. 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.
Repeat as many times as necessary!
Learn Japanese Pod
Podcasts lend themselves to shadowing so well! And while it’s not absolutely 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?
These podcasts cover a multitude of subjects. Topics include interviews, cultural issues, grammar problems, conversation starters and so much more! The podcasts range in length so if you’re pressed for time choose a short one. Have an hour or so to spend shadowing? Then go for one of the more in-depth podcasts.
The audio is free and available to everyone. Signing up for a membership isn’t necessary in order to hear the podcasts but membership benefits include extras, like transcripts.
Learn Japanese Online with Bond Lingo
This YouTube channel provides binge-worthy Japanese videos! There’s so much variety in the topics covered that any Japanese learner will be able to locate a video of personal interest.
These are great for short bursts of learning since many of them are very brief. Turn up the volume and speak along with the videos! It honestly doesn’t take long to see an improvement when employing the shadowing technique. So, binge away and watch your Japanese skills flourish!
“Try These 7 Japanese Tongue Twisters!!!”
This is a really fun and funny video to use for Japanese shadowing practice! A major bonus is that the words and translations are right in front of you so that you can read while you shadow. It took me several times to even get close to getting these tongue twisters right, but the process was certainly comical!
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 and remember, progress comes from practice so the more you watch and shadow, the faster your skills will grow!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.