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There are lots of techniques used by language learners around the world that are very useful when going about learning their target language. A lot of them are full of hot air, but among them you can find some really good gems. We’re going to go over a major technique called shadowing.

What is Shadowing?

The official version of shadowing was created by polyglot Alexander Arguelles, though the concept of shadowing has been around for a long time. In fact, I bet you’ve already done some form of it all on your own. Basically, shadowing is listening to some audio in the language you’re trying to learn, then trying to say what you hear directly after it as fast as you can.

Arguelles believes that you should walk outdoors as swiftly as possible, maintain a perfect upright posture, and articulate thoroughly in a loud, clear voice. He believes if you follow those three guidelines when performing your shadowing you experience will be all that much better.

He has several videos out there on youtube demonstrating the techniques as well.

How to do Shadowing:

I don’t believe you must follow Arguelles way to the t, in fact, I prefer not to have translated materials at all, I believe they distract from your brains natural ability to make connections as you’re learning anyways. I shadow television shows and especially dramas (they have a lot of pauses for dramatic effect, making it easier for a beginner).

Arguelles way —> You need to have material where you have the target language, translation (side by side text if possible), and audio. Assimil and other various learning books have this already, so you wont have to make it out, but I don’t think they even have a Japanese version.

Wiki education has a great sum up of the steps, so here goes:


  1. “Blind shadowing” – In this first step, one listens and repeats the L2 audio as soon as possible;
  2. While listening and repeating the L2, one reads The learning language (L1);
  3. Holding the book, put your thumbs under corresponding sentences of both texts. Shadow the audio, read tL1 and take a quick look at L2;
  4. Reverse this last step. Shadow the audio, read L2 and take a glance at L1;
  5. Shadow L2 and read L2 simultaneously;
  6. Analyze the text and read notes (optionally do any exercises);
  7. Read the L2 text aloud (multiple times if required);
  8. Use the scriptorium method on the L2 text;
  9. Type the lesson out;
  10. Correct the lesson which you have typed out;
  11. Read text silently (multiple times if required);
  12. Listen to the audio (in the future use the audio as immersion/comprehensible input. Active and/or passive listening.

As you can see, there is quite a bit to do with his technique. And he goes over this a few times in his videos.

My Lazy Style Shadowing

Its simple, and there are two versions. The first is whenever you hear something that sounds cool, try to repeat it, play that audio again if you can, and repeat it. You’re parroting, that’s all. All you’re doing is trying to sound native, talking out loud to get over your fears of being wrong, and trying to gain confidence saying new things. I plug things into Anki (or any srs that plays audio for that matter) and repeat the audio whenever I can.

The second form of shadowing I do involves a tape recorder. I listen to the audio in my headphones while recording myself with the tape recorder. Then I listen to the audio (without shadowing) and then I listen to my taped version. Its that simple. I like recording simply because it allows me to improve even faster. Hear your mistakes? What makes you sound different? Rinse and Repeat until your sounding just like them. Also, it really helps to shadow your own sex’s voice. Probably the funnest thing I’ve ever seen was a commercial where they used an American male who spoke with such a female Japanese way that I rolled out of my chair almost in laughter. :D

Either one of those ways can have text involved too.

Applying along side the Input Method.

The input method really wants you to wait till you have thousands or more of listening hours before you begin to try to speak (thousands of reading before writing, ect.). While I think that may be kinda excessive, some stick to it like glue. Maybe I am just really impatient… So this technique can be used beside the Input Method easily. Even though Arguelles uses it from the get go,  he himself admits his pronunciation is pretty bad.

Antimoon has great articles about why Input is more important than Output is anyways, and I do agree with them. Even AJATT’s got a say in the matter for inputting before outputting. I do however support trying out shadowing from the earlier stages to help you learn speaking speed and accent, as long as you’re not trying to output your own separate form of Japanese.

If you’re learning grammatically, with textbooks, so long as you have the native voice for the material, then I suppose there isn’t anything wrong with that, though they tend to be slower than natural Japanese speech. If you’re also studying with courses in a class room environment, then this can also help you as well early on. You can even record one side of the conversations while shadowing, and then leave it open for responses, which you can shadow later as well (to imitate your class room conversations they usually want you to do).

Examples Please!

There are so many examples of the various shadowing techniques out there on youtube that I really am not going to post my own example. You can even shadow a video in Japanese about shadowing! It really is a popular topic out there, so do a little digging and you’ll find plenty of videos.

Mikoto Neko

The Ring leader of multiple projects who is studying japanese and raising a family! Who needs time for sleep?

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