Have you ever heard of the language learning technique called “shadowing” before? As it turns out, there is a book and CD combination that is designed to help people improve their Japanese. Today I’d like to share my Shadowing Let’s Speak Japanese review.
First let me talk about how “shadowing” works so that you can understand exactly what the technique is and how to correctly do it.
Then I’ll move on to talk more specifically about the book and CD, its contents, and any other pertinent information.
What Is Shadowing?
Shadowing is a form of language training. Here’s how it works:
You listen to someone speaking and then you repeat exactly what they said, exactly how they said it, as soon as you can.
What this means is that you will be listening and speaking nearly simultaneously. It won’t be a perfect match since you have to first listen to what they are saying, and then say it yourself, but the point is that you will be speaking at the same time as them.
This method was originally invented to help people perform simultaneously interpretation. That’s where they listen to someone speaking one language (such as Japanese) and then they translate it and speak it in another language (like English).
This is a pretty common thing to do when there is a global conference and a speaker is giving a presentation. The interpreters are usually in a room somewhere listening to the speaker with their headphones, and then doing this near instant interpretation into a microphone that other people are listening to.
So the first thing to keep in mind is that if you desire to one day be an interpreter, then this training is perfect for you.
But what if you don’t plan on doing that as a career? Well as it turns out, this type of training has practical results that are also beneficial to students of the Japanese language.
How To Use This Book & CD
This book was actually created for students who want to improve their Japanese. The shadowing technique is uniquely suitable for helping people improve their spoken pronunciation and their ability to speak the language fluently.
In other words, by listening to natives and then mimicking them, you train your brain to reproduce the same material in the exact same manner, and also in the exact same situations.
Because of this, it’s important to understand the words and message being said, but that’s something that I will talk about more in the next section of this post. For now, let me talk a little more about how to use this book and CD combination.
The first thing you’ll want to do once you get a hold of a copy is to read through the introduction. It explains a lot of the things that I’ve already talked about, but it also provides a lot more in-depth information.
For example, there are actually five different types of shadowing!
The earlier ones are intended for beginners to utilize so that they can begin getting used to this method. As you continue using it and improve your abilities, you can move on to the more advanced types of shadowing that are harder, but produce better results.
Something else that this book mentions is that shadowing is a very intensive process (I can attest to this) and you should only be doing it for 10-minutes each day so that you don’t ever exert your brain.
What this means is that shadowing is a good supplement to your study time, but it probably shouldn’t be the only thing that you do. I recommend combining it with a lot of listening and reading, or learning new kanji, and so on
At any rate, as you can see from the picture above, the Japanese is all on the left side and the translations are on the right. I would recommend that you read the English sentences first so that you know what the context is about before jumping into the Japanese.
Keep in mind that these translations are “natural translations” which means that it’s not an exact equivalent between the two languages, but rather it aims to provide the same message.
After that, I think it’s best to read through the Japanese and focus on comprehension. It’s also a good idea to try saying the sentence a couple of times so that you can begin to warm up your mouth muscles before getting to the shadowing part.
Then once you have done those two steps for all of the sentences on the page, I would recommend that you start your 10-minute shadow session using whichever of the five levels of shadowing is most appropriate for you.
Then when ever you are done and have some free time to work on listening comprehension, such as in your car, when you’re cleaning the house, or working out at the gym, you can pop the CD in (or mp3) and listen to the dialog.
This will allow you to continue hearing how these words and sentences are supposed to sound, which will help you later when you try to say them yourself.
Difficulty Level & Content
There are a total of three shadowing books. This first one (the green one) is designed for beginners to intermediate level students.
This is the one that I’ve been talking about in this post, but I just wanted to let you know that there are others out there as well.
Getting back to the point at hand, this first book on shadowing is broken down into five units as follows:
- 0-250 hours
- 200-500 hours
- 400-650 hours
- 650+ hours
- 650+ hours
You will notice a couple of things from these numbers. The first is that you can work on multiple levels concurrently. Meaning once you have about 200 hours of studying Japanese you can do both Unit-1 and Unit-2.
Second, you will notice that the fourth and fifth unit recommend the same amount of hours before diving into them. The only difference between these two units are that the dialog in Unit-5 are longer than the ones in Unit-4.
Another thing that stands out is that difficulty level. This isn’t really something that you should be doing a lot of when you are first starting out with Japanese.
Rather, when you get to the point where you want to focus on speaking smoothly and easily, and also sounding like natives do, then you can add this into your daily practice.
As a side note, there are a lot of kanji used throughout the book, but the first couple of units also provide furigana so that you can read them easily.
At the higher levels however, you’re expected to know the readings of the most common kanji, so you’ll be on your own.
As for the content of the book, everything centers around a two-person conversation (one male, one female) about the following topics:
- Greetings and short conversations
- Seasons greetings and slightly longer expressions
- More natural conversations and witty responses
- Expressing feelings and physical states
- Reasonable long conversations and practical expressions
I calculated up how many sentences there were one time, and it was almost 1,000. So, this one book ought to keep you busy for quite a while.
Once you’ve completed it however, you can move on to the next one (it’s blue this time) that focus on a lot of other situations such as family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, customers, etc.
There is also a third book (it’s white and orange) that is intended to help people during interviews for both school and job applications.
Unique Things In The Book
There’s not a whole lot left to talk about, but there were a few things I wanted to mention.
The first is that each unit has cultural insights on words and phrases that help you to sound more natural when speaking to Japanese people.
Sometimes this is by using slang, but a lot of times is just has to do with common expressions that Japanese people use, or communication methods that are different from Western culture (I.e. saying something is “difficult” when in reality they are saying “no” to an invitation).
It should also be said that this book has a strictly conversational focus. If you’re wanting to learn how to read Japanese, then this isn’t really a good tool for that.
However, if you’re trying to become really good at speaking Japanese, then it can be invaluable.
Finally, this book is actually multilingual!
The main language is Japanese, but there are three translations on the right-hand pages:
This might be irrelevant for the majority of you, but if your native language happens to be Chinese or Korean then it will be a big help for you when it comes to understanding the Japanese.
It could also be useful if you’re a polyglot who knows those languages.
My Opinion On It
I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who has read this far that I really like this book (and CD too!).
I can’t recommend it enough as it has helped me to speak Japanese more confidently, more fluently, and a lot more naturally than I used to.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about it, and I will be more than happy to reply. Thanks!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: