Review: Shadowing – Let’s speak Japanese

shadowing lets speak japanese
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The market for Japanese textbooks is huge and over the last couple of years I bought quite a few of them. There are so many great ones out there and each is dedicated to a slightly different approach towards learning it seems. It’s difficult to stay motivated over the years but you can make it a little easier for yourself through choosing some rewarding learning material. The Japanese graded readers series but there are many more alternatives out there which offer a slightly different approach but are equally easy to get into. The main aim of these books is to train you for native material and/or getting used to actually speaking the language. Shadowing does a surprisingly good job with both.

Training your listening comprehension at an early stage is pretty important and was actually the main thing I completely ignored at first. This was a big mistake because I didn’t develop a “feeling” for the rhythm and sound of the language. Sure I watched some Japanese films from time to time and even the occasional Anime but it’s juts not the same as actively working on understanding real spoken Japanese. And it makes perfect sense if you think about it. Because a language is meant to be spoken. A text is always just imitating that in a certain sense. Just think about how rhythm patterns and intonation are “shadowed” in a  manga. The ideal is that a spoken conversation is forming in your head. After all you always imagine a specific voice for characters in books. But if you don’t have a clear understanding how a specific dialog would sound in Japanese it’s very tough to get the flow yourself. if not impossible. And that’s why I think listening comprehension is so crucial to your learning progress even if you just want to read stuff in Japanese.

I usually recommend the fantastic Japanesepod101 but there are some great alternatives/supplements out there which can really boost your Japanese. One of the books I was eyeing for quite some time is this neat title called Shadowing. The book sports a corresponding CD where all the dialogue is recorded. In 5 big Units you learn some great ready to use expressions from ordering food at a restaurant to classic conversations. It’s specifically made for self learners of Japanese and it’s really working well for that purpose. I’m always ripping my Cds to iTunes and then just listen to them on my phone or tablet. It’s a little more convenient this way for me. A couple of days a go I started with Shadowing and tried to follow their concept closely.

You should try to “shadow” the speakers as closely as possible and repeat each phrase after your hear it. I’m sure that this is a neat tactic but I always feel a little ridiculous doing something like that. So I just sticked to listening and reading. When you finished the first volume there is also a second one available which is aimed at intermediate to advanced Japanese learners. I haven’t picked that one up yet but will definitely grab it with my next order. The main strength of Shadowing lies in the very well selected sentences. You can really use this stuff. I bet that if you know the sentences in this book by heart you will get along just fine when visiting Japan. At least you will know the basic stuff. How to ask for directions, order at a restaurant, go shopping and have some chit-chat conversations.

Like always the pictures should give you a pretty good idea what the book is about.

  • Buy Shadowing: Let’s learn Japanese from WhiteRabbitJapan
    If you buy the book through my link I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome stuff for review. Thanks!

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Do you see the little lightbulb symbol? That’s the marker for further explanations in the back of the book. Neatly done. On the next picture you can have a glimpse at the given explanation for this specific entry.

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  • Buy Shadowing: Let’s learn Japanese from WhiteRabbitJapan
    If you buy the book through my link I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome stuff for review. Thanks!
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  • Haha, the publisher made a typo right on the cover! “You can do anytihng!” Otherwise, the example sentences look very practical, including “I lost my ticket”, which hopefully no one will need to use.

    • Oh, didn’t notice it at all :) The sentences are indeed very practical and come in very handy. Shadowing quickly became one of my favorite books if you have the chance to check it out go for it.
      Just scrolled over your disqus profile pic and suddenly a small description popped up. For time I noticed that. Are you studying Pharmacy or already finished it? Much respect Zao, toughest thing to study for me. Seriously.

      • Haha, thanks Jakob. Yeah, I’ve been working as a community pharmacist for about 2 years now, just working in retail. It’s crazy how much things get forgotten over time, though, and it is pretty tough to keep reviewing and learning new evidence. How many more years of dentistry do you have left (plans to specialize?)

        • Wow, that’s awesome. Definitely know first hand what you’re talking about with forgetting things you learnt. Maybe 10% stick and the rest is just, puff…
          Before studying dentistry (still 3 years left) I worked as a dental technician for six years. Maybe I’ll specialize in aesthetic dentistry but let’s just finish the whole thing first :)

  • Ich hab (oder hatte…bin mir nicht sicher, ob ich’s noch habe x’D) sowas ähnliches irgendwo auf einem Datenträger. Jedoch sollte man das nie hören,w wenn man schlafen geht haha…Okay, Schluss mit dem Unsinn und kommen nun zum Punkt.
    Ich finde die Idee an sich nicht schlecht und es sieht zumindest recht übersichtlich aus! :)
    Aber, ist da eigentlich auch ein Grammatikpart beigefügt worden, der einem erklärt weshalb man das so spricht bzw. im Satz so bilden muss?
    Spiele im Übrigen mit dem Gedanken mir eines von den 日本総まとめ Bücher zu holen aber mehr mit der Grammatik und das Hörverständnis im Schwerpunkt, evtl. auch zusätzlich mit dem Shadowing! :D

    • Der Witz bei Shadowing ist, dass man ganz bewusst auf grammatikalische Erklärungen verzichtet und sich unreflektiert die Dialoge einverleibt. Hätte ich vielleicht im text erwähnen sollen :). Die 日本総まとめ Bücher lachen mich auch schon seit geraumer Zeit an. Werde ich mit Sicherheit bald bestellen und hier im Blog vorstellen. Gerade als Alternative zu den Japanese Graded Readers vielleicht ganz nett.
      Ich persönlich bin von Shadowing ziemlich begeistert, da die Sätze wirklich einiges abdecken und die Cd wirklich sehr ordentlich gesprochen ist. Aber natürlich mit Sicherheit nicht Jedermanns Sache.

  • Helena Hope-Carter

    I have done a little bit of shadowing on short videos for a while, and my focus was always listening, but since in learning Japanese, I was mostly trying to understand TV shows, my actual fluidity in phrases I need to use in real life is lacking. (Anime battle talk and lines from romance dramas are surprising useless :P). Looking at the phrases in this book, I think I have the vocabulary, but I really need to practice putting them together into these proper phrases, and activating some of that more passive vocab. I really want to buy this book, because it looks like it’s full of just those phrases that I’d usually stumble for. I hope you do review the intermediate-advanced one in the future. How complicated do the phrases in this book get by the way? (I’m not scared, I want to see how much I’m going to get out of it).

  • Cassle

    I’ve been using this book for a while and I’ve seen great results from it. Very very recommended! I like to listen just to the audio sometimes when I’m not at home.

  • Mariel

    Thanks for all your amazing reviews, Jakob. I was wondering what other resources like this would you recommend. I took 4 years of Japanese in college, and took some time off to focus on my science major. I’m trying to get back to it, but I’m not sure how to assess where would be a good place to start again. I have been to Japan and I know how important it is to read kanji to get by! That would be one of my main focuses….Thank you for any suggestion you might have!

    • Definitely have a look at my top resources on how I’d learn Japanese if I had to start over.

      I think WaniKani (which really is amazing for learning Kanji and practice the new signs with a bunch of vocabulary alongside it) would be the perfect thing for you to try. If you want to polish up on your vocab skills I’d suggest iknow. But we usually can’t invest too much time into learning Japanese so I’d suggest you just try out WaniKani for now.