When my wife makes a phone call she is almost always mistaken for a native Chinese speaker (she often has to tell them that she is a foreign to explain why she doesn’t know the technical term for something).
When she talks to Chinese people in person for the first time they are almost always blown away by how flawless her pronunciation is (sometimes her pronunciation of Mandarin is better than theirs because they have a regional accent).
And I am always jealous of her…
How did her pronunciation get so good?! More importantly, how can we do the same for our Japanese fluidity? Let’s find out.
As part of her study routine, every week my wife would take material (articles/dialogs/interviews) in Mandarin Chinese and do three things:
- listen to the audio
- read the written transcript
- read the written transcript while listening to the audio, trying to match the native speaker’s reading.
The above practice is commonly known as “shadowing” and it is one of the best language learning techniques ever invented.
But what does shadowing look like? And how can you do it?
What “shadowing looks like
The following video is of a Japanese guy explaining how he has used “shadowing” to improve his English.
(by the way, at the beginning of that video he more or less says in Japanese: I use two methods to improve my English, 1. “shadowing” is listening to audio and copying it by reading out loud. 2. extensive passive listening – listening to lots of material, stuff on your iPod, even while doing other things)
How to do it
I link to another video below that explains “overlapping” which is essentially what I am doing when I “shadow” although some people split hairs and say the two are different.
Using the name overlapping is good though because it is what you want to do. Fully mimic the native speaker.
You want your pronunciation to sound like theirs. You want your feeling to sound like theirs. Every pause, every emphasis, the same.
And that’s it! The end. At least for giving it a try.
If you want to start shadowing Erin.ne.jp has good material to help you start and this is a guide to using the Erin website to improve your Japanese.
Go, give it a try!
More on the technique:
Google results on how to shadow.
The video below is about “Overlapping” – a more detailed view of what most people mean when they say “shadowing”. She demonstrates from minute 7:24 onward.