Is there a method for shadowing correctly or do I just s*ck at it?

So, shadowing is this exercice when you have to cover one or several voiced sentences with your own voice and pronunciation. There are 2 or 3 exercices like that in each chapter of my textbook and I do them really badly.
I don’t really understand the exercice though, because how can you pronunce something you don’t ear correctly, when you only have heard it 2 or 3 times ? My teacher keeps making me doing it even if I think it made the both of us suffer a lot :sweat_smile:

I never cover correctly the sentence. I’m always late or early.
My pronunciation is bad and I usually forget words.
I really prefer when I have to repeat the dialogs than when I have to shadow them.

Is there a method to do a good shadowing or am I condemned to be bad at it until the end of times ?
Please help ! :pray:


I don’t think there’s a particular method, but maybe it would help to start with shorter sentences or with parts of the sentence before doing the whole sentence? Cause it sounds like you’re having trouble recalling the entire sentence while balancing that with timing yourself to the audio

You could also try shadowing a recording of yourself in your native language to practice shadowing itself


Shadowing is like sing along. The problem is that the tune is not catchy, the words don’t rhyme, and the lyrics are boring.
Just like with a song, listening a few times first, then trying to sing/read with the narrator can be helpful.


Since it’s a textbook there’s also always practicing those specific exercises in advance so that you’re prepared


That’s why I do when I review the worst shadowing I’ve done if it was really really bad at tit during a lesson. It’s true it helps.

I always listen the sentences several times before shadowing them. Maybe next time I’ll ask my teacher to make me hear them one more time. However, I don’t want to spend too much time on shadowing as I have the impression I progress better with repeating.

Amen :laughing:


I watched this video a while ago and it actually suggests Shadowing is a more advanced way to learn listening (and suggests ways to work up to shadowing)

Now, if you’re learning for speaking, then it might not apply, but I figured I’d share anyway


I would go with this if you have the time. Having to deal with your teacher while shadowing is kinda distracting and counter productive, imo. If it’s only 3 sentences per lesson, perhaps allocate specific time to practice by yourself, like you’re dancing when no one can see you, less pressure. That way you can not shadow then shadow.


I like the instructions and materials Wasabi jpn has put out


It’s an interesting video, but at least from my experience, the suggestion that unvoiced vowels are the (or ‘a’) major reason why Japanese learners have difficulty in listening comprehension does not apply to me. Likewise, some of the other proffered reasons for difficulty in comprehending Japanese conversations do not seem to be major obstacles for me.

Rather, for me, these factors seem to be the most important ones, in rough order:

  • difficulty with my short-term memory (by the time I hear the end of the sentence I have probably forgotten what was said in the beginning of the sentence, and Japanese sentences are often structured in such a way that the ‘payoff’ in understanding the sentence only comes at the end of it)

  • notwithstanding any short-term-memory-related issues, the speaker is going too quickly for me to keep up (I’ve found that to be the case when listening to the NHK shortwave radio broadcasts that I mentioned in my thread here, where they speak very quickly: )

  • I need to practice ‘moving on’ rather than getting caught by an occasional word that I either am not familiar with or that I missed, which could lead me to miss the following words

  • I do need much more practice in interpreting Japanese sentences, partially due to not having as much grammar as I’d like, but also due to differences in the thought processes underlying sentence structure - better understanding of those patterns, including by mimicing sentences through shadowing, will help me in both understanding as well as in formulating and producing acceptable speech (rather than speaking using English conventions and speech patterns but substituting Japanese vocabulary within those English patterns)

  • for whatever reason, I tend to stumble on hearing numbers, trying to translate them in my head to numerals - that is different from other types of vocabulary that I may hear within conversational speech, because in many cases I have actually made the leap from mentally translating word by word into simply hearing and understanding without an intermediate ‘translate each word’ step

Unlike what was stated in that video, I don’t think that I have a problem dealing with Japanese rhythm, intonation, or pronunciation.

But I do think that shadowing can help me in emulating Japanese speech patterns, so I will give it a try (I have a couple of shadowing textbooks that have written sentences along with CD audio that I can use).

(FWIW, I’m at an ‘advanced beginner’ level, not quite ‘intermediate’, but about at an N4 level)


BTW, which textbook is that?

It’s Irodori, a free online textbook made for strangers who come to work and live in Japan (which is not my case, it’s just the textbook my teacher uses). It’s rather complete and has a good variety of exercices :slightly_smiling_face:


That’s really nice free material!
I chose some random exercise to listen to, and I think I understand why it’s so difficult for you.
It’s a bit over the top the way the actors speak, and you’ve gotta lean into it in order to shadow them. You need to act while speaking.
Also, and this might sound crazy to you, have you tried shadowing them blindly (No text just listening) without reading the text or listening to it before you shadow? Maybe the text distracts you and slows you down, so if at first you’ll practice memorizing the audio then pretend shadowing while reading (even though you know the audio by heart), you’ll internalize the rhythm, and be able to shadow more quickly in future lessons.

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My teacher makes me shadowing first with the text under the eyes and a second time with the text hidden.
But maybe in next sessions, I’ll try to only listen the audio without the text before shadowing. Like you say, the acting is really lively so it can be memorized easily only hearing it (well it depends also if the section is a difficult one or not. For example, when I had to shadow (となり)部屋(へや)、10時までに(かた)づけてください, I wasn’t relaxed. At all. :sweat_smile:)

Numbers in foreign languages do seem to be hard for just about everybody. My theory is our brains process them differently to normal words somehow.


The instructions in the pdf say clearly (1) 会話を聞きましょう。
The first step is listening without reading, then they write (2) シァドーイングしましょう。
If you can, discuss it with your teacher, and follow the original instructions.

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The problem is I don’t always understand all what is said, like in my previous example. In the same chapter, there were a lot of challenging sentences, and in the shadowing exercices too. However, I’m a person who needs to understand things before saying them. If I can’t, shadowing have really no utility at all for me, except for making me feel really bad at japanese.

It would be like pretend to talk. In french we have an expression for when you sing sounds which are definitely not the lyrics of the song : “chanter du yaourt” (literally : “singing yogurt”), because it feels like you talk with something in the mouth and nobody really understand you :yum: Well, it would be the same for me shadowing without knowing what I’m saying ^^

I think there are methods or exercises that don’t fit with us. For example, I can’t endure a lot of SRS when some other people are head over heels with it. Maybe shadowing isn’t a type of exercise made for me :woman_shrugging:

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It’s really important to realize what works and what doesn’t work for you. I totally get it, people rave about Anki and I just can’t stand it.
If it’s a private teacher like iTalki, maybe try dome more options and find a teacher that is more compatible with your learning style?

Hmmm… It looks like you’re going too fast, which in the long run wastes you time, energy and money.
Taking a break from book lessons every few weeks and either going over old material, or practicing free conversation with what you do know will be more beneficial for you.

If understanding is a key point for you, you need someone that goes with your need not with a rigid schedule.

I think my teacher would totally agree to make a change of pace, it just didn’t occur to me that it could be a good thing for me :exploding_head:
Thank you for suggesting it :slightly_smiling_face:

I never thought about that, for example :slightly_smiling_face:
I think it would be totally ok for my teacher as she also propose free talk (and we chat in japanese too before the lesson).

It’s just a quick exercise in the middle of a lot of other material, so I don’t complain to her (in fact, I must admit that sometimes I complain lol).
It’s just today I realized I never improve at shadowing :sob:

Otherwise, she always answers my questions, slow or accelerate if needed and is very considerate of what I understand or not. She gives me advice for pronunciation. As she knows I don’t like shadowing, she introduced by herself more dialog repeating lately. So I think she’s a good choice, it’s shadowing which isn’t haha.

She sounds like a good teacher, I’m glad ٩(^‿^)۶

You’re welcome. I hope it’ll help.

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I’ve never heard of the shadowimg method even though I’ve studied several languages in my life :roll_eyes:
As for Japanese, which is the first language I’m studying without a teacher, the closest thing I’m doing is to talk to Google Translate in Japanese and see if it manages to translate the sentence to English correctly. If Google Translate understands what I’m saying, then my pronunciation is good enough for a beginner!