Using Audible Japan to Shadow and Immerse in Japanese

Where there is a new Japanese immersion source, I will go… Audible is Amazon’s audio book service. It  started about 2 years ago in Japan, and it provides unlimited Japanese audio books for your listening pleasure. It took me a while to get around to check it out, because I couldn’t think why I would need it. I already had enough podcasts, video streaming services, and regular books to keep me busy. Why bother adding audio books to the mix?

I was an Amazon Japan Prime member, and after seeing enough ads telling me to try audible for free for 3 months, I gave in. Here are some of my impressions of it.

Shadow heaven

I became a shadow maniac starting last year, and Audible is the perfect companion. I mostly had been shadowing podcasts, but audible books are easier and more fun. They are longer, better voice-acted,  and clearer. They also tend to expand your vocabulary more than a podcast, because general podcasts use a smaller range of vocabulary (due to being conversational).

You can choose the the speed of your audio. While I leave it at the standard 1x, you have the option to adjust it if you want to listen a little slower at .75x speed or pump up the pace at 1.25x, 1.5x., or 2x.

There are short samples of every audio book, giving you the ability to see how high level it is, whether you like the voice, and whether you think it would be good shadowing material.

Not all audible books are created equal

I’ve found that depending on the audio book, the experience can range from amazing to annoying.

I dislike books that:

● Leave massive pauses between one sentence and the next. It makes me feel like I have to constantly wait just to shadow the next sentence.

● Don’t adjust the book writing style to the appropriate way to read it. I was listening to a book on Japanese history, that made use of extensive parentheses. Every time there was a parenthesis (which would appear at least once a sentence), the voice actor would say 括弧 (かっこ). Enough to drive you crazy.

● Contained distracting sentence-enders that are repeatedly used. I was listening to one book where nearly every sentence ended with だよ!

I like books:

● Where it is an actual voice actor, and they enthusiastically voice out multiple characters in different patterns.

Limited selection

Because it’s still fairly new, the choices are limited. Maybe a few hundred books to look through. There are a lot of “non-books” included which makes searching slightly a chore. A lot of 20 minute lectures, podcast, series, and other things that weren’t actually audio books.

However, since the average book can range from 8-12 hours, you find one book and you are set for a while. It was also nice to be able to look forward to the weekly Audible Japan update, and see what new titles were added and try them out.

What to listen to

A few books I’ve listened/shadowed to and enjoyed:

1. リング (The Ring) – I didn’t know that the movie came from a book, and it’s quite different.
2. 気にしない練習 (Practice not worrying) – because you know…
3. ペンギン・ハイウェイ (Penguin Highway) – a lot of fun, and penguins.
4. 40翼ふたたび (40, Wings Again) – weird, but easy to relate to the main character.

The main sell on Audible seems to be the Harry Potter series. I read the series in Japanese many years ago, so I plan on checking out the audio series as well. Also, it looks like they just added the first Chronicles of Narnia audio book.

Worth it?

Yes. It’s shadowing at its best. Even if you have no interest in shadowing, it’s another great resource to get some good immersion in.

Have you tried Audible Japan before? Interested in trying it now?

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Using Audible Japan to Shadow and Immerse in Japanese — 19 Comments

  1. What are your thoughts on listening to the audiobook and reading the actual book at the same time? Potentially even throwing shadowing into the mix. Too much at once?

  2. Trick x Logic (PSP) has AMAZING audiobooks for listening immersion. They are mainly focused on mystery, but you have to listen (or read) them multiple times to figure out the mystery, which was a great immersion practice for me.

  3. I’m currently about 90% through ゼロの使い魔 (The Familiar of Zero) read by Rie Kugimiya, who had a lead role in the anime adaptation and in general has had a long and illustrious career. It’s pretty great! She really does act out all the roles and her performance is so strong that it significantly changed my interpretation of one scene, for the better.

    ゼロの使い魔 is in some ways a perfect starter novel. It’s available as an e-book from Rakuten, Calibre can convert it to a web page for reading with rikaisama, and there’s a very serviceable free fan translation for those passages where I get stuck. I’ve been reading it in chunks then listening to the corresponding section of the audio book, sometimes with the text in front of me and sometimes just as I’m walking to work. I’ve found both to be useful. (Whether it’s actually a good book is, let’s just say, a different question. Personally I take issue with some elements, but I found it compelling enough to keep reading and do plan to continue with the series. Sadly, only the first volume has an audio book.)

    There are also audio versions of 魔女の宅急便 (Kiki’s Delivery Service) and 時をかける少女 (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) available from Audible, both popular choices for breaking into Japanese novels. I’ve purchased both but since haven’t spent much time with them yet I can’t say more than that the voices seem pleasant.

  4. Does anyone know how to register for Audible without a Japanese credit card? It says I have to have one tied to a Japanese address in order to register for the free trial, which is weird because doesn’t require one to buy things. Or is there another similar service?

    • If your phone is set to Japanese, and you are using an Amazon Jp account, it should give you access to .jp. I don’t think it is possible to use your account to access it (though I’m not sure, so anyone can correct me if I’m wrong).

  5. Am I assuming correctly that you cannot take the audio out of the audible app, to add it to an immersion playlist?

    • Not that I’m aware of. However, not sure why you’d need to do that. You can access the audio offline through the app anytime.

    • If you purchased the book thought iTunes you can burn it to DVD (legally, here are the instructions from the Audible site), after which you could rip the CD. If that fails, you could always buy a cheap digital voice recorder and hold it up to your device’s speakers…

      As for why someone might want to do this, I could imagine wanting to load chunks of the audio into something like Audacity to study more carefully, or to include in Anki decks.

  6. If you search for 朗読 inside youtube you’ll find a lot of audiobooks.
    For some of them you could even find the text version. Just search a little section of the audiobook with Google and if a free text in available out there, it will pop up.

  7. I’m curious if anyone has tried shadowing in their head only, repeating what you hear silently to yourself.. You don’t strain your voice or annoy your family, but I wonder if you will still get the same vocabulary increase. I’ve done it before and it is similarly difficult mentally. Does anyone have any long-term experience doing silent shadowing?

    • Yes, I’ve done the same thing. I think it has helped me some what, but it doesn’t really train my mouth muscles on the mechanics of speaking Japanese. I’m quite shy myself and I didn’t want to disturb my neighbors. One day I just started shadowing out loud and nobody really said anything so it feels quite normal for me now. One other thing I noticed is that when I first started shadowing, I found myself tripping over my own words in English for some reason. It didn’t last long and was barely noticeable to anyone but me, but I always wonder if it had something to do with shadowing.

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