Shadow Immersion – Surpassing your Speaking Limits — 35 Comments

  1. This seems like an interesting project and a fruitful one to try. However, just so you know, I thought this was a new JALUP product for shadowing and was like “take my money!” before even clicking over.

  2. Interesting twist to your game. Happy for you, that you found new grounds to conquer :D When I get my immersion device back up I might even try this. Being low level it is probably difficult but I’m thinking of trying this with the audio for the Graded Readers after reading them. That should make it easier.

    One small comment on your shadow prediction part though… Be sure to not take this with you into normal conversations. Finishing other people’s sentences is such a bad habit and can be difficult to get rid of once you get started! (speaking from experience here >.<)

    • Yeah, definitely start with something easy. Because even material that is easy to listen to is hard to shadow.

      Thanks for the tip. I will be careful to make shadowing doesn’t negatively affect normal conversations.

  3. This is a really interesting idea, thanks for sharing. And I really suck at things like the process you brought up under the Memory Hacking sub-title (even in English really). Hopefully this will give me some nice practice there (in Japanese of course).

  4. The idea of accidentally repeating what people say in conversations is hilarious to me. I imagine someone walking by talking in Japanese and then you start to repeat them by mistake (Although hopefully that wouldn’t actually happen). Good article though, I need to try this.

    • I’m sure that would be an interesting conversation starter if he noticed me doing that. Give it a try!

  5. For people who are not ready for shadowing or don’t feel ready for it (like I did at the beginning) I’ve found also a method called “mute shadowing”. It’s the same like shadowing, but just that you are going to repeat what’s said in your mind, without moving your mouth or producing sounds. It’s not as effective as real shadowing, but it prepares you for the real deal and you wont’ get any negative consequences by doing this (since your mouth won’t memorize the movements). I’ve tried it now for 6 months and now I’m shadowing out loud and I think it’s much easier now because I’ve prepared it with mute shadowing :)

  6. Just to make sure: So you are playing your usual immersion material, you don’t stop it or anything and while it’s playing you repeat everything after with a few seconds delay? A bit like an echo to the material?
    That sounds incredibly hard to do :O I’m not sure if I could talk over what’s being said but still get what was being said…
    Or am I misunderstanding something?

    • Yes, that’s correct. I don’t stop anything. It’s like continuous immersion except me following with a second or so delay, all day long (when I’m listening).

      In the beginning, it takes a little time to get used. As when you are talking a few seconds behind when someone else is already saying something else, you can get lost quickly. But this goes to the memory hack above, as it is a skill that you can develop.

    • Less strict on reading out loud now than I was before. I find shadow immersion more enjoyable/challenging than reading out loud.

  7. If anyone is sceptical that they are even capable of doing this, give it a short try in your native language.

    PS this is my favourite shadowing material of present: Sound Library〜世界にひとつだけの本〜

    Search for it on your favourite podcasting app. She speaks relatively slowly with lots of short gaps to catch your breath.

  8. Is Shadowing also active listening? Or in between passive and active? Does the answer depend on the level of the person asking?

    • It’s active, because to be able to shadow, you are listening intently, and putting a lot of focus on it to reproduce it.

      • Thanks! It’s nice to know that I practice speaking and have it also count as listening. However, I do notice I sometimes find myself paying more attention to the speaking aspect than the listening aspect because syllables are just syllables until you interpret them if you know what I mean. Sometimes I am in lala land while shadowing.

        • That’s true, but your shadowing evolves. In the beginning, it will be a lot of repeating what you don’t understand (but can pronounce). However, you are still listening, still copying those words, as they eventually start to make more sense. It’s just a different aspect of listening.

  9. Hi Adam,

    Sorry for going back to an old post, but this technique seems interesting, and I know that there are a number of polyglots that swear by it. I was wondering, how do you hear yourself? Do you speak out loud, or mutter the phrases under you breath?

    I find if I speak out loud (other than looking like a nutter of course), I find it can be difficult to hear the recording clearly (using ear buds). Also, does it not reduce your enjoyment of, say, tv dramas or movies?

    I also had another question regarding reading novels if you had time: Do you listen to your immersion device at the same time as reading (for example, on the way to work), or is reading a silent moment for you? I find reading far more enjoyable if I switch off the sound immersion, and probably more productive in picking up new words due to the increased concentration.

    Many thanks for a great blog, very much appreciated.

    • The level of my voice depends on where I am. Usually outside, in any kind of open space, I shadow loud. It doesn’t really look that strange from the outside because everyone else is on their phones. Moving to smaller spaces, I lower it to a mutter, and then places where it’s really not polite to be talking nonstop, it’ll be mouth movements, and sometimes just mental shadowing.

      As for hearing it clearly, it depends a lot of the type of recording. This is why podcasts or audio books are easiest, as you don’t have to worry about other noise getting in the way.

      TVs and movies I find the most difficult, because yes, it does impede enjoyment. If it is an immersion listen (passive listen), it is fine, but shadowing the first time I’ve seen a tv show or movie can be tiring. However, I don’t find it to decrease the entertainment value as much with podcasts/audio books.

      For reading, it depends. For extremely casual internet reading (website surfing, social media, etc.), the background immersion doesn’t bother me. However, for novel reading (or any kind of real book reading whether fiction/nonfiction), I always turn off the immersion and make it silence. It makes it easier to “immerse” in the story or book, and I find that more important. It took me a while to figure this out by comparing the 2, but I definitely find the silence to be key for me.

      Hope this helps!

  10. I’m keen to hear Adam’s response too.

    Some observations I have found:
    Try different types of headphones. The ones that go right inside your ears, I have a hunch they cause your voice to seem overpoweringly loud. If the in-ear ones are all you have, then try them halfway out so they don’t seal.

    Try different source material – I find listening to a voice that sounds totally different to mine is easier to hear as they don’t mask each other so much.

    • Headphones are extremely important. And I agree, that there is a certain type of “immersion headphone” that works best for you, and it’s not the same type of headphone you’d normally use for music/etc.

      However, I think everyone likes a different type of immersion headphone. For example, I like in-ear with mild (not heavy) noise cancellation.

    • This information is for in-ear noise isolating earbuds only:

      I have come to the understanding/realisation that the deeper the earbuds sit into your ears, the less “inner voice” you will hear. You won’t have to turn up the volume as much to compensate. You could try pushing them in deeper, changing the tips, or if you’re buying new ones I’m sure some models sit deeper than others.

      If you have the earbuds sitting out of your ears (breaking the seal) you may be inadvertently turning up the volume too much and exposing yourself to potential totally damaging levels of sound, especially if you are in an already noisy environment.

      I haven’t had an opportunity to test out other types of headphones so if anyone has any comments I’d love to hear them!

  11. Adam and Lostasock

    Thanks for your replies- I really appreciate you taking the time. Very helpful indeed. I do have some “non in the ear” type earphones, which I use in the house so as to clearly also hear what’s going on around me. Usually I will use noise-cancelling buds on the street because of the traffic noise etc., but I’ll give the other earphones a try for the purpose of shadowing! I notice my toddler son shadows all the time to TV shows he likes, or at least tries to, and he really seems to pick up new phrases that way (annoyingly sometimes!).

    With the reading, I agree, and am kind of relieved to hear that you switch off the audio for serious reading like novels or textbooks! I feel like my concentration is very light if I am listening at the same time, even if it’s just music. The speed and pleasure of the reading seems to pick up in silence, and I think that when you are truly immersed in something without outside distractions is when you will subconsciously pick up new phrases and grammatical patterns.

    Best regards,


  12. At my job I am able to listen to Japanese all day. In the end I get about 6 hours a work day when all is said and done. The problem has always been, I have a wandering mind that contemplates many things throughout the day and I noticed I was constantly ignoring what was being said. Realistically I probably got about 45mins to 1 hour of active listening a day at work. This bothered me a lot but I could never maintain focus no matter what. I recently started shadowing at work as much as I could. This made a HUGE difference. Shadowing makes me pay attention and now my active listening and shadowing is more like …maybe 3 hours a day.

    I had a couple questions regarding this:

    How much is a good amount of shadowing time per day?

    Where do you (anyone) get news to shadow? A streaming service? YouTube channel?

    And Adam, after a year of shadowing, what are your results?

    Thanks as always!

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