Tag Archives: grammar

Maruzen: Japanese Learning Resource Jackpot

For those looking for Japanese resources beyond a few sub-par textbooks and books titled “how to curse in Japanese!” I would suggest looking at the White Rabbit Press, as they carry a large number of Japanese-related books that you won’t find in your average Barnes & Noble.

However, the other day in Japan I just found the Japanese-learning Jackpot. Behold: Maruzen near Tokyo Station in the Marunouchi OAZO shopping complex:

Four floors of Japanese bookstore -- mmmm!

I walked in casually, expecting the usual fair of books that could be found in any small mall bookstore, but soon found myself on the fourth floor, face-to-face with a rather drool-worthy site.

Yeah, there was a lot. Maruzen in Marunouchi OAZO building near Tokyo Station.

For some reason I’ve always had this obsession with collecting Japanese-learning resources and books without actually using those resources. Of course, I always have the intention of using said resources, but something about amassing a huge amount of books on learning Kanji or vocabulary simply makes feel like I’m actually learning, even if I’m not.

Perhaps one day I will be able to learn Japanese through osmosis simply by pressing my face into my Japanese textbooks. Until then!

Lots of grammar books. The fat red and orange one is the Dictionary of Misused Japanese

In any case, to cater to my book collecting habit, seeing multiple shelves of “no use this book to study for the JLPT” was quite a feast. And while there are a ton of books to look through, I unfortunately do not have the infinite time (and money) necessary to look through and consider all of them. Nonetheless, two books did catch my attention:

  1. A Dictionary of Misused Japanese.
  2. New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in Japanese

The first, completely in Japanese, goes over common grammar errors and provides correct and incorrect examples of language usage. I liked the comprehensiveness of the book, but I admit I did get a little fatigued looking through it. Perhaps in a perfect world I would go through it, but it’s over 700 pages long — more a reference than anything else. Probably a great supplement for those wanting to cement a new grammar point into their heads.

The second looked especially excellent: it’s a bilingual book in both Japanese and English, with the Japanese text sufficiently furigana’d. Of the stories I quickly browsed through, they seemed sufficiently interesting, and because the English translation is provided, I avoid having input fatigue. Because while I like to think I could just immerse myself in a Japanese book and read, at this point it’s just not something I can do for very long, or very quickly. While English is a crutch, it also keeps me from giving up on reading after a few dragged-out pages, something that would likely happened were I to pick up any Japanese book off the shelf.

Next time I may go over books that Japanese people use to learn English — both how those books work and how they can be used to study Japanese as well (hint: you study the Japanese translations, not the English).

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Filed under Japan, Japanese, Language, Self-studying

In-Depth: How to use Shadowing to Study Japanese

Alternate title: Good language learners copy; great ones steal.

In a comment on my last post about incorporating resistance into your studying, Peke Penguin (author of a bilingual Japanese-English story about the (mis)adventures of Peke) points out that well-known fact that immersion is the best way to really learn a language fluently.

Of course, for many language learners the chance to visit our target country—in this case Japan—is not always a simple feat. Visiting is costly, and without sufficient preparation or basic understanding of Japanese, going abroad could just as easily be unhelpful as well. Thus, today let’s consider one of the best ways to practice real and useful Japanese right from our very homes.

What is Shadowing, and how does it work?

C&B Comic

Your shadowing goal: be that human echo!

Prerequisites:

  1. Know Kana and some basic Kanji.
  2. Have a decent grasp of basic Japanese grammar.

Shadowing means repeating. You hear something in Japanese, and you repeat it. That’s it! Of course, this is easier said than done.

By repeating something, you demonstrate you have some knowledge of what was just spoken. Otherwise, you would just be repeating a series of random sounds, which would be much harder, if not impossible. When you repeat, you’re practicing both your listening and speaking skills at the same time.

Furthermore, you can take your repeating one-step further by repeating not when the audio you want to repeat is finished, but while the audio is being spoken you begin to repeat. This is the key part of shadowing that makes it difficult and useful when learning the language; remember, you’re aiming for resistance. Let’s use an example:

Say you’re practicing the following conversation:

A: 何、これ。食べ終わったら片付けなさい!

B: あー、それまだ食べかけなんだから、おいといてよ。

[audio https://sites.google.com/site/coldfrost/files/ShadowingExample.mp3]

To shadow this conversation, follow these steps:

1. Understand the conversation. Once you do, never look at the English text again.

A: What’s this? If you’ve finished eating then clean everything up!
B: Ah, but I haven’t finished yet; just leave it.
2. Listen to the conversation.
3. Listen to the conversation, and repeat after it has finished.
4. Listen to the conversation, and repeat after person A has finished speaking (yes, you will be repeating while the conversation is still going on) while looking at the Japanese text.
5. Listen to the conversation, and repeat after person A has finished speaking without looking at the Japanese text.
6. Repeat this process until you can complete step 5 fluently and easily.

And that’s how shadowing works.

Why use shadowing to study Japanese

Shadowing is not as easy as it may seem, especially if you’re going to be shadowing more complicated or longer dialogues. The point is to find dialogues that contain just a few words at most that you don’t know; you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with something too difficult for your level.

However, by repeating to the point where you can repeat the dialogue with ease without needing to look at any text, you will have effectively internalized the dialogue and you will find yourself using it in actual conversation without even realizing it. Effective shadowing does not require memorization, but does require enough practice to force the structures and vocabulary used in the sentences into your head.

Since these are authentic Japanese-sounding conversations, you won’t have to worry about wrestling with which grammar rule to use or word to chose when speaking; you’ll have already internalized a sentence or structure that expresses exactly what you need to say. Remember, good language learners copy, but great ones steal.

So where do I get good material for shadowing?

An excellent question—I realize I’ve been going on about real Japanese, but have failed to actually say where this material is located.

Good shadowing material can come from anywhere. Listen to your favorite anime—maybe just a line or two of dialogue—write down the dialogue, and start repeating it. Or maybe the lyrics from your favorite Japanese song are worth shadowing if they seem useful enough; you can use shadowing with any authentic Japanese spoken material.

If you’re looking for a little more guidance, however, I’d recommend the following books, available from the White Rabbit Press:

I own both of these books, and I find the dialogues in them to be incredibly useful. Plus, these are made for shadowing specifically, so you should have no trouble getting started if you decide to purchase them. The conversation example in this post was taken from the beginner-level book.

I hope this helps you! Next up I will discuss my feelings on the ever-popular Pimsleur series, and how you can use it effectively in your studies.

C&H Comic 2

Just don't try and go too quickly!

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Filed under Japan, Japanese, Language, Self-studying, Shadowing