I am a big fan of shadowing. I still use some of the expressions I learned listening to Japanese dramas. Listening to how people really talk is a great way to learn natural phrasing and usage.
One of the additional benefits of shadowing is intonation practice. For an early learner, we pick up bad habits with intonation without even knowing it. The first time I realized this was when I read a speech I was to deliver to my Japanese-fluent Russian roommate, and his critique was, “Can you not sound so American?”
“But,” I thought, “I sound just like a Japanese person to me!”
Well, unless you practice the minute and subtle details of intonation, you probably don’t sound like a native speaker. Try recording yourself and listening back. You may be surprised.
And poor intonation may be evident in another common scenario: Have you ever said something to a Japanese person perfectly, with no grammar or usage mistakes, and they still didn’t understand you? If so, it was likely because of annunciation or intonation. This is where shadowing can help.
How to Shadow
Play each podcast slowly, over and over, repeating along as closely as you can. You can read the transcript, or memorize. Pay attention to sounding exactly like the speaker, in volume and pitch. You can go an octave lower if the speaker’s voice is way above your natural range.
By shadowing, you not only add more correct Japanese to your memory hole. You learn to say it more naturally. It’s a great way to prepare for the listening section of the JLPT, as well.