Imitation may not be the first method that pops to mind when you think of learning Japanese, but I have found it quite effective in improving my Japanese.
At first, I didn’t actually realize that I did it. I was just trying to speak Japanese the best that I could. It wasn’t until after I got a few compliments that I actually thought about it and realized it was probably due to imitation.
As a child I used to love to copy lines from movies and TV. I was a huge Jim Carrey fan and would go around imitating just about every line I could remember. Somehow, this transferred over into learning Japanese. When I speak with Native Japanese speakers I don’t just listen to their pronunciation, but try to copy exactly what they say and the way they say it. The reason this works well is that I am basically just copying, rather than trying to convert certain parts of speech to fit my own. It also allows me to practice Japanese even if I don’t know the meaning. I can imitate the sounds of the words and learn the words later. Children use this method to learn just about everything.
So the next time that you are studying Japanese words, watching a Japanese movie, or are conversing with a Japanese friend, try to imitate them. It will help your pronunciation and help you connect words and phrases much more smoothly.