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Recommend a book

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Recommend a book

Postby Djones5 » Sat 10.28.2006 1:52 pm

Hi, im a beginner at Japanese, I was wondering if anyone could recommend a book that I could work through. A perfect book would start off with hiragana and gradually introduce grammar, vocabulary ect. Im basically looking for a structured way to learn Japanese. Does anyone have know a book like this?
Thxs in advance,
Dan :D
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby richvh » Sat 10.28.2006 2:43 pm

I'd suggest looking [wiki=Selecting_a_Japanese_Textbook]here[/wiki].
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Djones5 » Sat 10.28.2006 5:12 pm

Wicked thanks alot rich
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 11.04.2006 6:48 pm

That page doesn't mention anything by Jorden (i.e. <i>Japanese: the Spoken Language</i>); perhaps that's because the page is oriented towards self-study and JSL is not intended for self-study. If you are grammar-oriented it's worth picking up even as a supplement because the grammatical explanations are more complete and correct than any other textbook. However, if not used correctly, JSL is worse than something like Yokoso or Genki, so I don't recommend it unless you are taking a class that uses it.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby friendly_fire » Sat 11.04.2006 8:05 pm

I've been studying with Genki Book 1, and I'm just about to finish. I've really enjoyed studying with this book: though this may be due to a great tutor who knows the book really well, and even made some minor contributions to the text.

I've don't have and have never heard the audio CD, but I do use the workbook. The extra exercises really help to cement new grammar points.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby kanadajin » Sat 11.04.2006 8:08 pm

Have to agree with Friendly_fire, The genki series are pretty amazing ;)
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Infidel » Sat 11.04.2006 8:41 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
That page doesn't mention anything by Jorden (i.e. <i>Japanese: the Spoken Language</i>);


Oops, Added.

perhaps that's because the page is oriented towards self-study and JSL is not intended for self-study.


Nope, it's because there are so very many textbooks out there that even well established ones can be lost in the glut.

If you are grammar-oriented it's worth picking up even as a supplement because the grammatical explanations are more complete and correct than any other textbook.


This is walking on very dangerous territory. As big as the list I've made is, I'm probably still missing about 20% of the available texts because they are difficult to come by. I've been reviewing various textbooks for the last 10 years, and aften the difference between best and good is pretty negligible. Like the difference between first and last place in an olympic foot race: fractions of a second.

The biggest thing going against Japanese the Spoken Language is, first, it uses roumaji, Second, it uses non-standard roumaji, third, it's dependence on linguistic terminology, another way of saying that the grammar explainations can be more confusing than enlightening for many. I do not recommend this book as a primary textbook.

I just received Japanese the Written Language to review last week, it's the companion series for Japanese the Spoken Language. Unfortunatly, I seem to have only gotten the workbook, at least I hope so, because there is more white space than text. Since textbooks are rather expensive, and I've already stopped switching textbooks everytime I find one slightly better, and because I'm not being paid to review these books, I have to wait until I find a copy locally, or one becomes available on ebay for cheap.
Last edited by Infidel on Sat 11.04.2006 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 11.04.2006 9:06 pm

I also do not recommend the book as a primary textbook for people doing self study -- if you can get a class that correctly uses the book, it will be the best possible class for learning to speak the language the way native speakers do. But if you get stuck with the book being used by an uninformed/untrained teacher, or try to work it out yourself, it won't be good at all.

It's true that the book uses romaji, but unlike some other romaji-based textbooks, the romaji in JSL is not intended for reading practice -- it's merely for reference in the textbook so that they can talk about the grammar and vocabulary. The student is supposed to be using the accompanying audio (or better yet, the CD-ROM) to practice everything orally and only occasionally referring to the romaji in the book. If this is done fairly strictly, it shouldn't affect the learner's pronunciation or cause any long-term harm to their ability to read kana and kanji. On the other hand, when I hear students in my class pronounce tsuitachi as "too-ee-ta-tee", I can tell they're not doing it right. :)

(It's not that the romaji is "non-standard", it's just not the Hepburn system that people are used to. It's basically the Nihon Kunrei-shiki system, which is the one that Japanese people often use when they write things in romaji, with one or two minor modifications.)
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby ashitaka » Sat 11.04.2006 11:43 pm

Adventures in Japanese is the one i use for my first and second year classes. Starts off really good but after the second book you will only know about a hundred kanji.

Great for self study and class use. :D
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Ashurii » Sun 11.05.2006 1:06 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
That page doesn't mention anything by Jorden (i.e. Japanese: the Spoken Language); perhaps that's because the page is oriented towards self-study and JSL is not intended for self-study. If you are grammar-oriented it's worth picking up even as a supplement because the grammatical explanations are more complete and correct than any other textbook. However, if not used correctly, JSL is worse than something like Yokoso or Genki, so I don't recommend it unless you are taking a class that uses it.


Hello fellow Jorden-nite! I also have to say I highly reccomend JSL, it does a wonderful way of breaking down the language and grammar into a way that's very easily understood (though sometimes the linguistic terms make me reread passages a few times, but if you go to University and take Japanese linguistics later down the road, you'll thank your stars you used this book).

Here's a few of my favorite thing about the Jorden series:
1) Unlike most books that use systems such as "Group I and II" verbs that really give you no hint as to the conjugation, Jorden breaks them down into consonant verbals (general explanation - verbs that start conjugation after a consonant -- like 書く(kaku)) and vowel verbals (食べる(taberu))
2) Jorden also puts all of the accents on the words you see in the book, so you get a headstart on intonation

The most common complaint I hear from people is that it's written in romaji, but I'm sure most people who have taken a class using this book knows that you're not SUPPOSED to read the conversations and drills out of the book. The textbook comes with a CD (or you can use the Ohio State LL site http://languagelab.it.ohio-state.edu/index.php?id=1673) where students are expected to learn by listening, not by reading the romaji. (And you can pick out the kids who didn't listen to that rule from a mile away, I'm one of them! :@) The text also comes with a workbook (which is still in the Field Testing process, last I heard) where you learn kanji, do reading excercises and so on. But I would think that maybe in a self-study environment it would be harder to stick to that path. I attend the University of Pittsburgh and this is our text for years one to three, though I agree with Taiteki that if used improperly this book can be dangerous, we had professors to watch over us and make sure we didn't get too attached to the romaji, etc. etc.

It also helps to know what your plans are, if you plan on majoring in Japanese (which usually includes a linguistics course or two) or something, I really really reccomend the book as it gives you a great look in grammar and structure in a new and intelligent way. This is probably one of the best books for grammar, in my opinion, because it gives much longer and concise explanations of structures than most books I've seen (as opposed to just showing examples and giving a one or two sentence explanation).

However if you're more interested in just studying for fun than maybe a book like Genki or Yokoso would be better suited (I personally haven't had much experience with them other than reading through them briefly at a Kinokuniya in Umeda), JSL is a rather hardcore book and the linguistics terms are more than just a little confusing (I hated this book at first, I'll have to admit!).

Anyway sorry this is such a long reply, I really hate seeing JSL being made fun of, darnit. In the end it depends on your goals for Japanese and why you want to study, there are many many good books out there you just have to find the one that suits your needs, I'm sure all of us here are just going to fight for our own textbooks! :D And maybe if you give us that insight someone here can help you find the text that's best for you!
Last edited by Ashurii on Sun 11.05.2006 1:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby magma » Sun 11.05.2006 2:18 am

Two words: Mastering Japanese.

This is (part of) the course used by the United States Foreign Service Institute of the Department of State to train diplomatic personnel. It was also the foundation for Jorden's Japanese: The Spoken Language.

There is 1 book, Beginning Japanese, and 10 CDs, which are just scratchy copies of the original 1960's recordings. There are no pretty pictures. There are no flashy colors. There are no written Japanese characters of any kind--a separate book was prepared for the simulataneous study of Japanese writing starting at Lesson 10 of Beginning Japanese.

It's old, it's ugly, the explanations are dry and full of chewy jargon. And it's the best damn Japanese course there is. When I say "the best", I mean the fastest way for an independant student to go from zero ability to "General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and Reading."

This course isn't designed to be fun. It's designed to give you "the ability to use language as a tool to get things done" in the shortest amount of time possible. See Theory and Practice in Government Language Teaching for more on the Foreign Service Institute's teaching philosophy.
Last edited by magma on Sun 11.05.2006 3:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 11.05.2006 9:49 am

Is there any reason why someone should use BJ over JSL? JSL is essentially a new version of BJ built off the same principles but revised and updated, with newer media (particularly the CD-ROM and the DVD that just came out for volumes 2 and 3).

However, Reading Japanese is probably better than JWL because JWL is still in a field test edition.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Infidel » Sun 11.05.2006 10:34 am

Baron's Japanese is designed specifically for the self-study over JSL, so it does have that going for it. But it is annoying that every time BJ is updated, they only update the copyright, not the content.

If Baron's is good enough, then Ultimate Japanese by Living Language is even better. It's a bit more up-to-date and teaches kana and a few kanji (147). Japanese characters are introduced in the Moji subsection of each lesson at the rate of only 4-7 per lesson. So there is no risk at all of information overload.

The Basic-Intermediate set is equivilant to 2 years of University study--It says so on the cover--and when your done there is an Advanced set to continue your lessons further. There are 147 kanji introduced over the course of the lessons. IThere is one real negative quality about UJ: It has no seperate workbook. There are chapter quizzes, but they are too short to really drill the new information into the brain. The student has to work a bit harder creating exercises themself. This course is perfect for someone that wants to learn Japanese, but is a bit intimidated by the writing system. I also see it selling for $9 on ebay.

I'm sure all of us here are just going to fight for our own textbooks! And maybe if you give us that insight someone here can help you find the text that's best for you!


That's the difference between me any you guys. I'm the only one here not recomending my textbook. Once long ago, I kept getting fed up with Japanese textbooks, so I went on a quest looking for the holy grail of textbooks (for me). In the process I have actualy tried out a large number of them, as opposed to people that might have seen a couple at the local bookstore. I eventually did find a book that taught Japanese the way I wanted to be taught, but I would have progressed further than I am now if I had just stuck with my original book, instead of gone looking for something better.

The information I'm providing is best-fit info only. People can say things like "you're not supposed to read the roumaji" but if you weren't supposed to read it, it wouldn't be written. Every course with audio you're supposed to mimic the recorded voice, but that doesn't keep people from reading the roumaji, because it's written! Reading roumaji teaches bad habits, it's best avoided entirely if possible. I still have a bad habit of saying "kuduhsai" because my first lessons were in roumaji, and because when I imagine the word, I imagine it written--in roumaji. This may not harm auditory people, but visual people, like me, that "see" the words as they are spoken, it is a critical detriment.

I mean the fastest way for an independant student to go from zero ability to "General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and Reading."


This is very misleading to say. The only way to prove this would be to train someone with this book, somehow make them forget everything, then have them trained with another book, make them forget again, and repeat, untill all the books are covered. Since this isn't feasible, and I know the second option. Run a bunch of independent tests with all the different systems and compare, we can conclude that this statement is not reliable.
Last edited by Infidel on Sun 11.05.2006 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 11.05.2006 11:01 am

You may not be recommending "your" textbook, but that wiki page definitely represents your prejudices and biases. Obviously any textbook recommendation site or collection is going to involve the person's opinion, but when you write things like "romaji is best avoided entirely if possible" you're not being objective because that is not a universal opinion.

Using kana can teach bad habits as well because it can trick people into thinking they know how to pronounce something just because it's written with Japanese symbols instead of roman letters. But if you learned the kana from a chart that linked them with roman letters, you're probably going to be converting them back to roman letters in your mind. And if you don't practice the Japanese syllables from audio, you're not going to pronounce them correctly no matter how they're written. The major advantage of delaying the introduction of kana and focusing intensely on the spoken language is that then when you do finally learn the kana, you are connecting them with the sounds of Japanese that you are familiar with rather than just roman letters from a chart.

People can say things like "you're not supposed to read the roumaji" but if you weren't supposed to read it, it wouldn't be written. Every course with audio you're supposed to mimic the recorded voice, but that doesn't keep people from reading the roumaji, because it's written!


But I don't think it's fair to penalize a textbook because some people misuse it. Of course there are always going to be some people in a JSL-based class that ignore the audio entirely and just read things out of the book. But in a kana book-based class you will find students writing roman letters above the kana and kanji in their book and on worksheets -- students will misuse a book no matter which one you give them.

Just looking at romaji or referring to it occasionally isn't going to hurt you in the long run, provided that when you start learning kana and kanji you are very diligent about it and absolutely never write in roman letters. It's not even a completely useless skill to learn to read romaji -- the mail system at OSU does not support Japanese characters, so every e-mail that's sent in Japanese between the teachers is written with romaji. I read the equivalent of several pages of romaji a week, on average.
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RE: Recommend a book

Postby magma » Sun 11.05.2006 3:42 pm

Is there any reason why someone should use BJ over JSL? JSL is essentially a new version of BJ built off the same principles but revised and updated, with newer media (particularly the CD-ROM and the DVD that just came out for volumes 2 and 3).

However, Reading Japanese is probably better than JWL because JWL is still in a field test edition.

I think you summed it up nicely.


I mean the fastest way for an independant student to go from zero ability to "General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and Reading."

This is very misleading to say.

Let me put it this way: when the US Government needed to train its employees to speak Japanese effectively in the shortest amount of time possible, THIS is the course they chose.

You can dig a hole with a spoon, or with a shovel. Some people are intimidated by the shovel, so they choose the friendlier-looking spoon. Others get tired quickly using the shovel, so they switch to the spoon because it's lighter. If you ask them to recommend a hole-digging methodology, they could honestly tell you they got better results with the spoon. Nevertheless, the shovel is still the fastest way to dig a hole.

There are sound, objective reasons why using Beginning Japanese (or JSP) is the fastest way to gain control of the languge--the primary reason having to do with the great abundance of finely targeted audio drills. If you are afraid of the spartan tone of BJ, or if all that hard work makes you get tired too quickly, then it can't help you, and you would get better results with a Genki or a Nakama. But if you are able and willing to use it, BJ (and courses like it) will yield the fastest results, period.

The point is not the textbook itself, it's the practice. If you're in a classroom with a native-speaking tutor who drills you for hours every day until you can use the Japanese structures without thinking, then you can get similar results with almost any textbook. What matters is practicing the structures over and over until they become automatic. BJ and JSL state clearly that this is their aim, and they provide enough audio drills for an independant student to accomplish this. Other books don't.
Last edited by magma on Sun 11.05.2006 4:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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