Ok, this is just a page for me to set up my textbook review wiki that I intend to set up once Wiki is up. With luck I can just cut and past this there, with minimal html formatting. I'm actually trying to have good grammar here, so if I make a mistake please point it out, if this post is over 2 hours old. For some reason I never notice my errors when I preview it, only after I post do I notice the abundant errors.
One of the first questions a potential Japanese student asks is, "What is the best Japanese textbook to get?" After much trial and error and also watching the experiences of others, the answer to this all important question is: "all of them." Unfortunately, an average search will usually not reveal many of these good books, so the purpose of this guide is as much to bring some of these titles out into the light as it is act as a reference.
Each textbook meets different priorities, but the final result for nearly all is a student that can speak Japanese at the intermediate level. It is important to not waste your time looking for a better textbook once you've already started. Persevere and study daily and you will be learn Japanese well.
Just as each textbook prioritizes different aspects of the learning experience in different orders, the overall design of the course can differ enough to make the learning experience vary from dry and technical to fun and interesting. Anyone considering buying one of these textbooks should attempt to examine them beforehand to verify the course will be enjoyable.
Ok. Now that all that has been said, I need to identify the different traits that each type of textbook will focus on so I can point them out later.
Conversational: The conversational textbooks focus on speech patterns without technical explanations. These textbooks are front-loaded so they are the best for students going to Japan in the near future. Conversational texts enable the student speak a wider variety of sentences sooner than the technical books.
Technical: Technical books explain how the grammar works. These books are rear-loaded and have the student speaking better Japanese in the long run at the cost of weaker Japanese skills initially. Also, the technical explanations can sometimes make learning more confusing not less. In general, all college textbooks fall into the technical category.
Roumaji: Aka, romaji, rômaji, rōmaji and often misspelled romanji, is what the latin alphabet is called when used to write Japanese. Just as the above spellings of imply, there are multiple romanization methods that often lead to confusion. In general, it is always worth spending a week or so learning the kana system and avoiding roumaji all together.
Kana: Kana refers to both the hiragana and katakana syllabaries collectively.
Kanji: The chinese symbols adopted by Japan. Generally considered to be rather intimidating to learn, the better systems introduce them early so they are are less intimidating. A student wishing to become literate as soon as possible will prefer the books with a greater weight of kanji. But everyone benefits from learning kanji because this helps to identify word roots more easily.
business or pleasure The vocabulary and speech patterns are usually geared towards a specific audience. For example, Japanese for Busy People is geared towards business Japanese which makes it inadequate for the student learning to understand anime.
Age: Each textbook is designed for a different education level: Elementary - College level.
There are of course other levels of emphasis, grammar, vocabulary, pattern sentences, but overall they are less important once the above are determined.
This is a list of all the in-print textbooks I know of:
Adventures in Japanese
Japanese in Modules
Shin Nihongo no Kiso
Introduction to Modern Japanese
more to follow.
edit - drat , people not giving me the couple of hours I asked for Just kidding, thanks rich