Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $200

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?
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Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $200

Post by ohemgee » Mon 05.09.2005 11:02 am

I thought I'd pop this forum's cherry with a simple question: What dictionaries do people here commonly use, and what books, that aren't just simple converational Japanese lessons, would you recommend? I would get Pimsleur, but I have other college texts that I have to buy out of necessity, and even those aren't $200.

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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by Qbe » Mon 05.09.2005 11:42 am

Pimsleur is definitely expensive, but worth every penny. I've done 70 lessons over the last 8 months and am constantly being complimented on my Japanese. However, I'm not paying for it: the public library system here has all 3 levels. Check your local library system; they might have Pimsleur, or at least might give you the ability to suggest that they purchase it.

As for books, you'll probably hear the usual suggestions for the Japanese for Busy People and/or Genki series. "Japanese for Busy People" didn't appeal to me very much. "Japanese Step by Step" was too dry. After finishing 20 or 30 Pimsleur lessons I found "Teach Yourself Business Japanese" and have really been enjoying it.

In March I started working with a local teacher and we've been using "Japanese for Everyone". Wow! I love this book. It moves along at a good clip, gives lots of good exercises and packs a lot of content into every page. No romaji after the first few lessons. It takes work and dedication, but you'll need that anyway if you're going to learn the language. Two thumbs up.

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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by clay » Mon 05.09.2005 12:08 pm

Pimsleur is a great way to boost your conversation, but if you use it be sure to study kana and kanji on your own.

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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by battousai » Mon 05.09.2005 12:17 pm

As usual, there are always resources that fall between the cracks that I wish people were more aware of. With so many Japanese books to choose from, it is very hard to decide which is best without sampling each one. Anyway, I've gone through plenty in my years of study so I can point out what worked for me and didn't break the bank.

For instructional/lesson type resources I recommend:
Japanese for Busy People/Genki Series

I used Busy when I began studying in late high school/early college and used Genki when I actually studied in Japan. I have to say both of these series are pretty much exactly alike in content/vocab/kanji/grammar. The only real difference is Genki is 2 books and Busy is 3, however they really are the same information organized differently. I don't know why a lot of people don't like them, but I thought they were extremely well done for beginner students and the absolute insane amount of practice problems and examples along with the answers seems priceless to me. If anything, these are meant to be "classroom" books and studying alone with them probably shouldn't be attempted unless you have some experience. It took me about 2 years class time to finish all of them if I recall right. Also on a side note, the CDs that come with Busy people are a very nice addition.

For dictionaries I recommend:

An actual J/E E/J dictionary has to be the Kenkyusha New Japanese English dictionary. This book is a beast when it comes to types of translations of not just words but idiomatic phrases and grammar. However, depending on which edition you can find..it can be costly. Most of the cheaper or smaller ones are also out of print. However, almost all personal digital dictionaries reference Kenkyusha as one of their dictionaries. Even though a digital dictionary may be expensive, I think the investment in the long run is worth it seeing as you'll use it for years to come.

For grammar/intricacies of the language I MUST recommend A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar and A Dictionary of Intermediate Grammar. This set of grammar books is priceless. The explanations and examples are flawless and when I studied actively not a day went by I did not reference them. These 2 books really are the epitome of good grammar books and they alone can probably replace and surpass an entire series like Genki or even Pimsleur.

For overall practice I recommend:

I have to recommend the review and practice booklets for the JLPT. These books are not only amazing in preparing you for the exam but they really are Japanese at work. The instructional grammar booklets are a great investment but the only drawback is they're entirely in Japanese so you would need a teacher to help you along if you can't understand it. Even though these are "practice" and review they can serve to be a cheap alternative and are basically learn by example type books.

Anyway those are what have personally worked for me and let me pass JLPT 2. With things like kanji I can't recommend anything better than the internet. In fact, basically everything found in the above books can be found in one way or another on the internet for free. You just have to know where to search. However, if books are your main thing, I'm pretty sure EVERYTHING I've listed can be found on The Japanese Shop, the store on this very page. Hope this helped any.

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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by sk8er_wolf » Fri 05.20.2005 8:32 pm

i have a japanese grammer book second edition, and a radom house japanese to english english to japanese dictonary, but if you dont mind telling me where to fing this japanese for busy people? (if you already did would you mind telling again? yokereba.
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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by Qbe » Sun 05.22.2005 9:41 pm

sk8er_wolf wrote:if you dont mind telling me where to fing this japanese for busy people? (if you already did would you mind telling again? yokereba.
Right here.

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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by MenomaMinx » Fri 07.08.2005 11:54 am

Talk about your loaded questions......

The thing is, just about everybody has different innate learning styles to begin with; so, what's good for one person may be totally inappropriate for another to learn with. I have about 50 various Japanese learning specialty books; but for everyone I have, there is at least one other I chose not to have -- yes, teaching styles can be that different.

In my experience, the best way to pick out a textbook is to do three things:

1. First you're going to look for something you already know how to do inside the book. Ask yourself, does this teach you this thing that you know as well as you know it? Are there any errors in presentation concerning this thing that you already know?

2. Next look for something that you don't know that you would like to learn about. Is it presented in such a manner that it doesn't require additional costly learning materials to utilize? This is a big concern when buying Japanese textbooks, as many companies render their textbooks unusable without additional study supplements/CDS/workbooks -- all , of course, available at additional cost, with no guarantee that you'll be able to adapt your learning style to the complete package. So far, I've only suckered into one of these. I think it was called "Japanese for college students". And it was completely unusable without the supplements.

3. Check the table of contents for the amount of lessons involved that you'll actually use and then divide that amount into the dollar amount to see how much your paying per lesson. Not as much necessary with the level of books you encounter as a beginner, but as you advance your studies, the price is it positively nasty. It's not unusual to see specialty books with the classification label "linguistics" go for well over $100.. Don't let the label fool you, not all linguistic books are actually about the science of linguistics. Some of them are the applied science -- meaning every day usage of language -- which is really no different than your beginner language books, only dealing with the subject matter on a more in-depth level.
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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by jinksys » Fri 07.08.2005 2:00 pm

JAPANESE THE MANGA WAY!!! is an awesome book that, as the title proclaims, teaches japanese through manga comics. The book actually surprised me at how deep it is. You learn ALOT of particles. But my only diss is that it doesnt teach you the kana, even though the comics are in kana, w/ romanji and english below.

Colloquial Japanese is a great book as well! It teaches the language and kana, but instead of forcing all the kana on you at first, instead it starts off with romanji and few by few replaces them with kana and kanji, a really great method that works rather well. I believe the book states that you learn around 200 kanji as well as the kana.
Last edited by jinksys on Fri 07.08.2005 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Japanese Dictionaries, and textbooks that don't cost $20

Post by Gakusha » Fri 07.08.2005 6:12 pm

For grammar, I use Carol and Nobuo Akiyama's Japanese Grammar: Second Edition. It is in the Barron's series. All of the examples are printed in red and are translated literally and then converted to an English sentence which means the same thing. It gives very in-depth explanations about verbs, particles, and cultural links to the examples, and is progressive from beginner to upper-intermediate. The only drawback is that all the examples are in romaji, but as long as you use other vocabulary books and the internet for kanji and vocab, this shouldn't be a problem.

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