|Japanese For Busy People I
Kana Version (Revised Third Edition)
Soft Cover, 272 pages
Publisher: Kodansha International
This book aims to share the Japanese language in a systematic, but introductory, manner. It is aimed at beginners, and does a fair job in the reading/writing portion. The audio has a little more difficulty in keeping to a pace conducive for a beginning learner. The workbook relies heavily on drawings to identify relationships and aid in memory, which was helpful to me.
The book is a workbook, with space provided for writing answers, thus avoiding the need for another notebook. Though I usually am averse to writing in books – I felt quite comfortable and enjoyed the ability to drag this copy around without thinking I would need a book-bag to carry it and another notebook. However, the provided space is regularly not quite enough for the work to be done, causing some headache.
I did appreciate that this version is in kana. Though written Japanese is written with the addition of Kanji characters, making kana not as regular as this book might suggest to the uninitiated, I definitely appreciate the repetition that aids recognition. This workbook is offered in English, using transliteration; I would avoid that if this version is available.
This workbook is certainly not exhaustive. A few particles had yet to be covered, while many verb formations were never even touched on. Nouns receive treatment from start to finish. Both -i and -na adjectives were covered, but spread out over an extended portion of the text. Counters and numbers as well as calendar and time words are covered. Both sentence particles and clause particles are addressed, though I would say both depended greatly on examples and were not entirely clear on distinctions where a shared English preposition is used in translation (e.g. the distinction between the use of に/で for “at” and the use of よ/ね/か to express variation in the thrust of a sentence.
In most other Japanese books I’ve seen, verbs are divided up into many more patterns – based on the consonant in the final syllable. This book does not use that mechanism for distinguishing verbs, relying instead on a two pattern system with an additional category for the two irregular Japanese verbs. This made some of the descriptions on conjugation less than precise, and hard to follow and remember as a whole.
I would give this book ★★★☆☆. I really enjoyed it, but there were a number of issues (like the short amount of writing space) that sometimes made it difficult. The measure of a language book should probably relate to the proficiency of the reader at completion; I can say that I am much more comfortable with identifying katakana characters on sight (I was already fairly comfortable with hiragana). I haven’t gotten any better in listening for comprehension or conversation. And as a final note, I feel that this book has made me hungry to learn and develop my Japanese more, to keep going rather than run screaming into the night.