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4.4 out of 5 stars
Japanese for Busy People: Kana [With CD (Audio)]: 1
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2007
I first came across this book as recommended by my Japanese teacher as she sometimes uses it as a compliment to the lessons I take weekly. Now, although this book does cover a lot of the important base points of the Japanese language (particles, useful vocabulary etc), I do find that it doesn't really put enough time into drilling these essential grammar points in.

For example, at the beginning of each chapter, you're given a quite nicely laid out page of points on how the proceeding chapter's main grammar points will be used and the formation of it's sentences. Sounds great but it's just one page! To me, that's just not enough. My teacher puts a great deal of (I think necessary) time each week into these points as they really are the building blocks of the language and to just skim over these key points in one page doesn't give the language the respect it demands.

Aside from this, I also find it's techniques of teaching vocabulary a little rushed as well. Now I know the title is "Japanese For BUSY PEOPLE" but there are some sections that need to have time taken over. Generally, this book just lists new vocabulary in a tiny bar at the bottom of the page each time it's used in one of the book's (I'll admit, very useful) target dialogues. Vocabulary is my weak point in Japanese and I find flash cards, repetition etc essential. Just listing words without even putting a picture next to them (in MOST cases) feels like they've written out the dialogues and then just casually mentioned the vocabulary. To me, this leaves me feeling left behind and so, the rest of the book can become slightly daunting. If I didn't have my Japanese lessons to back up the material, I think I would find this book very frustrating.

All in all, Japanese is a difficult language. That point coupled with the fact that there's so many Japanese books on Amazon that can be daunting to someone starting off has led me to be very critical of this, and any other language book. None-the-less, JFBP is, for me, the perfect compliment to a night class as it serves well as a summary and I can't stress enough how much this has helped me.

Just a quick warning though: This version is the "Kana" edition which means it's written in the language's two most basic character sets; Hiragana and Katakana. This means you'll have to be able to read these sets of characters before this book will make an ounce of sense so bear that in mind! There is a "romanized" version which writes the Japanese in it's English syllables but to really progress in Japanese, I recommend learning the Kana and then using this version. It may seem daunting but it's really quite easy especially if you use an amazing book called "Remembering the Kana: Hiragana and Katakana" by James Heisig.

The bottom line is that this really is a great book but it's lack of attention to grammar and the way it teaches vocabulary unfortunately warrants taking it down a star. Still essential though and probably the best book I can imagine when used alongside a properly tutored Japanese course.

David Fox
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2015
This was the assigned textbook for a Japanese for Beginners course I took at university.

If, like me, you are required to buy this book for a class, then that's too bad. If, however, you are planning on self-study, I can't recommend this book, for the following reasons;

- The exercises are excruciatingly repetitive. They all involve switching one word for another, again and again and again. This gets dull very quickly. HOWEVER the exercises can be performed alone, and don't require input from a partner or teacher, so this is perhaps something to bear in mind if you are a prospective self-learner.

- No kanji. Arguably, if you just want to speak Japanese, not read or write it, then kanji are not important to you. However if you want to be able to 'speak' Japanese properly, kanji are something that cannot be avoided, and flirting around the issue is a waste of everyone's time.

- Very business-centric. This textbook seems to be geared towards teaching 'work Japanese' and so includes vocabulary items such as "product catalogue" and "branch office." This is all very well and good if that's what you're looking for, but university-aged students may find, as I did. that this gets quite dull quite quickly.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend it for self study. If you're willing to shell out a little more, I'd suggest the Genki series. If you're really feeling flush, and want a fairly intense introduction, I'd recommend Minna no Nihongo. Students who take Japanese as their actual degree at my university use Minna no NIhongo.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2009
If you want to learn a solid base of conversational Japanese and have a small taster of what a couple of kanji characters look like, then this book is for you! I'm absolutely delighted that a CD is now included in this version (it wasn't with the first one).

It still baffles me why some students would want to study some kanji characters but not all of them. This kana version gives enough characters to keep students happy, but not enough by any means to enable them to read real Japanese. In fact, when I go back to these books I start to get confused because in most places kanji characters are replaced by katakana. It is an excellent start for busy people though!

I would say that the Rosette Stone language software is FAR FAR better at teaching spoken Japanese. But sadly it costs nearly $500 through Amazon USA. Dig deep...

If you are series enough about Japanese to want to learn some kanji and are not a 'busy person' then why not try the college student version of this book? It's just as good as this one, but doesn't assume you are tooo busy to spend much time learning Japanese:

Japanese for College Students: Basic Vol 1
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on 10 August 2015
First of all, I am aware that this book is directed at the people doing business in Japan, but it also claims to be good for the average student beginning their Japanese studies.

Well, I disagree. Having studied many languages by myself, I couldn't help noticing how overly simplified this book was. For example, you are never encouraged to learn any grammar. Nope, instead, the book tells you to "memorise the forms" and doesn't give any info as to how the forms are actually formed. I think it is simply to make studying easier, and I know some people might like that, but I think the book just tries to "hide" the hard work... So that you have to tackle it later!

Then there's the problem with excersises! Oh, the excersises... I have never seen a lazier book when it comes to this aspect. You have to write similar sentences over and over again, and substitute a word. One word. And there are tons of these identical excersises! The backcover of the book says, and I quote: "Expanded excersises that go beyond the substitution drills..." Well, I suppose it's a good to start with a joke, because seriously, it's only substitution here. Oh, oh, actually, there were three excersises in which one had to write the same sentences as one did before, but this time with pictures as one's clues!

On the other hand, the dialogues on the book do introduce useful sentences (and a few structures as well) and the CD (included with the book) is excellent indeed. And the price is a bonus as well. It kind of is worth the money. Sometimes.

To sum it up, if you are the president of Mikrusoft and a substitution lover, looking for a crash course in the most rudimentary Japanese, just to be able to survive in the country for a few instants, and you don't mind the very limited vocabulary, then get this book. If you are willing to continue studying the language in greater depth, look elsewhere (Oh, look, it's Japanese From Zero!).
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on 19 November 2011
This is a very good book. It is well-designed and illustrated, and the aesthetics of the book inspire me to study it.

If you buy the kana version, you are forced to learn and practice hiragana and katakana from the beginning, which is vital to your studies in Japanese. I would recommend that you learn the kana from the internet before you buy the book, just because it's frustrating to receive the book and not be able to read it immediately (there is a chart in the front of the book but it doesn't give you tips on remembering the kana, it's just for reference). Kanji are completely ignored in the first book - there are mixed views on this, but I am rubbish at remembering Japanese vocabulary and so being forced to write things out phonetically using the kana helps to reinforce in my mind both the pronounciation of words and the idiosyncracies of the Japanese spelling system. Kanji are introduced in later books.

Grammar-wise, the book is light on explanation and also omits mention of the informal forms of verbs. Regarding the explanations, I think that there is enough in each lesson for the purposes of that lesson. There is one weakness - which is remedied in book II - but if you want to avoid some rote memorisation, you might want to do some Googling about the general rules for forming the te-form and changing from dictionary form to nai-form. Apart from this, I would say that the use of drills means that you will acquire an instinct for what is correct, even if you don't understand why, and this reflects the way we naturally acquire our own native languages. Regarding the omission of the informal forms, I think that trying to teach everything at once is confusing, so I like the book's approach. I have just purchased Book II, and the informal forms are covered in there.

The stories and themes are based in work environments, which makes it more relevant to adults, but in terms of content and vocabulary, I'd say that the vocabulary isn't business specific - it can be used in all situations, as it is all basic stuff. Also, I survived my first two months in Japan using the vocabulary in Book I - it's surprising how little you need to survive and make yourself understood!

I also like that the book is divided into 25 short lessons, each covering a few points; as a "busy person", I find that I have just enough concentration, tolerance and time to get through one lesson in a day. Sometimes with learning, especially independent learning, it's important just to be able to keep up the momentum to keep progressing, and I think that this series helps you to do that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2008
This 3rd Edition is better than ever. I must admit I was never a big fan of the 1st edition. Simply because it was too businessman orientated and boring. This one broadens the use for everyone else that wants to be introduced to the learning of the Japanese language and makes it more fun. The topics and the lessons are important, but you might need some extra assistance to understand everything. Practice makes perfect. At that price, I would strongly recommend it. ps: If you are not VERY familiar with KANA reading, go for the romanized version.
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on 24 October 2011
The fact that this book is used by my Japanese language teacher is what made me buy it. I had not become good at kana yet, so it was too hard to read this book at first. However after some pages I got used to it. One of the most important things is not to use Romaji to start learning Japanese if a person intends to become proficient with the language.

For me personally the pace of this book has been slower than it should be since it is more suited to 'busy people' and relatively speaking I had plenty of time to study the language. In any case it did provide me with a good practice to get started on the ride with least discouragement. I bought this book back in 2008 and finished it quite fast within a year's time along with my full time Electronic Engineering that is. Now I am going to buy the 3rd book of this series.

Overall, if you want an easy start with Japanese do buy this book. It does a good job of teaching survival Japanese. I haven't used the Genki series and other books so I can't say anything about them though. If you are going to start learning Japanese I would also recommend the 'Lets Learn Japanese' video series which can be found on youtube. If you want another resource that tends to teach Japanese though not in a dry fashion I would recommend 'Japanese in Mangland'. Both can be used with this book to progress quite swiftly through Japanese!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2009
Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to learn, but this series of books makes it accessible.

Pictures demonstrate how the words and phrases in question are used, and detailed but understandable notes on pronunciation (very different to English) are given. The book in question even comes with a CD, featuring native speakers - a must for truly accurate sounds.

The text is clear and a good size. Both the romanised Japanese (Japanese words and characters written using the letters A-Z) and the Japanese syllabaries are presented well.

(It should be noted that this is the Kana version - although what you need to do [insert the correct sentence ending, etc] is in English, all the exercises use native Japanese characters [hiragana and katakana]. If you can't read at least hiragana, don't buy this book. Do buy it, however, if you're also buying the "Romanised" edition - it may help with the learning process)

I'd recommend this series of books to anyone wanting to learn either via their own, or via a class or private tutor.
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on 5 October 2014
I have to confess I've not yet worked my way through this book but based on the first half of it - I think this is a very useful and interesting book to help you learn Japanese. I was advised to buy the Kana version to really get to grips with the language - it really does make your brain work! You do have to be pretty well up on your hiragana and katakana but if you're serious about learning Japanese then using the romaji version seems pointless.
The book has various exercises in it to test you on what you've learned and bits of information about the topic you're studying, the formal and informal versions of things, and grammar stuff.
My only real gripe is the CD - it's so cold and quick - some guy says something like "Track One - Target Dialogue" then there's a rush of Japanese and suddenly it's "Track Two" etc. I know the object is to get you used to hearing native Japanese people speaking their language but it's hard to listen carefully to either pronunciation or even what's being said when it's so quick. It would be great to have a slightly slowed-down version before the natural speed, just to really be able to listen carefully.
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on 9 September 2012
I'll review this in short and in essence:

Japanese for Busy People Kana version is a very good way to get used to reading basic Kana (Hiragana and Katakana). It's very good for learning vocabulary for nouns and formal language that include basic conversations.

However, the fact that it does not include any Kanji can either be a plus or a minus. Obviously, for some who do not feel fit to learning Kanji straight away, this book is advised; to those who want to include Kanji from the start of their learning you may have to use Kanji and/or Furigana dictionaries to get full use of this book. I do also have to include that the book's vocabulary is slightly geared towards the business world.

If your level of Japanese is not of basic level; knowing the particles, basic vocabulary and most grammatical rules; it is possible to buy the Japanese for Busy People: Book 2, which includes Kanji although it is at a greater pace than the first book.
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