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4.4 out of 5 stars112
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 March 2008
The presentation of this book, with small graphics, nice layout, along with its many different types of activity give the learner motivation to pick the book up, and keep picking it up.

I have read several of the current texts and this seems the best. It is a light approach to what could become a heavy subject. Well done to the authors for that.

The unique progressive introduction of one of the Japanese "alphabet" is rather good ,I imagine, for those who don't already know it. Readers learn the characters a few at a time in each chapter, the anglicised versions of Japanese characters gradually being replaced by the real thing (Hiragana).

(If readers do not already know Hiragana (the Japanese phonetic characters), then text books have to write their Japanese in an awful anglicised form called Romaji. Romaji is a system that leads to bad pronunciation by default, as readers will pronounce combinations of alphatic characters using their native tongue rules and patterns.)

The book will also get you speaking from the off. This can only build confidence for new learners.

The book includes some handy blocks of vocabulary and some mini Japanese-English / English-Japanese dictionaries.

On the downside are several typographical errors - notably incorrect page references. Not that important but a bit naughty.

Strangely, there are the inclusion of some words/phrases/concepts which seem to materialise from thin air. Perhaps the explanatory sections for these were removed in the final edit. May cause some confusion.

On a slightly more serious note,some of the language chosen for the learner may not be the most suitable language for most situations (i.e its level of politeness). For example, the verb introduced for "want" early on will have you sounding like a 6 year old child screaming " I WANT an ice cream!!!" Readers are advised to perhaps read another text alongside this one,which would explain matters better. However, perhaps later books will address this.

I bought Book 2, so that says it all really. Overall good and I look forward to going through the rest of the series.
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on 17 September 2007
Japanese from Zero 1 is the first book in a five part course in Japanese (although only the first three are available now, parts 4 and 5 are due for next year), and is aimed at the complete beginner.

I had been searching (for a while) for a good book/set to help me learn the language, but most titles either completely ingore teaching any hiragana katakana etc (like the japanese for busy people series) or force you to learn all of them in one go before commencing actual lessons.
However, Japanese from Zero does something neat called progressive learning - starting in completely safe looking romaji (English characters), and with each lesson introducing 5 of the basic hiragana. Once taught in a lesson they swap in these new Japanese characters and gradually the romaji dissappears. It is very sneaky, but it works. By about two thirds of the way through you will have learned all the hiragana and won't bat an eyelid when confronted with paragraphs of Japanese script.

That said, this book ONLY teaches hiragana (katakana is tought in book 2, and Kanji begins only in book 3). It is also not a travel or holiday phrase book, nor will it help you read sushi menus, and with a couple of hundred pages it won't fit in your pocket!

So what else is in this book - well basic grammar, counting, time, colours, asking where things are etc (all the usual suspects).

Myself, having finished the 13 lessons in this book I can read and write all hiragana and know a heap of grammar too! For someone looking to learn the Japanese language I can't think of a better book to start with.
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on 31 May 2012
I am currently using this book and am probably 80% done with it so i feel i have most things in order to say how the book does.

First and foremost, the book is very in-depth, when it teaches you new words (and more importantly grammar) you are given lots of examples of how it is used and how it should be used and alot of example Questions and Answers which you can gain a true nature to this.
Also alot of the words introduced at the beginning or end of a lesson unit are frequently used from then onwards to help you memorize them even better, sadly some other words offered in the book (commonly the ones you might pick up on from 'common Hiragana words' or when practicing Hiragana arnt revised well but these arn't intended to be teached to you, there more extra's so i dont think its worth getting upset over.

Otherwsie the layout is very simple and easy to follow which helps keep a easy understanding to new words and rules being introduced. I have had little to no issues for learning rules other than remembering stuff from time to time so i think its well to say it teaches very effectivly.

My only true problem with the book is down to 2 things:
1> As many other said there are some minor mistakes in the book. I have only noticed one so far and thats when they wrote the japanese 'Inu' instead of neko (cat). Otherwsie the only mistake i found is one page had a printing error and a small courner of the page text hasnt been printed, this was ok though as it was only saying what to do in the exercise which i already knew as i had done it several times.
2> This is so much a problem but i think its worth mentioning. The lessons are lengthy, this is good by all means, but i when starting out did a lesson per day, this way tough on me, assuming you read all examples and probably take everything in a lesson could take up to 5hours all at once, its definitely possible to do this but for most people 5hours a day can be tiring, and people like myself find it hard to free up more than 3hours. I wouldnt say they need lowering in lengh but maybe split them lessons into Section A and B, (this is what i do, i revise all examples and new words and practice the Hiragana, then i make section B the exercises and do them the next day, splitting it into 2-3hours sessions.)
(First point is reason i only gave 4 stars, if not for that it would be 5/5. Reason 2 is personal so i dont see it countable)

Otherwise this tool has proven very effective. It's hard to find a study book which teaches you from no knowledge at all to a good level, i feel i know alot more now and i learned alot from this book. I will deffinetly get book 2, i think its a must buy for someone who wishes to self study japanese.
Also the work in the book can become quite fun when you get into it and you find yourself learning fast after your half way in so dont be intimidated at first if it seems hard, everything is well explained :)
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on 5 February 2007
It is probably best to learn a new language by taking a course with a qualified teacher but if, like me, you prefer self-study this is definitely the best way to go.

This book covers all the basics from everyday vocabulary and grammar to counting, days of the week and time etc., and it's all presented in a very understandable way. It will also teach you the Hiragana alphabet quickly and efficiently.

In the past, I've been frustrated with the slow pace some self-study language courses move at so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book moves at a good pace without being overwhelming. The 'culture clips' about Japanese customs and the more colloquial ways of speaking are useful too.

Obviously, since it is just a book, it won't teach you much about pronunciation so I would definitely recommend exposing yourself to spoken Japanese somehow, but that (and the fact that there are a couple of minor typos), is basically the only criticism I can think of.

Highly recommended.
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on 29 April 2012
I bought this book with the intention of resuming my Japanese lessons, but without the expensive tutor fees I was paying.
The book is very thick (value for money!) and although I am only just in the second chapter, seems well put together. The authors are both teachers so know what tools you need. The book also cleverly includes cultural notes as you learn - these are very important to know when you are learning languages like Japanese. I also find the 'anime' animations appealing and the exercises are a must. Infact, the only real flaw I can give is that I wish there were more! I feel that if this book made YOU work that little harder it would be the perfect tool. Highly receommended.
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on 3 August 2010
I bought this a couple of months ago, and shortly after bought the Complete Japanese: Teach Yourself (Book/CD Pack) (see my separate review on that product) to see which would work best for me as a complete beginner.

This book is well laid-out and I like the way it gradually introduces you to the Hiragana script as you progress. Beyond that, I really can't find too much positive to say about it. I found the grammar points were superficial both in the way they were presented and tested, they were often confusing, and at times somewhat randomly inserted into the book, rather than being obviously linked to the topic under discussion. The authors also have a habit of introducing new words or characters before you've learned them, which I just found confusing and irritating.

The other thing that concerns me is that you would have to buy at least five books to make real progress, plus pay a monthly subscription to the website to get any audio support - so before long you could end up paying serious money for what I think is a rather amateurish approach to teaching the language.

Don't be seduced by the presentation - I'm sure you can do a lot better for your money than pursue this course.
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on 9 April 2013
I had picked up this series when I started learning Japanese on an initial text book buying binge largely on strength of positive reviews for the series. While I have been learning Japanese a relatively short period of time I have studied pretty intensively and had comfortably clocked in excess of two hundred hours study before getting around to beginning this book. At that point I was already beyond most of the points this book covers so I worked through pretty quickly across three days intensively. Even so I was pretty thorough in doing the exercises, skipping only Hirigana lessons as I was already confident with that.

While I was intrigued by the concept of progressive kana introduction ultimately it's another of the series flaws. If your ultimate goal is to be able to read day to day Japanese learning Hirigana is the easy part. Being able to read the full set can be achieved within a few hours with flash cards. For a more structured introduction with practice exercises there are texts like the excellent Let's Learn Hirigana. The progressive approach bogs down the book. Also it is badly implemented within the book, Kana is sometimes used before it is introduced.

Some of the language taught is quite stilted. The First phrases you introduced to are introduction which are fine but immediately after that "nan sai desu ka?" ("how old are you"). In fairness the book notes that this would be an odd conversation but it then drills the phrase in conversations for the next few chapters. It's not even the idiosyncratically correct way to ask some ones age. Another example is "... ga hoshii desu.", which "I want ..." with similar connotations in Japanese to English. This is a fairly abrupt way of making requests but again is repeatedly drilled. It's only several chapters later that making more polite requests with "kudasai" or "onegai shimasu" is introduced. Topics are frequently simplified and presented as clear cut or set in stone when they are not. The rate of advancement in complexity is glacial. For example verbs are only formally introduced in the final two chapters. Vocabulary in general is poorly targeted, you are overloaded with words that aren't particularly useful (tricycle, and giraffe). As other reviewers have noted there are numerous errors in the book, they become increasingly frequent in later chapters.

As an introduction for beginners this could be effective if it weren't for the lack of audio. There is a website with audio and while the series is three books the site appears to have to have the equivalent of two more books however the site is subscription based. The books aren't exactly cheap so it's not unreasonable that it should have been included. With audio this book and the series it comes from could have been a good way for a complete beginners to get their toes wet before diving in to more intensive courses. For me, even as a relative beginner, this book was somewhat useful revision and consolidation exercise in very basic Japanese.

If you are a beginner then you will learn a reasonable amount from this book, it's just there are much better texts. Notably Genki and Japanese for Busy People series. It's not that this series is entirely bad it's just that your effort can be better spent elsewhere. Also in fairness to the series as a whole this book is the weakest part.
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on 30 November 2007
I am using this book to supplement my Japanese evening classes.

Well written, with many examples of alternative styles for Hiroganna characters, this book really can help the complete beginner, like me, to get a grip on an otherwise (seemingly) daunting subject.

I'm actually starting to make positive progress thanks to buying this aid.
The idea of mixing English and Japanese text within the same sentence throughout the book is a great one. It really makes you learn to fill in the 'foreign' gaps with your new knowledge.

If you are serious about learning then buy it - it's a no brainer.
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on 26 September 2010
As a beginner to learning Japanese I found this book immensely helpful! It includes exercises, detailed yet easy to understand explanations of Japanese grammar, and a clever way of incorporating the Hiragana alphabet into learning the language. The only negative thing I would be able to think of is that it offers no tutorials on the Kanji stroke order (it does so for Hiragana stroke order). Despite that, I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who's starting out learning Japanese.
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on 22 November 2008
I have mixed feelings about this book. That these comments apply to the updated edition is a real concern.

The good news is that the progressive approach to learning hiragana is a clever idea and I found it to be very effective.

The bad news is that the book is littered with errors that should have been corrected before publication. These errors range between simple typos and the use of unexplained vocabulary. Much of the dialogue is translated differently to the way it was introduced and explained - and this extends to the use of rather poor English grammar.

More seriously, there is very little explanation of the Japanese grammar that is used. The descriptions of the particles are cursory and then the example dialogue will use different syntax that is not explained: this does not inspire confidence.

Overall, an effective method of learning hiragana but the sloppy editing and poor descriptions of grammar greatly undermine the book's effectiveness.
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