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Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You (Power Japanese) Paperback – 1 May 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 May 1998
£28.93 £9.60
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Product details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd; 2nd edition edition (1 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770023103
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770023100
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 10.8 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,644,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Brief, wittily written essays that gamely attempt to explain some of the most frustrating hurdles [of Japanese]...It can be read and enjoyed by students at any level." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jay Rubin is a professor of Japanese literature at Harvard University, where he has employed the pedagogical techniques contained in Making Sense of Japanese "as infrequently as possible." He has authored Injurious to Public Morals: Writers and the Meiji State and Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words, edited Modern Japanese Writers, and translated Soseki Natsume's Sanshiro and The Miner and Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and After the Quake (Knopf and Harvill, 2002). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you're an intermediate student of Japanese, but haven't yet begun to really understand the language, this book will clear up a lot of your concerns. The author takes a humorous approach to some intimidating topics, and yields new insight on other, easier topics which textbooks often leave vague. The book frequently illustrates these concepts with examples in Japanese literature and journalism. Even examples in speech are explained in-depth. Yet, it remains light-hearted and humorous, relating the mysterious translations and hidden connotations in a way that the English-speaking mind can understand. Most importantly, it debunks many of the myths and misconceptions about Japanese that make Westerners fear it so. It also seemed that the author was subtly trying to prepare the readers to think in Japanese, which as wel all know is a vital step towards fluency.
The title pretty much sums it up when it says "What the Textbooks Don't Tell You." This book ! ! essentially takes the information from your textbooks and makes sense of it. If you study independently, like me, this book should be on your list. If you don't need this book, you probably know someone who does.
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Format: Paperback
I am an intermediate self-taught Japanese speaker, and this book is an enormous help to me. Although the language is a little verbose and confusing in places, it is filled with very helpful advice.
While it is true this book is for all levels it may not be immidiatley useful to beginners who haven't grasped the Japanese way of thinking yet. I would recommend this book to anyone but only if you're reasonably sure of your Japanese ability.
For example, I believe someone looking to learn a few phrases of Japanese a few weeks before their first trip to Japan will most likley get next to nothing out of this book. Or similarly, someone who has just started learning Japanese may just be confused by this book. However, if you are comfortable with your Japanese speaking and you want to learn more, this book will give you an insight into the finer points of the language and will not only help you sound more fluent but it will give you a better idea of exactly what native Japanese speakers actually mean when speaking their own language.
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Format: Paperback
No serious study of Japanese as a second language is complete without at least a passing familiarity with this short work. The style is anecdotal and humourous, not to mention modest, but don't let that fool you as to the seriousness of the scholarship that underpins it. The editors at Kodansha are no fools and recognise a classic when they see it.
I believe it to be worth the price for the discussion of the author's (massively illuminating to my poor mind) concept of the "zero pronoun" and its effect on the perennial problem of "wa" and "ga" alone. I can't think of any single work that has furthered my understanding of Japanese sentence structure more than this book. And on top of that, you could almost consider it to be the Japanese language study equivalent of "Chicken Soup For The Soul" (yes, I keep my copy in the bathroom). It may be a short work, but it's immensely re-readable - like those chicken bones, there always seems to be a little more goodness to be gotten out it.
I agree it's not for everyone, and it is to some extent academically controversial, but I think only the most rigid and conventional thinker could fail to gain something valuable from it.
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Format: Paperback
I have been studying and struggling with Japanese for years and in the process I have bought many grammar books. Never has any of my numerous books made me laugh outloud or made as much sense as this one does. Not only is Jay Rubin hilarious but he just hits the right point each time. Challenging grammatical points disappear in a white flash! Pure genius! A Compulsory buy for the advanced student or for the others who want a good laugh!
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Format: Paperback
This is a simple little book, in which the author draws on his experience of learning, teaching and translating Japanese to nail some of the knotty problems that plague those learning the language.

I was a bit sceptical on receiving this, and quickly flicking through, seeing nothing but English text and the odd bit of Japanese in Romaji, I was ready to be disappointed.

But, if you sit down with a beverage and treat yourself to some quiet time with this book, you will be rewarded. A large chunk of the book is a discussion on Wa and Ga, and students of Japanese will know just how thorny those two can be. The explanation of these particles, their meaning, nuance, usage and the absence of pronouns in Japanese sentences is the best you will find anywhere, I think.

In spite of the Romaji examples, I don't believe this book is really aimed at complete beginners, and the author pretty much states that. If you have been studying Japanese for a while and are getting to the point where you are thinking about writing proper sentences in Japanese, or trying to read or hear real, live versions of the language, then this is a handy little guide written in plain, sensible English (unlike most Japanese grammar books).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, it's already been over 8 years since I first started learning Japanese! To think I was once using learning aides written in English!

I bought this book before I was really ready for it: Rather than being designed to teach you Japanese it's more of a collection of essays on the nuances of some of the finer points of Japanese. These are points that learners transitioning between upper-elementary to intermediate Japanese might be puzzled by.

If you're around JLPT N3 level this book is for you. Expect it to clear some things up for you before you move on torwards advanced Japanese.

If you are at a lower level than that you may understand the book just fine, but it will be in one ear and out the other. You won't retain it. And if you're verging on upper-intermediate Japanese the points in this book are likely things you've already intuited and internalised from naturally absorbing the language.
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