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on 28 May 2007
Most grammar books stick to what they do best, explaining the essential grammar, beyond this there comes a point where you need to learn how to manipulate the language. This is what 13 Secrets for Speaking Fluent Japanese does, the author guides the reader how to think and get a feel for Japanese rather than to simply memorize more vocabulary and grammatical patterns.

For example Giles Murray encourages the reader to use substitute expressions if the first expression doesn't come to mind. The book is shorter than I expected however it doesn't overwhelm the reader unnecessary stuff that has probably already been covered in most grammar books. There are 13 short chapters, clear explanations drilling the essentials to fluent conversation in a clear and concise manner. Since reading this book, it has given me greater confidence in finding ways of expressing myself and thinking in Japanese.

This is a great book in itself which I highly recommend as additional material. Although the content of the book is slightly limited for the price it seems reasonable. This book provides great benefits but I still need to further material to improve my conversational skills so will be purchasing "How to Sound Intelligent in Japanese".
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on 20 April 2009
I bought this based on some positive reviews and Murray's other book Breaking into Japanese Literature: Seven Modern Classics in Parallel Text, which is excellent.

This takes a very different approach to other Japanese language textbooks, in that each chapter deals with a different aspect of the language which you can work on to add more variety and communicate more effectively. Each chapter is basically a tip or idea that is expanded, for example, there is a chapter which begins by explaining that "loanwords" or "gairaigo" are proper Japanese and English speakers shouldn't feel that you are cheating by using them. It then goes on to give a examples of common loanwords and how they can be used. I kind of knew this, but it's nice to see it in print to help you get over your mental prejudices.

I did find some of the chapters a little obvious; reading children's books is a good way for beginners and intermediates in a language to break into literature. Trouble is, the puzzle books and children's books referred to are not easily available outside Japan. The chapter on readable numbers I found mildly interesting, but again, a bit pointless outside of Japan where you don't spend much time looking at Japanese phone numbers.

It's a nice little book to have around to dip into if you are feeling stuck in a rut with your Japanese, as the style and presentation is highly original accessible, and it is refreshing compared to Japanese textbooks in general, but I would not put it at the top of your list of books to buy on the Japanese language. I think that Murray has the ability to write are really definitive Japanese language book, and I look forward to seeing it at some point in the future!
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on 15 July 2009
This book has 14 chapters (the 14th "secret" is just named as appendix) where every chapter begins with few pages worth of motivation "why should you do this". Then there are few pages of examples, their vocabulary and a short quiz. As this is a small book, that means that the content in each chapter is limited. The idea of this book is more like "These are the 14 ideas you should do, now go and get the material from somewhere else". I don't mind that. The idea in each chapter is usually good one, although almost all of these should be obvious. A secret is not a good word to describe the chapters.

The bad part is, that the book isn't very well put together. The target audience seems to be those who have completed basic text books (for example the Genki series) and are now trying out the real world. The audience have likely learned at least the kana and a few hundred kanji. But most of this book is written with western characters using the kind of romanisation which doesn't differentiate between "ou" and "oo". There are however some chapters which don't belong to the group and which actually do contain a lot of kanjis. But instead of furigana they contain the "lossy romanisation".

My complaints may not sound like much, but the 2 stars come from the fact that these "secrets" could have been posted into one blog entry for free by almost any Japanese language student.
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on 10 June 1999
I have been studying Japanese for over seven years and have read countless textbooks and study guides, but I have never found such a unique blending of humor, practical tips, and useful study pointers as what's found in this wonderful book. "Thirteen Secrets" reinforces my belief that learning Japanese is fun, while being a totally unique language learning experience. Applicable to all study levels, this gem is a must for all folks interested in Japanese.
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on 17 May 1999
Thirteen secrets offers a breath of fresh air from the dusty tombes of Japanese study. A book that caters for those that want to learn the easy and best way, through enjoyment. Imagination and manga are the ingredients that should and do make up this interactive Japanese study tool. Offering lively and insightful contemporary challenges, the author opens up important knew avenues of learning. I found its insightful instruction, tied seamlessly into games, anecdotes and dramatic stories, just the refreshment I needed. Drab Japanese study materials can be put aside... put on your thinking cap and preprare for fluency. Gaining new linguistic skills through enjoyment, what more can I ask for.
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on 6 January 2017
I've been studying Japanese for a couple of years. I thought this book would help me expand my current usage, but I've found it impractical for me.

Yes some of the techniques discuss can be useful for memorisation, but none of this is groundbreaking and as a previous reviewer wrote it's information you can gain from several good language learning blogs.

The book markets itself on "shortcuts", but it does not necessarily help you understand the language and causes you to seek additional information. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'd prefer to cut out the middle man.

Finally this book uses too much romaji, which from experience this can be a hindrance to learners. As hard as you may try your brain might just read the romaji because it's easier to process.

A redeeming factor is that it does have a lot of vocabulary within it, some of which you might not commonly come across and therefore are expanding your lexicon.

In summary, I think there are far better books available which can offer a fun and quick way to learn Japanese.

As an addition to my review, I would not recommend this book to beginners as it does assume some prior knowledge of the language, and misses too many crucial grammar points which will mean you struggle later on.

If it is the book for you, I'd recommend to use it in conjunction with other learning material.
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on 21 November 2009
This is a very good book to boost your informal Japanese and learn some of the basics in a variety of creative ways. It's great value for money and I found it very attractive and easy to refer to. There's a helpful Japanese-English glossary. I just love how this books exploits so many different techniques like Japanese jokes, inverse writing, manga, very clear and easy to follow tables and hilarious stories to teach the most boring things to learn. I found this book to me and a totally recommend it to anyone who wants to boost their Japanese :)
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on 2 April 2003
I got this bundled with the excellent Oxford starter dictionary.I've been studying Japanese for almost 2 years at nightschool and I found this muy tricky.Have a look before buying.
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on 28 August 2013
first book i ,ve purchased to try and learn some japanese was attracted to it because it looks easier than some i looked at also the first thing i noted was karaoke which translated means empty orchestra also the ideal of using and rehashing a minimum number of words appeals
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on 5 April 2003
I was disappointed with this - I have only been learning Japanese for a couple of months and this book didn't teach me anything useful for my forthcoming trip to the country. I think this is more for those who have a basic understanding of the language and want to build on that.
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