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on 17 July 1998
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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on 17 May 2004
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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on 20 March 2006
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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on 24 August 2006
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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on 20 April 2009
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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on 24 September 2015
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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on 18 October 2013
simple, straight to the point and light hearted. Doesn't spend chapters going into insignificant details about grammar points, at most he spends a few pages on them, but most of the time it's half a page to a paragraph. Which is good! He makes it very simple to understand.

Great book and highly recommended for anyone studying Japanese.
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on 27 June 2016
The book consists of a number of mostly self-contained essays just as written on the cover. Each topic covered is like a reminder for some pattern, that you learn intuitively but tend to forget swiftly. It is a good thing someone codified these things briefly and in one place. The author's style is really good with lots of humour.
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on 11 December 2011
Bought this book hoping it would help put a few more pieces of the jigsaw together but to be honest it hasn't. I'm half way through my second year of learning Japanese and I think this book is more suited to learners of a higher level. I found the book boring probably because the examples were way out of my league and not at all helpful to me. The section on wa and ga went on for eternity and what I learned could actually have been written in a paragraph. In a nutshell, I wouldn't buy this book unless I was studying at degree level.
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on 13 May 2008
This is an excellent book for those who have studied Japanese but have found a few thorny problems. Beautifully written, light in touch but with some sharp and erudite observations. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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