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152 of 154 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2006
This book has proven to be one of the better investments in my self-study of the Japanese language to date. The approach is informative, but friendly. The exercises will challenge you, while the lessons keep you thoroughly engaged. Their teaching method strives to get the student fluent, and not just repeating a set list of phrases that would be hard to deviate from. The book also includes an innovative approach to learning all of the Hiragana by book's end. And trust me, if you get this book, and follow it through to completion, you WILL know all of the hiragana by the time you're done. The extra bits, like the "Japan in Pictures" segment, or the "Culture Clips", and even the apendecies including "Common last names in Japan" will keep the reader interested in the study of the language, for those times when you need to take a little break from it. Even the Japanese Proverb on the front cover can be incredibly motivational for when learning the language seems to be a bit much. Very good book, would highly recommend for both people totally new to learning the language, as well as those of us who studied it a bit in the past and found ourselves falling out of it. A small number of typographical errors earns this book a four out of five.
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110 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2007
I've bought all three books from the series " Japanese from Zero " and all i can say is that if you're serious about learning japanese, that's a really friendly and motivating approach to the language basics.

None of the boring vocabulary that may be found in some manuals like Minna no Nihongo where you learn how to say " I want to send this package to australia with 2 stamps, how much will the taxes be ? " before even knowing how to express your opinion...

In "japanese from zero", all of the grammatical points and vocabulary are nicely selected and ordered, plus the activities don't make you run away everytime you open the book... they're quite entertaining and can be quite challenging at times.

Also as opposed to Minna no nihongo, when you learn a new verb, they tell you HOW TO USE IT... i was clueless at times how and when i was supposed to use a verb over the other ( Kaeru VS Modoru in mind...)in these books, everything is clearly explained without using all these hellish grammatical terms you can find in other manuals...

All in all, what you have here is a wonderful tool for complete beginners... the road to fluency is a long one, consider this book as the meaningful first step.

( PS : Thanks to all of the YesJapan team members for all their work and their positive attitude. )
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97 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2007
This book series is great and the title for it is very appropriate. We all start from Zero. These books have everything you'd expect from a beginners reference for any language, but what I think sets this series apart is the presentation. It's just SO USER FRIENDLY. The info is delivered in an informative but casual way and the english isn't straight out of an english textbook. I own several japanese "how to" books and a few of them are so thick with grammar lingo that you need a dictionary to figure out the english!! What the heck is a gerund anyway? Plus the Culture Clips give really fun and insightful tidbits into everyday japanese things.

I have to disagree with one of the reviewers that said this book was only good if your focus was on written japanese. First of all it's: JAPANESE FROM ZERO. Not: LEARN TO SPEAK JAPANESE! Japanese uses different written characters. It's logical that a japanese course should want to teach you to read and write as well as speak. Secondly the Hiragana introduced in this book are taught progressively throughout the book. Thirdly, though it's obvious that the books writers want you to learn to read and write the focus is clearly on conversational Japanese. You wont be breezing through any manga or even children's books after getting through Vol. 1 but you could definitely hold an elementary conversation or impress your friends by ordering the next time you get sushi.

My only real complaint about JFZ1 is that it doesn't include a CD. I think this would be incredibly helpful in understanding the phonics of the language. Thankfully Japanese is very basic phonetically but a total beginner wouldn't know that and might want a CD. This lack is the only thing that kept me from giving the product 5 stars though so if you're interested is jumping into Japanese language learning this is probably the best you can do outside of a classroom.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2009
I love Japanese From Zero!

JFZ is a good place to start learning, especially if you have no prior knowledge of Japanese and you cannot read or write any of the language (this includes anyone who is currently using romaji). This first book walks you through learning hiragana. By the time you get done with this book, you will know your hiragana front, back and sideways. You may even dream in hiragana. That's how good it is at reinforcing hiragana for you.

The information is NOT presented in an overwhelming manner as it can be in a lot of other text books. The lessons are short, which makes it ideal for learning on your own, and being able to pace yourself. You can learn 1 lesson per week or 1 lesson per day. It's totally up to you. The book presents lessons with usable examples. By the time you complete lesson 5, you will know how to say hello, tell someone things that you like or don't like, be able to count, ask who someone is, what things are, ask someone what something is in English, and tell someone what one you want or don't want. You'll learn colors, some animals, etc. So you can say "I have an orange cat named Garfield." "I like to go shopping" "Japanese food is delicious" "That doesn't taste good" "My car is a purple and white Honda" "Sachiko and Toshiyo are my friends" etc lol And that's not even 1/4 the way into the book!!! They present information in a way that allows you to be able to insert whatever you want, instead of using very rigid sentences that can't be altered much. You begin thinking of all the things that you CAN say, which I think is pretty neat.

You, of course, learn more as you progress through the series. It's more of a "what you need to know, when you need to know it" kind of book... They don't go into dipthongs and verb conjugation and all that other stuff that you don't really care about. They just say "this is how you say _______." Why people have a problem with that is beyond me. If you really wanted to study dipthongs and that kind of stuff, Japanese From Zero probably isn't for you. If you have a "I can do it" attitude and want a fun, simple way to learn Japanese, (learn how to read/write AND speak) and you don't really care what a dipthong is, then this is the series for you!

As you progress through the book, the vocabulary list gets more & more useful, so you can ask people things and have a basic conversation. Enough to maybe start looking for a penpal and discussing things that you enjoy. I like how the book is set up, in that you get your writing practice, you get lots of vocabulary, and you get to learn how to write words that use the kana that you have just learned that are not in your vocabulary list. You get lots & lots of writing practice. There's even "blank" practice pages that you can copy & get more writing practice.

The grammar is presented so that it's not overwhelming and make you think "oh my god I can't do this".. the lessons are short & not bogged down with stuff that you don't really need to know to just be able to talk with people. There are tests after each lesson, which are short, and I think that is great, because you can take your test & check the answers in the back of the book (YAY! No separate answer key to buy!) & see how you have done.. It is a nice confidence booster. Your vocabulary is shown in hiragana, katakana (when applicable, ie: with fruit : furuutsu) and kanji (if applicable).. then the meaning of the word is given.. but as you progress, the romaji gets less and less, so eventually you'll be reading hiragana. For things like "furuutsu" that are written in katakana, it's a good way to learn a little katakana while you're at it!

In regards to sounds or having a CD... They have sound files on their website. I'm a member of the website AND I have the book. I like using them both. The website tells you how to say things and you get to hear different people say things at their normal talking speed. The forum has a lot of helpful people in it, and George will answer your questions himself. The website has flash games, online flashcards, and all sorts of resources available. They also have free shows you can watch & listen to people speaking Japanese.. This includes people from YouTube, like applemilk1988, Uminekomiami and Kemushichan. They also have their own shows, like Japanese Topics Mania, The George and Keiko Show, The George and Hisashi Show, George in Japan, George vs Chie, The George & Eri show, The YesJapan! Ask A Teacher Show, You SO Crazy Cooking Show and the 3 Guys In Japan Show.. As well as one that's called "The Super Sexy Sayaka Show." You can also transfer your unused credits from YesJapan to JapanFiles & download Japanese music. JapanFiles has a huge selection of music, everything from pop to metal to electronic stuff to jazz and etc.. They even have visual kei bands and some bands have free music videos you can download. So you get lots of stuff to listen to and watch in Japanese. On top of that stuff, the YesJapan forum has a ton of websites where you can get live streaming television shows, anime and etc from Japan for free, as well as online radio shows, and etc. There's LOTS of resources on that website.

If joining the website is not your cup of tea.. The Japanese From Zero books are good companions for Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur's Japanese series, the "Let's Learn Japanese" videos & workbooks, LingQ, or anything else you would like to pair them up with, even other books, ie: Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You or All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words.

If you get this series, you won't be disappointed. It's simple, fun and really is wonderful!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I've purchased a good 10 or so Japanese textbooks in the last thirty days to help me learn Japanese as fast as possible. Simply said, this particular book in the Japanese From Zero series is a little...slow. Most of what is covered in this book can be learned in the space of a week or less. I found it became obsolete much faster compared to some other texts. I mean, a good portion of the book consists of yes/no type questions or writing practices that don't require much effort. "Do you like apples? What do you like? What's your friend's name," etc. are only some of the more repetitive exercises.

I'd say if you're not very serious about studying Japanese or just aren't a quick learner, this is the place to go. But be warned: easier does not always mean better. In fact, I think one would find a lot more progress a lot more quickly by starting off with Genki and a good set of katakana/hiragana cards or "Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners: First Steps to Mastering the Japanese Writing System." There's a lot that's covered in the Hiragana & Katakana book that's also covered in Japanese from Zero Book 1.

EDIT: Some commenters are suggesting slower is better, and in some cases this is true, but there's no reason it should take two textbooks to learn both Hiragana and Katakana. I'm sorry, but with a good set of flash cards like the one's from White Rabbit Press, if you dedicate some time you can learn Hiragana and Katakana in a matter of days in addition to learning 400+ vocabulary words. I'm not saying everyone has to choose this route, but if you're serious about your Japanese studies and want to learn as quickly as possible, Japanese from Zero is not the way to go. On the other hand, however, you feel like you might want to take things at a leisurely pace, then by all means check out Japanese from Zero. Just don't expect to be reading anytime soon.

On a side note, the Japanese from Zero Videos Podcast series are immensely helpful and entertaining. I'd highly recommend checking them out on iTunes or signing up on the YesJapan website.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2007
Japanese from Zero! is my first book in Japanese, and it has been really useful. It starts off with hiragana- that's something good since it doesn't assume that the beginner already jammed all kana in his/her head like other textbooks. What's also good about it is that it is loaded with vocabulary. Conversely, what's bad about it is that its grammar-vocabulary proportion (as stated before) is really not ideal for the striving student- after volume 1, the reader can say things from sekken (soap) to gokiburi (coackroach), but can't even conjugate informal verb forms.

This same deficit is, for me, even more outrageous in Volume 2: I know how to say guriinseki for "green seat", but I didn't even learn -tai (want to) forms etc.

Perhaps the user-friendly guide can compensate for this, but if you're really intensive about Japanese (as I am,) then you'll want more than this. Consider a full textbook such as Genki 2 or Elementary Japanese- these get deeper in grammar and go into kanji. Japanese from Zero! does teach you about grammar and much more (culture, greetings, etc.), but the grammar is far too less as compared with other textbooks. As a consequence of the slow-paced grammar, the eager student may use his/her resources to quickly outgrow it.

And hence 4 stars, I think, describes this book quite accurately. It does a great job at giving the beginner a start, but its grammar lessons pale in quantity as compared to its vocabulary. (Note that a way to resolve this may be to get another grammar-intensive book, as stated before by another respectful reviewer.)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2007
I've always wanted to learn Japanese, and now this dream has finally been realized by this wonderful book! The book starts from the very basic of Japanese grammar and starts building on it without making me feel overwhelmed. And that's saying something as usually I suck at grammar. It also teaches hiragana bit by bit, reviewing the ones learned before in later chapters. As bad as my memory was, I was still able to remember the old stuff while learning the new. I personally find it easier if you skimmed over the next chapter a day before you actually do it, kind of like how you preview the material before going to class. One thing about this though is there's no cd to learn proper enunciation. So instead, I try to learn by watching Japanese drama and catching vocabularies and phrases I learned in their dialogs. Overall, excellent book!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2013
I am currently in Japan as I write this and have been here for 3 months. I purchased this book on Amazon after arriving and have been working on Book #1 for the past 10 weeks. It is incredible....I am completely writing and reading Hiragana. It is like a whole new world has opened to me. It takes me about 3-4 days to get through a lesson and to absorb it completely...and there is definitely enough work in each lesson to keep me busy that long. I am also taking several conversational language classes, and this book has reinforced everything I have learned in those classes. I am absolutely 100% sold on the teaching style of this book. I am anxious to begin Book #2.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2014
Japanese from Zero is easily THE best resource for the person who is studying Japanese independently of a class or tutors. While Genki and similar Japanese textbooks have more content (in terms of grammar and vocabulary), JFZ's approach to teaching the information is fresh, easy to remember, and fun. It doesn't bore you with linguistic jargon or give overly complex explanations for grammar rules and definitions, which is extremely important for western learners due to the vast differences in grammatical structure between Latin-based and Altaic languages. The cultural notes are interesting, and the chapters are small enough that one could easily cover a chapter in about 15 minutes. If you have this book, there is no excuse for lack of studying.

Furthermore, JFZ also comes with free audio files, podcasts, games, tests, and a forum online. Mr. Trombley also answers some questions asked by those who are studying from the books through his podcasts. All of these FREE supplements are better than all of the CD/software additions that come with the textbooks I've bought over the years put together.

Other reviewers have mentioned the fact that the book starts out in romaji (the Latin alphabet to represent the Japanese sounds) and gradually shifts into hiragana (one of the Japanese alphabets). I think this approach is a great way to introduce absolute beginners to the text, especially for those who are very busy or are studying many languages at the same time. Busy people and those who are unfamiliar with learning a foreign language may be intimidated by having to learn a totally new alphabet just to start learning words and phrases. For me, I am studying Arabic, Chinese, Lakota, and Japanese all at once, so I have already had to learn the Arabic and Lakota alphabets and memorize many Chinese characters. If I had come to this book without knowing hiragana, there is no way I'd want to study another alphabet before jumping into my textbook.

Another thing I absolutely loved about this textbook was its comparisons between what standard textbooks/courses will teach you (especially phrases) and what JFZ teaches. Previously, I had only studied using Genki and another textbook. Both texts taught that "私の名前は。。。です。” means "my name is...", while JFZ uses "。。。ともうします。”, which also means "my name is..." They differ in that you almost never hear someone respond to "what is your name?" by saying the first phrase. It is much more natural to say the second phrase. These small lessons alone make this book well worth the price, especially compared to other Japanese textbooks.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2007
I, personally, am very fond of the Japanese language. I took two years of the language at two community colleges and tried new approaches(as well as new books) to improve my Japanese. I purchased the series of books (Japanese from Zero! 1,2,3) and was satisfied with the purchase. I discovered that these books covers the same information that I had learned in my community college classes. It updates on the Japanese culture, and the books also give answers to the questions that are answered in each chapter.If you want to learn Japanese the right way, whether you are age 12 or 32, buy the Japanese from Zero! Series and you won't be disappointed.
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