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Showing 1-5 of 5 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2009
4 stars for a book you said to borrow? Why?

Having just finished this book, I will state it is extremely informative. The author does a fantastic job of explaining things, but, unfortunately, it's not what I would call a reference book.

This is important if you're learning Japanese. Once you read this book, your continued learning will be a bit easier, but you'll never read it again.

Hence, borrow it.

One of the biggest issues I have with "teaching yourself Japanese" books is how they don't literally translate Japanese, but instead, "convert" to English in hopes to better understand.

For example, a conversation in Japanese may go like this:
Joe: "Doing?"
Jane: "Going to bed."

But teaching books incorrectly translate as:
Joe: "What are you doing?"
Jane: "I'm going to bed."

This is SO wrong when learning Japanese because many times, the subject has "disappeared", and it makes sense. If Joe and Jane are the only two conversing, dropping the subjects (themselves) is expected. Moreso, in Japanese language, once the subject has been identified, it disappears as the conversation continues! This is why so many people feel this language is so difficult to learn.

This book clearly covers situations like this, but does so in a manner you won't forget it while learning Japanese from textbooks that get it wrong while dispelling the "subject-less sentence".

The loss of 1 star comes from the author's weird reason to draw out some topics, but cover others with just a paragraph or two. I wish all topics were a few paragraphs.

Here's an example of this. When discussing the difference between "Wa" and "Ga", the author took an astounding 10 pages to simplify the definition "'Ga' marks the subject while 'Wa' marks the topic."
(this is simplified, as examples are present. Also, there are circumstances when the above isn't true, but the overall truth to the simplification was perfect.)

However, his topic "You say Kimeru and I say Kimaru" was compressed to one paragraph with a few examples. Perfect.

As a person who just started learning Japanese, I am thankful the author wrote the book. It's informative, but not really worth a purchase. But that's just me. You may feel different if you feel the information deserves to be paid for with a purchase.

Now, my quest to finding the perfect "learning Japanese" book continues. I've yet to find one.

I wish this author would write a learning Japanese book. He gets it. He understand the language. This would have been, in my opinion, a better use of his expertise rather than a "what they don't tell you" book.

I would definitely recommend this book for reading.

Hope this review helps.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2009
The previous reviewer that said this was the equivalent of a "beach book" for Japanese language studies is more or less right. This is a collection of essays by Jay Rubin (famed translator of Murakami Haruki for Western audiences) previously released under the name "Gone Fishin'".

I have to say, the man's intelligence and wit is far above most traditional teachers and this book really is "what the teachers don't tell you", including the myth of the subject-less sentence, Wa as a topic marker and NEVER subject marker, Wa versus Ga (in its entirety), Kimaru versus Kimeru and so on and so forth. Many of the transitives and particles are given attention, with special attention paid to "Wa" and "Ga", for, as we all know, those give us the most trouble. Everything is successfully broken down after being explained (somewhat exhaustively as in the 'Wa' vs. 'Ga' chapter) at length and Rubin's humor is helpful and prevents this from being, yes, another text book.

So, the negative. The book is great about giving example sentences when talking about intransitives, possessives and all that goes with the language, and Rubin even gives examples from novels of Murakami's, and Yukio Mishima's. The problem? Romaji! Most know it, but I'll say it again: romaji is a crutch best left behind EARLY in the learning process. Having such great examples BEGS the need for original (Japanese) language. Yes, you may not be as far along as I am in reading studies, but you won't get there reading romaji, either!

Toward the end of the book some Japanese text is presented, and alongside romaji at that! What gives? We couldn't have this help throughout all the essays?

I disagree with those that say this is a 'borrow' at best, but I can't recommend it entirely with all this romaji in my eyes. It's entertaining and informative, but only empirically helpful when used as a barebones reference tool; something that will tell you in English how to go about what you need accomplished in Japanese. Keep it on your shelf, it'll come in handy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2013
I'm helping a young boy who would like to learn to read/write and speak Japanese. The hard part of doing so is I am Japanese but never really learn how to. So I hoped that this book can give him some kind of explanations about Japanese sentence. He find it is good to read. I bought these books only for him. It helps us to practice.
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on May 11, 2015
"Making Sense of Japanese" is a refreshing and rare book that explains Japanese grammar while openly stating that a native English speaker's study of Japanese is a confusing labyrinth made of crappy textbooks. This book is really funny, especially when the author shares "bad"/"wrong" translations of Japanese sentences, which he does only to illustrate the wrong way to go about deciphering Japanese grammatical logic. The book does NOT cover all grammar at any specific level, but is rather a series of essays on specific topics of special concern, such as how to understand a sentence when it contains no subject, and the true meaning of the "wa" (は) particle.
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I'm just a beginner in Japanese, so a lot of the material presented here was beyond me. However, just his explanation of the difference between wa and ga was worth the price of the book for me. It's the best explanation I've come across.

The writing style was nice and casual and the sections were broken up enough so that my eyes didn't glaze over from information overload.

I'll get more out of this book as my language learning progresses.
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