- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 4 edition (November 12, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 4805311738
- ISBN-13: 978-4805311738
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 65 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Guide to Reading and Writing Japanese: Fourth Edition, JLPT All Levels (2,136 Japanese Kanji Characters) 4th Edition
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"Wow! Another amazing book by Tuttle at a price I can afford. As a single mom living under the poverty level, I need to be careful how I spend my money. I want value in need books that will supplement my girls' education and also useful to me as well. A Guide to Reading and Writing Japanese is modern with "the most recent changes to the kanji list prescribed by the Japanese Ministry of Education." Learning each stroke of the 2,136 characters in the general use kanji set in the 1,009 essential characters are a breeze. It includes the full range of character readings and their English definitions. There are plenty of examples and "special codes to indicate the kanji required for the JLPT and AP exams." Learning kanji has never been so easy!" —Goodreads
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All of these make for a useful dictionary. However, there are some flaws. The features I have noted above are limited only to the 1,006 Essential Characters. After the 1,006th character, one comes to a section titled "The 1,945 General Use Characters." This section is very minimal. It contains--I assume--all of the 1,006 Essential Characters as well as an additional 939 characters. These 939 characters are not accompanied with detailed explanations. They have readings and definitions, but no stroke-order explanations or sample compounds. The only clues for writing these characters can be found in the number of stroke orders, which are given, as well as within the user's own knowledge of stroke-order.
There is another flaw which, while being a small one, is worth pointing out. For the /on/ readings, vowel extensions are marked with a bar (or macron) over the lengthened vowel. For example, the /on/ reading for /chU/ is written as 'CHU' (with a bar over the letter 'U'). This is no problem for the most part, but when one comes to a character like /tO/ (the /kun/ reading of the character for the number ten), it is spelled as 'to' (with a bar over the 'o'). If one wanted to spell this reading out in /hiragana/, one would not know whether to spell it out as 'too' or 'tou'. Like I said, however, this makes no real difference (except to the perfectionist).
This is a solid tool, despite its flaws. Nonetheless, one should look elsewhere. I highly recommend Kodansha's ESSENTIAL KANJI DICTIONARY, as it is much more comprehensive than this book. I would consider the ESSENTIAL KANJI DICTIONARY as an "upgraded" version of A GUIDE TO READING AND WRITING JAPANESE. Stroke orders are given for all 1,945 /jOyO kanji/, the pronunciations are exclusively in /hiragana/ and /katakana/, and some of the characters have dozens of compounds listed beneath them. One feature that A GUIDE TO READING AND WRITING JAPANESE doesn't have at all is what I would call the "radical aid feature." At the back of Kodansha's ESSENTIAL KANJI DICTIONARY is a chart that contains all of the radicals of the 1,945 characters. This enables one to find a character that one doesn't know the reading of. In fact, unlike in the other book, the characters are organized by radical sections. At the beginning of every section, there is the radical used, as well as its reading and meaning. If one knows the meaning of a radical, one would know the category that a character using that radical would fall into. Also, the book has its own index of readings. The only useful feature that A GUIDE TO READING AND WRITING JAPANESE has that the ESSENTIAL KANJI DICTIONARY doesn't have is that with the former, students know which characters are the Essential ones, thereby being able to make them a higher priority as they study the 1,945 /jOyO kanji/.
Overall, A GUIDE TO READING AND WRITING JAPANESE is a helpful tool, despite its limitations. Nonetheless, an alternative such as Kodansha's ESSENTIAL KANJI DICTIONARY is superior to this book in almost every single way. My rating: 6.9/10
None of this should be taken as a denigration of the 3rd edition. This book is still, in my view, at least as good as any other for the student just beginning to write kanji. It has been marginally improved, in fact, by being re-issued in somewhat larger format. There are, to my mind, two deficiencies, inherited from the earlier editions:
1) the 2nd half, roughly, of the JooYoo characters don't have their stroke order indicated (and in some cases, anyway, foreign students working on their own without a teacher could be left in doubt), and
2) there is no demonstration of the subtleties (and there are some) of the hiragana and katakana syllabaries. This sort of thing is harder to find than kanji help.
The first problem is well remedied by PG O'Neill's "Essential Kanji", a work that I found very useful after using earlier editions of this book. Students seeking help with kanji readings for Japanese personal names may want to get O'Neill's "Japanese Names", if they can; it is currently out of print. As for questions about kana scripts, ask a person highly literate in Japanese. I never found a book on kana that was, by itself, really useful for the motivated beginner.
***Note on kana : Feb 8th 2012***
Re: my last two sentences; I now recommend:
Kanji and Kana : a handbook and dictionary of the Japanese writing system
by Wolfgang Hadamitzky and Mark Spahn
Charles J Tuttle : Rutland, Vt. 1979 (I have the 1991 printing in front of me. I haven't seen subsequent editions; a new one is coming out as I type this.)
This book gives the learner substantial guidance on how to write both kana scripts and their use and "orthography". This in addition to stroke charts for the entire Tooyoo (as it was called back in the day) list.
Odd that I hadn't run across this earlier. I actually used the authors' big Kanji dictionary (along with an old Nelson).