- Series: Tuttle Language Library
- Paperback: 250 pages
- Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; New edition edition (December 15, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804816476
- ISBN-13: 978-0804816472
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
A Japanese Reader: Graded Lessons for Mastering the Written Language (Tuttle Language Library) Paperback – December 15, 1990
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This book was perfect. It was just what I needed. There are almost no other Japanese graded readers in existance, and of those, this is the only one that even gets above a beginner's level. Not only is it the only book in its field, but it does what it promises perfectly.
That said, everyone is different, so no book is right for everybody. If you want a graded reader that gets up to a decent level, by all means, buy this; however, if you aren't sure, here's how to tell if this book is for you. If any one of these criteria apply to you, you'll know whether or not to get the book.
Buy this book if:
- you are willing to put in effort. This might sound odd to mention, but more and more these days you hear of people who want to learn something without actually working at it. If you want to pick up a book, read it cover-to-cover, and suddenly be able to read Japanese, forget it. No book on Earth will let you do that. This is because you are learning something that requires effort to remember. Not much effort, but certainly a little bit at least, and it's needed constantly.
- you want to read, study, or understand Japanese literature. There are a lot of people who write enormously complex and detailed analyses of Japanese literature without speaking a word of the language themselves; such analyses often miss the point entirely for obvious reasons. If you want to appreciate Japanese literature, this book will get you started and build you up further.
- you want to read Japanese newspapers or novels. Why not?
- you want mastery of Japanese, like the book says. And by mastery, I mean being at a higher standard than most Japanese adults. This shouldn't have to be explicitly mentioned, but it seems a lot of other reviewers missed it, so there you go.
Don't buy this book if:
- you are of the opinion that it is normal and reasonable for learning hiragana/katakana to take months or even years. Come on. There are only 96 things to learn. You could memorise 96 countries over a week if you put the effort into it. So it's not the amount of things you're learning. It's just that some people mentally balk at the idea of learning a foreign language or writing system. If you are a person disabled by such a mindset, then no book will help you learn more than the bare basics of kanji.
- you want a fun book that makes you feel good. This book is neutral and was written back when it was the students' responsibility to put in the effort to learn, not the teacher's responsibility to convince them learning is worth their while with bribes of fun. If you actually want to learn something that isn't mind-boggling easy, fun or not, you will put some work in. As long as it doesn't make you feel bad (I repeat: this book is neutral), fun won't make much of a difference. If it's something that requires effort, in the long run, you need to be self-motivated, not driven by pretty pictures and colours. If you refuse to read anything except what you pre-determine to be fun, avoid this book. There will be lessons that you simply will not feel passionate about. But then again, such lessons will inevitably occur in any book that goes to a high level.
- you speak little or no Japanese. It might sound redundant, but I feel it's worth mentioning. The introduction to this book states that it is designed for those who speak Japanese but have no or basic ability with reading. If you can't have a normal conversation in Japanese (and I do mean normal, not contrived text-book conversations), you will struggle with understanding the passages of this book. You'll be able to read them, sure, but it will be harder to remember them if you don't understand what you're reading. Can you understand most of a Japanese tv show without subtitles? No? Only children's shows? Avoid this book.
- you just want to read a little. This book is for MASTERY. You will be more literate than most Japanese adults if you complete this book. I could read Doraemon manga before I used this book, and I only had about 200 kanji then. If that's the level you're interested in (children's stuff or just reading some street signs and so on), this book is far too much.
There are plenty of other kanji books out there. I've read bits of many. I worked through most of "Remembering the Kanji" while at school, and all of "Kanji ABC". I found that although I could recognise a lot of kanji, I couldn't understand what I was reading. For a great deal of kanji, knowing their meanings doesn't actually help you read much. For example, the word for "greengrocer" is written as "eight hundred rooms", presumably for some weird historical reason. You might be able to read each of the three kanji: eight, hundred, room; to understand their meaning when together cannot be done unless the entire word is learnt separately. A lot of Japanese words are like this. Worse, a lot of kanji have more abstract meanings, or are used in words for the sound they add, so learning their meaning does not help you at all. So for a great deal of reading, you have to learn words, not individual kanji. Fortunately, that's what this book does.
For common kanji which are worth learning the meanings of, this book covers them completely. It further covers the vast majority of words made up of multiple kanji which cannot be guessed from their components. It covers all bases.
If you are completely new at non-English scripts and find that they all look the same to you, though, Kanji ABC might be a good one to start with. It can be read in just an hour or so, and it helps show how a lot of kanji evolved from pictograms to the abstract, square forms we see today. Even if you don't remember any of the kanji from it, it will help you look at them properly and be able to tell them apart.
If you are still learning Japanese, this book might have a use as you improve, e.g. only doing one lesson each week or month as you learn more, but as I haven't used it this way I cannot say if it would be useful.
There are 75 lessons in this wonderful book divided into five sections: 17 in "Introductory", which cover hiragana, katakana, and a few (43 exactly) basic kanji including numbers. The next 13 lessons are in "Elementary", and are much more interesting. They cover stories and dialogues between people. I kept count of the kanji learnt as I went by making flashcards, so I can quite confidently say that by the end of Elementary, you will have exactly 365 kanji, including those from the Introductory section. The kanji are not just used once and then left alone; rather, after being introduced in a lesson, they reappear in subsequent lessons, so you stay familiar with them. After Elementary is "Intermediate", consisting of 17 lessons. These are more interesting again, as they describe various traditions, discuss why the culture is changing, and basically give you a very good idea of Japanese culture in general. Very few English works give you this much knowledge over an entire volume, let alone in 17 lessons only 1 or 2 pages long each. One story, "Rokubei's sheep", was absolutely adorable, and although it had no cultural information in the story itself (there were a few gems in the information below the vocab list), it's my favourite story from the entire section, and I became teary at the end. By the end of Intermediate, you will have a little over 1000 kanji, enough to read over 90% of a newspaper, and enough for nearly all everyday life. After Intermediate, there are two more sections: "Advanced: Fiction" (12 lessons) and "Advanced: Non-Fiction" (15). The Fiction section has a few stories written in an older form of Japanese (think Shakespearian English as a similar comparison), essential if you ever want to read or even study Japanese literature. Finally, the last lesson is a passage which you read to test yourself at the end of the book.
Each lesson in this book is as follows: you are provided with a vocabulary list which you must memorise before starting. This is followed by various notes and pieces of cultural information about the lesson. The text of the lesson itself is in the back of the book. At first I found this annoying, but quickly realised that it meant I wouldn't succumb to temptation and look each difficult kanji up by letting my eyes wander across the page.
The texts start off as inane, like most basic language texts. The first few are largely word lists. However, they quickly build up to short sentences and conversations by the end of the Introductory section. In Elementary, you have more interesting stories and dialogues. This works up to cultural monographs, children's stories, anecdotes, and other more interesting pieces in Intermediate and Advanced.
I will say this: I have yet to do the Advanced: Non-Fiction section. I will, but haven't got there yet. The titles of each lesson indicate that it's mostly highly-technical articles from newspapers, about government systems, patriotism, or subtle aspects of religion.
So, how should you use a masterpiece like this? The book itself was written with the express purpose of being used to enhance a university-level Japanese class. I had done Japanese at school, and had watched (far too much) J-Horror and had taken speaking lessons, so although my spoken Japanese was up to scratch, I was not doing any such class when I used this book. Fortunately, the writer mentions that it was also made to be suitable as a stand-alone, but it requires more effort from the student to use it this way. It also reccomends at several points a language text called "Essential Japanese" by Samuel E. Martin. I did not use this text nor have I ever even seen it. It is not required.
In general, we all know, it's better to do a little of something everyday than to do a big block once a week. I doubt anyone has the exact same circumstances as myself, but just in case, here's how I used the book.
I have to travel for work, 90 minutes each way, 4 days a week. Since this commute is on the train, I can read while I travel. I used this time to work through the book. With the exception of the first ten lessons or so, which are all kana that I already knew, I did one lesson a day like this. At the end of each section, I'd go back and re-read all texts from that section until I could do so without hesitation and without looking up any kanji. So it took me about a month to go through each section and another month to re-read the lessons of that section over and over until I was pretty darn smooth. I'm at the end of Advanced: Fiction right now.
There are reviews saying that this text is out of date. I strongly disagree for reasons of fact. Unless you only want to converse with teenagers or read young children's manga, you will need just about all of the grammatical structures and words used in this book. I myself have used them and heard them used in speaking in everyday life in Japan, not to mention in films and manga. The book further includes some equivalent words, e.g. the verb "to see" has a humble and an exalted form. These are used in subway announcements, for example, making understanding them quite handy. Few books these days explain such 'equivalent' words or even use them at all. Finally, some reviewers have argued that since this book was written before the kanji were standardised, it is useless. However, the standardised kanji were based on those that were already widely in use, i.e. those used in this book. I have scoured kanji lists and have not found any before senior high school that the book has not taught me, and I'm not even finished with it yet. That's at least the first 1500 kanji that this book covers as well as any more modern text, plus several hundred more (again, haven't finished). But perhaps most convincingly: myself and a good friend of mine used this book and found ourselves completely able to read in Japan. Not just able to read some signs and things--able to read every piece of text that was visible the entire time I was there, with the exception only of several that came up during parliamentary television (I was channel surfing, OK?). I had been to Japan a few years prior for a conference and found myself unable to read most things. Seven months after starting this book, reading at the pace I described above, I went back for another conference and was astonished at how universal my reading was. It's indescribable to be able to read every single thing about you in a foreign language.
Some reviews complain that the text in this book is too small. The one I ordered was about A4 (letter) size and I had no problems, but perhaps some editions are smaller. If you are worried about this, see if you can also get one this size. The text was the same size as that found in books and newspapers.
As this book is for MASTERY, not just to be able to read at a basic level, it goes up higher than the ability of the average adult in Japan. The fact that other reviewers have had Japanese friends glance at the harder lessons of this book and struggle with them only demonstrates the fact that it really is designed for achieving mastery and not average reading.
This masterpiece further shows different forms of kanji that were used in the old-days, so you are able to read ancient texts if you ever wish to. And they come up on TV sometimes anyway if a plot device involves something from long ago or some such. It explains in depth how to read Japanese names, information rare to find all in one place in any text.
I reiterate here at the end of this absurdly long review: this book is useful only to those who wish to read Japanese at a high level and who are realistic enough to work for that. If you are such a person, buy this book and enjoy your blossoming abilities. Highly, highly recommended.
As previous reviewers said, this book is filled with archaic terms. Some of the vocabulary in this book is simply an old-fashioned form of modern commonly used words. I would worry about using this book to study vocabulary when I'm sure there is much more important, more modern vocabulary I should be learning.
I bought this reader because there are very few similar books out there - readers are scarce to begin with, and this one seemed so comprehensive. I thought I could get passed the fact that it was outdated - I mean, English wasn't so different in the 1960s. But it turns out Japanese was, and even the simple texts are filled with terms I won't need to know until I'm far more advanced - if ever. I wish I had saved my money and bought something more modern.
I don't know why Tuttle continue to publish this book, when a more updated version would be relatively easy to make. The only people who should buy this book are very advanced learners, who are just looking for reading practice. And if that's the case, a Japanese novel would work just as well.