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How To Speak Japanese
D!rty Japanese
D!rty Japanese
Japanese Language Book Review

Learning a foreign language is best conducted through hours of learning from a textbook, but often that is not as productive to getting into the gist of everyday speech. Especially if you as a foreigner get the opportunity to visit the land of the rising sun. How about using some words from D!rty Japanese? While there is some eyebrow raising language, and actions that would appeal more for a grown up situation.

What I like about this book is the fact that there is emphasis on the action, and then what possible phrases can come from those living and action scenarios. The phrase is introduced, in Romanized pronunciation, and then written in kanji, hiragana or katakana spelling.

This is not a book to learn the written language, rather this is a book for people who have mastered basic Japanese and want to be more informal in speech with close friends. So the next time, if you have the chance to be exploring nightlife Tokyo on trendy spots along the Yamamote Line, then this book is good for taking a more casual American approach.

Reviewed by Linda Yau, December 2011

Basic JapaneseBasic Japanese
Pimsleur Basic Japanese
Japanese Language Audio Book Review

I've been using this audio CD to teach myself some basic Japanese while driving in my car. I enjoy the friendly way it's presented and it doesn't get too complicated too quickly. For those of us with trouble learning languages and/or simply no time to sit down and read a book, this is a wonderful alternative and it allows us to learn at our own speed (i.e., only while I'm in my car!).

Each lesson is fairly short, and it's repetitive enough that you say it ten or twenty times and then it's ingrained into your brain and you've got it. Although this makes stringing together sentences of your own a little tough at first, you learn enough phrases to get around in Japan.

The nice thing is you can also rip the whole CD to iTunes and listen with your iPod while on the train or walking to lunch. Just beware that people will look at you funny while you're saying "O-genki deska?" while standing in line at McDondalds.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2009

Kana de Manga (Manga University)
Kana de Manga
(Manga University)

Japanese Language Book Review

Here's a cool idea. Learn to draw manga, and learn to draw Kana, and learn to read and write Japanese! Manga University's latest series of book uses original manga artwork to teach students how to read, write and pronounce the Japanese hiragana and katakana alphabets, also known as "kana." Author Glenn Kardy, editor of several of the English-language volumes in the world-renowned How to Draw Manga series, and artist Chihiro Hattori have teamed up to create this must-have book for manga enthusiasts who are interested in more than just pretty pictures.

Kana de MangaThe content in this book is factual and consistent in a way to optimize the rate at which you learn the basic Japanese characters. For consistency, the cursive form of the word is always on the left side, while the printed version is on the right. When words are made up of two or more derivatives, the book tells the reader those words and what they mean.

The quotes coincide with the pictures on that page such "the odds of being struck by lightning are 700,000 to 1" as a quote about lightning. There are also pictures associated with every word, sort of like apple for "A" in the English language. There are also easy to learn definitions so you can remember all 72 of the definitions in this book.

Instead of the paragraphs being unemotional and boring, the author adds small tidbits of humor. While the book is humorous, it keeps you informed. While you are laughing at some of the jokes, you are not as bored while reading. The pictures themselves are also hilarious, such as a boy trying to smash a suika, or watermelon or one where a boy is squeamish at his own chi, or blood.

We think Manga University knows a thing or two, so this series of books can't be a bad thing. Give it a try.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, February 2007

Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary
Let's Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary
Japanese Language Book Review

If you're an absolute beginner, or you're looking to start teaching Japanese to someone young, this is an excellent way to get started. This is a children's book with fun-filled illustrated panoramas focusing on scenes familiar to children aged three through eight, such as home life, the classroom, city life, sports, the zoo, and even outer space! Hundreds of words each have their own illustrations and most pages have large, beautiful composite drawings great for point and name practice.

The book uses English, Romanji (Japanese words written as English, which helps with the proper pronunciation), as well as Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji (Japanese characters) so readers of any skill level can read and use the book. It's an excellent way to memorize Japanese writing so that you recognize characters or whole words while browsing a local Japanese video store or bookstore. (We remember having memorized "Yamato" and "Macross" and being able to pick it out even from the spine of a book or VHS tape.)

When learning a new language, you might as well start off as if you were a child all over again. Once you've mastered this book, THEN and only then should you consider moving on to more advanced Japanese Language books that teach the phrases and grammar you'll need to survive after you step off the plane in Tokyo.

Picture Dictionary

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2006

Jimi's Book of Japanese: A Motivating Method to Learn Japanese
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Jimi's Book of Japanese:
A Motivating Method to Learn Japanese

Japanese Language Book Review

Certainly one of the best-looking books of learning Japanese, this amazingly intuitive book makes learning to read, write and pronounce Kana characters something so simplistic, even a young child or older adult can do it!

Let's start! Jimi Jams in Japanese!You won't be able to put it down, and you'll find that the lessons really stick with you. After all, any book that has monkeys, robots, and assorted other creatures teaching you how to speak Japanese has to be cool — and this book series certainly is.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2005

Japanese the Manga Way: An Illustrated Guide to Grammar and Structure
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Japanese the Manga Way:
An Illustrated Guide to Grammar and Structure

Japanese Language Book Review

For those of us who dream of translating manga, or reading the originals before it was translated, comes this wonderful book. Abundantly populated with samples from a wide range of actual manga, the author disassembles the contents of the word balloons in terms of reading Japanese, understanding the translation of the words, understanding the grammar and structure of the language, and best of all, making it all make sense in terms of modern, conversational Japanese.

Learning with manga makes rules and structures easy to remember, and also lets you experience colloquialisms, contractions, interjections, and other elements of speech that get short shrift in more formal textbooks.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, October 2005

70 Japanese Gestures
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70 Japanese Gestures: No Language Communication
Japanese Language Book Review

Do you get tongue-tied easily trying to pronounce all that Japanese? Okay, maybe Japanese is a bit hard to learn to speak and write. But there's a lot you can say using just your hands, nose, arms, and other body parts that are universal as well as uniquely Japanese.

Japanese Gestures: Indicating YourselfThis whimsical look at "the language of no language" will teach you to hurl insults, flirt, agree, excuse yourself, cross the street, and even make promises - wordlessly! Some are deadly, some practical, some wacky, but all are genuine and used today on the streets of Japan, at home, and in manga and anime (anime fiends —you've probably already seen Gesture #58)

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2005

Below: The Japanese Alphabet Song

Below: Learn to Introduce Yourself in Japanese

Below:Vlogger Miss Hannah Minx on Japanese Introductions

My Japanese Coach
My Japanese Coach
Videogame Review

My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS makes the process of learning Japanese Language into a fun game. While the writing portion of the product suffers some problems, the spoken-word component is stellar in that you learn about 10 new words in each lesson and then play mini-games that then re-enforce the words learned as you combine them with other words from previous lessons.

My Japanese CoachUsing the DS's microphone, you can practice speaking words and phrases, and then even compare the waveforms versus native speakers so you can see and hear the differences between what you said and how it was supposed to be spoken. This is an excellent tool for learning pronunciation and timing, as Japanese is a clipped language as opposed to English where we emphasize and elongate certain syllables and vowels.

A built in dictionary (with over 12,000 words) and phrase book as well as a virtual tour of Japan will help you get around even if you aren't fluent in Japanese (good for those of us who run over there just to go on shopping trips!)

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, October 2011

Kore wa Instant Immersion Japanese desu.
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Instant Immersion Japanese
Japanese Language Software Review

Hajimemashite, dozo yoroshiku. It's "Hooked on Phonics" meets "Learn Japanese". With this 4 CDROM set for all versions of Windows (i.e., 95 and up), learning Japanese has never been so fun or so easy! With an intuitive interface and clever graphics you'll be learning Japanese words and memorizing the proper syntax in no time. Plus there's an assortment of mini-programs to help you along, such as "Jquicktrans" which provides a handy Kanji lookup table, so learning the written language becomes as quick and easy and learning the spoken language.

Make no mistake, there's a learning curve — learning an entirely different language is no easy task and you'll need to dedicate yourself to really doing the work. But, at such a low price, you won't find a better deal for an introduction to Japanese. Although the four discs don't necessarily offer a linear course to follow, any user will be able to pick out the pieces they're most interested in to get a solid introduction to Japanese.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, May 2002

Rosetta Stone Japanese Level 1
Rosetta Stone Japanese Level 1
Windows & Macintosh
Software Review

Used by the State Department to train diplomats. Proven effective by NASA astronauts, Peace Corps volunteers and millions of students, Fairfield Language Technology's "Rosetta Stone" series of language learning software uses an "immersive environment" where you are immediately thrown into learning the language. No English is used whatsoever by the software.

How it is done is that you are shown a picture of something and the word is given, similar to how a picture-book might have been used by you as a child. Great for nouns, but how do they convey the other parts of language, and then communicate proper sentence structure? Well, that's their secret.

It teaches on a completely visual/audio level for conversational Japanese to be used for basic everyday communication. It is no way like a memorization/drill style of learning used for various classes, nor is it anything like what is taught by college campuses. It is for auditory comprehension only.

Used in conjunction with other references and learning tools, Rosetta Stone Japanese can be a very effective way to quickly pick up the language, but it is not a panacea.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, July 2007

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