Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary

5.0 out of 5 stars The best of its kind

The “Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary” does everything right. Inside this little pocket-sized book, you get a Japanese-English dictionary, an English-Japanese dictionary, and even a short phrase book tucked in-between. The word definitions are kept short and sweet, often no more than a single word which is usually all you need and the words aren’t cluttered up with pronunciation guides or anything extraneous.

Best of all is that the Japanese entries are presented the way they should be; in Japanese. There is no romaji, and all Japanese words are given in either hiragana or katakana, and a kanji form when appropriate. This is probably the best feature of this dictionary, as there are few greater barriers to Japanese language acquisition than the use of romaji. Looking up words not only gives you the definitions, but also repeated practice in utilizing the Japanese writing system.

All of the Japanese words are presented in standard dictionary form, not the -masu/-desu forms more common with beginning Japanese study. Examples are sometimes given in the -masu/-desu form, but not always.

Because this is a British-produced dictionary, many of the entries follow British spelling and style (ie: “colour” instead of “color,” “apartment” being the first offered translation for the word “flat,” and “cash dispenser” rather than “ATM.”). This is very minor though, and the American spelling/usage is always presented as well. It can make looking up terms a bit difficult however if you are not accustomed to British English.

Obviously, at this size the “Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary” shouldn’t be anyone’s main dictionary. If you are a serious student of the Japanese language there is no substitute for an electronic dictionary. Even with trimming the fat from the definitions, there is a limit as to how many words you can cram into a small space like this.

What is presented here, however, are the most common words in Japanese and English, and this “Mini Dictionary” is a great resource for people interested in Japanese but not yet ready to make the several hundred dollar commitment required from an electronic dictionary.

According to the introduction, the included words were selected based on the idea of both usefulness to students and someone taking a trip to Japan and needing a dictionary back-up. In both of these cases and at this scale of portability I think you would be hard pressed to find a better dictionary than the “Oxford Japanese Mini Dictionary.”

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Japanese Kanji a Day Practice Pad Volume 1

kanji

4.0 out of 5 stars Every little bit helps

I once heard studying kanji as being like a thin wall with all the kanji you know lined up along the edge. When you study a new kanji, it takes its place at the back of the line and bumps one over the edge, lost forever.

It may not be that bleak, but it is true that without constant repetition and reinforcement you will find all of those hard-won kanji fading from your memory, and symbols that once were filled with meaning now look like just so many chicken scratches.

I can’t lie to you and say that this “Japanese Kanji a Day Practice Pad” is all that you will ever need to keep those kanji tucked safely away in your brain, but it is a pretty nifty way to get some stress-free daily kanji practice in. Basically, you just keep the pad next to you on your desk, and when you got a few spare minutes you do the kanji exercise for the day, then tear off the sheet.

The kanji start at the super-basic level (ichi), then slowly get more complex. The focus is on basic vocabulary words that you learn in a Beginning Japanese course so you do get into a few kanji that are somewhat complicated to write but have a basic meaning (like “ochiru” or “fall”). Obviously, since this is a “kanji-a-day” calendar there are 365 kanji in total.

Each page lists the kanji with all possible readings, then about two words using that kanji in a combination. Going around the edges are boxes for writing practice. There are three boxes to trace the kanji, then you are on your own for the remaining twenty-five boxes. Roughly once a month there is then a blank page for you to practice all the kanji you have learned so far.

Clearly, no one is going to master any kanji through this method. This is purely for reinforcement and repetition. For that though, it is a really handy tool that I like having on my desk.

More Japanese for Kids Flash Cards Kit

more flash

 
5.0 out of 5 stars More of a good thing

Having used and enjoyed the Tuttle Japanese for Kids Flash Cards Kit (Tuttle Flash Cards), it was a no-brainer to pick up the next set in the series.

Like the previous set, there are sixty-four cards here in different categories. The categories are Going Outside (8 cards), Nature (8 cards), Things in My House (10 cards), Things I Want to Do (10 cards), Opposites (12 cards), Weather (6 cards) and Actions (10 cards). The vocabulary is all very basic words and perfect for a beginner’s level. On the front of each card is a cartoon picture of the subject, as well as the Japanese word written above the picture. The Japanese words are written in kanji, hiragana or katakana as they would naturally appear in written Japanese. On the reverse side there are two to three sentences using the vocabulary in context, written in standard Japanese (including kanji), romaji and English.

Whereas the previous set was mostly nouns, the “More Japanese Flash Cards for Kids” features a wider variety of words including adverbs, adjectives and verbs. The categories also have variety, such as the Going Outside category which has vehicle names as well as the words for “park,” “shop” and “school.”

In the same way as the previous collection, the general card arrangement is very easy to use, and the cards are a nice size (about the size of two standard playing cards laid together) and laminated so they can be used again and again. The sentences on the back use not only the vocabulary of the card itself, but also other words in the set to reinforce retention.

Along with the flash cards, there is a poster containing all of the words in the set, with the same pictures, and an audio CD that can be used for pronunciation practice. On the CD, as well as the pronunciation for the words and sentences included with the flash cards, there are bonus vocabulary including basic greeting words and a few Japanese children’s songs. Unfortunately, these are the exact same bonus words as on the previous CD, so it is a duplication if you already own the previous set. The songs are new, however, and are very popular and traditional Japanese children’s songs.

Although Tuttle calls this set “Flash Cards for Kids,” I have found them useful for adult learners as well. In fact, I have also been using them in reverse, for Japanese people studying English. Once the basic vocabulary has been mastered, they can be used in games such as spreading them out “Go Fish” style and having the learner draw two cards, then make a sentence out of the two vocabulary words. This game is greatly improved by the addition of verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and you can even split the piles so that you need to draw one adjective/adverb, one noun and one verb to make a sentence.

Japanese for Kids Flash Cards Kit

flash

 
5.0 out of 5 stars A great tool for vocabulary retention

A good set of flash cards is a valuable tool in language study. They are never going to teach you the lesson in and of themselves, but will help reinforce lessons learned and get your brain used to operating in the target language at normal speeds instead of having to search for the word in questions.

This set of “Japanese Flash Cards for Kids” is a great set, and one that I have gotten a lot of use from. There are sixty-four cards in all, separated into categories like animals (8 cards), body parts (8 cards), food (8 cards), family (8 cards), numbers (10 cards), daily activities (8 cards), clothing (6 cards) and colors (8 cards). The vocabulary is all very basic words and perfect for a beginner’s level. On the front of each card is a cartoon picture of the subject, as well as the Japanese word written above the picture. The Japanese words are written in kanji, hiragana or katakana as they would naturally appear in written Japanese. On the reverse side there are two to three sentences using the vocabulary in context, written in standard Japanese (including kanji), romaji and English.

The general card arrangement is very easy to use, and the cards are a nice size (about the size of two standard playing cards laid together) and laminated so they can be used again and again. The sentences on the back use not only the vocabulary of the card itself, but also other words in the set to reinforce retention.

Along with the flash cards, there is a poster containing all of the words in the set, with the same pictures, and an audio CD that can be used for pronunciation practice. On the CD, as well as the pronunciation for the words and sentences included with the flash cards, there are bonus vocabulary including basic greeting words and a few Japanese children’s songs.

Although Tuttle calls this set “Flash Cards for Kids,” I have found them useful for adult learners as well. In fact, I have also been using them in reverse, for Japanese people studying English. Once the basic vocabulary has been mastered, they can be used in games such as spreading them out “Go Fish” style and having the learner draw two cards, then make a sentence out of the two vocabulary words.

Say It in Japanese

say

4.0 out of 5 stars What do you need to be able to say to get around in Japan?

Japanese is a complicated language, and if you are only going over for a short trip, then odds are you aren’t going to master too much of the language before you get there. A few key greetings and phrases, maybe, and even then only if you have the time to memorize them.

“Say it in Japanese” is a convenient phrase book designed exclusively for travelers. It is very compact, being about the size of an average wallet, and can easily be slipped into a pocket and carried around. This is a huge consideration considering weight allowances for modern air travel, where heavy, bulky books can’t really be justified.

The book has over 2,200 entries that are either single words or phrases designed to ease everyday communication. All of entries are categorized, such as “café and bar,” “bus, subway and streetcar,” renting autos and other vehicles,” “sightseeing” and the all important “nightclub and dancing.” The English phrase/word is given first, followed by a Japanese pronunciation written in the English alphabet, and then the phrase written in natural Japanese. This allows you to show the book to a Japanese person if you aren’t confident in the pronunciation, or if communication isn’t clear.

As a traveler’s phrasebook, I wouldn’t really recommend “Say it in Japanese” for serious students of the language. You might learn some new vocabulary here and there, but it isn’t really designed for that. Casual travelers, however, will probably find that it gets them out of some tight spots, and makes a trip to Japan a whole lot smoother.

My First Hiragana Activity Book

first

5.0 out of 5 stars A nice beginner’s book for children studying Japanese

My First Hiragana Activity Book

If you have a child interested in studying Japanese, you will find “My First Hiragana Activity Book” a valuable tool. It is easy to follow, with lots of vocabulary and cute pictures supporting each hiragana. Unlike most hiragana work books, which you use once and throw away, this book can be used to practice vocabulary words long after the hiragana has been mastered.

Learning hiragana is the first step to learning Japanese. You simply can’t make any progress in the language without it. Because of syllable-based structure of the language, being able to recognize and pronounce the various hiragana is a necessary foundation. There are only forty-six hiragana characters, so learning them is a fairly easy task. Much less daunting than the thousands of kanji one must master as your skills progress!

“My First Hiragana Activity Book” teaches the hiragana in the normal order. Each entry takes up a page, and has two blocks to trace over the character, then six blocks for practice. Each character is supported by about nine pictures that start with that character. For example, the first character “ah” is accompanied by the words like “ahiru” (duck), “ame” (rain), “ashi” (foot) and “atama” (head). The English readings are not given for the words, only a picture, which is a useful technique to allow association of that word directly with the image, rather than translating it into English.

A drawback to “My First Hiragana Activity Book” is that there are not really enough spaces for repetition of the characters. Writing a character six times isn’t going to be enough to master it. However, most people studying Japanese keep a separate notebook for repetition practice, and so the extra spaces aren’t really needed. Also, the book is squarely aimed at a child audience, and the style is similar to what one would find in a “My First Alphabet” book or something similar. Adults can still use this book and would find it useful in gaining basic vocabulary as long as they don’t mind the childish nature of the pictures.

One other thing I discovered, although I don’t think this was intended by the author, is that the pictures accompanying each character are a perfect size to be cut out of the book and used as flash cards for vocabulary practice. Cut them out and laminate them, and you have a couple of hundred flash cards for a very affordable price!

How to Tell the Difference between Japanese Particles: Comparisons and Exercises

particle

 
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have guide to a murky area

“I sat at the chair.” “I went on school today.” That is probably what most of us sound like when we start really speaking Japanese, merrily swapping around all those cute little “ni”s, “wa”s, “de”s and “ga”s. It gets even worse at an upper level when the mysterious “hodo”s and “kana”s start rearing their ugly heads. Particles are one of the most confusing aspects of Japanese, and one of the biggest road blocks to conversational fluency.

Every student of Japanese could use “How to Tell the Difference Between Japanese Particles.” It is a practical, concise little book that contains a wealth of information. Unlike Naoko Chino’s previous particle book, “All About Particles,” this volume contains practice exercises and demonstrations of the most common mistakes of Japanese particles. It is more of a workbook, that should be followed from start to finish.

Chino takes several similar but confusing particles, such as “particles indicating time” or “particles used for comparison,” then highlights the different usages of each particle, along with demonstration sentences in both English, kana and romaji. Like all good Japanese books, the emphasis is on the kana, with the romaji and English doing support work. After each chapter, there are several quizzes to test your new knowledge. The book closes with an overall test on the entire book.

The comparative nature of this book, along with the repeated quizzes, make “How to Tell the Difference Between Japanese Particles” one of the most useful Japanese study guides that I own. It serves a niche purpose, but a very useful and necessary one.

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