Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

Book: Colloquial Japanese

2007 December 25

Colloquial Japanese by H. D. B. Clarke and Motoko Hamamura

One of the books I use to study Japanese is “Colloquial Japanese” by H. D. B. Clarke and Motoko Hamamura. I’m using the 1981 edition, but here’s the link to a newer one. It’s my cousin’s book that I’m currently borrowing.

The book aims to meet the needs of students “who require an overall understanding of spoken Japanese within a relatively short period”. It teaches the reader from the beginning, and the focus is on conversation, namely listening and speaking. The title of the book itself (i.e., colloquial) should already make this evident.

Every chapter starts with “benri na hyougen”, or useful expressions. Here’s a sample from the first chapter: (I use my own romanization, more about that later)

Japanese English
Ohayou gozaimasu. Good morning.
Oyasumi nasai. Good night (before retiring).

After that is “bunkei” or sentence patterns. This section contains short sentences that exhibit new grammars or materials which will be explained in the chapter. Here’s part of the first chapter’s:

Japanese English
Ikimasu. [I] go.
Ikimasen. [I] don’t go.

After that is “kaiwa” or conversations. The conversations are short yet numerous. Again, from the first chapter:

Japanese English
A: Tanaka san. A: Mr Tanaka!
B: Hai. B: Yes.
A: Owarimashita ka. A: Have you finished?
B: Hai, owarimashita. B: Yes, I have.
A: Jaa, kaerimashou ka. A: Well then, shall we go home?
B: Ee, sou shimashou B: Yes, let’s do that.

After that is the explanation and an excellent set of problems. Here are some sample problems from chapter 1:

A Change as indicated in brackets:
1 Wakarimasu. (negative) 2 Ikimasen. (past)…

B Substitute the word in brackets for the word in italics and wake other changes as the sense demands:
1 Ashita irasshaimasu ka. (kinou) 2 Kinou shimashita. (ato de)…

C Translate into English:
1 Ashita aimasu ka. 2 Ohayou gozaimasu. …

D Translate into Japanese:
1 He is coming tomorrow. 2 I didn’t see him yesterday. …

(If you have time, try to answer in the comment 🙂 )

Some design decisions are due to the book’s focus on conversation. For example, the book doesn’t use any Japanese characters. Except for the table of kana in the appendix, that is. The book is also accompanied by a cassette which is very useful to practice your oh-so-hard listening.

The romanization is based on Hepburn so it shouldn’t be alien. What’s interesting is that vowel devoicing (e.g., “-masu” sounding as “-mas”) and pitch is marked. For example, 行きます is romanized as “ikimásψ” (that’s ‘a’ with an acute accent ´ and the Greek character psi is my lame substitute for a ‘u’ marked with an oblique line). It should be great for people that want to sound as accurate as possible. I’m not going to explain how to read the pitch mark since I myself don’t use it :), but rest assured it is explained in the book.

Me doing exercises on Colloquial Japanese

If there’s one feature that I have to give thumbs up, it’s going to be the exercise set. It is numerous and has answer keys. What I usually do is to answer the questions using Japanese characters, thereby practicing my character writing ability (photo above).

This book is orthodox in that it teaches you the polite form before the plain form. In other words, it sacrifices the more logical and understandable approach for politeness on the get go. I think that’s not how one should teach Japanese.

So here’s the sum up:

The Good:

  • Lots of exercises with the complete key.
  • Japanese and English on facing pages so you can play “read and guess the meaning” easily.
  • Audio cassette.

The Bad:

  • Starts with the polite form (e.g., 会います) instead of the plain form (e.g., 会う).

I’m currently on the 6th lesson of this book and plan to go through all 20 lessons. For those of you wondering whether to get this book to start their Japanese, I frankly don’t recommend it! It’s better to start studying from Tae Kim’s guide which progresses logically (e.g., from the plain form up) and is very understandable. It will give you a much better grasp at the language’s foundation, inner working, and way of thinking. After you have studied Tae Kim’s guide, by all means use this otherwise excellent book to reinforce what you have learned with its conversations, explanations, and exercises. The cassette audio is also great for practicing your listening.

Which would you choose? Learning a language in 1 day or 10 years?

2007 March 3

There are many random books here in Purwokerto, and some days ago I found two books with absurd titles.

First up is a book on my cousin’s bookcase: Bahasa JEPANG Hanya 1 Hari (Japanese in only 1 day) by Yan Tirtobisono. I was like “Heh!!!” when reading the title. I’ve learned this language on my spare time for around 2 years and still can’t do nothing :)… (well, yeah, probably because I’m not working hard enough)

The book’s 256 pages contain set phrases in roomaji without any grammar explanation. More like a travel pamphlet for me. I know that the Indonesian mentality is wanting results instantly without much effort, but, 1 day?!? Give me a break…

The other one is from my brother’s room: Korea dalam 10 x 365 hari (Korean in 10 x 365 days) by HS. Maru Lis. We all know that 10 x 365 days means 3650 days which means around 10 years!!! I was like “What the?!? This is a complete opposite of the other book!”.

I knew the author must meant something else, so I peeked at the contents. It turned out to be a 365-days lesson, with each lesson teaching 10 words. More like a dictionary for me. Anyway, the title is one of the most serious abuse of mathematical notation that I’ve encountered.