The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook
By: James Hadfield | Oct 29, 2009 | 4 Comments | 8,637 views

How refreshing: a phrasebook that goes beyond “o-namae wa nan desu ka?” and actually tries to get you speaking like the locals. “The phrases included are specifically designed to help English speakers who plan to stay in Japan… say exactly what they want to say in colloquial Japanese,” explains Kit Pancoast Nagamura in the preface to this chunky little tome. She and co-author Kyoko Tsuchiya have succeeded on that front: their selections, arranged in sections covering everything from introductions to job applications, apartment hunting and pillow talk, lack the stiffness of the language found in most textbooks. Particles are dropped, grammar goes out the window, and it sounds a lot better for it.

The authors are sensitive to the differences between male and female speech: choice epithets like “Temee, yaruki ka?” (“You want a piece of me?”) are left strictly to the fellas, while ladies are taught to keep the creeps at bay with a curt “Hottoite kurenai? Keisatsu yobu wa yo” (“Leave me alone or I’ll call the cops”). I suspect that the lack of context—particularly a clear separation between casual and more formal language—might lead some people down the wrong track, though.

The accompanying CD, which includes MP3s of all of the phrases read by stage veterans Reiko Matsunaga and Tatsuhiro Nishinosono, is worth the price alone.



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  • monkeymixer

    Now if only I could somehow etch everyone one of these into my brain.

  • Sarah

    lol…maybe I should pick this up. I studied Japanese for 4 years and I still can’t hold a conversation and I actually did well in class….but it was boring, typical, mostly unusable Japanese. This is cool :)


    I have this book, it is very useful to help Japanese learner… I also study Japanese for around 6 months… the best way is to communicate with people…

  • frank

    It’s good to practice by speaking with people, but be prepared to listen well and understand when they answer in fast Japanese without hand gestures. :-P

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