Book Review: The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook

The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook:

1800 Sentences for Everyday Use

by Kit Pancoast Nagamura and Kyoko Tsuchiya

Japanese Narrated by Reiko Matsunaga and Tatsuhiro Nishinosono

English Narrated by Katie Adler and Jeff Gedert

I don’t normally read or write book reviews myself. Mostly because I get sad I can’t go buy it and use it, and also that I’m all about the free. However once in a while I run along a book that I just can’t not tell you about it. This would be that book. Every time I go into a book store I look at the language area and laugh at all the “learn in 10 minutes a day” pamphlets and $400 “kits” that promise fluency like no other. Horrible dictionaries and kanji workbooks that are more boring and shackling as a prison sentence.

Yet, amidst all the horribleness there was a shining jewel of fun. I saw it a few months ago and passed it off after flipping only through the first chapter, as most of it was just a tad to basic for me. But when I went today, I noticed the rest of the book, and then proceeded to kick myself for not looking past the first chapter last time. I snickered and giggled on the way home, testing out such gems like “I want you/あなたがほしい。。。” on my lovely Doug.

So straight to the info in beautiful bullet formats:

  • CD with native audio for all sentences, English followed by its Japanese counter part (mix of females and males)
  • Sentence: English – Japanese (kanji and furigana) – roman characters
  • Chapters easily divided and quick look up
  • No long paragraphs to waste your time, straight to the good stuff, sentence after sentence with a few tip sections
  • Covers a variety of situations from greetings to travel to eating to shopping to talking about feelings to pillow talk
  • Gender neutral responses (a handful have both male and female counterparts)
  • Compact size
  • Large font, so even the furigana is easily read

Honestly I don’t see any cons with this at all, except maybe that pesky roman system there detracting you from reading the real deal. It’s not even overly proper either, but yet it’s not improper, you could really use these sentences on a daily basis. It’s actually the first book I’ve seen like this-just a collection of super useful daily phrases for all sorts of situations. No wasting time on crappy boring sentences but rather things like “he’s got balls of steel”.


I’m not kidding.

He’s got balls of steel!      “彼は、肝っ玉がすわっている。”

There are so many useful expressions and then there are those that are just plain hilarious and useful, things you’d find yourself saying all the time, things you gossip about and laugh over. Fun things like: “I want you”; “she’s a hottie”; “he’s got a cute butt”; “she has great boobs”; “he’s a total suck up”. Honestly if you’re starting out in your quest for sentences, then I recommend you get this book. If you’re not studying the sentence mining method, that’s okay too. These are good for anyone to learn.

For those who are sentence mining, simply copy the audio you want, paste that sucker in the srs and bam! there ya go! Don’t even try to understand the grammar or anything, just have fun with them.

Another thing I should point out is that the sentences are not grammatical written expressions, rather they’re phrases. They are conversation/speaking (colloquial) form, not written form. So you wont be writing a book with these sentences unless your characters are saying these phrases.

Anyways, here in the old South Carolina it was $25 brand new from Barnes and Noble which isn’t too bad considering the wealth of knowledge that you get for it. The book is really durable feeling too, and that’s a plus with me when your sneaky little daughter likes to destroy, I mean “read” all books within her grasp.

If you don’t know the value of learning through sentences, then I recommend you listen to Jerry Dai on youtube as he talks about how it applies to Chinese (and it applies to any language). Or more on Sentence Mining from AJATT. Or Antimoon’s take on sentences through the Input Method.

2 Responses to “Book Review: The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook”
  1. Lan'dorien says:

    I’m not a fan of phrasebooks but this looks really interesting. In particular I like the idea of having a collection of written sentences that are in colloquial spoken form – that’s actually a little hard to find it seems, so sentence mining ends up being top-heavy with literary Japanese. Thanks for the review!

  2. mikotoneko says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean. To me most phrasebooks are kinda worthless, as the Japanese used is very formal and really geared towards travelers only, and usually don’t even have any true written Japanese in them.
    This one is largely geared towards having fun conversations about a variety of subjects from public to private.

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  • Read More or Die! 2011

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