Item description for Breakthrough Japanese: 20 Mini Lessons for Better Conversation by Hitomi Hirayama...
Japanese is a notoriously difficult language to learn. There may be no easy way to learn it, but there are ways that are easier than others. Breakthrough Japanese is a lively, reader-friendly book that amplifies and reinforces the skills gained from more conventional textbooks. Designed to stimulate or rekindle a learner's curiosity, it is packed with activities that make language speaking fun. At the same time, learners at all levels, from beginning to advanced, will find many useful expressions and speaking strategies throughout its pages. Author Hitomi Hirayama is the director of Japanese Lunch, a popular language school in Tokyo. Her teaching methods focus primarily on communication: she explains fundamental points of grammar, but with a succinctness and clarity that even advanced students will appreciate. She combines these with crossword puzzles, word games, practice conversations, proverb practice, and kanji games that make her book perfect for use in the classroom or, equally, for self-study. Hirayama makes it easier for students to finally grasp the "big concepts" like the difference between wa and ga. She also has a unique way of introducing ideas that are applicable to any Japanese conversation, such as what she calls the "large-to-small rule" of sentence structure, and the way that word order in a sentence is basically up to the speaker. Her method instills confidence and helps readers take their Japanese skills to the next level. New to the language? An old Japan-hand? Someone who has had some study, but then forgotten it all? Regardless, Breakthrough Japanese will make the language seem less formidable and more fun.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 7.5" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Nov 15, 2004
Publisher Kodansha International
ISBN 4770028733 ISBN13 9784770028730
Availability 0 units.
More About Hitomi Hirayama
HITOMI HIRAYAMA is the author of Pera-Pera Penguin, a widely popular conversation class that runs every five weeks in The Daily Yomiuri newspaper. She lives in Tokyo where she runs Japanese Lunch Co., Ltd., a language school for business people and diplomats. She has been teaching Japanese for fifteen years.
Reviews - What do customers think about Breakthrough Japanese: 20 Mini Lessons for Better Conversation?
Interesting, quirky, but not necessary for most people May 28, 2008
This book is a collection of selected newspaper column installments for English-speaking foreigners learning the Japanese language.
The writing style is memorable, witty, and engaging. It gets the point across, and I can see why the newspaper columns must have been popular.
At first, however, it is a little confusing until you realize that the intro to each chapter is written from the context of two people in Japan, using humor, talking about the language, and that "Pole-san" is the bumbling learner of Japanese asking a direct question because he is confused.
The only reason I did not give the book a 4 or 5 is because some of the information is titillating, but of limited or questionable usefulness (and even then mostly in casual conversation in Japan, as opposed to in the office). Probably the best example of this is the chapter, "Doing Sumo in Someone Else's Underwear" -- a chapter explaining some very strange Japanese sayings. At some point this information just *might* be useful for a person hearing someone say these things.
On the other hand, the explanation of "wa" vs. "ga" adds a more information to that gleaned from textbooks. The examples of how Japanese use phrases to remember phone numbers by including phonetic syllables that make up the numbers within a sentence (very different from the way we use 1 or 2 words and map them to letters on the dial pad) is a revelation and is totally ignored by any text I have come across.
The usefulness of the information in each chapter varies, and so does the content (or lack thereof) within each. Some chapters contain almost no information at all, others actually explain important conversational quirks and grammatical stumbling blocks as well or better than textbooks, and in a clearer and more memorable way.
If you think this book will be like a "guide" to "Better Conversation", you'll be disappointed, but if you want to be entertained, fit a few important lessons there, and need "one more book" to cover some points missed elsewhere, this book can refine your skills a little bit and maybe prevent you from a few select mistakes.
Maybe if you have traveled or will be traveling to Japan, this book will provide one or two "AHA!" moments that make it worth the purchase. But don't look at this as anything like "the one book you need to have" to refine your conversation, it is too lite on content for that.
Very good book - but a little spotty Dec 10, 2005
I should say first off that beginners will definitely get more from this than intermediates - by way of example, there is an entire chapter on the difference between "shiru" and "wakaru". definitely an important distinction, but also one that most intermediate students have dealt with many times before. Likewise, the chapter on "pocket phrases" and "capsule Japanese" will be familiar territory to anyone who regularly uses (or tries to) this beautiful language.
Now, before coming off as too harsh, there really are some nice parts of this book, particularly in the sections on idiomatic usage and colloquial expressions. These would make perfect textbook supplements, reminders that the language is not always formal or straightforwardly grammatically parsed. Intermediates CAN get useful info out of the book, albeit at the sacrifice of three or four less chapters than beginners. I LOVED the "Water Words" chapter (idioms using the work "mizu") and the section on body part idioms (even though I already knew a few of those, too). Here's where example sentances are so important, and this little book does not dissapoint in that regard - casual constructions like "I thought we were friends! Please don't hesitate to tell me..." Sounds useful, right?
All in all, best for second / third year students, useful for fourth and beyond. Still recommended, if only to break away from textbook Japanese (why don't any of my friends talk like that?).
Oh yes - I'd like to add that a GOLDMINE of REAL WORLD Japanese is in the book "Expressive Japanese", which this site sells, but oddly doesn't show up as related to any of the Kodansha material - although it's tougher than this book, all of the examples there are from actual soap operas or street conversations or magazine articles or manga. It makes a nice addition to this book, albeit a more challenging one. Ganbaro!
A fun, conversational approach to some quirks of Japanese Dec 1, 2004
The Daily Yomiuri's "Pera-Pera Penguin's 5-minute Japanese Class" articles are a friend to all English-speaking Japan residents, and Hitomi Hirayama's fun and useful mini-seminars are eagerly awaited. She has a flair for making some of the more arcane aspects of conversational Japanese accessible and possibly even sensible.
From these columns the best 20 of her articles have been culled and collected into "Breakthrough Japanese: 20 mini lessons for better conversation." Inside are such perennial stumpers as the difference between "wakarimasen" and "shirimasen," the subtleties of "hai" beyond translating it as "yes," that elusive particle "ga" as well as a host of little hints to smooth daily life. There is a definite conversation approach, as opposed to a grammar approach, and much of this is "non-classroom" Japanese, such as advice on when to drop particles and such.
The format of the lessons is interesting, including puzzles, pictures and witticisms. The author has injected her own personality into the language learning, as the best teachers will do. All of the lessons are supported by quizzes and plenty of practical work. Each lesson can be done on the fly, and the book is a great supplemental lunch time study aid. Of course, all of the Japanese is in kana as well as romaji.
The level is suitable for advanced beginners to low-advanced level students of Japanese. A fresh beginner should probably get the hang of kana and basic sentence structure before diving into "Breakthrough Japanese," but they will soon be a level to appreciate and make use of Hirayama-sensei's style. Now if only her school, Japanese Lunch, was in my town! I would sign up for a course right away! I hope that this is the beginning of a series, and that more "Pera-Pera Penguin" articles will be collected for future volumes.