Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook by Nagamura & Tsuchiya

Score:
9 / 10
Pros:
great range of phrases for travelers to Japan or Japanese language enthusiasts; audio CD reads phrases aloud to you; clean layout; easy to spot and read each phrase; good organization of topics, chapters & phrases; romaji and Japanese script for every phrase; 1800 phrases, quality print & paper

Cons:
vocabulary index cross-referencing page numbers would have been convenient; certain phrases are very specific, others less useful for non-native speakers


The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook is a friendly, organized list of 1800 Japanese phrases by theme/topic. The book is accompanied by an audio CD with mp3 readings of the Japanese phrases.

The book starts with an introduction for “newbies”, giving two pages full of short tips on pronunciation, word order and how Japanese particles work. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to browse through any of 20 chapters covering scores of conversation topics. Each topic includes as many as a dozen phrases.

The organization and use of space is commendable. The formatting sets topic headings/titles apart, making them easy to locate. Phrases in each topic are numbered, and set apart by unobtrusive dotted lines. Phrases occupy three lines – first, bold English, second, large font, readable Japanese script with furigana above kanji, and lastly, the romaji (foreigner-friendly transliteration) reading of the Japanese phrase.

The authors choose to include believable phrases that are relevant to each topic (including realistic examples you won’t find in your average phrasebook, like: “Should we pay here or at the register?”; “Could you send me the link?”; “I can never remember how to say that”). They’re neutral with respect to formality and gender. Unfortunately, some are too specific for every reader, but the range of phrases covered should alleviate any sense of irrelevance. MP3 track names from the disc are listed by each topic title, so it’s easy to keep up and listen to Japanese speakers as they pronounce the phrases.

The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook provides one of the most thorough, organized, comprehensive and interesting phrase book experiences I’ve come across in Japanese. A certain type of traveler will miss the cultural notes of more popular business and travel phrasebooks available, but this one’s hard to overlook, and easy to recommend.

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