When I review textbooks for beginners, many times I think about how great it would be if I had access to these resources years ago. But it’s great that I get to share these books with people who are just starting their journey. These days, there are so many books, and the issue is finding the right book, rather than lamenting the lack of them.
Japanese Made Easy from Tuttle is a great beginner textbook, especially if you prefer your textbook to contain more English explanations and would like a book with both the romanization and Japanese.
In general, I find Tuttle books to be relatively well structured and I like how this book is focused on sentence patterns, which aims to get learners speaking right from the start. It’s very focused on application / usage, which is great.
Each chapter is made up of about 4 lessons, and right from the start, we are introduced to a list of sentence patterns covered, along with a dialogue and vocabulary notes. More vocabulary and grammar patterns are covered in subsequent chapters, along with culture notes.
I like that they presents conjugations very clearly in such tables and it just makes it so much easier.
There’s quite a bit of vocabulary introduced and I love it.
I’m not a fan of romanization and I have been vocal about it. But over the years, I am less ‘critical’ of Korean and Japanese textbooks who keep them throughout, and I acknowledge that no two learners are the same and for some, the romanization is indeed helpful in provide more guidance until they are ready to read the script. But I find it curious why Tuttle books choose to bold and prioritize the romanization, putting it before the script. I would have thought that romanization is a tool, and hence should go after/below the script. I mean, they are still side by side, but somehow, with the bolding of the romanization, you just tend to focus on it more. That’s probably one of the biggest gripes I have with their books.
I’m learning Thai right now and the script is hard, so I do appreciate having the romanisation at times. But it just distracts me when the romanization is put in bold and comes first, my eyes keep going to that instead of the Thai script )):
On a related note, I also don’t understand why the answer key (great on having one!) is entirely in romanization. I really… don’t understand.
Another thing is that the book doesn’t seem to come with MP3 files. Which is really strange for a beginner book. I had to flip through the books several times and even now, I am still doubting my conclusion that there appears to be no audio for the book. Which is such a pity.
It is a decent beginner textbook and I would have recommended it as a possible choice for the first Japanese textbook for self-study—if there is audio.
Buy it at Tuttle.