Practice Makes Perfect: Writing Japanese Kana
January 3, 2014
Authors Rita L. Lampkin, Osamu Hoshino
Series Practice Makes Perfect
Publication Date 2014
Skill Level Beginner
Published just today, this McGraw-Hill book is a slightly updated version of Easy Kana Workbook, also published by McGraw-Hill all the way back in 1991. I liked that one, so I like this one, too.
One observation: McGraw-Hill reissues an awful lot of language books under different names or as new editions without making noticeable changes to the text. What is up with that? I haven’t noticed it much with other language publishers. I am kind of disappointed to find that I already basically own this.
Anyway. In the old and new versions, Rita L. Lampkin and Osamu Hoshino teach you in an identically helpful way how to write all the characters in the two Japanese syllabaries: hiragana and katakana. They offer identically useful explanations of the Japanese writing system, guidance on keystroke order (important!), and a great deal of writing practice. Books for unfamiliar writing systems often don’t give you nearly enough practice, so I appreciate that Lampkin and Hoshino aren’t stingy with it.
The only differences I see between Writing Japanese Kana and its 1991 ancestor are that (1) the layout is slightly improved, and (2) some additional practice exercises have been added in the back. If you are on a strict language-learning budget, buy the old version. It is cheaper and has plenty of practice even without the additional exercises. But of course, more practice is always better than less.
A Japanese difficulty alert: Don’t purchase this thinking you have Japanese writing covered, because the kana are merely a small piece of what you will have to contend with if you continue your Japanese studies. Beyond the scope of this book are the far more plentiful kanji characters, borrowed from Chinese. As the authors warn early on, “There are over 1800 kanji in common use, plus a good number of less frequently used or archaic characters.”
In other words, this is just the beginning. Still, it is a nice start.