Read & Speak Japanese for Beginners (with CD)
March 10, 2013
Author Helen Bagley
Series Read & Speak for Beginners
Publication Date 2004
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
I found Read & Speak Japanese for Beginners by Helen Bagley just impossible given the challenges of the Japanese writing system. On principle, the books in this Read & Speak series—which are offered across multiple languages—do not give you systematic training in writing. Their philosophy is, look at the word and listen to the sound of it on the CD and connect it all in your brain.
Well, to the English-speaking brain, Japanese symbols are totally alien, so this notion is ridiculous. The list of key words on page 5, with a combination of three different writing systems—including the complex Chinese characters known as kanji, used by the thousands in Japanese—simply are not accessible or memorable with a glance of the eyeball.
This is my objection to a lot of the concept books or products that are applied with the same format across multiple languages. There are too many differences among languages for this to work, and the gap between written Japanese and English is enormous. Too enormous for a reductive approach like this.
Read & Speak Japanese for Beginners quickly became impenetrable to me. Use this book only if you already know a lot and if you are seeking some light, childishly fun entertainment.
It’s insulting to me as a language learner to see a product like this. I don’t blame the writer so much as the publisher for trying to do something gimmicky, simplistic, and standardized across dissimilar situations.
Note: A newer, second edition of Read & Speak Japanese for Beginners has been published since I used this one.