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Reviews by Allen Childs (MistaKefka)

501 Japanese verbs

This could-be essential book is a neccesity for learning Japanese. You can study lots of verbs of each type to learn how they all conjugate, and build your vocab by looking up verbs when translating written Japanese. I would recommend this to ANYONE, but I've found another book with more verbs (the Complete Japanese Verb Guide). Still, I would get them both, because I'm sure there are some verbs in both that aren't in the other.

The Complete Japanese Verb Guide

Great learning tool. Lots of verbs (over 600) with conjugation rules. Verbs are tough in Nihongo, but you can master them with this book. See also my review of 501 Japanese Verbs.

Let's Learn Katakana

(This review also covers Let's Learn Hiragana).

These books are what I used to learn Hiragana and Katakana. I actually just copied the Hiragana and Katakana out of these onto flash cards and learned them that way, so these books weren't actually must-haves for me, even at the time, but they are nice for starting out, and provide more things (explaining the differences in the alphabets, practice drills, etc.) than something like the kana chart in the front of a dictionary, therefore, I would recommend this be your first purchase in learning to read Japanese.

Kanji Pict-o-graphix

In a way, great, in another, terrible. You might as well get Henshall's, as this guy even used Henshall's definitions and half of his mnemonics. That would be ok, BUT, A. it, unlike Henshall's, doesn't have the exact definiton in the paragraph below, only a basic one and B. it doesn't cover all of the Joyo Kanji. Great to learn a few hundred Kanji, but it will only take you so far (i.e. not far at all)

Kanji ABC - A Systematic Approach to Japanese Characters

A nice way of learning the english definitions of Kanji. Besides that, it's next to worthless. It doesn't have compounds, history, etc. and sometimes just knowing the Kanji that make up all of the Kanji just doesn't cut it in terms of mnemonics. Average, but Henshall's still triumphs IMHO.

Essential Kanji

Covers all of the Joyo Kanji plus some, and it pretty good. It's not near as in depth as Henshall's book, as it doesn't have historical meaning, mnemonics, etc. but it does have stroke order, readings, compounds, good definitons, etc. and is very cheap and compact. You'll outgrow this quicker than Henshall's, but it's still nice in its own way.

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters

I feel that of all of the Japanese instructional books I own, this one takes the most dominance over anything in its catagory. Why? It has all of the Joyo Kanji, an ON-KUN index, the history of every kanji, the readings for every Kanji, example compounds for every Kanji, a section about stroke ... read more

Merriam Webster's Japanese-English Learners Dictioanary

While still not as advanced as I would like, I can find most nouns and verbs in this dictionary. I don't like the definitions it gives for particles, but it has lots of pictures and a nice hardback cover, it still isn't perfect due to the "Learners" part, which gives you a good idea about the word level. The best I've come across with about a year of Japanese study, but to be honest, I haven't really hunted.

Kodansha's Romanized Japanese-English Dictionary

While not as complete as I would like, this dictionary would be great for beginners. It's moderately expensive ($25 when I bought it), but it's small so it's easy to travel with (unlike my favorite J-E Dictionary, Merriam Webster's) and also has a nice, durable, floppy leather-esque cover. Features include 16,000 vocabluary, easy to understand definitions, and alphabetical romized entries. It would be perfect if not for the slightly small word count.

New Japanese-English Character Dictionary

Great! While I've heard Nelson's has more compounds and Kanji, the Halpern dictionary is very easy to use, while I've heard Nelson's is not. I've (attempted to) translate lots of things, and I can find almost every compound. I like the look-up system (very nice for simpler kanji, and only ... read more

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