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Book - Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar

#1
If you're plotting a path to Japanese literacy, make this book one of your way points.

Featured in a blog post on AJATT, Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar (UBJG) does something unusual for a Japanese textbook. It gives you loads of sample sentences while minimizing the amount of verbose grammar rules and practice areas that feature in most other textbooks. The theory of the book's author is that you'll use this book as a supplement to your main way of studying Japanese.

What I and others are doing is taking the sentences and putting them in our SRS.

Pro's - Roughly 2000 sentences that develop in the order of standard Japanese grammar textbooks. This means that each sentence is building on what you've already learned in addition to adding just a little something new (essentially a ready made +1 method).

Kanji text with furigana and english translations.

Contextual sentences with virtually no vocabulary lists (well, may be a con in some people's eyes).

Con's - Repetitive at times.

Limited use of Kanji - tends to use only upto JLPT 3 kanji (easy to work around with a IME).

Essentially only presented in polite version - very limited in plain sentences (again, this is easy to work around if you want to).

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Not the best review for such an outstanding book. Anyway, I've been using this book since about January. Unfortunately, I've only entered in sentences from Part 1. I'm really bad about sitting down to type in sentences (the AJATT google group has been a god send here). Also, for the last month I've been using KO2001. Regardless, just that one chapter has been a big help. So much in fact, that I'm revisiting UBJG after deciding to put KO2001 on hold.

What I'm currently doing: editing my Anki deck so that EVERY sentence will be numbered in an orderly fashion (ex: 02-02-04-01 will be Part 2, Unit II, Section 4, Sentence 1) so that I can share the deck in a more reasonable manner. This will also help exporting to a spread sheet.

Editing the sentences: so that each entry comes from a "bolded text" sentence (a sentence in the book that has a term bolded, meaning it's in reference to the section at hand), which helps reduce the repetitiveness problem. Limited to one sentence if at all possible, which means I'll enter in the omitted subject when context would not be there. NO SPEAKER identifiers such a " A : spoken line", it'll instead be "spoken line" only.

Seeing how well this book and KO2001 have been doing for my learning, I'm determined to finish both now. In fact, this helps fill in the gaps needed to learn Japanese to the "advanced" level in "only" one year.

RTK1 (and RevTK naturally) - 4 months (20 a day)
Hiragana and Katakana - 1 week
UBJG - 2 months (20 sentences a day)
KO2001 pt1 - 3 months (5 kanji a day)
KO2001 pt2 - 3 months (5 kanji a day)
RTK3 - N/A (you'll do it simultaneously with KO2001 at 30 kanji per week)

EVERYTHING is constantly being reviewed in an SRS (don't stop RTK or UBJG just because you moved onto KO2001). In addition, (just like AJATT advices), you're listening and watching (and later reading) a god awful amount of Japanese.

By the end of all this, a dedicated self learner should now be able to mine any and all Japanese resources using Japanese only. That's all with the investment of 100 dollars or so.

Ok, I've said way too much. Disagree or agree, but please post opinions and suggestions.
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#2
NukeMarine, thanks a lot of this outstanding review. Even though you claim it is not the best review for such an outstanding book (personally I don't think it could have been done a lot better), it is still very helpful for people trying to determine what sort of books to spend their hard-earned money on.

Apart from that:

Is anyone able to make an in-depth comparison between Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar and A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar? It would be very much appreciated.
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#3
I can't wait to get a copy. I'll get one after RTK 1.....which still hasn't shipped yet...siigh
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#4
Nest0r, the "+1" is like you said. You do not add sentence with too many new items. Nor would you add sentences that essentially has nothing new (rearranged words, different adverb that you already knew, different number, etc.). Incremental growth.

This was not a problem with UBJG. I didn't even think about it. When doing KO2001, I quickly was hitting problems. I could get 4 or 5 new words in a sentence in addition to a new grammar concept. It was partly due to this that led me back to UBJG. In addition, it was the single sentences of KO that made me realize I was making my entries too long for UBJG (this was diluting my +1 I guess). Guess I could add that a con is the sentences are not always cleanly given (again, easy to work around).

It's funny, this is stuff Khatzumoto warns or tells us about EARLY on. Yet, I just didn't realize it or consider how important it really can be. Such is growing pains.

Yes, I will start posting a spreadsheet on AJATT google groups once I'm done with Part 1 (well, and return to Japan). Like with KO2001, anyone that can provide a modest amount of proof of ownership can be given viewing rights.
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#5
Yeah, I'll second Nuke's opinion. UBJG starts off slow, but by part III, it really starts to pick up momentum. The sentences tend to the dull side at first, but they get a little better over time. I'd say it easily covers everything in Genki I, as well as a lot of stuff from Genki II (Like passive, causative, and passive-causative.)

It's much easier to mine than a textbook, but it would work well if you had both Genkis, or JFE to use for explanations that you may need. (Or ADBJG)

It's main weakness is vocab-- it's not big on a lot of new vocab, so if you already know a lot, it's going to be a bit dull. But it does an excellent job of giving you solid grammatically correct sentences. You might consider raiding a textbook for extra grammar, or something like that.

On the other hand, having a limited vocab makes this book really handy, because vocab won't get in the way of you understanding a concept.

Comparing UBJG to ADBJG is like comparing apples and oranges. UBJG is designed to be approached from page 1 to page 197, sequentially. ADBJG is a reference book, to be accessed for whatever you need clarification on. Approaching it sequentially will work, but you'll have to process the whole book to get the whole picture. (And it's ~600 pages.) I keep staring at my copy of ADBJG, thinking, "It's full of good info, but how the hell would I organize this mess?" I suppose there you could just use it as backup for whatever text you're following.

I have similar issues with All About Particles-- it goes over particles by name, not by function, so you go through everything about は first, even the obscure uses, then が, etc.

+1 is the idea that you should only add one new thing at a time per sentence for maximum efficiency. The idea is that if you cram a bunch of new vocab into one sentence, you're going to keep failing it until you nail all the vocab. More vocab you're trying to learn = more chances to fail the sentence. More fails = more needless reviews.

Same goes for grammar-- don't try to incorporate a lot of alien grammar concepts into sentence. An ideal sentence would have one new vocab word, and one new grammar concept.

That's the theory. The reality is that it's impossible to do it that way. (And it's really slow that way, too.) So when you have a sentence with a bunch of potential fail points, you just have to work around it by either: adding new short sentences for each new word, highlighting each new word in a separate card for the sentence, so only that word is being tested, or just drilling words separately without sentences. (Or just studying the sentence a lot before entering it into your SRS.)

It's all about managing potential fail points, I guess.
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#6
roderik Wrote:Is anyone able to make an in-depth comparison between Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar and A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar? It would be very much appreciated.
I can't do in-depth given that I don't have the UBJG book. But from what I've seen UBJG is much more a of a textbook style approach in that it gives logical progression to the grammar.

The dictionary, as it says, is a dictionary; you look up grammatical items in it and they are organized by letter. If you're from the beginner to low-intermediate level, you'll probably need something else to supplement and organize your studies (if organization is your preference).

The dictionary provides really in-depth explanations with usually at least around 5-10 example sentences (upwards to maybe 15) per item. It also does a real good job of noting whether something is just used in written or spoken Japanese, sort of formal or not formal, and sometimes also noting phrases that you can substitute (and comparing when it is appropriate to substitute and when it is not).
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#7
On the topic of "Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", the third volume in the series "A Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar" was just released. The Umeda Kinokuniya's website said they were in stock, but by the time I got down to the store a few hours later they were sold out Sad

Now I have to wait 2 weeks for a special order unless they get some in a normal shipment.

rich_f Wrote:I keep staring at my copy of ADBJG, thinking, "It's full of good info, but how the hell would I organize this mess?" I suppose there you could just use it as backup for whatever text you're following.
As the title of the book suggests, it's basic grammar. You should know and use the entire contents of the book in normal speech. Once you're into the intermediate book you can start being more selective. When I first got the basic book I read it from cover to cover (at work Big Grin) and it was immensely useful.
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#8
FYI, for those of us in the US, thejapanshop.com has DAJG on preorder for a discounted price.

I don't have UBJG, but I would recommend Assimil Japanese with Ease as another good starter pack of sentences. The lessons are comprised of fun dialogs of varying politeness levels and include over 1000 sentences, ~1800 vocabulary, and ~900 kanji. Audio cds are available as well. I bought the Assimil course last year and entered all the sentences into an SRS and to this day I'm impressed at how much material is packed into those lessons.

Negatives? Well, because the lessons are so rich in material there are going to be many sentences of greater than (+1) in difficulty, but you can break those down into separate cards if you wish. That said, I happen to feel the tough sentences are good preparation for reading real Japanese.

Also, some people are bothered by the use of romaji along with the kana and kanji, but it doesn't bother me. The romaji is useful for entering the sentences using IME and once in the SRS you never see it again.

Finally, since the course was not written with the JLPT in mind you would have to do some extra studying if you want to pass JLPT 3.

As for DBJG and the other books in the series, I am working my way through them from cover to cover, which is fine for someone who has studied some Japanese already. However, I don't think I'd recommend doing that for an absolute beginner.
Edited: 2008-05-18, 6:35 pm
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#9
why don't you guys use yesjapan.com 's website to help you learn japanese? they have an
awesome kanji+ mode that you can study in that uses a lot of the kanji in the Remembering the Kanji 1 + 3 books... i have been a member for quite a while now... i'm going through the RtK books right now and i plan on applying them to the YesJapan lessons when i finish... i think yesjapan.com has a free 7-day trial so you guys should really check it out ^_^
Edited: 2008-05-18, 11:38 pm
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#10
Hashiriya Wrote:why don't you guys use yesjapan.com 's website to help you learn japanese? they have an
awesome kanji+ mode that you can study in that uses a lot of the kanji in the Remembering the Kanji 1 + 3 books... i have been a member for quite a while now... i'm going through the RtK books right now and i plan on applying them to the YesJapan lessons when i finish... i think yesjapan.com has a free 7-day trial so you guys should really check it out ^_^
This may be a very good resource, but I think it would be better to say this in a thread of its own.

Edit: After further examination of said website I'm convinced the above post is merely an advertisement.

On UBJG, I've worked through adding sentences all the way up to the last section of complex structures. It has been very useful, however I haven't been adding every sentence due to the repetativeness of it. I thought that it might be counter-intuitive to the SRS method to add every single sentence.
Edited: 2008-05-19, 1:01 am
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#11
not an advertisement at all... like i said i've been a paying member a long time... you really don't think that is a good website to pull sentences and vocabulary from??? it's great in my opinion... i know another member here on this website (Codexus) that is a member there also... he is the one that actually referred me to this website to help learn the kanji...
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#12
Yes, the vocabulary is recycled quite a lot, so you are learning grammar mainly. I too think this is a great thing. Also, I don't think the same words in different combinations is necessarily a problem with an SRS. The structures are varied, an SRS is not only to cram vocab. Also, it's not hurtful to see a word more regularly, it is merely a little less efficient to remember that word, however, when you start reading you are going to see some words extremely often anyway.
Edited: 2008-05-19, 6:18 am
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#13
Nest0r, it's hard to quantify, but you'll see a repeated concept and almost verbatim repeated sentence. However, after re-editing my deck (adding in numbering scheme and including the grammar concept of the area), I think the repetetiveness label was a bit overused by me. If you entered EVERY sentence into Anki, it'll be repetitive. If you entered ONLY the sentences that holds that areas grammar concept, it does not get repetitive. This will be important in Part 3 and 4 where you're given paragraphs that hold grammar concepts.

By splitting up my entries into single sentences, even by just doing the grammar concept sentences, I still ended up with more cards. But those cards hold more oomph.

Not sure about unique vocabulary, but unique kanji in Part 1 (about 50 pages of the book) via Anki is about 300 kanji in 400 sentences. Granted, I try to convert as many words as I can, even the "usually kana" ones so long as the reading is not unusual.
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#14
This book sounds interesting.

Is there an Intermediate or advanced version?
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#15
here's a question i want to ask you guys that are learning from textbooks... how do you know you are learning the right accent when you study? i think words like 何時 itsu and
鹿 shika are kinda of difficult to learn without hearing the way they are pronounced a few times but maybe that is just me... maybe these have cds or something that come with them i don't know...
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#16
Hashiriya Wrote:here's a question i want to ask you guys that are learning from textbooks... how do you know you are learning the right accent when you study? i think words like 何時 itsu and
鹿 shika are kinda of difficult to learn without hearing the way they are pronounced a few times but maybe that is just me... maybe these have cds or something that come with them i don't know...
You don't know the right accent. But then, you're using the books to get a base knowledge so that you can get the real learning....from TV, Movies, Manga, Books, etc. In the AJATT thread, there's a discussion about the text to voice where the "ga" is actually more "nga" so you have merit in your concern.

One boring solution is use Pimsleur which stresses pronunciation (I say boring as it is SLOOOOOOW, and it would be great if someone could import that sound data into Anki). Definately continue listening to Japanes. If you have someone that can correct you go that route too.
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#17
A quick note, it's pretty unusual to read 何時 as いつ - usually it's なんじ

I think I get most of my pronunciation/accent just from watching Japanese shows and listening to people talk. You can never really get the accent right just from written notes/explanations. You could try joining a site like Mixxer or another language exchange site that lets you chat with people on Skype.
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#18
thanks for the kanji correction ^_^ i'm still working on kanji combinations Tongue i was just going to say that one of the reasons i like yesjapan.com was that it does have sounds files for all of the vocabulary/sentences in its lessons... is it possible to somehow input them into anki too??? that would be really nice ^_^
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#19
Hashiriya Wrote:here's a question i want to ask you guys that are learning from textbooks... how do you know you are learning the right accent when you study? i think words like 何時 itsu and
鹿 shika are kinda of difficult to learn without hearing the way they are pronounced a few times but maybe that is just me... maybe these have cds or something that come with them i don't know...
Like I mentioned above, the Assimil Japanese course comes with audio cds for all the material.
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#20
Nukemarine Wrote:One boring solution is use Pimsleur which stresses pronunciation (I say boring as it is SLOOOOOOW, and it would be great if someone could import that sound data into Anki).
Yeah, I just thought of that too the other day, an anki version Pimsleur would be awesome! Anyone tried making one?
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#21
I second Assimil, a great course with lots of words and short dialogues which you can shadow over and over.
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#22
phauna Wrote:I second Assimil, a great course with lots of words and short dialogues which you can shadow over and over.
Yet another Assimil fan here as well. It really seems like it was made for those who have finished (or have made decent progress through) RevTK as it gives you all the tools needed to build on your kanji studies for the complete n00b...(1) grammar (2) vocab (3) audio dialogs (4) many commonly encountered kanji readings and (5) a ready made starter sentence pack to enter into your SRS. Sheetz's Language Learning Log was a real inspiration for my buying this & I'm glad I did.

http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/for...PN=1&TPN=1

UBJG seems like a great resource as well (for the SRS crowd in particular) & I will certainly be checking it out. Really reasonable price too! UBJG & 2001KO both seem like logical continuations of RevTK & are on my to buy list once I finish with my current learning materials (Pimsleur, Assimil, & RevTK).
Edited: 2008-05-22, 9:51 am
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#23
Kind of off-topic (sorry... T_T), but is it worth spending 90 euros in buying Assimil with audio? I say it because the book without the audio is just 20 euros...
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#24
A: Amazon.co.uk has used books and audio tapes for sale for a much, much lower price.
B: the Audio is for download on various torrent websites, the book isn't.
C: People are recommending it in it's complete form, hence: yes, it is worth it according to all of the people who have recommended Assimil so far. Tongue
Edited: 2008-05-22, 9:24 am
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#25
Thanks for the information, roderik. I'll probably end up buying the book, as so many people recommend it. Big Grin
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