Today I’m going to share my A Dictionary Of Basic Japanese Grammar review, which is a book that was written back in the 80s by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui.
As you can tell from the name of the book, it’s focused on Japanese grammar. What you can’t tell from just the title is that this book is over 600 pages long!
Having gone through the book and listened to what others have to say, I will share what I feel are the best parts of the book and a couple things to keep in mind before getting it.
Part of a Series
One thing that should be mentioned is that this book is the first in a three part series. There is also a book that covers intermediate grammar, and a book that covers advanced grammar.
I haven’t gone through those yet (although I do own the second one), so I won’t talk too much about them here unless I feel it’s necessary.
What I’ve heard from other people who own all three is that the beginner book is the essential one to get, and that you probably only need the other two if you’re planning on taking the N1 or N2 of the JLPT.
That being said, if you do get the basic book and find that it lacks some grammar patterns that you’re trying to learn, there’s a good chance it’s located in one of the other two books.
Contents and Format
It’s a pretty big book and the beginning of it covers a lot of information such as the abbreviations used throughout, lots of grammar terminology, and some aspects of the Japanese language.
I think if you’re still pretty new to Japanese, then it would be worth going over, but if you’ve been studying for a couple months then you could probably skip this section.
The main body of the book organizes each grammar concept in alphabetical order by romaji.
So an entry like あまり (amari) would come before から (kara).
You get the word and its explanation first, then there is a key sentence that has each part broken down piece by piece so that you can see how it works.
After that, you get some additional examples to go over and reinforce how it works.
Finally, you get any additional notes that are helpful for understanding additional aspect of it.
Finally, there are a ton of indexes at the end of the book that cover things like pairs of transitive and intransitive verbs, counters, the “ko-so-a-do” and a lot more.
What it Does Well
The book does a really great job at explaining how each grammar pattern works and how we would say the same thing in English.
It then provides a lot of helpful Japanese examples that help the reader see and fully understand it.
From my experience, having lots and lots of example sentences to read and review later on is by far the best way to learn new grammar patterns.
I think the reason is that grammar is an abstract concept. At least for me, it always took a little extra work to remember it compared to other vocabulary like nouns or verbs.
Anyway, for some of the entries you also get notes from the authors that might explain a nuance to the grammar, or talk about certain situations where there are exceptions.
I liked these since it helped gain a deeper understanding of the grammar being discussed.
The way that I used this book was to have it as a reference. Anytime I would run into a new piece of grammar that I hadn’t seen before, I would go to the book and look it up.
By reading the explanation and examples, and then going back to the place where I first ran into it, I was able to acquire the new patterns fairly easily.
This was back when I used a lot of flashcards to help review what I had learned, so there were many times when I created a card based off of the example sentence.
What it’s Not
This book is not a Japanese textbook that slowly and systematically introduces the language to new students. It kind of just throws you into things with the Japanese words and examples that are used to illustrate a grammar concept.
What most people I’ve talk to say is that you’ll get the most out of the book once you’ve already learned the most common features of the Japanese language.
If you can read hiragana and katakana, and are familiar with the most basic aspects of the language like particles, how to conjugate verbs, and word order, then you will probably be ready to use this book and get the most out of it.
So, I guess it would be best to pair this book with a beginner course or something. That way you can look up confusing grammar patterns in the book while you progress through the main learning materials.
Another thing that a lot of people didn’t like was the fact that the book uses romaji for the readings of all words.
I think they do this so that it’s accessible to everyone, since they use a lot of kanji throughout the book, but I suppose they could have used furigana for those it they had wanted to.
When I took a look at the intermediate book, I saw that romaji had been completely eliminated, so this reinforces my belief that it’s used in the first one simply because it’s the “basic” book out of the three.
At any rate, I didn’t find that the romaji was too detrimental to the learning experience so I was personally okay with it.
Where to Find it
The explanations and examples in this book made learning new grammar patterns easy. And having over 600 pages of information organized into a dictionary format made finding the right ones a piece of cake.
It’s the best book on Japanese grammar I’ve ever used.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the book.