The linguistic leap from English to Japanese is a major one. The grammars of the two languages have nothing in common, and the writing systems are, if anything, even further apart. Unfortunately, most textbooks for English-speakers wishing to learn Japanese focus too much at the outset on these two most formidable hurdles: Japanese grammar and writing.
Four Japanese teachers from the Iidabashi Japanese Language School in Tokyo came to the rescue with Nihongo Fun & Easy. They developed it based on their extensive experience of teaching English speakers their native language.
I talked to two of the four textbook writers, Ms. Yukiko Ogata and Ms. Kana Sumitani (see photo at top).
The two authors made it clear throughout that the aim of Nihongo Fun and Easy is “to help beginner students, including those with no knowledge of the Japanese language, acquire natural-sounding, essential Japanese that can be used immediately in daily conversation.”
Their motivation for the project came directly from their observing that the kind of textbook they wanted was unavailable, and that the only way to get it was to do it themselves.
The focus is almost solely on Japanese as it is used, not as it is defined in “the textbooks.” Therefore, it is unique in that it frequently omits particles (the equivalents of “the,” “to,” “of,” “at,” etc.) that are difficult to use correctly for English-speaking learners of Japanese, but which, happily, are often omitted in everyday language by the Japanese themselves, or, even if used, can easily be done away with without compromising comprehension.
In other words, this textbook is the ultimate practical guide to getting across what you want to say, and to getting the drift of what you’re being told.
There are ample opportunities throughout Nihongo Fun and Easy for using what you have acquired and testing yourself. Everything, everything, everything is based on practical situations that the learner is sure to encounter in everyday life in Japan. Dialogs aplenty; abstraction, none. The end of each of the 12 chapters is enormously motivational with its simple device of inviting the student to check off a short list of “Now I can…” skills.