For the English-speaking short-term traveler to Japan,
webjapanese.com has just published the supremely practical "7 Days 60
Minutes Japanese: Just An Hour in Study Gives You the Confidence to
Spend a Week in Japan." (There is also a Chinese version.)
"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" opens with the very true "Writing and reading Japanese is tricky but speaking Japanese is not that hard," which it sets out to demonstrate in a compact (only 1437-location long) ebook.
The book's approach to the Japanese language is strictly functional, and the patterns taught are so basic as to barely warrant the term "grammar." Written specifically for reading on the plane, this book requires only minimal effort and, by keeping it on hand, will get the foreign traveler through most situations in Japan.
"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is chatty and reassuring in tone, logical in its approach, and clean in its layout. Best of all, it fully recognizes how much typical Japanese utterances rely on context to make sense. This enables the learner to get away with mastering only the simplest of constructs, letting the realities of the situation, gestures facial expressions and the like take care of the rest.
"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" covers the bare bones of the Japanese language in just three chapters covering "Three sentence patterns to say what you want," "Further communication," and "tips." These cover all the essentials such as greetings, conveying necessary information, addressing problems, and even "eighteen survival kanji [Japanese characters]." The fourth chapter is an appendix for reference, especially suited to the e-book search function to find words you need on the spot.
One minor criticism that might be leveled at "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is that it doubles up vowels to represent long vowels, for example, spelling the word for police (pronounced "kay-satsu") as "keesatsu," which to the native English speaker looks for all the world like "key-satsu"; or "doozo" for what is pronounced "doh-zo." So, before tackling the Japanese, the reader has to get familiar with a somewhat unintuitive spelling system. Fortunately, webjapanese.com has audiovisual clips where you can listen to pronunciation directly.
The English in "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is not perfect in terms of spelling and grammar, but the mistakes are too minor to distract.
All in all, if you're game to try and talk your own way through Japan on your trip here, this is the book for you: convivial, logical and very, very practical. And as it says at the end "Don't worry! [The Japanese] don't expect much from you." (Albeit words that, alas, take on more meaning the longer you live here!)
Get "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" through webjapanese.com.
Inside Track Japan For Kindle