Japanese Kanji & Kana: A Complete Guide to The Japanese Writing System
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  • Japanese Kanji & Kana: A Complete Guide to The Japanese Writing System
  • Wolfgang Hadamitzky
  • Published by: Tuttle Publishing
  • Level: Beginner
  • First Published in: 2012

A self study course book to help Japanese language students study the different aspects of the Japanese writing system. The book provides a brief history of the language, writing and punctuation exercises, Romanization and definitions of common Kanji characters.

Review posted: 15/10/2013
Have you used this book?

One of the most difficult aspects of learning Japanese is writing. I have met many people who can speak the language somewhat fluently, but when the time comes to write they sometimes lack the skills to construct one or even two complete sentences. Many Japanese courses focus on teaching writing skills, but many fail to provide an effective way to get students to retain the information.

Japanese Kanji and Kana is a great book to use when you want to learn how to properly write in Japanese. The introduction explains the history of the Japanese writing system and gives a thorough explanation of the different kinds of “alphabets” used in Japan. The book explains the differences between Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana writing systems. For those who are not familiar with this topic, here is a brief overview of what these symbols mean:

Kanji: These characters are adopted from the Chinese language and are used to express concepts and words (mostly verbs, nouns, and adjectives).

Hiragana: relates to syllables, particles, specific Japanese titles (-san and –chan) and prefixes/suffixes.

Katakana: are used to write foreign names or words of foreign origin. Many times Katakana can be used to write something out phonetically.

The book gives examples and explains how the Japanese writing system became what it is today. This section also gives the reader printed and handwritten examples of each character in order to become familiar with the differences and not confuse one character with another. The introduction comes to a close with a number of tables which explain a few basic written and pronunciation rules. If you do not have past experience studying Japanese I would recommend skipping this part and simply coming back to it when you have worked a bit more with the book.

After the introduction, the book is basically a very long but informative list of characters and definitions. The most important part of this book is the list of “Joyo Kanji” or daily use characters. These are the characters that elementary school children and foreigners are first taught. After this list is introduced there is a set of more uncommon words specific to certain situations (business, academics, art, etc.). I have to mention that this book doesn’t necessarily have to be followed in a specific order, but it would be a smart idea to work with the book from beginning to end.

"Japanese is considered one of the most difficult languages for Westerners to master so practicing written Japanese is an essential part of the learning process."- Wolfgang Hadamitzky (Author)

This book is great for helping students learn and memorize the different Japanese characters, but I have to emphasize that having at least some prior knowledge of Japanese is important for working with this book. The true beginner will most likely become overwhelmed with all the information and might even feel intimidated just by reading the introduction. Many people who choose to learn Japanese try to find quick and easy ways to learn how to write, but writing in this language takes dedication and patience. Using this book will not make you a writing or reading expert in a matter of months, but it will certainly make a huge difference.

The only thing I would have liked to see in this book is a few more writing activities to help the student use and retain the information. Aside from that, the book is an extremely helpful tool and it is perfect to use alongside another course book or in a group class.

Teachers most likely will not find much useful information in this book since it is essentially a dictionary of Japanese characters.Those who will get the most benefit are self-study learners or students who are taking Japanese classes and would like some extra practice outside of the classroom.

Review posted: 20/01/2014
Have you used this book?

Three months may seem like a long time depending on what we’re talking about, but for learning a language, it’s a very short time. Japanese in Three Months makes it possible to get a good grasp of a brand new language in a short period of time. All it takes is Hugo’s simplified system, plenty of practice and in three months you could go from knowing nothing to having a clear understanding of the Japanese language.


The “Hugo simplified system” is a method where the lesson material is first worked on in English and then Japanese is introduced as the lesson progresses. In each lesson, common verbs and phrases are also grouped together in a specific way to make the new information easier to remember. This method is a good technique but it requires some focus and discipline on the student’s part.

Throughout the book there are 20 chapters which focus on a more technical form of Japanese which places very little attention on conversational skills. For example, the units focus on teaching grammatical aspects (relative clauses, the causative form, indirect speech etc.) in a very organized and structured manner. Lots of important language points are also taught throughout the chapters including expressing interests, comparing, and making predictions. The book has many dialogues that are written in English and Romaji (Japanese written in the Latin alphabet) so it’s easy to decipher how to say what you’ve just read. There are also lots of explanations, translations and exercises. Most of the exercises in each unit consist of translating English sentences into Japanese, which may be a bit repetitive. All of the Japanese sentences and texts are also translated into English so anyone can work with this book even if they don’t have any previous knowledge of the language.

In each unit, the student will learn different grammar points ranging from the simple (verbs, questions, verb tenses etc.) to the more complex structures (idioms, indirect speech, passive voice etc.). In every lesson there are usually sample dialogues in English and Japanese, vocabulary lists, translation exercises and some key notes that give extra information about certain phrases. This flow is maintained throughout each lesson and it helps students gain a proper rhythm and comfortably move on to the next units.


· There are clear explanations for each grammar point with plenty of examples and simple translation charts.

· Covers a lot of important information in each unit and a lot can be learned in a short period of time.

· The book can be useful for absolute beginners and intermediate students.


· Too much text and no images

· More grammatical than conversational. Although the book is made for solo learners it has a very classroom style to it.

· The exercises are a bit bland since they’re all the same (translation exercises)

Recommended For

· Very committed learners who want to learn a lot in a short time.

· People who enjoy learning simply by reading and studying information in a book.

· People who are travelling to Japan and need to learn the basics of the language in a short period of time.

Overall, this book can actually teach you a good deal of Japanese in three months but I feel it would require some speaking and listening practice on the side to make the course complete. Although the book could use some improvement, it could come in handy if you’re the type of student who simply wants to learn Japanese grammar in a short period of time.



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