I planned my first trip to Japan six months out with every intention of studying basic language skills in advance. I subscribed to a podcast, looked into Rosetta Stone, and added a few foreign films to our Netflix queue. Easier said than done. After five months of procrastination (just being honest), I picked up this book as a last-ditch effort to learn at least a little as we traveled. For a two-week trip, we brought five guides, including the previously-reviewed Japan’s Hidden Hot Springs. Survival Japanese is the only one I consulted everyday — at least one-third of its pages are now dog-eared. Rather than overwhelm with long word lists or complex explanations of how to form unique sentences, the book is broken into scenarios with simple phrases listed in English, Japanese (Romanized), Japanese characters and, most importantly, spelled phonetically in English. You just flip to whatever situation you’re prepping for or have found yourself in… in a taxi, greeting people, paying bills, apologizing, asking questions, at the station, in a bar, visiting a home, medical emergencies (thankfully, we had none) and more. Sure an extensive glossary with many more words would be nice; additional phrases for the same and other scenarios would also be useful. That’s not the point with this one. If you’re a true beginner, the book provides just enough in a package you won’t mind stashing in a jacket pocket or tossing in a day bag. I still wish I’d learned more beforehand. Nevertheless, my new (and very polite) Japanese friends gave me an A for effort.
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