Japanese the Spoken Language

Hey fellow WKers, I just read this article:

I’m intrigued by the textbook “Japanese the Spoken Language” it looks like you can get the audio off of a website and there is a ton of speaking/listening/reading practice, plus it apparently has super detailed grammar explainations along with pitch accent info for grammar points and vocab.
I don’t know, has anyone used or had any experience with this textbook? I read on a review that the vocab is kinda outdated, but if the grammar/speaking/listening parts are legit then I wouldn’t really mind. Thoughts?


I have the boom and I like it a lot. The grammar and drills are superb. I don’t think the vocabulary is very outdated, it’s pretty basic stuff.


Sweet! And it’s easy to find and access the audio and stuff on the net?

For book one the audio online is pretty good, but for books 2 and 3 I suggest getting the DVD.

Interesting, what’re the dvds like?
Thanks for the info!!

The DVD is some kind of computer program but I’ll probably only rip the audio materials from it.

@finnra = 鉄人

I learned to hate this textbook, since this is what my college uses in its Japanese program. When I was going through it for class, I hated those darn drills and the fact that everything was in a weird romaji. I do have a desire to go through it again at some point, though, if for nothing else than to get some good set phrases and lots of keigo drilled into my skull again.

My problems with it - when studied by itself - can be summarized by the following points:

  • Its use of romaji; does little to nothing to help your reading and reading comprehension skills. Even though there’s the companion books, Japanese: The Written Language, I still think it doesn’t do enough to teach kanji/reading/writing. At least in my program, I think it was downplayed far too much.
  • Limited vocab introduced: when I went to a program abroad, I felt that everyone that had been studying the language as long as I had a leg up when it came to useful, everyday vocabulary; I had gone through the first two volumes of the book and still didn’t know (let alone read) some pretty basic words like 暗い, 走る, 吸う
  • At least for me, I felt like it took its time introducing some pretty important grammar points. Again, comparing myself to people who had used Genki I and II or other similar textbooks throughout their first two years of study, I felt like I fell quite short (in every except keigo, at least, which I do think these books introduce relatively early and relatively well).
  • The drills prepared me to respond to pretty specific situations, but not much more. During my time in the program, I got pretty good at parroting back simple, set phrases thanks to the drills. But I don’t think that my speaking or listening was anything that any other college program or mix of learning resources couldn’t have provided. I can’t comment on the book’s ability to teach pronunciation and whatnot, since that’s not something that I’ve ever had a particular problem with.

I don’t mean to sour the pot; I really do hope this textbook serves you well, if you do decide to work through it. I don’t know your situation or how much you already know, but I would encourage that one supplement this textbook’s materials with another source of vocab/grammar learning.


Not souring the pot at all! Thanks for sharing your experience yo! To put your mind at ease - I would not be using JSL as my main grammar resource, I was thinking that the speaking/listening practice that (according to some) outshines a lot of other resources, might be a good supplement since I get next to zero speaking/listening time in. I was thinking that needed to change, and then I read that article, and I was like, “huh, maybe?”
What do you think? (Keep in mind the book is less than $50 and it wouldn’t hurt real bad if I only got a few “+1 knowledges” from it) but would you say maybe worth it?


Yes, using it as a supplement is its ideal role, in my opinion.

As a recent college grad, I recommend buying used books, but it still sounds worth it to me.

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JSL is no joke. I studied it for 3 years at university. After my second year, I got a monbusho scholarship to attend Saga University with home stay for the summer. There were 23 other Americans, and my spoken Japanese was second best. The best was a guy at Cornell University, who was clearly smarter than me - he also studied JSL (the lady who wrote it is at Cornell). When I went back to school for 3rd year Japanese and the third book, I dominated the class.

JSL is still used at top schools in the US for serious learners. The best school in Missouri, Washington University, uses the system. It’s a fast way (the best?) to learn to speak, learn accent, build listening comprehension and learn to use grammar. The structural pattern sections in each chapter are gold. I used to sit on my couch in college and read them over and over again. Definitely best used in a classroom setting, but anyone could benefit from the explanations and drills with audio.

The romaji is funky. No one writes it like that in real life, but it was easy to adjust after moving to Japan. It’s true that my reading and writing was slower than other comparable students, but being able to communicate with my host family and actually make friends at that time was far more important.

Edit: My Japanese teacher at university was a weird little dude from rural Japan, and one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. The teacher matters.

Edit: For people who’s interest in Japanese is to learn to read manga, for example, JSL is not the way to go. For people who’s primary motivation is to communicate with people effectively, it’s a serious system.


I agree with pretty much everything @halfriver said. I used these books in college and most people I knew seemed to dislike them because of the nonstandard romanization and the way the grammar is explained.

Personally until I started using WK (and other kanji/vocab resources) I felt like my reading ability and vocabulary were really lacking. On the other hand I really appreciate the pitch accent information they include and have never found keigo quite as difficult to understand as most people seem to make it out to be (speaking it on the other hand…), maybe thanks to these books.

tldr: If you don’t mind reading grammar explanations from linguists then I think they’re pretty good textbooks. Just make sure to supplement them with other kanji/vocab resources which you’re probably already doing if you’re here.


The think the series would round out my study pretty well, I already know hiragana & katakana and I’m almost half way through WK (and plan to finish by the end of the year) so I’m not super worried about the reading/writing parts. I’ve just really been needing a good listening/speaking resource to wedge into my study time. Also the fact that the grammar is written up by linguists intrigues me for sure.

Japanese the spoken language? I thought it was just reading and writing…

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@tel003a what level would you say you were at after completing the whole series? is it comparable to where you’d be after genki I&II would you say? roughly n4 level I guess? or would you say it takes your further?

That’s probably about right. I’ve never used Genki. After university, I moved to Tokyo in May, learned about the proficiency exams, studied a book for 4級 (old system), signed up for 3級, studied a book for that for a few months and passed relatively easily. I figure that would have put me somewhere between N4 and N3. Note that our class probably didn’t finish the 3rd JSL book. I did get through the 2nd, big, writing book though.

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Hey… would you mind looking at your copy of “Japanese: The Spoken Language (Part 1)”, and see if the ISBN number on the back or inside the first few pages is 9780300038347, and if so, compare page 168 to this image:


Think I’ve got the third version. 978-0-300-04191-0. Looks like the same page, but I don’t know perfectly what I’m looking for.

Have a look yourself if you wish:

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It looks like I have the same version. I don’t see any differences on that page after a quick comparison. Was there something in particular you were expecting?