I’ve never really used phrasebooks as such. Stopping mid-discussion to look something up always seemed like a conversation-killer. However, Kit Nagamura kindly sent me this one for free and having looked at it I have to admit that it’s a pretty good reference and learning tool for improving your colloquial Japanese. This from the publisher:
The book contains 1800 sentences organized into 19 chapters, covering almost every situation a visitor to Japan is likely to encounter, from meeting people, shopping, and getting around, to finding a place to live, getting a job, and having kids. A chapter on social interaction teaches you how to initiate a chat, agree and disagree, and express your thoughts on matters of importance, while another, on feelings, guides you through the various ways of expressing emotion in Japanese. There is even a chapter on romance and sex, “The Private Zone,” which introduces key phrases for hooking up and bedding down. LINK
Naturally Mewby and I have had a lot of fun reading some of the entries in that “Private Zone” section! But even here you can find something of practical use:
I couldn’t help noticing you.
Anata mitai na hito ga me ni hairanai hazu, nai desho.
Kimi mitai na hito ga me ni hairanai hazu, nai yo.
One of the common problems foreigners have in Japan is that they learn Japanese from their girlfriends/boyfriends and end up speaking a very gender-inappropriate version of Japanese! This book can help sort out that potentially rather embarrassing problem. Where gender variation exists in a speech pattern it is given in both masculine and feminine versions. But I’d say that the “Getting Stuff Done” section which details practical concerns like banking, dealing with documents, getting internet access etc is pretty much an essential language aid for foreigners who wish to settle here.
Now the book also comes with a free MP3 audio CD containing all the sentences read aloud— in English and Japanese which can be downloaded to your iPod or other MP3 player. But perhaps even better, this book is now available as an i-phone app. Kit says,
Kodansha International made their very first iPhone app from the book, and it has games and audio and it’s really good. For the next two weeks only, people can download it for ￥350. KI plans to raise the price after that, so it’s a great time for people on a budget to get the material.