Reviewed by Laurence M. Wiig
M.A., Hiroshima University, Asian Studies 1990
Professional Diploma, Secondary Education, Foreign Languages (Japanese), University of Hawaii-- Manoa, 1978
Hello, Kanji Fans out there in Kanjiland,
I would like to sing the praises of a little book that may be found in just about any English-language bookstore that has a section for learning Japanese. It has been my constant companion for three decades. It has even helped INSPIRE some of my students of Japanese to become serious about the study of kanji.
First, I shall record what READ JAPANESE TODAY is NOT. It is NOT:
1) A dictionary of kanji; 2) A grammar of Japanese; 3) A resource for learning all 1,945 general-use kanji necessary for reading Japanese publications; 4) Systematic.
Now I shall list some of the many positive aspects of Len Walsh's masterpiece:
If you know virtually nothing about Chinese characters (kanji), this is a good starting point. For instance, if you plan to be in Tokyo for the first time next month and are "kind of wondering how written Japanese works," get out US$10.95 and plop the money down today.
If you have a child or friend who is just starting to study Japanese at a high school or university, add this to their library.
Walsh, who deserves to rank up in the kanji-for-gaijin higher reaches with the likes of De Roo, Heisig, Halpern, and Nelson, gives the pictorial origin, modern meaning, main Japanese pronunciations and several examples of how a given character is used for each of 300 often-encountered Japanese kanji.
Whether you are an absolute kanji novice, or are an intermediate, or even advanced student, Walsh always has something new to teach you. Although it would be nice if the folks at Tuttle would add an index to this book, it is hard to go wrong with READ JAPANESE TODAY. Buy it. Use it. Be inspired by it.
Oh, and by the way, it wouldn't hurt to acquire READ JAPANESE TODAY if you happen to be interested in learning to read Chinese.
(For further information, please e-mail me at Lwiig@hotmail.com.)