Japanese book review: “マンガでわかる!10才までに覚えたい言葉1000”

By | September 26, 2022

Like many people, a majority of my study activities use a computer or mobile device, and the times when I use a physical textbook or other resource have drastically reduced over the last decade or two. Nevertheless, something can still be said for physical books that allow you to focus on studying without the countless distractions that devices offer.

In this article I would like to review the book “マンガでわかる!10才までに覚えたい言葉1000” published by Nagaoka Shoten, which you can find here. This is a thick paper book that has 400 pages and focuses on learning expressions in Japanese. The title can be literally translated as: “Learn using comics! 1000 expressions that you’ll want to learn before you turn 10.”

The majority of this book consists of explanations of the 1000 expressions, with three listed vertically on each page. For each expression or word there is a brief manga (comic) that is used to explain the word, usually just a simple image with some dialog. Along with that there is a short description of the word, and along the left side is a quiz to match each of the three expressions into three blanks. The comics are drawn pretty simply but are cute and sufficient enough to explain things and provide more context than a dry definition. 

Because the book is targeted at children who are 10 years or under, the explanations and the dialogs in the comics are generally fairly easy to understand, though depending on your Japanese level you may still find it challenging to figure out. Generally all kanji used anywhere in the book have furigana reading hints, though the font is so small that hopefully your vision is up to par.

The word/expression selection is pretty diverse, everything from what I would consider common words (大半、あいにく、対する) to words that are a bit more advanced and perhaps less frequent (玉にきず、猫もしゃくしも, etc.) There are also a good number of foreign words (カジュアル、グロバル, エピソード、etc.) There are also a handful of 4-kanji compounds (試行錯誤、日常茶飯、etc.) I wasn’t able to find a discernable pattern in the order they chose, but I guess this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since you can just pick it up anytime and flip to a random page.

I think that this book offers a wealth of information for nearly any Japanese learner, and even those with many years of studying are likely to pick up a few new phrases here and there. If it isn’t clear already, this book targets Japanese speakers (and there are no English explanations), but that doesn’t mean moderate to advanced non-native learners can’t make good use of it.

Overall my only real complaint is that the quizzes on each page are designed with a certain “trick” in mind, and once you figure that out they become less enjoyable. Fortunately, later in the book there are a few full-page quizzes in various forms that are better tests of knowledge.

As a side note, I wonder how many native children of age 10 actually know all (or most) of the words in this book. My guess is that most wouldn’t, except the very intellectual-types who read books all day. But regardless, I feel many of these words are quite useful to daily life and there is value in learning them, regardless of your age or whether you are a native speaker or not. And for those who frequently write in Japanese, there is even more opportunities to express yourself skillfully with these words.

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