This book rocks! I would definitely recommend it for anyone at an intermediate or advanced level of Japanese. Unlike a normal Japanese textbook it's very easy to read with lots of anecdotes, and it cracked me up loads. Still not sure about how to use "wa" and "ga" though...
And I guess that is how it is when learning languages. Only the true geniuses of language can grasp these things in a ready and total fashion. And unfortunately for me, this piecemeal approach left me missing things from my study of the language. And then Jay Rubin stepped in.
Jay Rubin knows the Japanese language. He teaches it, and is a translator of Japanese literature. (Most famously he translated into English Murakami Haruki's "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle" and "Norwegian Wood", as well as writing a biography of Murakami.) To steal a line from Lawrence of Arabia, "He knows his stuff."
And so it is that Rubin decided to stuff all that stuff into a book for those of us who struggle with the more delicate grammatical issues of the Japanese language. And he does so with brilliance and wit and ease of use that I have yet to have seen surpassed. "Making Sense of Japanese" is indeed a precious little gem in my collection of Japanese learning aids that fills in so many holes in the facade of my shoddy language capacity. For instance:
Wa and Ga - Never before has there been a more thorough and easy to remember explanation of the delicate differences between these two particles. They are a great bane to learners of Japanese, and Rubin dedicates 20 pages to truly making sense of them.
The Myth of the Subjectless Sentence - and how it is a true myth. Which is followed by a really nifty look into the differences in pronoun use in Japanese and English.
Receiving and Giving - and all the verbs that pertain to those actions.
Causitives and Passives - and how they combine at times.
Tame - Rubin succinctly explains the two forms of "tame" and gives examples.
Tsumori - and how it too has a double use.
And so much more! All told in a very lucid style and sharp wit that is sorely missing from most study guides. The final part of the book is dedicated to taking a very complex sentence in Japanese and breaking it apart and showing exactly how it forms a full statement. To some this may seem a little tedious and an over-indulgence in explaining in English what is fundamentally the properties of another language, but I have always felt in my studies that most texts and aids are lacking in easy to understand explanations. If you get frustrated with what seem to be overly simple and/or boring explanations of some very important grammar elements of Japanese, this little book is a marvel. But like any other language guide, these lessons must be studied to have impact. Though Rubin makes it very easy to read these passages over and over.
The title pretty much sums it up when it says "What the Textbooks Don't Tell You." This book ! ! essentially takes the information from your textbooks and makes sense of it. If you study independently, like me, this book should be on your list. If you don't need this book, you probably know someone who does.