Today’s book recommendation is my absolute favorite series of textbooks for improving one’s ability in Japanese conversation. However, this would be for an intermediate learner of Japanese – sorry, beginner learners. I would call this three-part series “Speaking Skills Learned through Listening to Real-Life conversations.” The Japanese title is “聞いて覚える話し方:日本語生中継” (Kiite oboeru hanashikata – Nihon namachuukei) This would roughly translate to “Listen and Learn: Broadcasting Live from Japan.”

On every page you are presented with a set of real-life conversations based on a common theme and able to listen to each conversation on the CD that comes with the book. The goal is to help you to speak natural Japanese in everyday life. There is a real emphasis on talking on the phone which I have found to be very helpful. Each chapter covers a different topic that is very practical and true to everyday life such as:

-asking permission to borrowing an item from someone
-talking with the waiter at a restaurant (such as when the wrong order comes)
-how to leave a message when the person you are calling is not at home
-how to relay a message to someone (“tell the boss I’m stuck in traffic and will be there in 15 minutes)
-talking about a trip that you have taken with your friends or co-workers
-how to change the time you are a meeting with a friend or an appointment at a restaurant, salon, doctor’s office, etc.
-conversations in various shopping situations (such as how to ask a sales clerk for assistance
-asking for help when there is a problem with an electrical device
-how to ask for help at a train/bus station
-how to invite someone to an event, party, etc.
-sharing your impressions in Japanese
…and much more!

I listen to the CDs while I am driving or cooking, etc. and it’s been very helpful to overcome my fear of not knowing how to say things naturally, the way a Japanese would say it (for example, switching a reservation at a restaurant from 12 to 1pm or cancelling plans because of illness). I genuinely enjoy the conversations (which range from very casual to extremely formal) and there is also a list of vocabulary in the back of the script book.

Here is a snippet of a conversation from the first book in the series:

旅行の感想 (Impressions from a trip to South Korea)

For those of you living in Japan, here are the links for each book at Amazon Japan, although all should be available at your local Maruzen or big chain store.

Lower Intermediate conversations  – part 1
Lower Intermediate conversations – part 2
High Intermediate – Lower Advanced