Review: Konna Eigo ga Wakaranai!?

31 Jan

Japanese: こんな英語がわからない!?
Level: Intermediate
Format: Reference book
Publisher: Kodansha International

Konna Eigo ga Wakaranai!? is a reference book from the Kodansha Power English series designed for native Japanese speakers. Strictly speaking it hasn’t been written with Japanese learners in mind since its purpose is to explain the meaning and use of obscure (and sometimes quite strange) English phrases.

The book contains 386 phrases which the writers say can be heard in everyday English. While some of them do pop up fairly frequently, others are pretty rare and would raise a few eyebrows if you said them at the dinner table. That being said, you could still use the equivalent Japanese phrase in conversation to sound more native-like or to help improve your listening comprehension. We recommend either asking a Japanese friend or waiting to hear the phrase used in conversation first before trying it out yourself just to be on the safe side. (There is also a graphic showing the frequency and nuance of the phrase – general, humorous or angry – though it’s not really relevant from a Japanese language learning point-of-view).

Phrases are arranged in English alphabetical order with the English phrase in large bold type followed by the Japanese equivalent underneath. A small paragraph written in Japanese clarifies how and when to use the saying, explains subtle similarities between phrases and defines any English words that may pose a problem for non-native speakers.

The entry is completed with an example dialogue in English demonstrating the context the phrase is used in. The dialogue is translated in Japanese as well, though strangely the translation does not always use the Japanese phrase. The phrase ‘Hit the books!’ is a great example of this where the writers say the Japanese phrase 一生懸命勉強なさい can be used, yet in their example they use a similar, but different phrase in Japanese.

A: Hit the books! You want to graduate don’t you?

B: Yeah, but I sure am tired after that party last night.

To gain the most from this book learners should already have a sound understanding of Japanese, particularly conversational Japanese, and a knowledge of Japanese customs and communication styles. Without this, we feel that readers might miss the subtleties of how the phrase should be used.

Keeping in mind that this book isn’t a Japanese textbook but rather a book about English written for Japanese people, not everyone is going to find it useful. So while it isn’t a ‘must have’ for learning Japanese, those who would like to improve their conversational skills may find it worth the read.

SCORE: 6/10


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