Japanese: The Spoken Language (JSL) is a very classroom-oriented, grammar and structure intensive textbook. While adequate for the classroom, it is definitely not for the self learner. However, users of JSL are much more likely to have a better understanding of grammar and structure forms, especially those using polite style speech.
- Extensive coverage of polite style speech.
- Incredibly detailed explanations of grammar.
- Structures are drilled into your head brain.
- Solid choice for the classroom.
- Vocabulary is lacking.
- Perhaps too structure oriented.
- Not enough focus on casual, “real world” Japanese.
- Intimidating to the self learning beginner.
- Only uses romaji, no kana.
- Will bore you to tears.
Don’t get JSL if you’re teaching yourself Japanese, especially if you’re a beginner. If you already have a solid foundation of Japanese under your belt, the JSL series might offer some helpful insight into grammar and structure details. And if your school is using JSL in the classroom, don’t fret! By knowing its weaknesses, you’ll know what you need to focus on outside of the classroom.
To really get the most out of these textbooks, you need to have a teacher and a classroom of peers to practice and speak with. However, the self learner does not have these tools at their disposal. JSL offers no self checks or ways for the self learner to adequately track their progress.
Also this textbook is insufferably boring. Especially for the self learner. If you’re not having fun in a class at school, too bad! You have to learn the material anyway. But if you’re learning something on your own and it’s not fun – you’re not going to stick with it. There are certainly better choices for the self learner.