Full Review Of Yes Japan (Japanese From Zero) — 15 Comments

  1. I was actually a member of this site towards the end of 2005 solely for the videos (they were huge motivation). Even then, there were a nice selection of videos (nothing compared to now), and you used to have to buy them on a credit system (pay per video). Now I see it is all included in the monthly subscription, a much better system.

    The biggest thing I liked about the videos of the site was that George Trombley is an amazing Japanese speaker, absolutely loves Japan and everything Japanese, and is fun to watch. Regardless of the quality (especially on the older ones), his enthusiasm shows through, and his videos are great for any level (I watched them when I was still a beginner.)

    I know he does a series of videos now for Japanese speakers learning English, which are entirely Japanese. This is great for intermediate to advanced level users who want videos entirely in Japanese.

    Check the Eigo Egg series out here:

    • Eigo Egg is definitely interesting!

      Also for those looking to teach English in Japan, it can help you get a grasp on common mistakes made by Japanese speakers and how to explain them in Japanese.

      • If this was Facebook, I’d “like” this comment. As it’s not, I’ll just add that I agree with your last point. Those videos really are good on so many different levels.

  2. I definitely agree about how much Trombley loves (and shares his knowledge about) Japan.

    That aspect of the videos is actually a great corrective, now that I think about it, to studying one sentence after another in Anki and learning a lot of Japanese but not so much about the culture.

    Anyway, I’m probably preaching to the choir since you’ve already seen them. For anyone else, take this as yet another reason to check out the videos!

  3. Thanks for the unbiased review Daniel.
    We are constantly striving to improve the website and the book series. Despite book 1 being on it’s 3rd major revision there are still some typos that have slipped by mine and other’s eyes. I am beginning to wonder if it’s even possible to have a typo free book!

    You are correct that the videos were completely a side project. I have often referred to them as the “dessert” that you eat when you are done with your full meal. Recently with the “Japanese in 5” series I tried to address what I thought was a huge problem with that videos. That was that I tend to ramble. Many of the older videos first 5 minutes were completely unneeded and could have been cut. Then some of the shows harped on inside jokes that only the hard core fans would even remember. Limiting the videos to 5 minutes made it easier for me increase the teaching portions of the videos.

    I have a question about the games you mentioned. It is true that we still have the original games on the website created in flash. However we have 10 new games in a separate area all written in jQuery that are much more modern feeling.

    If you were referring to the newer games, I would love to hear your opinions on how we can improve them.



  4. Wow! As I hope was obvious, it was my pleasure to write that review and hopefully introduce new people to your site.

    As far as the games go, I think the newer ones are much better than the older ones. Frankly, I wouldn’t know how to improve them as games, although packaging the audio from the games and especially the textbook lessons into an Anki deck would be one serious improvement from a learner’s perspective (and one that people would probably pay for, as “the game” then becomes much more of an efficient way to study long term).

    As far as typos go, Thomas Sowell once said that “if there is anything that could survive a nuclear attack, it is probably typographical errors.” Sadly, he has a point.

    And as far as your new videos go, I’m loving them too! The short time span and the more focused nature of the videos make them very easy to watch and learn from.

  5. Hey, thank you very much for this awesome review! But I still have one question: Is it better if I order the first course of the book series or can I also start with the first free course of the internet site? Do I have the same results on the page?

  6. I’ve used YesJapan/JFZ on and off for years now, and I really like it. I’ll probably always think of George as my sensei since it was through his early encouragement via the site, the videos, and even personally on a few select occasions that kept me going past the early stages. I definitely recommend the site to anyone looking for a textbook that’s not so “textbooky”, since the site’s first course is free. If they find that to their liking but prefer physical books, the JFZ books are great as well, offering reasonably comparable material to what’s on the site (which I think is well worth the price if you stick with it and use it regularly).

    The site does have a slightly wonky feel since there’s much older material (videos especially) mixed in with much newer, but everything there is entertaining and worthwhile, and those older shows are actually really fun despite not looking as shiny by today’s standards. And actually, the forum is still somewhat active with a number of regulars (it’s just spread way too thin through too many categories, so has the appearance of being deader than it is), and the site chat is actually still very lively!

  7. Nice review! I bought the first book, because I can’t learn on my computer (too much deflection). I really love to self-study japanese, because I can learn on my own speed. I can absolutly recommend it since you have the vocabulary divided in lessons and you can check them whenever you want. The first necessary grammar rules are teached and you get “cultural clips” which include some nice tips and facts. Sometimes I take it with me, if I got time. After I complete the book I’ll aim to buy the second one. Great job George Trembley!

  8. As a former (and failed) student of Japanese (and mandarin), I finally took the plunge and purchased all four of the books … and the experience has not been disappointing! I study for about an hour daily and am astonished at how swiftly things move along. I cannot recommend these texts enough. My primary interest is in reading Japanese literature (old and new) but the speaking seems to simply come naturally in the studying due to the structure of the instruction. I will probably invest in the videos as well but not until I am comfortable with my progress. The experience has also inspired me to re initiate my interest in Mandarin. Thanks, George, for this great gift.

  9. I like the books, but the YesJapan site is a confusing, jumbled and overwhelming mess. It really needs the benefit of organization. For ADD/OCD folks like myself. :)

  10. Could anyone tell me whether it’s worth using the books and paying for the site or am I best just sticking with one or the other?

    • I think they can be used together. The site offers different and companion items to the book. I haven’t personally used the book, but I know a lot of people have the physical book and use the site.

    • Well I own the books and I went through the first course online. They both have the same content, however, the online portion has one thing that the book does not and vice versa. Each vocabulary word and sentence has an audio portion that allows you to hear the pronunciation on the website. While the book does not have the individual pronunciation, some of it is covered in his videos (which can be found on platforms other than his website). The books progressively teach the different writing aspects- hiragana, katakana, and kanji. They show you step by step strokes for each character and give you many opportunities to practice (through introducing new vocabulary, which is not covered in videos). Overall thoughts, I personally love having the books in conjunction with the videos.

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