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Rumiko Shinzato is professor emerita in the Department of Modern Languages at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Shoichi Iwasaki is professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Basic Okinawan is a groundbreaking work that will help students develop conversational skills and build a solid foundational understanding of the language’s grammar and vocabulary. The lessons are geared for students learning in the classroom or on their own and do not assume knowledge of Japanese.

The ten learner-centered units in Part I systematically and incrementally introduce grammar and vocabulary through the story of Niko, an American exchange student in Okinawa. Each unit offers authentic dialogues focused around cultural themes, followed by concise grammar and vocabulary explanations, ample exercises, and situation-based applications. Lessons conclude with cultural notes that advance the unit’s themes, linking language learning with a wide range of disciplines such as history, geography, literature, religion, and popular culture. Woven throughout the story are humorous and thoughtful anecdotes that will inspire students to explore Okinawan language and culture further.

Part II’s eight sections explain the grammar introduced in Part I—for example, parts of speech and sentence types—arranged by topic. This topical organization allows students to review grammar points from a fresh perspective that both augments and reinforces what was learned in Part I. In addition to the Appendix, which contains comprehensive vocabulary and construction lists with cross-references to sections in Part I, students should consult the companion dictionary and grammar, Mitsugu Sakihara’s Okinawan-English Word Book. A references section lists resources for further reading and study.

Basic Okinawan presents a natural yet structured approach to the language that will engage students and connect them with Okinawan culture. An answer key to the exercises and audio files for lesson dialogues are available online at