If you’re looking for the best books to learn Japanese, this article is for you!
Especially if you’re a beginner wanting to grasp the basics of the language, choosing the right Japanese book to jumpstart your learning can be overwhelming.
But worry no more, as we’ve compiled the best books to learn Japanese for you to choose from.
5 Best Books To Learn Japanese
Sounds great? Then let’s get learning!
Genki is a highly popular series of Japanese books for beginners that’s renowned for its easy-to-follow format and interesting case studies. The book is designed to grow with the Japanese learner – each chapter builds on the knowledge introduced in previous ones, and by the end of the series your fluency should have grown significantly.
- Uses English in explaining Japanese grammar concepts
- Covers the core language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening
- Includes audio CDs to supplement learning
- Not a good book for self-studying students
Although Genki was first made for university students, it’s now suitable for anyone who wants to master Japanese. The books, with their simple content and easy-to-understand explanations, are a great choice for absolute beginners, especially those who have never taken Japanese classes before.
The series covers a range of topics for everyday use including basic Japanese grammar and useful phrases, Japanese culture, and other things that a beginner might need to know when living in Japan.
The books are easy to use and have cute illustrations. The same characters appear throughout this Japanese book, so you can follow their stories.
Japanese From Zero
The Japanese From Zero series is a great way to get started learning the Japanese language. Chapters are short and engaging, designed to be picked up and put down as you have time.
- Designed for self-study
- This Japanese textbook is visually appealing, making it suitable for young learners
- Cost is relatively cheaper compared to other books
- No audio included
- Lessons are slow-paced, which may frustrate learners with limited time
The books introduce Japanese characters slowly, providing spaced repetition for continued memorization and language learning through all four books. As a bonus, the first three books in the series teach Japanese kanji alongside hiragana and katakana.
Since these textbooks are so new, they can use sample text that’s modern and up-to-date. Learning with real, contemporary Japanese vocabulary that’s actually in use will help students make the most of their study time. The books are designed for absolute beginners, so there isn’t a lot of technical detail or explanation of grammar structure. Still, the material is presented clearly and covers all the basics.
Of course, it would be hard for students who are just starting to fully learn Japanese kanji with just one book; so this series will take a few books to complete before introducing the first sentence.
Minna No Nihongo
Minna no Nihongo is a fantastic resource for those who want to learn Japanese from scratch. It’s in-depth, comprehensive, and systematic – allowing every Japanese learner to grasp the fundamentals of basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary naturally through context.
- Covers the four core language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening
- Has in-depth grammar lessons
- Can be overwhelming for newbies due to its all-Japanese text
- Relatively more expensive because you may need to buy the whole set of books to maximize learning Japanese
Unlike most textbooks, Minna No Nihongo is entirely in Japanese. The companion English textbook’s translation and notes provide further details that would be otherwise impossible to understand by just staring at the text on the page. For beginners, though, this might seem intimidating.
The book will teach you many of the basics you’ll need to learn the language. However, studying with this book alone isn’t recommended – it won’t cover a lot of grammar points well and it uses very complex terms throughout its lessons.
If we’re talking about a beginner’s Japanese textbook, Minna no Nihongo is a great choice because it introduces grammar points in an academic-friendly way. The best part? It’s available in English, just like your beginner’s textbook (except for its name). No more getting lost in translations – you can learn how to read, write and pronounce Japanese words right off the bat.
Japanese For Everyone
Japanese for Everyone is the perfect introduction to the Japanese language for those with less than a year of experience. It offers clear explanations, plenty of practice activities, and realistic yet authentic dialogue.
- Utilizes real-life situations when teaching grammar
- Covers a wide range of Japanese language lessons
- Lessons are short and may need supplementary explanations from other sources
- Limited kanji used in exercises
Japanese for Everyone is an excellent alternative to Genki. While it doesn’t have the audio component, it more than makes up for it with its higher-quality lessons and its more natural Japanese. It feels less like a textbook and more like a guidebook; it’s one of the many reasons why thousands of people have turned to it.
For someone who is a visual learner, Japanese for Everyone is an excellent way to learn the language. The simple graphics help you comprehend grammar and sentence structure in a targeted, easy-to-understand manner. The grammar explanations are minimal so that anyone can comprehend the language easily.
For students of the Japanese language, Nihongo So-Matome is a great series of books to help them prepare for their Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) exams. The series is divided into five volumes, each representing one JLPT level: N5 (orange), N4 (yellow), N3 (purple), N2 (light blue), and N1 (green).
- All questions are multiple-choice, the same as the actual JLPT examination
- The book is divided into manageable sections, and the answers are easily accessible on the next page
- Relatively expensive since you need to buy five books for each level
Nihongo So-matome is an excellent JLPT prep series that covers Japanese vocabulary, grammar, kanji, reading, and listening. Each book has eight weeks of new material and one week of review. At the end of each lesson is a Japanese writing section to practice your new skills.
Nihongo So-Matome is a great way to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test – it guides you through the exam and teaches you exactly what to expect, with plenty of practice tests and excellent explanations that help you remember the material. With exercises, tips, and in-depth explanations throughout the entire book, Nihongo So-Matome makes an ideal study guide for your big exam.
With Nihongo So-Matome, you can study for the JLPT in a variety of ways – from audio CDs to online flashcards, and even physical flashcards you can carry around with you. All questions are multiple-choice and follow the formatting of the real exam, so you can work through the entire book in just a few weeks and be ready to take the JLPT when it works best for you.
Regardless of which book you use to master Japanese, it’s important that you stay focused on your own language learning goals.
Cramming textbooks won’t get you far – what matters most is practice and immersion. If you want to keep up with the latest trends in the Japanese language, you’ll need to adapt your study materials to suit your needs.
Most importantly, the sooner you begin studying, the sooner you’ll be using your knowledge in real-world situations. There’s no need to agonize over finding the perfect book – as long as you have one on this list, you can start learning Japanese right away!