Learning Japanese can be a daunting task, but with the right resources, you can make significant progress in your language journey. In this article, we have compiled a list of the 12 best books to learn Japanese in 2023. These books cover various aspects of the language, including vocabulary, grammar, kanji, conversational skills, and cultural understanding. We will explore the pros, cons, and contents of each book to help you choose the most suitable resources for your learning style and goals.
- Modern Japanese Vocabulary: A Guide for 21st Century Students
This textbook stands out for its practical usage and coverage of contemporary topics. It breaks down unusual cases and easy-to-mix up words, providing insights into Japanese homonyms, Sino-Japanese verbs, prefixes, and suffixes. The book organizes vocabulary by topic and includes side-by-side Japanese characters for pronunciation support.
Price: $45 (Amazon, used) Best for: Understanding how to use vocabulary in context
- Japanese Short Stories for Beginners
This collection of 20 easy-to-read short stories introduces vocabulary in Japanese while providing English translations for reference. It offers lesson summaries, a question-and-answer section, and insights into Japanese culture, allowing learners to improve their vocabulary while familiarizing themselves with the language.
Price: $15 (Amazon) Best for: Learning new vocabulary while familiarizing yourself with Japanese culture
- GENKI I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese
Written by university professors, this textbook offers a comprehensive course in Japanese fundamentals. With 23 lessons, it covers reading, writing, and speaking exercises. The book includes examples to aid vocabulary retention and comes with a workbook companion for listening practice.
Price: $47 (Amazon) Best for: All-around study for advanced or motivated self-learners
- Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese!
Using the shadowing technique, this textbook helps learners connect their understanding of spoken Japanese with improved expressiveness. It includes audio recordings for pronunciation practice, and the first three units have reading aids for kanji. The book is suitable for beginner and intermediate learners aiming to reinforce grammar and vocabulary in practical situations.
Price: $19.99 (Amazon, used) Best for: Practicing pronunciation and improving conversational skills
- The Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary
Designed to help learners memorize kanji, this dictionary defines core meanings and provides examples of compound usage. It covers over 2,230 entry characters, 31,300 words, and 7,200 character readings. The book includes extensive stroke order diagrams and explanations of homophones and variant forms.
Price: $71.35 (Amazon) Best for: Memorizing written characters and understanding modern linguistic theory
- Remembering the Kanji, Volume 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters
This book takes a unique approach to learning kanji by associating each character with a story that aids in memorization. It focuses on visual recognition and meaning comprehension rather than comprehensive language learning. While it does not cover pronunciation, it offers an engaging method for beginners and advanced students.
Price: $24.99 (Amazon) Best for: Remembering the meaning of kanji and practicing writing
- Kanji in Context
For intermediate and advanced learners, Kanji in Context delves into Japanese vocabulary with over 150 lessons. It covers more than 2,000 kanji, providing multiple words and contexts for each. The book also includes accompanying workbooks for self-quizzing and identifying weak areas.
Price: $43 (Amazon) Best for: Learning large numbers of new words
- A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
This dictionary is a comprehensive guide to Japanese grammar, providing clear explanations and examples for over 70 grammar points. It covers essential grammatical structures, sentence patterns, and usage rules. The book is organized alphabetically and includes cross-references for easy navigation.
Price: $45.99 (Amazon) Best for: Understanding and mastering Japanese grammar concepts
- Japanese the Manga Way: An Illustrated Guide to Grammar and Structure
Using manga illustrations and examples, this book presents Japanese grammar in a fun and engaging way. It covers a wide range of grammar topics and includes exercises to reinforce learning. The visual approach makes it suitable for visual learners or those who enjoy manga and comics.
Price: $19.95 (Amazon) Best for: Learning Japanese grammar through manga-style explanations
- Japanese for Busy People
Designed for learners with limited time, Japanese for Busy People offers a practical approach to language learning. It focuses on essential phrases and expressions for everyday conversations, business settings, and travel situations. The book includes audio materials and companion workbooks for extra practice.
Price: $29.99 (Amazon) Best for: Busy individuals looking for a practical and time-efficient learning resource
- The Complete Guide to Japanese Kanji: (JLPT All Levels)
This comprehensive guide covers all levels of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and provides detailed explanations of over 2,000 kanji characters. It includes stroke order diagrams, readings, meanings, and example words for each kanji. The book also offers exercises to reinforce kanji retention.
Price: $34.99 (Amazon) Best for: Studying kanji specifically for the JLPT or comprehensive kanji learning
- Japanese from Zero! Series
The Japanese from Zero! series is a popular set of textbooks that take a step-by-step approach to learning Japanese. Starting from the basics, the series covers grammar, vocabulary, kanji, and conversation skills. The books include interactive online resources, audio lessons, and quizzes for interactive learning.
Price: $28.99 per book (Amazon) Best for: Beginners who prefer a structured and interactive learning experience
Learning Japanese requires dedication and the right resources. The books mentioned in this comprehensive guide offer a variety of approaches to help you learn Japanese effectively. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, there’s a book on this list to suit your needs. Remember to choose the resources that align with your learning style and goals. Happy studying and enjoy your Japanese language journey!