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Let's Learn Hiragana: First Book of Basic Japanese Writing (Kodansha's Children's Classics)

by: Yasuko Kosaka Mitamura

This book teaches you the Japanese hiragana syllabary. In my opinion it is essential to quickly learn how to read
and write Japanese properly using hiragana and not rely on romaji romanization for more than the absolute
beginning. And learning hiragana is fun, too! This book showcases each of the 46 basic hiragana, then goes on
to show how these are extended to make up the full hiragana syllabary. But I don't think you need a book just
for that, and that's where the value in this book is: it also teaches you how the hiragana are used in words and
sentences, shows you some exceptions to the rules, and provides useful exercises that will not only teach you
hiragana, but also essential Japanese.

Amazon Price: $9.23 (as of 10/14/2009)

Let's Learn Katakana: Second Book of Basic Japanese Writing

by: Yasuko Kosaka Mitamura

Once you've mastered hiragana (or while still studying it, which may be more efficient), you also need to learn
katakana. They're similar, but they're not the same. The basic principle is the same, but shapes and usage are
different, so you need to study both. The good thing about katakana is that it's largely used to write foreign loan
words, lately mostly from English, so once you start learning it, you'll be able to understand a lot of words in
written Japanese immediately because they're actually in English! This book is in the same series as the above
one and complements it well.

Amazon Price: $9.89 (as of 10/14/2009)

Kana Flashcards (Japanese Edition)

by: Max Hodges, Tomoko Okazaki

In addition to the above book, I recommend using flashcards to drill yourself on the hiragana and katakana. That
is in fact how I learned them myself. Even after you've memorized the kana, it'll take a while for them to stick
in your head so that you're able to recall them instantly, and that's why I recommend doing flashcard exercises
for a short time every day for a month or two when you start learning Japanese. Unfortunately, flashcards are a
pain to make (if you're lazy like me), and that's why these come in so handy. These flashcards also include 450
basic words, so that you'll also improve your essential Japanese vocabulary.
Amazon Price: $14.96 (as of 10/14/2009)

Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese-English English-Japanese

by: Kodansha International

Having a good dictionary is essential for your Japanese learning progress. I came across this dictionary myself
when I started learning Japanese, and found it extraordinarily useful. In fact, I still find it useful from time to
time. The best thing about this dictionary is that not only is it a very well-written and comprehensive book, but
it has extensive example sentences showing the usage patterns of Japanese words. Learning words by their 1-to-
1 correspondence to English words will make your Japanese sound unnatural, and that's where good example
sentences come in. In fact, I think they're almost more important than the actual word descriptions themselves.

This dictionary has furigana (hiragana showing the reading of kanji) for ALL kanji in the whole book -
including the example sentences. That means you can use it even if your kanji skills aren't great yet. It also
means it uses the Japanese kana, which is the natural way of writing Japanese, instead of romaji. Many other
beginners' Japanese dictionaries uses romaji, but trust me, that will only set you back in the long run. This is the
best Japanese dictionary out there for beginners and intermediate level alike.

Amazon Price: $37.80 (as of 10/14/2009)

Beginner's Japanese with 2 Audio CDs (Hippocrene Beginner's Series)

by: Joanne Redmond Claypoole

This is the best beginner's book I've found since after I started learning Japanese. I've recommended it to many
of my friends and they have all liked it. Note that this is a very basic Japanese book for absolute beginners! It
has 25 lessons that build on top of each other, and each lesson contains a dialog and then a thorough explanation
of the grammar used in that dialog, as well as a complete list of the vocabulary used that is printed along side,
for fast reference. The dialogs are in simple kanji & hiragana with romaji along it. Now, I normally wouldn't
recommend using romaji for learning, but since this is an absolute beginner's book, it's also a good tool for
learning hiragana as well. Finally, the main reason why I think this book is better than all others I've seen is that
each lesson has good exercises and a self test. In my opinion, doing exercises is essential to efficient learning.
Besides, it's pretty fun too. :)

Amazon Price: $19.77 (as of 10/14/2009)

Dirty Japanese: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!" (Dirty Everyday Slang)
(Paperback)

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters (Tuttle language library)

by: Kenneth G. Henshall


This book is nothing less than an etymological kanji dictionary of all the 2000+ joyo (everyday use) kanji! For
each kanji character, it presents its history in brief, references it to associated characters, tells its story of how it
has evolved into its current form, and also its readings (both kun and on readings) and three example
words/compound words written using the character. Of all the Japanese learning-related books I own, this one is
by far the one I've gotten the most out of. I heartily recommend this one!

Best Books for Learning Japanese


Looking to pass the JLPT, or just learning Japanese for
fun?

I've spent a lot of money on books over the years... and not all of it was well spent -- although I did end up learning
Japanese! On my blog I often get questions asking which books I recommend for certain areas of study, such as Japanese
vocabulary, kanji, grammar, reading skill, or listening, for specific JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) levels, etc.
So I though I'd summarize it on this page, for easy reference.

All the books I recommend there are ones that I own or have owned and have found useful. I've probably bought way
more books than necessary over the years, but I find buying books for myself keeps me motivated to study, so it has
probably been worth it in the end, even if some of those books weren't very good.

Contents at a Glance
1. Just started learning?
2. Books for learning Hiragana & Katakana
3. Poll: kana vs romaji

4. Japanese beginner level books & JLPT 4


5. Learning kanji
6. The best books for learning kanji

more...

Just started learning?


So you wanna learn Japanese? That's great!
I was a Japanese padawan myself some 5 years ago - but now I am nearly fluent. It's
been a long but very fun and rewarding journey, and I really recommend everyone to start learning Japanese. Anyway, let
me point out some tips that I think might be useful for a beginning Japanese student:

Don't fall into the romaji trap! Japanese written using the Latin alphabet is called romaji. You can use romaji to learn the
Japanese kana syllabaries hiragana and katakana. After that you should get rid of using romaji as soon as humanly
possible. There are two reasons for that: One is that you need to become literate as soon as possible. Literacy is key to
efficient learning of any language - and even more so Japanese, which literal form has some quirks (to say the least), that
are reflected in the spoken language too! The other reason is that it'll make your spoken Japanese sound more natural.
Maybe I'm just imagining, but I think I can tell when a foreigner has learned Japanese through romaji from the way he/she is
speaking.

Make sure you have a good Japanese dictionary and kanji dictionary. They're indispensable for your learning progress.
Your goal is to learn the whole Japanese language, right? So every time you see a word or kanji you don't know - look it up,
write it down, and study it.

Books for learning Hiragana & Katakana


Learning to read again as an adult can be a fun experience!
Japanese is written using a combination of kanji (rather complex characters of Chinese origin), and two unique "kana"
syllabaries (i.e. an "alphabet" where each character represents the pronunciation of one syllable, often a consonant followed
by a vowel). The hiragana syllabary is used to write Japanese words that can't be written in kanji, or where the writer wishes
to use the phonetic kana instead of the ideographic kanji for some stylistic reason, as well as to write grammatical particles,
verb endings, etc, in normal written Japanese. Meanwhile, katakana is mostly used to write foreign loan words.
Let's Learn Hiragana: First Book of Basic Japanese Writing (Kodansha's Children's Classics)

by: Yasuko Kosaka Mitamura

This book teaches you the Japanese hiragana syllabary. In my opinion it is essential to quickly learn
how to read and write Japanese properly using hiragana and not rely on romaji romanization for more
than the absolute beginning. And learning hiragana is fun, too! This book showcases each of the 46
basic hiragana, then goes on to show how these are extended to make up the full hiragana syllabary.
But I don't think you need a book just for that, and that's where the value in this book is: it also teaches
you how the hiragana are used in words and sentences, shows you some exceptions to the rules, and
provides useful exercises that will not only teach you hiragana, but also essential Japanese.

Amazon Price: $9.23 (as of 10/17/2009)

Let's Learn Katakana: Second Book of Basic Japanese Writing

by: Yasuko Kosaka Mitamura

Once you've mastered hiragana (or while still studying it, which may be more efficient), you also need
to learn katakana. They're similar, but they're not the same. The basic principle is the same, but shapes
and usage are different, so you need to study both. The good thing about katakana is that it's largely
used to write foreign loan words, lately mostly from English, so once you start learning it, you'll be
able to understand a lot of words in written Japanese immediately because they're actually in English!
This book is in the same series as the above one and complements it well.

Amazon Price: $9.89 (as of 10/17/2009)

Kana Flashcards (Japanese Edition)

by: Max Hodges, Tomoko Okazaki

In addition to the above book, I recommend using flashcards to drill yourself on the hiragana and
katakana. That is in fact how I learned them myself. Even after you've memorized the kana, it'll take a
while for them to stick in your head so that you're able to recall them instantly, and that's why I
recommend doing flashcard exercises for a short time every day for a month or two when you start
learning Japanese. Unfortunately, flashcards are a pain to make (if you're lazy like me), and that's why
these come in so handy. These flashcards also include 450 basic words, so that you'll also improve
your essential Japanese vocabulary.

Amazon Price: $14.96 (as of 10/17/2009)

192

Poll: kana vs romaji


As I've written above above, I advocate learning and actively using hiragana and katakana as early
as possible, in order to not fall into the "romaji trap", but not all people agree with this.

What do you think?

Romaji should be avoided since it obstructs learning Japanese properly

It's ok to use romaji in the beginning and then gradually learn & use kana

There's nothing wrong with romaji - you'll learn to read Japanese anyway

Romaji is all I need since I'm only focusing on spoken Japanese

Don't really know


Vote

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Japanese beginner level books & JLPT 4


The best beginner Japanese book recommendations ever!

Situational Functional Japanese Volume 1: Notes

by: Tsukuba Language Group


This is the beginner's book series that I started off with, and in hindsight I think I was very lucky.
Compared to the other popular beginner's books I've seen on the market (Minna no Nihongo, Japanese
for Busy People, etc), this one has a really no-nonsense approach to language learning, yet manages to
be interesting and comprehensive. It's developed by Tsukuba University in Japan, and revolves around
situations at a university in Japan. Each chapter has a conversational situation that is followed by a
report or diary entry written in more formal language. This is then followed by grammar notes and
conversational notes, often explaining pragmatical usage of words and expressions in different
situations of Japanese society. Highly recommended!

Amazon Price: (as of 10/16/2009)

Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese-English English-Japanese

by: Kodansha International

Having a good dictionary is essential for your Japanese learning progress. I came across this dictionary
myself when I started learning Japanese, and found it extraordinarily useful. In fact, I still find it useful
from time to time. The best thing about this dictionary is that not only is it a very well-written and
comprehensive book, but it has extensive example sentences showing the usage patterns of Japanese
words. Learning words by their 1-to-1 correspondence to English words will make your Japanese
sound unnatural, and that's where good example sentences come in. In fact, I think they're almost more
important than the actual word descriptions themselves.

This dictionary has furigana (hiragana showing the reading of kanji) for ALL kanji in the whole book -
including the example sentences. That means you can use it even if your kanji skills aren't great yet. It
also means it uses the Japanese kana, which is the natural way of writing Japanese, instead of romaji.
Many other beginners' Japanese dictionaries uses romaji, but trust me, that will only set you back in
the long run. This is the best Japanese dictionary out there for beginners and intermediate level alike.

Amazon Price: $37.80 (as of 10/16/2009)

The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary

by: Jack Halpern

This dictionary uses the SKIP method of organizing and ordering the kanji instead of the traditional
radical/stroke count order. The SKIP method is easier to learn and is also way faster to look up, which
is why I recommend this kanji dictionary. It contains all the joyo and jinmei kanji, which is essentially
all you need, and has example words featuring the kanji for each of the characters, as well as cross
references and stroke order diagrams. This is simply the best kanji dictionary for Japanese learners!
Amazon Price: $26.37 (as of 10/16/2009)

Beginner's Japanese with 2 Audio CDs (Hippocrene Beginner's Series)

by: Joanne Redmond Claypoole

This is the best beginner's book I've found since after I started learning Japanese. I've recommended it
to many of my friends and they have all liked it. Note that this is a very basic Japanese book for
absolute beginners! It has 25 lessons that build on top of each other, and each lesson contains a dialog
and then a thorough explanation of the grammar used in that dialog, as well as a complete list of the
vocabulary used that is printed along side, for fast reference. The dialogs are in simple kanji &
hiragana with romaji along it. Now, I normally wouldn't recommend using romaji for learning, but
since this is an absolute beginner's book, it's also a good tool for learning hiragana as well. Finally, the
main reason why I think this book is better than all others I've seen is that each lesson has good
exercises and a self test. In my opinion, doing exercises is essential to efficient learning. Besides, it's
pretty fun too. :)

Amazon Price: $19.77 (as of 10/16/2009)

Basic Japanese: Learn to Speak and Understand Japanese with Pimsleur Language Programs
(Simon & Schuster's)

by: Pimsleur

Before I started taking Japanese classes, I thought I'd give myself a bit of a head start and study some
basics in advance. So I set out to find some decent study material and came across this Pimsleur
package. Pimsleur is a tried and tested well-known maker of language tapes for almost any language...
and lo' and behold it was actually really good! This CD pack contains 10 30-minute lessons of
situation-based polite/formal conversational Japanese. I think that for the price, it's good value for
money. You can go over the lessons any number of times until the sounds, patterns, and words settle in
your head, which is great for improving active language skills. I listened to these while commuting to
work during the summer before I started attending Japanese lessons. And even now when I'm living in
Japan, phrases from this series comes to mind every now and again!

Amazon Price: $18.96 (as of 10/16/2009)

Learning kanji
It's actually fun, you know - and not as hard as some make it up to be!
Don't make the mistake of putting off learning kanji thinking that you'll pick it up later
after you learn spoken Japanese. Being literate in Japanese is essential for learning to speak and understand spoken
Japanese as well.

Why is that? Well, I've read that once a person becomes literate, he/she can never again go back to thinking about language
without subconsciously associating it with its written form. This, I think, applies even more to Japanese, since in many cases
words get their meaning from the kanji characters they're made up of, rather than etymologically through morphological
compounds. Why is that? It's because Japanese has borrowed around 50% of its vocabulary from Chinese - so the words
might have made sense as sounds in Chinese at the time, but they sure don't in modern Japanese.

That's why I really recommend that you focus a lot on becoming literate in Japanese early on in your learning.

The best books for learning kanji


Not being able to read is called illiteracy -- and it's not for you!

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters (Tuttle language library)

by: Kenneth G. Henshall

This book is nothing less than an etymological kanji dictionary of all the 2000+ joyo (everyday use)
kanji! For each kanji character, it presents its history in brief, references it to associated characters,
tells its story of how it has evolved into its current form, and also its readings (both kun and on
readings) and three example words/compound words written using the character. Of all the Japanese
learning-related books I own, this one is by far the one I've gotten the most out of. I heartily
recommend this one!

Amazon Price: $19.77 (as of 10/16/2009)


Remembering the Kanji, Vol. 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and
Writing of Japanese Characters

by: James W. Heisig

This book is really popular among Japanese learners. Its philosophy is that you study the meanings of
the kanji characters first, before you associate them with sounds and vocabulary. Heisig advocates
using a memorization technique that associates stories with each character. Some people claim this
works wonders, and although to me the above book by Henshall is much better, I am willing to
concede that this book might work better for some people - so please have a look at both and consider
which method you think will work for you - or do both! (I did!)

Amazon Price: $23.83 (as of 10/16/2009)

Japanese Kanji Flashcards, Vol. 1 (Third Edition)

by: Max Hodges, Tomoko Okazaki

I used this series of flash cards in the beginning to learn a lot of basic kanji fast. I think flash cards are
great for memorizing kanji -- it's just too bad they're so tedious to make, right? Well, this is the
solution -- they're already made for you! These cards include meanings, readings (both on and kun), as
well as sample vocabulary written using the character for each kanji.

Amazon Price: $17.12 (as of 10/16/2009)

nihongo 90 nichi IN JAPANESE NO ROMAJI