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Top 11 best books to learn Japanese for beginners

HuyenMilkyway

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To get a decent handle on the structure of Japanese, you need a solid textbook (or the equivalent) to explain grammar concepts, provide practice exercises, and introduce material that’s only +1 above your current ability level.
Below is a list of our favourite textbooks; the ones we feel are the best books for beginners to learn Japanese
1. Minna no Nihongo
2. Genki
3. Yookoso! An invitation to contemporary Japanese
4. Japanese for Busy People
5. Japnese for everyone
6. Japanese: The spoken language
7. Adventures in Japanese
8. A guide to Japanese grammar
9. Elementary Japanese
10. Japanese from zero
11. Japanese the Manga way
The above is Top 11 best books to learn Japanese for beginners. Wish you learn Japanese we. If you have any interesting book please share with me.
 
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akmatsu

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I am a big supporter of Minna no Nihongo.

I have noticed since moving back to the US, many JETs used Genki. And they seemed to stand by it.

Thanks for the list. There are a few I’ve never heard of!
 

xminus1

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I like collecting books of all sorts, and I own quite a few that were included on this list. I understand there is a Japanese word for my hobby: 積ん読 😬

At any rate, I made a decision to try to confine myself to one learning method, and so I made a commitment to stick with Minna until the end of the first textbook, (Beginner 1). I'm now on Beginner 2 and I can say I am loving Minna. Despite my eagerness to zoom through the material as fast as I can, (which is probably a temptation many of us have), I am making sure I do all the exercises thoroughly and understand the material before proceeding to further chapters. And Minna does offer a lot of material compared to other textbook series. In addition to the main textbook and [English] grammar book, you can also buy a writing workbook, a kanji workbook, a chapter summary/review book, (the pages of which detach so I'm assuming teachers could use this book as an end-of-chapter quiz), a listening confirmation book with audio CD, and a reading book. The main textbook can also be supplemented with more audio CDs, which I think for self-learners is really essential. I can see how a self-learner could easily get through one chapter in Minna per week, including all the additional material; that was in fact my rate of progress for a long time, but now I'm finding that there is a saturation point with assimilating and retaining new vocabulary, which eventually becomes a choke point. So I've decided to go slower and also review older material until I can start reabsorbing more vocab for new lessons.

My goal is to continue with Minna through the four textbooks in the series, (Beginner 1 & 2, and Lower Intermediate 1 & 2). Once I get to the Lower Intermediate level I would like to supplement my studies with an online tutor. Unfortunately I don't live in an area where I could meet up with a person face-to-face, which would be my preference.

Akmatsu-san, I too have noticed that Genki is very popular in the West. Most universities seem to use it. Among the pretty solid Japanese undergraduate programs, I can only remember for sure that Columbia uses Minna, and Columbia arguably is among the strongest Japanese programs anywhere. I think University of Hawaii might also use it, but I'm not sure anymore. Wisconsin-Madison has a very solid and highly reputable Japanese undergraduate program, and I was surprised that they use Genki. In the UK, the esteemed SOAS, (Peter Barakan's alma mater), uses Minna. My Chinese and Korean friends overseas all have used Minna, as that seems to be the choice for second-language instruction in Asia. Minna is a practical choice for schools with students of various mother tongues, as they can all use the same textbook (in Japanese), but each have a grammar book in their own language. I think this benefit, however, is a source of irritation among some Western students, as I have read book reviews from such students where they seem quite upset that they have to buy another book just so that they are able to use the main textbook. There definitely is a bit of quirkiness to the "Minna method", and the series does NOT spoon-feed the learner. But there's no denying that Minna is serious and well-thought out, and provides more learning material than others in this space.

As an aside, I read that the U.S. Department of the Navy, prior to WWII, used to run a Japanese language training program for its personnel stationed in Japan. It was a full-time program that took three years to complete! The objective was to attain complete fluency. When the war broke out, the program was transferred to Colorado, and was eventually condensed to one year as an emergency measure. Civilians were also admitted to this program to augment the student numbers, (there was a huge demand to translate written material as well as interview persons of interest). A lady who went on to become a well-known Canadian cabinet minister (politician) had been a young participant in this Japanese training program, and she wrote much later in her memoirs that she had never worked harder in her whole life as she had in that one year. After the war she studied law at a good law school and achieved academic distinction, and furthermore she had a reputation of being an extremely hard-working individual, so if this lady said the program was hard, it was probably a nightmare by today's standards. It's also interesting to note that many prominent (today) American academics received their introduction to Japanese language in this very same program.

Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that I am wondering how much Japanese modern students at Western universities learn when many programs offer only 3-5 hours a week instruction. It seems to me likely that these students are doing most of their learning on their own or perhaps in study groups with each other. 3-5 hours of weekly instruction for an average of 12 weeks for an academic term doesn't seem like very much, does it?
 

mdchachi

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Anyway, my point in bringing this up is that I am wondering how much Japanese modern students at Western universities learn when many programs offer only 3-5 hours a week instruction. It seems to me likely that these students are doing most of their learning on their own or perhaps in study groups with each other. 3-5 hours of weekly instruction for an average of 12 weeks for an academic term doesn't seem like very much, does it?
You're exactly right about that. It doesn't get you anywhere fast. I had 6 semesters of college Japanese before I moved to Japan. It gave me a good start but I had a long ways to go from there. A private tutor and immersion in Japanese life is what propelled me forward.
 

musicisgood

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One book that I'm finally studying out of is Sato E. Complete Japanese Grammar. It seems at the moment for me to give me a foundation that I'm hopefully to understand.
 

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