Top Books for Learning Japanese at Any Experience Level

By OptiLingo • 6 minutes read

Time to listen up you knucklehead.

That’s enough of all the fun Japanese resources that don’t require any work like anime, manga and internet forums. They can be good places to learn, but to actually pick up on the fundamentals of Japanese you will have to break out an old-fashioned textbook. This is essentially a “how to learn Japanese book.”

These textbooks are going to teach you how to utilize the language in its most proper format. They give you a step-by-step guide of all the major grammatical details, critical vocabulary as well as forms of dialect. Learning slang and fun expressions are all well and good when you have a good grasp of the basics and you want a little entertainment.

As an earnest Japanese student, you will want to understand the best ways to speak Japanese the right way as well. What is gonna happen to you when you go to that job interview in Tokyo for that dream employer? You may not even have the capacity to make use of the grammar that would allow you to humbly speak with your superiors yet.

Another example is speaking with a landlord in such a way that doesn’t make he or she dislike you—even though you could be naive. We’re going to assume that the reason you’re reading this means you want to know the best places to find a “how to learn Japanese book” that will put you on the right track towards mastering Japanese.

We’re happy to say that you will definitely have your answer after reading this article.

You have a lot more options to choose from than simply hardcover, e-book or paperback textbooks as a student of the Japanese language.


Deciding on the Right Textbook for Your Japanese Learning Needs

The textbook you choose can make or break your learning efforts. Picking one that isn’t right for you can be a large waste of money, energy and time. How will you know which textbook is right for your current level of Japanese expertise?

This is totally dependent on your situation, so before you go directly to the store or the Amazon search bar, think about these factors:

  •  Your current level of skill
  •  Your studying needs at the moment
  •  Your plans and goals as a student in the long run
  •  Your style of learning
  •  Your budget

After the points above have truly been taken into consideration by you, it’s time to begin your research. To save the most money and enhance your options for studying, you might want to think about looking around sites that allow you to rent or buy e-textbooks as well. Many resources even provide this all from one application.



The majority of formal courses based on classroom courses are going to use textbooks of their own, so you might not need to find a textbook for yourself. If you are studying independently or you are looking for more than just your classroom material, some decisions will need to be made. Textbooks can be amazing learning resources for all-around knowledge. These kinds of sources often center around major lessons and divide the subjects into topics like direction requests, greetings or grocery store vocabulary.

Such lessons are offered with vocabulary lists, practice exercises, grammar tables and even video, audio and games at times as well. Some resources will even use an element based online where you may talk to other learners, ask questions, take tests or record your progress.


“Japanese from Zero!” — Trombley

This is perhaps the most popular series of textbooks on the market. It is somewhat new, but still approachable and user-friendly for beginners.

  •  Perfect for novices and intermediate students of Japanese
  •  Obeys a lesson-based plan that teaches vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, writing and more
  •  For those students who want a little more practice, the textbook series also has a set of workbooks sold separately to function as companion books


“Living Language Japanese” — Living Language Method

Living Language has been a reputable language teaching company for numerous years. Textbooks can be found that are ideal for your level of knowledge. You could also buy a comprehensive package that covers books useful for any level.

  •  Textbooks also have CD’s for listening and speaking assistance
  •  The cost is fair when you consider the amount of material that is provided
  •  Function as a stand-alone course very nicely when you are not enrolled in a formal Japanese language course


“Japanese, Comprehensive” — Pimsleur

Another well-respected company that teaches the Japanese language is Pimsleur. They have also been around for years. The method they use centers around listening and speaking via audio, so it’s the right option for students looking for supplemental work involving extra speaking and listening practice.

  •  Perfect listening and speaking resource for students who do not have access to native Japanese speakers
  •  Students gain confidence fast by using comprehension and speaking practice exercises
  •  Packages and comprehensive sets are available for your specific level


Grammar Resources

For people who are trying to truly understand and excel with the language, grammar books are crucial. Two basic kinds of grammar books are available:

  •  Reference books for big-picture information if a student needs it
  •  Practice-based books that teach grammar with exercises


“Practice Makes Perfect” — Sato

As the name indicates, this book is based around practice. Students study grammar using a set of lessons that explain every essential you could possibly need.

  •  Ideal for novices, simple to get started by yourself and straightforward to follow
  •  A usage dictionary is included as well
  •  Exercises cover writing, phonetics and elements of language learning that are often neglected
  •  The approach takes you on a journey that’s based on exercises to aid in internalizing the grammar


“A Guide to Japanese Grammar” — Tae Kim

Tae Kim manages a renown blog around the topics of Chinese, Japanese and “a hint of Korean.” He has written a grammar book of his own that you can find on Amazon. This is great if you want to buy a tangible copy of the content on his blog.

  •  Very comprehensive and detailed—explains writing, grammar, phonetics and more
  •  Good to use as a reference
  •  Also makes use of examples and real-world Japanese vocabulary you would encounter these days including slang and casual speech

This resource is advised for long-term students who need more of a systematic approach and are not deterred from going straight to the “hard stuff.”


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