Best Books and Textbooks to Learn Japanese

By OptiLingo • 7 minute read

Learn Japanese from the best books

Books Are Great To Learn Japanese

You may think books are outdated. But, they’re actually really helpful in language learning. So, if you’re learning Japanese and you want to have something physical in your hand, we can relate. That’s why we put together this tight, but an accurate list of the best Japanese books to study from. You can discover new vocabulary and understand grammar better with these Japanese textbooks.

The Best Japanese Textbooks

1. Japanese from Zero!

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

2. Living Language Japanese

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

3. Genki

This is another Japanese textbook series. It’s internationally acclaimed and learners enjoy studying with it.

  • Comes with online exercises
  • Makes you practice all four language learning skills
  • Explains Japanese grammar rules in English

4. Practice Makes Perfect

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

5. A Guide to Japanese Grammar

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, and phonetics
  •  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.”

6. Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar

If you’re willing to make the investment, this Japanese grammar book won’t let you down. Published by Ruthledge, this grammar book is one that you can count on. It explains Japanese grammar rules well and talks about all aspects of Japanese you need to know to speak the language comfortably.

  • Extremely detailed and comprehensive
  • Built on linguistical data
  • Peer reviewed

Why Use the Best Japanese Textbook for Self-study?

Every language learning tool has its advantages. Language learning apps are convenient. Watching films is relaxing. And listening to podcasts gives you a lot of flexibility. So, what are the exact advantages of learning Japanese from a textbook? What makes a Japanese textbook good?

  • Grammar: Nobody likes learning grammar, but it’s a necessary part of learning Japanese. So, the best Japanese books should explain the crucial rules and exceptions well.
  • Dialogues: The only skills that no language learning tool can make you do for you is speak. So, the least a good Japanese textbook can do is provide you with the vocabulary to have comfortable conversations with the locals.
  • Vocabulary: Speaking of vocabulary, the best Japanese textbooks have a vocabulary list at the end to summarize and help you study easier.
  • Practice: Exercises can really help you get ahead. Try to get a Japanese textbook that gives you challenges.
  • Cultural context: When you meet Japanese people, knowing what to say to them is only one part of communication. You need to understand cultural cues and etiquette. Get a textbook that prepares you for those meetings.
  • Exam preparation: Additionally, if you’re learning Japanese for school, it may be worth investing in a textbook that prepares you for the exam you want to take. Language exams aren’t testing your language skills. They test how well you complete the exam.

The best books to learn Japanese

What Makes a Good Japanese Book the Best?

Of course, not all Japanese textbooks are great. Some aren’t even good. But, to truly benefit from a language learning tool, it needs to be just right. It needs to be engaging, fun, but also useful and effective. After all, if you’re paying good money for it, you need to make sure it brings you closer to Japanese fluency. The best Japanese book needs to be:

  • Engaging: A little color and design never hurt. If you can figure out the grammar rules or the vocabulary from context, that’s a great way to learn Japanese.
  • Right for your level: If you’re a beginner, don’t get a book for intermediate students. And if you already have some Japanese knowledge, getting a book for beginners will just bore you.
  • Progressively more difficult: Of course, steady progress and efficient study are at the core of any good language learning tool. And the best Japanese books certainly do that.
  • Reviews lessons: The key to language learning is spaced repetition. While you can do this yourself and just review your lessons, it’s easier if the textbook reminds you of it.
  • Convenient: Last but not least, it needs to fit your life. We don’t mean physically convenient, these are real-life books after all. But, the lessons should be short, to the point, and full of valuable information. So, you can fit in a 30-minute study session in your lunchbreak easily.

Can You Learn Japanese With Just Textbooks?

That’s like asking if you can cook dishes with just salt. Of course, learning a language has a lot of components. And being proficient in Japanese requires the practice of different skills. You need to write, read, speak, and understand Japanese well to become fluent.

The best way to learn Japanese is with a combination of different learning tools. Get a book, but also download an app, tune in to a podcast, and sign up for Japanese news updates. Every little part of your life that’s in Japanese will help you achieve fluency.

Complement Your Studies With the Best Japanese App

Even the best books aren’t enough to reach Japanese fluency. Having a language learning app next to it is very convenient. You need to focus on hearing and speaking the language because those are the most important skills you need to communicate with locals. So, download an app that helps you talk in Japanese more.

OptiLingo prepares you for those situations well. It gives you the most common Japanese words and phrases. The same ones that real Japanese locals use every day. But, this app doesn’t just serve Japanese knowledge on a silver platter. It also makes you hear and say Japanese so you get comfortable with the language. Achieve instant Japanese success when you download OptiLingo!