‘A good craftsman never blames their tools’
It goes without saying. But let’s be honest: when it comes to study, your tools are really important. And with Japanese textbooks, you are spoilt for choice. But not all are created equal.
With the next JLPT test fast approaching, your hefty time invested in learning a language demands the best resources. I’ll show you some things that got me on the right track.
How do you Learn?
Work to your strengths and test out some methods you’re comfortable with. Once you find a decent method, run with it. Change it up as you go along. It’s also worth knowing what kind of learner you are. Onto the language textbooks:
Matome covers all aspects of the JLPT test, but I personally wouldn’t get them all. There are five books that cover different aspects of the language: grammar, vocabulary, kanji, listening and reading comprehension. The books feature translation in Korean Hangul, Mandarin and English. Great for quick comprehension, but it can cause you to become reliant on the English.
This Japanese textbook is a heavyweight. Fantastic, but you’re thrown straight in the deep end. Everything (and I mean everything) is in Japanese. The blessing – you quickly adapt to reading Japanese, and a very quick way to upgrade your vocabulary. The burden – it can feel like a grinding learning process, as you constantly whip out a dictionary when you get stuck. I found the grammar book to be extremely useful, because it forces you to learn kanji, vocabulary and read all at once. If you can stick it out, you will reap the benefits.
At a Kinokuniya in Japan, these books only cost around Y1,000, or AUD$12 each.
You may find learning with this textbook to be slow, since it’s designed for elementary education. However, the content is organised and might be the starting point you need.
A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar
Not really a textbook like the other books, but still a vital reference for learning Japanese. It documents all kinds of sentence patterns, and takes you right to the explanation. Not so beginner-friendly, but before long it will be invaluable to your study. There are also versions for Basic and Advanced grammar, so take your pick.
Remember: It Doesn’t Stop at Textbooks.
Find movies, TV shows and anything that will keep you hungry for more. Immerse yourself. It offers a new dimension to learning the parts of Japanese that a textbook won’t teach you. Here are some resources I prepared earlier:
Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese
Tae Kim is pretty much the ultimate sensei for learning Japanese. His website is an authority for anyone looking to learn or improve their Japanese. He breaks down the language in simple terms with easy examples. Hands down, this should probably be your starting point for the Japanese language.
My other go-to resource for Japanese. Nihongonomori’s YouTube channel covers all kinds of content, with a prime focus on JLPT. The content will keep you entertained and help you through tough concepts.
The Japan Guy
Donald Ash taught me how to use my washing machine while I was in Japan. If you’re needing something Japan-related that you can’t seem to find anywhere, chances are you will find it at The Japan Guy.
This website is dedicated to everything Japan. It covers language study, social life and everything else you want to know that hasn’t even crossed your mind yet. Intriguing content.
You would be surprised about the range of interesting and useful content you can find here. From time to time, I find my favourite Japanese bands (GReeeeN 大好き) and translate the lyrics to my favourite songs. Highly recommended before your next karaoke night.
NHK News Web Easy
There are still times when I struggle with what seems like simple Japanese, and it usually stems from a lack of vocabulary. Japanese news giant NHK has designed a section to simplify the news. If there’s one place to learn all kinds of new words, it’s in the news.
My Weapons of Choice…
A large majority of your time spent learning Japanese will be in everyday situations. It’s good to have access to learning wherever you are – make the most of mobile apps!
- Any English-Japanese dictionary: JDict (Android), imiwa (iOS).
- zKanji on Android, imiwa on iOS.
- Anki is great for repetitive learning, like electronic flashcards.
- Quizlet has many lists compiled by others, with vocabulary sets for specific word groups, the JLPT and kanji too.
- Always a good idea to have a vocabulary list.
Have fun, and happy learning!
If you’re looking to take your Japanese to the next level and want to prove it, you should consider taking the JLPT test.
Latest posts by Seb Thomas (see all)
- Interview with Andrew Carter: Consulate-General of Japan, Brisbane - November 5, 2017
- Japanese Resources: How to study and prepare for the JLPT - August 28, 2016
- Roundup of Japanese Textbooks and Other Learning Resources - August 28, 2016