What are the best books for learning Japanese? Using a Japanese textbook or novel can help you cement your knowledge as you learn. While we’ll admit, books won’t make you fluent, they can provide you with many benefits. Reading a novel in your target language can help you reinforce vocabulary, sentence structure, learning characters, grammar and help you to gain some cultural appreciation. Reading can put words in context and show you which words are used a lot in the language.
As a matter of fact, according to a study, language learners who read a lot saw an increase in their test scores. The study says, “A reading amount of 300,000 words was the threshold where
many students started to show significant increases in TOEIC scores”. FYI, TOEIC stands for Test of English for International Communication.
Japanese Textbooks For Language Learning
While novels were just written to entertain, textbooks were designed to teach you something. There are tons of great Japanese textbooks for you. When picking up a textbook to help you learn a language, make sure you get one that is appropriate for your language level and modern (you don’t want to learn popular words from the fifties!). That means if you’re a beginner, find a textbook that is made specifically for beginners. Here are a couple of textbooks you should know about:
1. Nihongo Active Talk
As you know, we think being able to communicate in the language is paramount. This textbook focuses on conversational Japanese at the Beginner level. The book promises that, “Even if you have a small vocabulary or do not know proper grammar, you can still sufficiently carry on a conversation with a native Japanese speaker”.
2. Guide to Japanese Grammar
Yes, a grammar textbook sounds very boring BUT this one promises to be different. Some of the exercises in the book require a conversation partner which helps you sharpen your conversation skills. According to the author, “This guide is an attempt to systematically build up the grammatical structures that make up the Japanese language in a way that makes sense in Japanese”. It’s perfect for those who are beginner to intermediate.
The good news is that the author has made the pdf version of the book freely available. Click the link above to access the link and start learning.
Tobira, often used in college classrooms, is a three-volume textbook that helps you master Japanese through speaking, listening etc. However, this book or this book series is more suitable for intermediate to advanced learners. In addition to that, buying the series may be a little expensive and to get the full experience you may have to.
Japanese Novels You’ll Love
There are many Japanese novels that will take you on an interesting journey while allowing you to pick up words you can use in conversation. Here are some Japanese novels you should check out:
1. “Heaven’s Bookstore” by Atsushi Matsuhisa (Beginner)
The main character is an employee in heaven’s bookstore. Yes, you read that right. He’s actually the substitute manager and he’s very intrigued by one of his coworkers. This book can be read by beginners since it’s pretty conversational.
2. “Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers” edited by Michael Emmerich (Intermediate)
This compilation of short stories is so varied you’re bound to find something that interests you. The Amazon description says, “whatever a reader’s taste, he or she is sure to find something of interest and value in this book, suitable for students at the intermediate level and above.”
3. “1Q84” by Murakami Haruki (Advanced)
Once you can make it through this book you’ll love it. The book is about two people who are in an alternative reality and must find their way back to each other. Amazon describes it as “A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.”
If you’ve decided to pick up a textbook or novel, we strongly suggest getting a language tutor. Japanese is a little more difficult for English speakers to learn but it’s definitely not impossible. Using textbooks, novels, other media as well as a language tutor would help you become fluent. Our language tutors focus on the conversation which is important in learning any language. After all, we’re learning the language to communicate with others, right?
We’re offering a $35 trial class so don’t miss out on this opportunity to improve your language learning journey.