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Best Books for Beginners

What are the best books to start from zero?

Starting to learn Japanese from zero can be quite intimidating. There are thousands of books, so where do you start? Some books are meant to be used in a classroom setting and some are better for self study. Many books focus on different topics such as grammar, listening, reading, kanji or vocabulary. Some books focus on casual conversation, while others focus on speaking politely. Below are some of our favorite books for beginners and we'll give you all of the information you need to pick the best book for you!

Our Overall Top Picks


These books are the best of the best in our opinion. Each of these carefully selected books will help you get started learning Japanese from scratch.

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Nihongo So-Matome N5

This is our best selling book for beginners who want a great all-inclusive book to start learning Japanese.

Structured to be finished in 6 weeks, working on 2 pages per day, this book is one of the most popular choices for language learners who prepare for the JLPT N5

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Genki I Textbook 3rd Edition

Genki is the top selling traditional textbook that is used in most Japanese classes in English speaking countries. The book includes explanations and translations in English to help students understand. The book is also perfect for self-study if you're not in a classroom!

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Nihongo Fun & Easy

This book is used by many Japanese conversation schools in Japan to help new learners quickly get up to a daily conversational leverl of Japanese. While this book does cover many aspects of learning Japanese, it does focus on essential conversation skills.

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Drill and Drill N5

Drill and Drill is a complete guide to learning Japanese with a focus on written practice. We love this book because it offers not only the answers, but explanations to the answers. We find this to be very helpful when learning Japanese!

More Recommended Top Picks


As with the books above these are also great all around books. These books cover all topics such as Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening, Reading and Kanji. If you've already used the above books or if you're looking for additional books, these are highly recommended.

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Essential Supplement Books


These are our top picks for supplementary books. The Japanese cheat sheet is a fantastic resource to have while studying. Practical Japanese will give you the essential speaking skills for traveling to Japan. Essential verbs is a one of a kind book that helps you learn and practice verbs. Try! Start is a fantastic book to test the skills you've learned with tests.

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Great Beginner Books for Building Specific Skills


All around books are best to start with, but books within individual focuses like Grammar, Listening, Reading, Vocabulary, and Kanji are essential to growing your Japanese skills.

Kanji

漢字


When first starting to learn Japanese, you may find kanji to be the most difficult part. First, you must master hiragana and katakana. After that, you can start to learn the first 100 kanji. Our best selling White Rabbit Press Kanji Flashcards are the greatest way to do this, but if you prefer books these are our top picks for learning kanji.

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Grammar

文法


Depending on your native language, learning Japanese grammar and be quite difficult. These books provide you with simple methods to help you learn and use proper grammar techniques. You'll need to learn about 40 different grammar rules to be at a beginner level of Japanese. Once you've mastered these grammar rules, you'll be able to properly structure sentences while speaking and writing i

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Vocabulary

語彙


Expanding your vocabulary is an essential part of learning Japanese. There are about 700 vocabulary words that are important in the beginning stages of learning Japanese. Some learnings believe vocabulary is the most important part of learning Japanese and it will allow you to partially understand conversations even if you're unable to follow the grammar in a sentence.

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Reading

読解


Reading can be very intimidating when you first start learning Japanese. These books are our top picks to ease you into being able to read Japanese. These stories use a limited set of grammar and vocabulary to make the reading seamless. Kanji also has kana next to it in case you come across a character you don't recognize. Not only are these stories easy to read but they're very

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Conversation


If you're self studying, then conversation skills might be the most difficult skills to build. These books will help you practice and learn the most natural and essential ways of speaking in Japanese. If you're living in Japan, we highly recommend "Understanding Daily Conversation for Foreigners." "Conversing in Japanese" is a fantastic book that is great for self studying or studying with a partner.

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JLPT N5 Mock Exams


If you've learned the first 40 grammar rules, 100 kanji, 700 vocabulary, practiced reading, tested your listening and you're ready to test what you've learned, we recommend taking some mock JLPT N5 tests. The "JLPT N5 Official Practice Workbook Volume 2" contains many examples of test questions based on recently JLPT exams. The "JLPT N5 Mock Test" is the closest thing to taking the real test.

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Student reviews

“Nihongo Fun and Easy is the best book I've used to learn Japanese. It was very straight to the point and gave me the practical skills I need for my daily life in Japan. I was able to study one chapter and go outside and use what I learned immediately. I highly recommend it for anyone who needs to learn essential Japanese conversational skills.”

-Riki