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Best Books for Learning Japanese

Updated on May 21, 2010

Looking to pass the JLPT, or just learning Japanese for fun?

I've spent a lot of money on books over the years... and not all of it was well spent -- although I did end up learning Japanese! On my blog I often get questions asking which books I recommend for certain areas of study, such as Japanese vocabulary, kanji, grammar, reading skill, or listening, for specific JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) levels, etc. So I though I'd summarize it on this page, for easy reference.

All the books I recommend there are ones that I own or have owned and have found useful. I've probably bought way more books than necessary over the years, but I find buying books for myself keeps me motivated to study, so it has probably been worth it in the end, even if some of those books weren't very good.

Just started learning?

So you wanna learn Japanese? That's great!

I was a Japanese padawan myself some 5 years ago - but now I am nearly fluent. It's been a long but very fun and rewarding journey, and I really recommend everyone to start learning Japanese. Anyway, let me point out some tips that I think might be useful for a beginning Japanese student:

Don't fall into the romaji trap! Japanese written using the Latin alphabet is called romaji. You can use romaji to learn the Japanese kana syllabaries hiragana and katakana. After that you should get rid of using romaji as soon as humanly possible. There are two reasons for that: One is that you need to become literate as soon as possible. Literacy is key to efficient learning of any language - and even more so Japanese, which literal form has some quirks (to say the least), that are reflected in the spoken language too! The other reason is that it'll make your spoken Japanese sound more natural. Maybe I'm just imagining, but I think I can tell when a foreigner has learned Japanese through romaji from the way he/she is speaking.

Make sure you have a good Japanese dictionary and kanji dictionary. They're indispensable for your learning progress. Your goal is to learn the whole Japanese language, right? So every time you see a word or kanji you don't know - look it up, write it down, and study it.

Poll: kana vs romaji

As I've written above above, I advocate learning and actively using hiragana and katakana as early as possible, in order to not fall into the "romaji trap", but not all people agree with this.

What do you think?

See results

Books for learning Hiragana & Katakana - Learning to read again as an adult can be a fun experience!

Japanese is written using a combination of kanji (rather complex characters of Chinese origin), and two unique "kana" syllabaries (i.e. an "alphabet" where each character represents the pronunciation of one syllable, often a consonant followed by a vowel). The hiragana syllabary is used to write Japanese words that can't be written in kanji, or where the writer wishes to use the phonetic kana instead of the ideographic kanji for some stylistic reason, as well as to write grammatical particles, verb endings, etc, in normal written Japanese. Meanwhile, katakana is mostly used to write foreign loan words.

Let's Learn Hiragana: First Book of Basic Japanese Writing (Kodansha's Children's Classics)
Let's Learn Hiragana: First Book of Basic Japanese Writing (Kodansha's Children's Classics)

This book teaches you the Japanese hiragana syllabary. In my opinion it is essential to quickly learn how to read and write Japanese properly using hiragana and not rely on romaji romanization for more than the absolute beginning. And learning hiragana is fun, too! This book showcases each of the 46 basic hiragana, then goes on to show how these are extended to make up the full hiragana syllabary. But I don't think you need a book just for that, and that's where the value in this book is: it also teaches you how the hiragana are used in words and sentences, shows you some exceptions to the rules, and provides useful exercises that will not only teach you hiragana, but also essential Japanese.

 
Let's Learn Katakana: Second Book of Basic Japanese Writing
Let's Learn Katakana: Second Book of Basic Japanese Writing

Once you've mastered hiragana (or while still studying it, which may be more efficient), you also need to learn katakana. They're similar, but they're not the same. The basic principle is the same, but shapes and usage are different, so you need to study both. The good thing about katakana is that it's largely used to write foreign loan words, lately mostly from English, so once you start learning it, you'll be able to understand a lot of words in written Japanese immediately because they're actually in English! This book is in the same series as the above one and complements it well.

 
Kana Flashcards (Japanese and English Edition)
Kana Flashcards (Japanese and English Edition)

In addition to the above book, I recommend using flashcards to drill yourself on the hiragana and katakana. That is in fact how I learned them myself. Even after you've memorized the kana, it'll take a while for them to stick in your head so that you're able to recall them instantly, and that's why I recommend doing flashcard exercises for a short time every day for a month or two when you start learning Japanese. Unfortunately, flashcards are a pain to make (if you're lazy like me), and that's why these come in so handy. These flashcards also include 450 basic words, so that you'll also improve your essential Japanese vocabulary.

 

Japanese beginner level books & JLPT 4 - The best beginner Japanese book recommendations ever!

Situational Functional Japanese Volume 1: Notes
Situational Functional Japanese Volume 1: Notes

This is the beginner's book series that I started off with, and in hindsight I think I was very lucky. Compared to the other popular beginner's books I've seen on the market (Minna no Nihongo, Japanese for Busy People, etc), this one has a really no-nonsense approach to language learning, yet manages to be interesting and comprehensive. It's developed by Tsukuba University in Japan, and revolves around situations at a university in Japan. Each chapter has a conversational situation that is followed by a report or diary entry written in more formal language. This is then followed by grammar notes and conversational notes, often explaining pragmatical usage of words and expressions in different situations of Japanese society. Highly recommended!

 
Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese-English English-Japanese
Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary: Japanese-English English-Japanese

Having a good dictionary is essential for your Japanese learning progress. I came across this dictionary myself when I started learning Japanese, and found it extraordinarily useful. In fact, I still find it useful from time to time. The best thing about this dictionary is that not only is it a very well-written and comprehensive book, but it has extensive example sentences showing the usage patterns of Japanese words. Learning words by their 1-to-1 correspondence to English words will make your Japanese sound unnatural, and that's where good example sentences come in. In fact, I think they're almost more important than the actual word descriptions themselves.

This dictionary has furigana (hiragana showing the reading of kanji) for ALL kanji in the whole book - including the example sentences. That means you can use it even if your kanji skills aren't great yet. It also means it uses the Japanese kana, which is the natural way of writing Japanese, instead of romaji. Many other beginners' Japanese dictionaries uses romaji, but trust me, that will only set you back in the long run. This is the best Japanese dictionary out there for beginners and intermediate level alike.

 
The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary
The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary

This dictionary uses the SKIP method of organizing and ordering the kanji instead of the traditional radical/stroke count order. The SKIP method is easier to learn and is also way faster to look up, which is why I recommend this kanji dictionary. It contains all the joyo and jinmei kanji, which is essentially all you need, and has example words featuring the kanji for each of the characters, as well as cross references and stroke order diagrams. This is simply the best kanji dictionary for Japanese learners!

 
Beginner's Japanese with 2 Audio CDs (Hippocrene Beginner's Series)
Beginner's Japanese with 2 Audio CDs (Hippocrene Beginner's Series)

This is the best beginner's book I've found since after I started learning Japanese. I've recommended it to many of my friends and they have all liked it. Note that this is a very basic Japanese book for absolute beginners! It has 25 lessons that build on top of each other, and each lesson contains a dialog and then a thorough explanation of the grammar used in that dialog, as well as a complete list of the vocabulary used that is printed along side, for fast reference. The dialogs are in simple kanji & hiragana with romaji along it. Now, I normally wouldn't recommend using romaji for learning, but since this is an absolute beginner's book, it's also a good tool for learning hiragana as well. Finally, the main reason why I think this book is better than all others I've seen is that each lesson has good exercises and a self test. In my opinion, doing exercises is essential to efficient learning. Besides, it's pretty fun too. :)

 
Pimsleur Japanese Basic Course - Level 1 Lessons 1-10 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Japanese with Pimsleur Language Programs
Pimsleur Japanese Basic Course - Level 1 Lessons 1-10 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Japanese with Pimsleur Language Programs

Before I started taking Japanese classes, I thought I'd give myself a bit of a head start and study some basics in advance. So I set out to find some decent study material and came across this Pimsleur package. Pimsleur is a tried and tested well-known maker of language tapes for almost any language... and lo' and behold it was actually really good! This CD pack contains 10 30-minute lessons of situation-based polite/formal conversational Japanese. I think that for the price, it's good value for money. You can go over the lessons any number of times until the sounds, patterns, and words settle in your head, which is great for improving active language skills. I listened to these while commuting to work during the summer before I started attending Japanese lessons. And even now when I'm living in Japan, phrases from this series comes to mind every now and again!

 

Learning kanji

It's actually fun, you know - and not as hard as some make it up to be!

Don't make the mistake of putting off learning kanji thinking that you'll pick it up later after you learn spoken Japanese. Being literate in Japanese is essential for learning to speak and understand spoken Japanese as well.

Why is that? Well, I've read that once a person becomes literate, he/she can never again go back to thinking about language without subconsciously associating it with its written form. This, I think, applies even more to Japanese, since in many cases words get their meaning from the kanji characters they're made up of, rather than etymologically through morphological compounds. Why is that? It's because Japanese has borrowed around 50% of its vocabulary from Chinese - so the words might have made sense as sounds in Chinese at the time, but they sure don't in modern Japanese.

That's why I really recommend that you focus a lot on becoming literate in Japanese early on in your learning.

The best books for learning kanji - Not being able to read is called illiteracy -- and it's not for you!

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters
A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters

This book is nothing less than an etymological kanji dictionary of all the 2000+ joyo (everyday use) kanji! For each kanji character, it presents its history in brief, references it to associated characters, tells its story of how it has evolved into its current form, and also its readings (both kun and on readings) and three example words/compound words written using the character. Of all the Japanese learning-related books I own, this one is by far the one I've gotten the most out of. I heartily recommend this one!

 
Remembering the Kanji, Vol. 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters
Remembering the Kanji, Vol. 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters

This book is really popular among Japanese learners. Its philosophy is that you study the meanings of the kanji characters first, before you associate them with sounds and vocabulary. Heisig advocates using a memorization technique that associates stories with each character. Some people claim this works wonders, and although to me the above book by Henshall is much better, I am willing to concede that this book might work better for some people - so please have a look at both and consider which method you think will work for you - or do both! (I did!)

 
Japanese Kanji Flashcards, Vol. 1 (Third Edition)
Japanese Kanji Flashcards, Vol. 1 (Third Edition)

I used this series of flash cards in the beginning to learn a lot of basic kanji fast. I think flash cards are great for memorizing kanji -- it's just too bad they're so tedious to make, right? Well, this is the solution -- they're already made for you! These cards include meanings, readings (both on and kun), as well as sample vocabulary written using the character for each kanji.

 

Poll: Remembering the Kanji - the devil in disguise?

The book Remembering the Kanji is a heated topic of discussion in some of the forums on the interwebs. Some people love RtK and some people hate it. I lean towards the latter, but I can see that it works for many people too.

What do you think?

See results

Progressing from beginner to intermediate

I think this step on the learning stairway is one of the most rewarding. Why? Because now you start getting some reward for the time you spent learning the basics, namely that you start understanding real Japanese to some degree.

That's why I think reading real Japanese texts is starting to get essential at this stage. I myself was a little bit late doing that, and I think it hurt my progress. There are books with short stories or essays in intermediate level Japanese (real Japanese though, not just schoolbook examples!), as well as lots of material on the web. You can sign up for an account on Mixi for example. Mixi is the biggest social networking site in Japan, and it contains lots of small snippets of text, such as diary entries and community board messages, in everyday, fairly straightforward, real Japanese written by real Japanese people.

Also don't let your listening skills fall behind! While I recommend that you read a lot, get some listening practice too. There are good books for this, especially those aimed at passing the JLPT, and there are also Japanese podcasts, youtube videos, etc that you can use to make sure your ears and brain is attuned to the sound of real, spoken Japanese - even if you don't understand all if it yet.

Best intermediate Japanese & JLPT 3 books

Japanese Language Proficiency Test: Grammar Exercises Level 3 (Kanzen Masutaa) (Japanese and English Edition)
Japanese Language Proficiency Test: Grammar Exercises Level 3 (Kanzen Masutaa) (Japanese and English Edition)

Grammar might not seem very fun and all, but it's actually the easiest - as in "most time efficient" - part of the JLPT exam! That's because it contributes 25% of the total exam score, but it can be completed in 15-20 minutes. Also, there's a clearly defined set of Japanese grammar patterns that appear on each JLPT level, so you know what you have to know (unlike, say, the reading section, which is pretty open-ended). As always with the Kanzen Master series, it's laid out as 50 or so one-day lessons. Follow their lesson plan, and I promise you you won't fail the test.

 
Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 3 (Listening Practice) Preparatory ourse
Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 3 (Listening Practice) Preparatory ourse

The UNICOM series listening books are absolutely awesome! I've used them for every level of the JLPT. The thing about the listening part of the JLPT test is that even if your general listening and understanding skills are good, there's a specific set of vocabulary and sentence patterns used on the JLPT. Call it JLPT Japanese if you like. So in order to nail the test, you need to study these specific Japanese words and phrases. I recommend the UNICOM series' JLPT listening books because they feature all the components (directions, time & date, graphs, sequence order, etc) that appear on the real test. That means you'll pick up the essential vocabulary and patterns thus nailing the test as well.

 
Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included
Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included

Reading real Japanese texts is extremely important to your overall Japanese language proficiency. It's also quite often more fun than studying using traditional textbooks. I started reading real Japanese a little bit too late I think - around the time I passed JLPT2 - which probably set me back significantly in my Japanese language abilities. This book contains 8 real Japanese essays with translation for the most complicated parts, and notes on grammar, vocabulary, and pragmatical Japanese language usage. It also comes with a CD with the stories read out for you - great when you're on the run, and for listening comprehension practise as well!

 

Best books for improving your Japanese skill - There are some books that can be used regardless of one's level for improving one's general Japanese communicatio

The Handbook of Japanese Adjectives and Adverbs (A Kodansha Dictionary)
The Handbook of Japanese Adjectives and Adverbs (A Kodansha Dictionary)

Do you know what tekkiri, assari, kossori, barabara, pekopeko, niyaniya, zutto, sutto, satto, zatto, sotto, and zotto means? One of the most charming points of the Japanese language is all the adjectives and adverbs, especially the onomatopoeic ones, that adorn otherwise simple sentences, and convey the speaker's/writer's feelings towards what is occurring, or very specifically describes how the action is occurring. Learning these will not only allow you to more deeply understand what other people are communicating (as opposed to just what they're saying), but also make your own Japanese sound more natural and fluent. This book I have found useful to refer to many times over the years.

 

Poll: What's your Japanese level?

See the below poll too for studying for the JLPT.

What would you say your current Japanese proficiency is?

See results

Poll: What is your JLPT level?

This year or next, which JLPT level are you studying for?

See results
Mystery Tales of the As-Yet Unknown JLPT level n3!
Mystery Tales of the As-Yet Unknown JLPT level n3!

What about the new JLPT level N3?

What do we know about this new level and new test format?

As has been discussed in my blog, there aren't yet any JLPT level n3 textbooks or study materials available, even in Japan. And since the test content specification hasn't even been released, what will actually be in the n3 test is a matter of speculation. However, based on the vague hints and examples that have been released regarding the new jlpt level, we can still make some qualified guesses.

For instance, as specified in the guidebook for the new test format, level n3 will be separated into three parts: characters and vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension, and listening comprehension, just like the old test, but unlike the new n2 and n1 levels where everything except listening is merged into one section.

We can also see that the time allocated to kanji and words is the same as for level n4, while grammar and reading is 10 minutes longer and listening is 5 minutes longer. So although they say that the new n3 level is between the old level 3 and 2, this time allocation suggests that grammar and reading will be comparatively harder than the average of these two old levels, while kanji and words will be comparatively easier. That's good to know when setting up a study plan!

So if I were to aim for N3 this year, I would study for the N2. If you score close to 50% on a mock (old) level 2 test, then I bet you will pass the N3. But of course, if the purpose of your studies is explicitly to pass the N3 test, then that will be rather inefficient since you'd want to study exactly the items that can appear on the test. If your goal is to become fluent in Japanese, then you won't lose much by studying for the N2 directly; skip the parts you consider so hard that they're blocking your immediate progress.

Anyway, using the example material available, I have created a mock jlpt level n3 test quiz that features kanji, characters, grammar, and the new sentence understanding format questions. Unfortunately I don't have the resources to create a reading and listening test, but I hope it can be of some help for judging whether or not the new jlpt level n3 is right for you.

Taking the step towards Japanese fluency

The great battle between Kanzen Master and Unicom for passing JLPT

I often get questions on my blog regarding which book is better for JLPT - the "Kanzen Master" or UNICOM series? As well as specific questions regarding Kanzen Master vs Unicom for vocabulary, listening, grammar, etc. The Kanzen Master and UNICOM series are the most popular study books for JLPT levels 2 and 1. That comes as no surprise as they're both really good series and I'd say they're the best books for studying for the JLPT.

So which one is best, Kanzen Master or UNICOM? In my opinion it breaks down to this: UNICOM's listening books are great! For the rest, I recommend Kanzen Master once you're at or above JLPT 2 level. The exception is the reading practice books where I recommend both. Yes, they're both equally good, and you can never get too much reading practice.

I like the Kanzen Master series "lesson plan" concept with one lesson per day essentially. If you follow that, you'll be in a very good position to pass the JLPT tests. I think doing exercises is essential to making the study material stick in your head. Do each and every exercise, preferably many times (with a month or so in between intervals). That way you WILL learn Japanese without having to bother too much about study methods yourself - let the books help you as much as possible.

Best books for passing JLPT level 2

Kanzen Master (level 1+2 vocabulary)
Kanzen Master (level 1+2 vocabulary)

The Kanzen Master series is really great for passing the JLPT levels 2 and 1. I used most of the books in this series, and I passed the first time on both levels! Anyway, this is the Japanese vocabulary training book, which like all Kanzen Master books is organized as around 50 chapters with overviews and drills of vocabulary that appears on the JLPT tests. This book contains material for both level 1 and level 2, so you only need one book for both levels.

 
Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2 Reading Practice (Kanzen Master)
Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2 Reading Practice (Kanzen Master)

The reading part of the JLPT is often thought to be the most difficult. But fear not! With practice you'll pass it with a good score for sure, and this book contains all the Japanese reading practise you need in order to pass JLPT 2, with analysis of the text snippets covered in the answers, so that you'll know what to focus your attention on for the real test.

 
Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level Two Grammar (Kanzen masutaa 2 kyuu: Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken Bunpou Mondai Taisaku) (in Japanese) (Japanese Edition)
Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level Two Grammar (Kanzen masutaa 2 kyuu: Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken Bunpou Mondai Taisaku) (in Japanese) (Japanese Edition)

Grammar might sound boring to some, but it's actually the easiest part of the JLPT test to score good points quickly! Why is that? Because the grammar part of JLPT contributes 25% of the overall score, but it can be breezed through in 15-20 minutes, leaving more time to the more time-consuming reading part which is in the same time slot. The questions are generally easy IF you know what to look for, and this book has all the Japanese grammar points you need to know. Follow the lesson plan as outlined in this book thoroughly and I guarantee you you'll get at least a 90% score on the grammar! Honestly!

 
Kanji Preparation for the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam - Level 2 (Kanzen Masutaa Kanji: Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken 2 kyu Reberu) (in Japanese)
Kanji Preparation for the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam - Level 2 (Kanzen Masutaa Kanji: Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken 2 kyu Reberu) (in Japanese)

It's essential for your overall JLPT score to know the kanji that appear on the JLPT test. Why is that? Because it's a written test, and guess what - it's written using kanji. That means you don't just need kanji skills for the "characters" part of the test - you need it for the whole test - especially the tricky reading part. Again, I recommend that you follow the lesson plan as outlined in the book. Just one chapter a day, and I promise you good results.

 

Ready to work in Japan?

Or with Japanese customers from abroad

Knowledge of Japanese can be a great advantage to your career, especially if you have a JLPT 1 or 2 certification to show, regardless of whether you want to work in Japan - possibly even at a Japanese company - or overseas working with Japanese customers and clients.

In fact I studied software engineering at the university, and just a little Japanese on the side as a hobby, but after getting into working life, I haven't had much use for my software engineering studies at all - despite working as a software engineer! - but I HAVE had an extraordinary advantage from speaking Japanese! I'm sure it can spice up any career.

The best business Japanese books

Japanese for Professionals
Japanese for Professionals

I am in fact only going to recommend one book for improving your business Japanese. This book is the best general-purpose business Japanese book out there. It's situation-based, covering typical business/sales situations. It will give you a solid foundation to stand on in customer-facing situations and contains essentially all the basic vocabulary you need to know - as well as a hassle-free overview of the politeness levels used when speaking business Japanese (keigo).

 

Comments are most welcome!

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    • profile image

      Ravinder Singh 24 months ago

      Preply providing the best Japanese learning classes online for free and over Skype classes too...

      Preply is highly dedicated platform providing great tutors teaching generally all International languages via Skype online classes..

      Tutors are also native language speakers which also helps in easy Japanese language learning...

      Joint he course here... http://preply.com/en/japanese-by-skype

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      mikeydcarroll67 2 years ago

      I learned the hard way with Korean to go ahead and start learning the script. I am teaching myself Japanese in addition to Korean now, and often find it easier for the studies to have an awareness of how to read the kana. This helps a lot with studying!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Romaji has always been heavily debatable in learning Japanese but I do believe everyone's mind works in different ways so its best to find your technique. - www.Japanrealm.com

    • dmcbane profile image

      dmcbane 4 years ago

      I've also found the three Japanese Grammar Dictionary books (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced) very useful.

    • dmcbane profile image

      dmcbane 4 years ago

      I've also found the three Japanese Grammar Dictionary books (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced) very useful.

    • profile image

      the-crimson-muse 4 years ago

      This is really an informative post. I just started learning Japanese and it's good to have some tips on how to approach on learning this language. The books are really helpful too! At least I have an idea on what books I should buy. Thanks!

    • Beatlechan profile image

      Beatlechan 4 years ago

      Great lens. . .Heisig's Remembering the Kanji is certainly controversial. I knew quite a few English teachers in Japan using this book to study and memorize Kanji. They did very well with it especially since they never learned Japanese prior to going to Japan. In my case, I had studied Japanese in high school and in college and had a difficult time getting it. It was a lot easier for me to learn the Kanji using the traditional method of memorizing! But I believe a person starting out can definitely benefit from it.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for the informative post. I'm oping to learn Japanese by sometime next year so this is great for me-- I bought practically every book you wrote about. Gotta start somewhere right?

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      This is quite an extensive list of resources you've reviewed. Appreciated the additional helpful information you provided. ~~Blessed~~

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      will this help me learn Japanese in one year because i trying get in HAL College of Technology & Design

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Squidoo, Europe, United States, China and Japan, now try have a biggest fight to get all the money out from 12 and more Country: New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Oceania, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, Central Asia, Africa, South America, Mexico and Central America and more Country into 4 Country: United States, China, Europe and Japan. Because we want 4 Country rates dollars must be up now: United States, China, Europe and Japan.

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      Li-Li-ThePinkBookworm 5 years ago

      Great lens! I am bookmarking it for future reference if I ever decide to pursue learning Japanese more. I never knew there was so much controversy in how to learn Japanese, thank you for explaining of those things.

      Li Li

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      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Nice lens, if only more people would look at these books before going to the tattoo parlor we'd have far less unintentional hilarity/embarrassment on this side of the Pacific.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi, Ive been studying japanese for three years going on four this year. I've learnt pretty well. I'm still at high school and studying, I've learnt 30 kanji's so far and I haven't read much? So I was wondering some books you can recommend before going back into study. It will be very much appreciated! I want to be just like you, your another person I look up to now... =)

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      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      My daughter has been taking Japanese for about a year now and we bought the Genki book for her. It's the top recommended book and was made by Japanese to teach foreign students how to learn the language basics.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 5 years ago

      I have friends who took Japanese in college, and it surely is not an easy language to learn, with a lot of memorization... Great lens! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel :)

    • profile image

      kotagedejualan 5 years ago

      Great lens,,

      Thank You..

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      chidchan 5 years ago

      Great lens! It's very helpful to find the resouce for learning Japanese. Moreover the Japan Drama, I thought I would like to learn the Japanese and go to stay there for months.

    • LaurenIM profile image

      LaurenIM 5 years ago

      I'm not familiar with the levels. They didn't have it back in the stone age when I learned Japanese LOL! I learned the hard way. Wished I had some of these books to help me back then.

    • harubel profile image

      harubel 5 years ago

      domo arigato gogaimasu. Thanks for nice presentation of japanese language. more than 4 years ago i learned japanese language in little. i think this is not so easy but seriousness. your lens will help the interested persons.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens, been meaning to start learning japanese for a while now, should be fun!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      you honestly just need anki flashcard software (free), and guidetojapanese (free).

      no need to burn cash on books.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      my buddy's sister-in-law makes $83/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her pay was $7941 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site... LazyCash3.com

    • TheZinc LM profile image

      TheZinc LM 5 years ago

      Seeing your article has inspired me to start relearning the Japanese language once again.. As a student I failed to pay much attention in class.

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      drdocumentary 5 years ago

      Check out my squidoos watch documentaries on Japan! http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/drdocumentary

    • KhairuZiya profile image

      KhairuZiya 5 years ago

      very inforamtive, thanks

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      VERY useful lens.

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      baby-strollers 5 years ago

      Love Sushi - learning Japenese might make ordering easier!

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      JZinoBodyArt 5 years ago

      Great lens! I have always wondered which is more important, reading or speaking. Thanks for the info!

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      traveller27 5 years ago

      Always interesting to read about language-learning resources - blessed by a travelling angel.

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      seosmm 5 years ago

      Good info. Very nice lens!

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      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      It's on the list right after Korean. Great lens.

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      bolt101 6 years ago

      Learning Japanese is one of my future goals. this lens was very helpful.

      You may like this lens on Japanese Etiquette

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Ouch...you called me illiterate. Now I have to learn to read Japanese to prove you wrong.

      >:D

    • profile image

      Domique21 6 years ago

      I also want to learn Japanese because I want to watch japanese animes in their own version. I like their sound and accent.

    • profile image

      Domique21 6 years ago

      I also want to learn Japanese because I want to watch japanese animes in their own version. I like their sound and accent.

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 6 years ago

      It's important to know how the kana are spelled in romaji so that you can type the characters. To get, say, ãããã, you have to know to type a-ka-ga-i. (this lens is blessed by a SquidAngel 8/15/11)

    • profile image

      neoglitch17 6 years ago

      Que tal Henrik! Interesting lens you have here; there are several things that I agree with, but also others that I really disagree with.

      Use roumaji to learn well the kana and then get it out of the way? Totally! Having a good Japanese dic and a kanji dic, absolutely. Although I would focus on using software dictionaries, so that I can find definitions and example sentences faster. Listen to real Japanese? Yes, it's essential to listen (as well as read) as much as you can, even when you don't understand at first. Music, podcasts, videos, TV shows, anime, you name it!

      Now, I really disagree with you saying that RTK is the "devil in disguise"; however, I totally understand your situation. You were FORCED to use it at school, when Heisig explicitly establishes that RTK is to be used for SELF-STUDY ONLY!! Man, I think I would've HATED not only RTK but kanji altogether if I was forced to use it that way too... but fortunately that wasn't the case for me. I followed it independently and did my reviews using the "kanji Koohii" website, and all I can tell you is that I learned the writing and "rough meaning" of more kanji in six months than in 2 1/2 years of Japanese classes at my University.

      Also, instead of using (very overpriced) paper flashcards for reviewing the kana and kanji I really think it's a lot better to use SRS software like Anki. It's not only free but much, MUCH more effective and practical.

      Oh... and this emphasis on the JLPT really makes me mad!! Not because of you Henrik, don't take it personal! It's just that... why do people think they need to score high on some random test in order to prove that they are proficient in a language? If I were an entrepreneur that needs Japanese-proficient employees I would not ask for scores or certifications; I would just conduct job interviews for each applicant in full Japanese. Also, I would have each applicant read some newspaper articles or documents related to the job (in full Japanese too), and would then discuss such documents with him/her.

      Well, those are my $0.02. Henrik, thanks for sharing! :D

    • carrieott profile image

      carrieott 6 years ago

      Great lens! Japanese is such an elegant and unique language. As a minor in Japanese, I can definitely attest to the fact that people who think romaji will get them everywhere they want to go are flat out NUTS! Glad to hear that you were finally able to learn Japanese after all those books. :)

    • chironseer profile image

      chironseer 6 years ago

      Interesting lens, I dipped into the water with some pimsleur CDs from th elibrary a few months ago, I think I will do again, it's an interesting language.

      Thanks for putting this together, I may need to know what books to buy at a later date if I progress.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am in the process of learning Japanese with the Kana books you recommended! They are great. I was wondering, are the more advanced books ideal for people who are self-studying like me? I don't have anywhere local which teaches Japanese, so I thought I'd try it this way.

      If they aren't ideal, do you have any recommendations?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I really love learning Japanese language,at school it is so popular. I think I'll get online training courses for that and buy some good books also.

    • profile image

      fsilvestre 6 years ago

      I think these books are great for people who have desire to learn Japanese language. It would somehow help me sort out the needed materials to lknow more about Japanese language.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Well, I'll definitely need to add this lens to my favorites. I'm thinking that I could try to pass the JLPT 5 (I think that's beginner's?). It would definitely aid me in life and would be a bonus to any resume I make when I attempt to get a job in the future. I'm currently even writing a series of lenses that teach Japanese as well. And I'm the show-off in my Japanese class. When I get the money, I'll buy some of these books (and you make a little money on the side too!). This lens is great.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have been trying to find the level 3 grammar book here in Japan, but I can't find it anywhere because the tests have changed. Is there anyplace that I could find it or another book suggestion that is more current?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I would recommend buying books. It is better than internet explanations (studies have shown that reading articles online have 1/3 the retention rate). Japanese is a hard language to learn. Reading and literacy are of the utmost importance. I would say that those who are learning just for fun will not make it very far, however, if you have other goals it can be a great language to learn with many benefits.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I originally studied using the genki series, but after moving to Japan, I found the genki series to be inferior, because it does not teach many of the phrases that are commonly used in society. However, the SFJ series allows for the different things that people will say to you in normal situations. I would recommend the SFJ series especially for self study. Genki just tries to simplify too much and lacks a thorough understanding of the entirety of the language. If you want to use the SFJ just be sure to get a good understanding of the kana before going through the chapters. Best of luck.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I originally studied using the genki series, but after moving to Japan, I found the genki series to be inferior, because it does not teach many of the phrases that are commonly used in society. However, the SFJ series allows for the different things that people will say to you in normal situations. I would recommend the SFJ series especially for self study. Genki just tries to simplify too much and lacks a thorough understanding of the entirety of the language. If you want to use the SFJ just be sure to get a good understanding of the kana before going through the chapters. Best of luck.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I was beginning to study using the SFJ book 1; I already know the kana. I was wondering should I buy the rest of the series or just go straight to other books mentioned? I have already gone through the first genki book and half of the second, but that was two and a half years ago.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice ideas, very informative lens.Thanks for sharing. strategic planning software

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice ideas for kanji study! Have you tried the Kanji Wordsearch iPhone app? It's fun and tracks your progress.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You should have a look at "Japanese for Everyone" published by Gakken. No romanji (the dialogues have them written next to the hiragana in the first three chapters to get you going) and kanji is gradually introduced from chapter 1 and used in context.

      You learn approximately 450 kanji and some 2,500 words. It's the best beginners to intermediate book out there. I love it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Plenty of free advice at http://www.nihongoup.com :)

      if you're really stuck - try the forum - http://www.nihongoup.com/forum

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Check out the free kana lessons at http://www.NihongoUp.com and see where the journey takes you ^_^

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Why not try http://www.nihongoup.com? There's lots of free stuff on culture there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi, these books look great at a glance but obviously to thoroughly get an understanding of the language through these books is to spend a lot of money.

      I'm not cheap or greedy but should I really invest in learning this language? Maybe I should be asking myself that. The language and culture both interest me a lot and I am willing to but I don't ever want to regret it. I want to hear an honest opinion about this. Thanks in advance.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Love your site! I lived in Japan from 1990 through 1994 and used kana and kanji flashcards to learn katakana, hiragana, and 200 basic kanji during my first month there. Your recommendation of flashcards is a good one, in my opinion! I continue to use Japanese at work here in the US. But I definitely am craving a trip to my favorite city, Tokyo!

    • MisterJeremy profile image

      Jeremy 6 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Very informative lens about learning Japanese. I stayed away from Remembering the Kanji and stuck with more traditional methods after hearing some horror stories. The Grammar Dictionaries published by The Japan Times were really helpful books to me. I passed level 2 mainly by studying the intermediate one and kanji. (Blessed)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What do you think of the genki series? I've heard it has replaced the situational and functional japanese textbook series as the most recommended textbook series for japanese language study...I would really appreciate your advice on which one I should invest in (I'm a self-learner who is currently learning hiragana and katakana)

    • ZablonMukuba profile image

      ZablonMukuba 6 years ago

      this will help me in my japanesse classes

    • profile image

      WriterBuzz 6 years ago

      Very cool lens. Informative and fun. Thanks for sharing. Thumbs Up given.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hey! This is an awesome, informative blog. Thanks for the article, I was in search for a new set of dictionaries and textbooks as I was preparing to dust off my 10-year old Japanese study notes and re-learn the language. Cheers!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens, here is another good resource for you: http://www.textbooksbid.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Awesome lens Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      ããã°ãã¯ãhefaããã

      I was wondering if there is a specific order of areas I should study, first, then next, etc. Like... a plan.

      I was also wondering about how I should use these dictionaries and grammar books I've obtained. (As in, how should I use it to further my knowledge in Japanese... like, reading the dictionaries, or focusing on a part.)

      Please reply,

      ãããã¨ããããã¾ãâ彡

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      ããã°ãã¯, hefaãã.

      I was wondering, is there a specific order in which I should learn the areas of Japanese? Like... a plan?

      I also would like to know how I should use these books (I have a lot), as in, if I should read the whole dictionary or focus on some parts of it, etc.

      ãããã¨ããããã¾ãâ彡

    • profile image

      martialartstraining 7 years ago

      Wow these books all look really helpful! thank you for the lens

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks, nazaswa. I think you could go directly to jlpt 3 (N4) yes, just set your goal higher and study both levels at once basically. I'm not sure how long it would take to reach jlpt 3 (n4) from scratch, but perhaps one year if you study efficiently every day.

      My thumb rules when learning Japanese has been that kanji are phonetic, so study them as part of vocabulary mainly, don't try to remember mnemonics about their meanings in themselves. And focus on expanding vocabulary, through flash cards etc. Grammar can be learnt by studying example sentences.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      this website is...totemo sugoiii...! many thanks to the owner ^_^ this website inspires me lot for improving my japanese

      Btw, to be honest, do you think one could pass level 3 without following JLPT 4?

      and..as in ur experience, how long would one need for achieving JLPT 3...from the basic level? what were your own "thumb rules" in learning japanese?

      ^_^

      -doumo arigatou gozaimasu-

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @hefa: Ohhh, thanks, makes perfect sense!

      I'll be sure to get both when I can.

      Again, thanks for putting this together!

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for your comment. The Furigana Japanese Dictionary is a dictionary of Japanese words, while the Kanji Learner's Dictionary is a dictionary of kanji characters (which also contains some sample vocabulary for each kanji). So they are both the best in their fields, but one is a regular dictionary and the other is sort of a kanji encyclopedia, where you can look up kanji that you don't know (using the SKIP method). So if you don't know the meaning of a word, use the dictionary, and if you don't know the reading or meaning of a kanji, use the kanji dictionary (possibly to look up the reading so that you can then look up the meaning of a word written using that kanji in the dictionary). Hope that makes sense and clear it up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thanks for putting this together, however I have a question.

      You say both the furigana dictionary and the Learner's dictionary is the "best".

      Which one is better?

    • profile image

      1001Kisses 7 years ago

      Nice topics! I will buy this book. I really like this.

      Thanks for such a nice articles.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @lasertek lm: Thanks, I'm glad to hear that you found the page useful!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 7 years ago

      Nice! I find this lens very helpful. I have always been fascinated with the Japanese language but I never got the chance to study it because of my busy schedule. Thanks for adding the books that will help me learn. 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      People tend to have hard time starting to read Japanese text (books, articles etc.) because they're discouraged by the huge amount of kanji and the slowness of the reading process. I think style the Kanji in Context (my favorite kanji learning books) books is a great way to get some foundation for starting to read real Japanese.

      Another books I can warmly recommend are Dictionary of Japanese GrammarâA Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Grammarâbooks. I think you can get previews for them at Amazon.co.jp and previews for Kanji in Context at "japanshop" or something (internet is so slow at the moment that I'd prefer not to check out.

      Thank you for all the useful information.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: John, I agree that you don't need a book to learn hiragana and katakana. Buying or making your own flash cards is a great way too (and can be used in addition to a book as well). However, the "Let's Learn..." books contain much more, such as writing guides (something I wish now that I would have paid more attention too in the beginning, as my writing sucks), and most of all vocabulary is introduced in conjunction with the kana. So in that way I see those books as more of vocabulary books. If you're learning in a class then additional vocabulary is usually introduced by handouts/exercises in class, but when doing self study using books, the books usually focus on specific situations to introduce specific speech patterns, which is great for learning the language, but doesn't introduce enough vocabulary to really advance the learner's range. That's why I liked the "Let's Learn Hiragana/Katakana" books... they introduce basic, useful vocabulary too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm not sure you really need a book to learn Hiragana and Katakana. There are plenty of free charts on the Internet that you can just print out. If you really memorize them, it should not take more than a week to two to memorize them all. I recommend the Genki Textbook. These are the books they use in the universities and it is integrated meaning they teach reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Good stuff. I am on my last chapter, albeit slowly, of the Genki I book (There are two in the series) and I am able to converse with my Japanese friends and even write emails to them. However, I have been supplementing my studies with listening to Japanese movies and TV shows. That helps a lot with the "short" forms. Good luck! é å¼µã£ã¦ï¼

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Tera, I'm glad you found this page useful. If you're only going to get 3 books, I would recommend the Let's Learn Hiragana & Katakana books, because you need to learn how to read and write, and then "Situational Functional Japanese" or "Beginner's Japanese with 2 Audio CDs" depending on your personal taste. That should set you off on a good start learning Japanese. Have fun!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I found you post extremely helpful! Thanks! But I was wondering what would be the top 3 books you would recommend for a person who wants to start learning Japanese? (no experience whatsoever $6).

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @fogas: Yes, I really should add more for level 1... The Kanzen Master grammar book is really good for level 1 in my opinion. I spent about a week doing intensive study using it and got probably above 90% on the test.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @kenokazaki: Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Yes, knowledge of any language is an an edge in one's career, especially Japanese since English skills are pretty low in Japan...

    • profile image

      kenokazaki 7 years ago

      Good post! I think I'll buy these books right away. I totally agree that knowledge of the Japanese language will give you an edge in your career whether or not you live in Japan. I've seen it happen. Keep up the good work!

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Good luck on the test!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @hefa: Thanks a bunch! I will get these books, memorize (kanji, vocab, grammar), and then work on the reading/listening. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi, it depends a bit on your budget... they're all good books. This page is more condensed than my blog, which is why the list of books I recommend here is shorter. I like the UNICOM reading book a little bit more than the Kanzan Master one, although as I've said before you can never get too much reading practice for the JLPT since it will help improve your score on ALL sections. I also like the æ¥æ¬èªç·ã¾ã¨ãåé¡é books but they are a bit redundant if you already have the Kanzen Master books. I don't regret buying them however, they are a bit easier to flip through than the Kanzen Master books that are more suited to hardcore studying in my opinion. Since you're looking to saving a buck while still passing the exam I'd say get the Kanzen Master L1/2 vocab, one of the reading books (Unicom if you can find it, otherwise Kanzen Master is fine, some people seem to prefer the KM book however), Kanzen Master grammar (best score for the buck/time ratio of all books), Unicom listening book, and Kanzen Master kanji IF you're having trouble with kanji, otherwise I'd recommend focusing on even more reading instead, which is also effective for learning kanji. If you're in Japan, you can get a Japanese version of Harry Potter or something on a similar level and it'll be perfect for learning if you're around JLPT2 level.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Henrik,

      I read your henrikfalck.com blog and this squidoo entry, and wanted to make sure I got the right books for studying for the JLPT2. Would you recommend purchasing the following 7 books as your blog says or the 4 books in this squid entry.

      1. Kanzen Master (L1/L2 Vocab)

      2. Kanzen Master JLPT 2 Reading Practice

      3. Kanzen Master JLPT 2 Grammar

      4. Kanzen Master JLPT 2 Kanji

      5. UNICOM JLPT2 Listening & Reading

      6. æ¥æ¬èªç·ã¾ã¨ãåé¡é grammar (ææ³ç·¨)

      7. æ¥æ¬èªç·ã¾ã¨ãåé¡é vocabulary (èªå½ç·¨)

      OR

      1. Kanzen Master (L1/L2 Vocab)

      2. Kanzen Master JLPT 2 Reading Practice

      3. Kanzen Master JLPT 2 Grammar

      4. Kanzen Master JLPT 2 Kanji

      I would like to definitely pass the exam, but saving a buck or two would be nice too.

      Thanks in advance,

      Cheers

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi! I think that kind of kanji book can be useful depending on your individual way of learning. It is very systematic and if intensive study of kanji character-by-character suits your learning style, then I think that kind of book can be very useful. For me, however, kanji are best studied in context as part vocabulary. Also, I consider kanji to be primarily phonetic (even though they might not appear that way). So it is not the kind of book that I would generally recommend, but I do think that some people learn best that way (through systematic study of kanji in themselves). For me, "A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters" (Henshall) serves this purpose better.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @anonymous: yeah, kanzen master is a great series of books. don't forget the unicom books though, especially for reading comprehension practice, in my opinion.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @ThePrancingPony: Thanks! I've added your nihongo lens to the related lenses (discover tool thing) as well. great work!

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @fogas: if you're thinking of the Kanzen Master one, then yes, that's a great book in my opinion.

    • hefa profile image
      Author

      hefa 7 years ago

      @delia-delia: ah cooking, if you can master that then I bet you can learn Japanese as well. I enjoy cooking too, much like the original Swedish chef.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      great lens and entertainingly written...5*...a Japanese padawan? well that's quite a stretch from Swedish to Japanese...I don't think I could ever learn the language, so guess will stick to the cooking.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Hello ! I noticed you didn't mention Bonjinsha's "Intermediate Kanji book" in your selection... I would be interested in knowing your opinion about these 2 volumes ...

      Even if I generally like Kanzen Master books (level 3 grammar book, level 2 grammar, vocabulary and reading are all excellent), I could never feel comfortable with the kanji book. Bonjinsha books for intermediate level (Elementary Kanji books are nothing special) offer a really huge amount of various exercises, and offer a systematic review of basic kanji. It's in my opinion a great tool for intensive practice. It's true however they could have put more work on book design, and make it a little bit more "sexy" ;o) ... However, I really like it !

      Best regards !

      Jean

    • profile image

      fogas 7 years ago

      Japanese Language Proficiency Test Grammar. There is no level 1 here. Should I buy it too?

    • ThePrancingPony profile image

      ThePrancingPony 7 years ago

      This is a great lens. Very useful information. I've 5-starred you and lensrolled to my Nihongo lens.

      Check them out:

      https://hubpages.com/education/nihongo and

      http://www.squidoo.com/nihongo2

    • maxbrundie profile image

      maxbrundie 7 years ago

      I'm so bad, all my Japanese books are in storage. I've been putting learning Japanese off for the last five years. I think I like the idea of speaking Japanese more than the idea of learning it. But I will learn it...eventually. This is a great lens.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Very good lens - blessed by an angel! You've reminded me to go catch up on my German :D

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Very good lens - blessed by an angel! You've reminded me to go catch up on my German :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is so helpful! I don't have to waste time surfing the internet so much now. Thank you!