Selecting a Japanese Textbook

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== Introduction ==
== Introduction ==
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:One of the first questions a potential Japanese student asks is, "What is the best Japanese textbook to get?" After much trial and error and also watching the experiences of others, the answer to this all-important question is: "all of them." Unfortunately, an average search will usually not reveal many of these good books, so the purpose of this guide is as much to bring some of these titles out into the light, as it is act as a reference.
 
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:Each textbook meets different goals in differing orders, but the final result for nearly all is a student that can speak Japanese well. It is important to not waste time looking for a better textbook once you've already started.  Persevere and study daily and you will be learn Japanese well.
+
One of the first questions a potential Japanese student asks is, "What is the best Japanese textbook to get?" After much trial and error and also watching the experiences of others, the answer to this all-important question is: "all of them." Unfortunately, an average search will usually not reveal many of these good books, so the purpose of this guide is as much to bring some of these titles out into the light, as it is act as a reference.
-
:Just as each textbook prioritizes differently the aspects of the learning Japanese, the overall design of the course can differ enough to make the learning experience vary from dry and technical to fun and interesting. Anyone considering buying one of these textbooks should attempt to examine them beforehand to verify the course will be enjoyable.
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Each textbook meets different goals in differing orders, but the final result for nearly all is a student that can speak--if not read--Japanese well. It is important to not waste time looking for a better textbook once you've already started.  Persevere and study daily and you will be learn Japanese well.
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===Best Highlights===
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==Know your goals first ==
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To save some trouble this list is for those who want a quick answer.
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'''Best Comprehensive Technical Course:'''
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Learning a new language is about goals before anything elseWhy are you studying Japanese? If you know your goals, then you can select a book that caters more effectively toward those goals.
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''Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese''.  This is a 2-book course with a strong followingEach book has an accompanying workbook and audio. It is one of the more expensive courses but worth the money.  However, this is not so much better than ''Nakama'' that you should ignore a good deal if you find it.
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'''Best non-comprehensive Technical Course'''
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The first thing you have to decide is speed. The faster you need to learn one thing the greater the sacrifice you need to make somewhere else. A diplomat might be satisfied with a spoken course, while someone that just wants to read manga will be happy with a written course. In terms of speed we can rate the courses from fastest to slowest.
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''Elementary Japanese''.  Also a two book series, it has the advantage of an audio CD that does not need to be ordered separately and has lots of exercises although it does not have an accompanying workbook. ''Japanese for Everyone'' is equally good, maybe better, but I rank it lower because it teaches at a faster pace to make up for it's 1 book length and the audio must be purchased separately--and seem difficult to acquire. This faster pace can be too much for many people, although the pace did not seem to be extraordinarily fast. I'm sure many will find the pace perfect.
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# Travel Guide
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# Primer
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# Spoken only
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# Written only
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# Both spoken and written
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'''Best Plain Technical Textbook'''
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For example, a spoken course does not need to worry about learning Kanji which adds a significant amount of time to learning Japanese.  Likewise, a strictly written course has no need for pronunciation or speed drillsThe longest route is learning to be good at bothStill, there is some room for varietycourse emphasizing literacy might emphasize reading (passive recall) but not writing (active recall).
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''An Introduction to Modern Japanese'' (Bowring & Laurie)This is an extremely detailed 52 Lesson course that has the stated goal of enabling the student to read--with only a dictionary for reference-- short stories by the half-way point and newspapers by the end, with only a dictionary for referenceIt comes with a workbook that is essentially for taking full advantage of this course that emphasizes the subtleties of _written_ JapaneseThis course is best for the student with the primary goal of Japanese literacyIt covers more Kanji than any other known course and gives detailed explanations of each grammar point but does not have audio, so it is not appropriate for students with a primary interest in speaking Japanese.
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Also worth mentioning, ''Japanese Step-by-Step'' also has no audio but it does a great job--better than any other textbook--of teaching Japanese pitch changes by word and phraseThe main problem with this textbook is the extremely fast pace and very large vocabulary lists in many chaptersThe best use of this book is as a secondary reference with any other course.
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Primers are great for the tourist that wants get more out of their tour guide or a thrifty parent of a child that wants to learn Japanese.  They give a smattering of everything but are weak on vocabulary and like travel guides often have no audio componentBecause the primer is much cheaper than a full course, it can be used as a gauge of the child's disciplineIf the child is able to complete the primer, then the parent might more seriously consider buying a full blown course. Primers also can be good supplements to a more robust course.
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'''Best Japanese Primer'''
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Travel guides are written for the clueless tourist and can generally get someone by, provided they spend a week or two learning the format of the bookAlthough primers can easily become a source of aggravation for all parties, they also contain a lot of categorized vocabulary so an intermediate student or upper beginner might find them useful as a study guideIn truth, they can be a godsend even for the advanced student that goes to Japan then suddenly discovers a hole in one's knowledge.
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''Colloquial Japanese''. This can be bought as the book alone or the book and audio can be bought together as a package.  Great for someone going to Japan in the near future or that wants a good overview of the language before starting a more intensive courseThis moves at a fast pace but does not overload the student with vocabulary.  Also, the vocabulary builds on each previous chapter very wellUnfortunately, there are a relatively large number of typos throughout the book that the student will need to keep their eyes out for, however, they all seemed rather obvious because the parallel text will not match.
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:Okay, now that all that has been said, I need to identify the different traits that each type of textbook will focus on so I can point them out later.
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Because a good course is designed to advance a student to the intermediate level.  Any course that does not have enough material to make a student self-sufficient at about the intermediate level will be rated as a primer.
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== Types of Textbooks ==
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Spoken courses come in three varieties, spoken only, [[Romaji|romaji]], or [[Kana|kana]]. Although there is a bit of controversy over the use of [[Romaji|romaji]], a spoken course will not be criticized for that here, however, a written course will.
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=== Spoken Emphasis ===
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-
;Conversational
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:The conversational textbooks focus on speech patterns without much technical explanation. These textbooks are front-loaded so they are the best for students going to Japan in the near future. Conversational texts enable the student speak a wider variety of sentences sooner, for a shallower understanding of the grammar, at least initially.
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;Technical
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===Know the format before buying===
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:Technical books explain how the grammar works. These books are rear-loaded and have the student speaking better Japanese in the long run at the cost of weaker Japanese skills initially. Also, the technical explanations can sometimes make learning more confusing not less. In general, all college textbooks fall into the technical category.
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=== Writing Emphasis ===
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I highly recommend examining any course before buying itEven though I try to recommend courses that are well formatted and are paced in a way that is easy to stay motivated, it might not work for you.  It is a bad sign when the page layout incites a headache, so make sure you like the format and pace before buyingGenerally, many short lessons seems to be easier to remember and progress through than few longer more in-depth lessons.
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;Roumaji
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:Aka, [[Romaji|romaji]], rômaji, rōmaji and misspelled romanji, is what the Latin alphabet is called when used to write JapaneseJust as the above spellings of imply, there are multiple romanization methods that can lead to confusion.  In general, it is always worth spending a week or so learning the [[Kana|kana]] system and avoiding roumaji altogetherA book that uses roumaji exclusively will get a lower rating than one that does not.
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-
;Kana
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Also, this list will now attempt to cover all media formats.  Software, audio only, and web site courses as I see them will be added to the listTextbooks will continue to be the preferred format, because you can take them with you anywhere, but other formats will be mentioned.
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:Kana refers to both the hiragana and katakana syllabaries collectivelyTechnically each kana represents a [[Mora|more]] not a syllable.
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;Kanji
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===Best Highlights===
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:The Chinese symbols adopted by Japan.  Considered intimidating by many, the better systems introduce kanji early.  Anyone wishing to become literate will benefit more from books emphasizing kanji. Even those not interested in becoming literate will gain a better understanding of how the language works by learning kanji.  Most of the educational textbooks use [[Furigana|furigana]] aka ruby over new kanji, or kanji that the student is not expected to learn for that lesson.  Furigana are essentially small kana about 4pt right above the kanji to show the reading used. 
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:Where possible the actual number of different kanji used are listed.  If this information is not available a Japanese Language Proficiency Test # will be given as an estimation of the number and difficulty of the kanji used.   Remember that JLPT 1 is the ''hardest'' not the easiest.  Japanese school grade levels will be used in the same way.  So instead of a Number or JLPT # there will be a Grade #. Thus, 6 Grade means all, or most, of the Educational Kanji are represented in the text.  If a text goes beyond the Educational Kanji list then a Kanji Kentei 漢字検定 # will be used.
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To save some trouble this list is for those who want a quick answer, there is a short list here.  The full list of known textbooks is also available ot the [[Japanese_Textbook_List]]. Most courses are rated on quality not speed.  I do plan to make a note of any courses that seem to emphasize speed.  Better courses are listed above weaker courses, but to be listed at all in the "Best" list is a good signPlease realize that these "Best" courses are rated extremely subjectively.  '''If a book is not listed here that doesn't mean it is bad, these are just the best of the titles we've been able to review in-depth.''' If you look at the full list, you will see that there are many books still to be reviewed, so don't be discouraged if a book you already have or desire is not listed in the "Best of" list below. Hopefully, after reading this page, you will know enough to judge for yourself if a given course fills your needs. Usually I will try to give a reason one title is listed over another. If you don't see the book you want here, check out the complete [[Japanese Textbook List]].  If Clay is selling a recommended book, I'll point the link to his store in thanks for hosting the site.
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;Integrated
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====Travel Guides====
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:Either roumaji is used written alongside the Japanese or it is on a separate page.  Integrated will be noted as parallel or seperate.  Some texts are progressive, meaning that they may use parallel roumaji or furigana but it is slowly phased out.
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=== Audience Emphasis ===
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:''Barron's Japanese Vocabulary'' by Carol and Nobou Akiyama.  This is as the title says, mainly a vocabulary list, so it's more for someone that has already knows Japanese grammar.  It is the only book of it's kind, however, to list such a large number of themed vocabulary.  Vocabulary words are listed under the most appropriate topic, "Clothing," "Likes and Dislikes," "Jobs and Professions," etc..  Kanji are given for words in the back, and the book says that it also notates changes in pitch, but very few accented words are marked. In spite of this negative, the book is very portable and can be used to quickly look up a word at need.
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;Business or Pleasure
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====Primers====
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:The vocabulary and speech patters of the different textbooks are often heavily geared towards a certian audience. For example, Japanese for Busy People is geared almost entirely towards a student of business Japanese which makes it a poor choice for the student that is learning to better understand anime.
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:''Colloquial Japanese'' by H. D. B. Clarke. This can be bought as the book alone or the book and audio can be bought together as a package. Great for someone going to Japan in the near future or that wants a good overview of the language before starting a more intensive course. This moves at a fast pace but does not overload the student with vocabulary. Also, the vocabulary builds on each previous chapter very well. Unfortunately, there are a relatively large number of typos throughout the book that the student will need to keep their eyes out for, however, they all seemed rather obvious because the parallel text will not match.  Primers usually don't come with audio so this gets the highest recommendation.
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;Age
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:''Easy Japanese'' by Jack Steward.  This little primer has a lot going for it.  It strongly emphasizes pattern sentence and substitution drills, one of those boring things that you only appreciate later and something many courses neglect because they are unpopularNo audio.  
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: If an age is given it is always the youngestBooks that are appropriate for Adults and teenagers will be noted as TeenBooks that seem more appropriate for a particular age group will be noted by school level: Elementary.
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There are of course other levels of emphasis, grammar, vocabulary, pattern sentences, but overall they are less important once the above are determined. 
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====Spoken Only====
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===Other Terms used===
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:''Barron's Mastering Japanese'' Written by Eleanor Harz Jorden author of ''Japanese, the Spoken Language'' is a technical course designed for the self-studyEven though this textbook is old, it gets the highest recommendation because of the extensive drills in the book.  The benefit of extensive drills is well worth any perceived negative factors associated with this course.   
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;Pages
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:The entire course page count is given even if they include more than 1 textbook.  Thus Elementary Japanese is split into volume 1 (385 pages) and volume 2 (450 pages).  Although the entire page page count is used for the textbook(s), any workbook page counts are not included.
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;Copyright
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:The oldest copyright date is given if a re-issue was not seriously revisedRe-issues usually have few changes beyond spelling corrections if those, and most students don't want to come out of class sounding like an old man.  If a language course was originally published in 1940, rest assured that the 2005 version usually exactly the same.
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;Books
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:Books refers to subsequent textbooks it does not include the workbooks, teachers editions, or any other variant.  Thus the 3 Books for "Japanese for Busy People" means there are 3 textbooks only.  Usually the number of workbooks and textbooks are the same.  If this is not the case, the discrepancy is not noted.
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;Reputation
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:Books are ranked Unknown, Weak, Poor, Average, Good, and Great.  The ranking is a combination of community response and, when possible, direct comparison with the other booksPoor reviews are not applied to the ranking if they do not account for the books stated, or implied, limitations.  Bad reviews from people who were not the target audience are discounted, and raving reviews are mitigated by appropriate context.
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:The reputation ranking does not only reflect the technical quality of the Japanese textbook, it also includes the more subjective fun factor.  A Good or Great reputation is only possible for books that are deemed both fun and accurate.
+
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:Books that are too new, rare, or otherwise difficult to obtain will often have an unknown reputation.
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:''Ultimate Japanese'' and ''Japanese Complete Course'' by Living Language are both spoken courses even though UJ does teach Japanese writing it is segregated from the other material and can be easily ignored. UJ is a technical course while FCC is a conversational course. JCC therefore, better meets the above stated purpose of a spoken course.  UJ acts as a sort of bridge between a spoken course and a written course teaching too slowly to really benefit from a spoken only approach but the segregated writing system removes the benefits of an integrated course. Both are mentioned because the marketing for both courses is confusing.
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;ISBN
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:''Pimsleur's Japanese'' This conversational course comes in 3 volumes of 30 lessons each. The course is weak on vocabulary but strong in pattern sentences and completely spoken (CD or Tape); there is no accompanying textThis can be a problem because the untrained ear often cannot distinguish some sounds, however there are PDFs of the lessons floating around the internetThe course is very expensive, but seems to be at many libraries for free and is worth checking out.  If nothing else, the lessons are very memorable and can give some insights in how to structure one's study sessions for maximum retention.
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:It is almost always easier to search or ask for a book by ISBN than by titleCopy and paste the ISBN into your favorite book seller's site, or favorite search engineThis ISBNs are for the first paperback in each series.
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== List of In-Print Textbooks ==
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====Written Only====
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This is a list of all the in-print textbooks I know of that have not been added to the main index:
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:''An Introduction to Modern Japanese'' (Bowring & Laurie).  This is an extremely detailed 52 Lesson course that has the stated goal of enabling the student to read--with only a dictionary for reference-- short stories by the half-way point and newspapers by the endIt comes with a workbook, essential for taking full advantage of this course, and emphasizes the subtleties of _written_ Japanese.  Thus, making this course best for the student with the primary goal of Japanese literacy over spoken fluency.  It covers more Kanji than any other known course and gives detailed explanations of each grammar point.
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:I'm using this section as a stop-gap for nowEventually when I've referenced each volume then this section will be deleted and any new titles will be added directly.
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;Beginner
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:''[http://www.thejapanshop.com/b/2376014011 Japanese in Mangaland]'' With the addition of workbooks this book series graduates from a gimmicky grammar book into a legitimate Japanese course more dedicated towards the student that wants to read manga. Has good explanations, mini exercises and more specifically targeted vocabulary.  For example, onomatopoeia and sound effects are taught from the very beginning. Currently 3 textbooks and 1 workbook; workbooks 2 and 3 may be in the works.  There only seems to be one workbook at this time, so utility for using this course may fall off quickly after the first book.
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: Interactive Japanese - Summerell, Riley, & Yang (IJ S,R&Y)
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: Interactive Japanese - Tomoda & May (IJ T&M)
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: Japanese in Modules (JiM)
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: Japanese Step by Step (JSbS)
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: Learn Japanese: New College Text (LJ)
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: Minna no Nihongo (MnN)
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: Nakama
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: 90 Days of Japanese Language
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: Shin Nihongo no Kiso (SNnK)
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: Speak Japanese (SJ)
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: Teach Yourself Japanese
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: Tsumiki
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: Ultimate Japanese (UJ)
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: Youkoso
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;Intermediate
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====Spoken and Written====
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:Aozora: Intermediate-Advanced Japanese Communication
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:An Integrated Guide to Intermediate Japanese
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:Intermediate Technical Japanese
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:Intermediate Modern Japanese
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:Japanese for JETs - Intermediate Text
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:Living in Japan: Intermediate conversational Japanese
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:Readers Guide to Intermediate Japanese: A Quick Reference to Written Expressions
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:Shimbun De Manabu Nihongo
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:Sura-Sura: A Text for Intermediate Japanese
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;Advanced
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:''[http://www.thejapanshop.com/Genki-Textbook-Integrated-Elementary-Japanese/dp/B003TU46O4 Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese]''.  This is a 2-book course with a strong following.  Each book has an accompanying workbook and audio. It is one of the more expensive courses but worth the money.  However, this is not so much better than ''Nakama'' that you should ignore a good deal if you find it.
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:Advanced Japanese Conversation
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:Advanced Spoken Japanese
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:Authentic Japanese: Progressing from Intermediate to Advanced
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== Textbook Feature list ==
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:''Nakama''. Nakama consists of two volumes, each consisting of a textbook, workbook, and listening. The text is targeted towards college students, but is also excellent for independent study. Kana is used from the beginning and kanji is introduced starting half way through volume 1. Nakama is a solid choice if you're willing to a pay college textbook price.
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;Beginner, Beginner-Intermediate
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:{| class="wikitable"
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:''Elementary Japanese''. Also a two book series, it has the advantage of an audio CD that does not need to be ordered separately and has lots of exercises, although it does not have an accompanying workbook at this time, rather exercises are all within the book, making this a bit thicker than many other textbooks.
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!width="30"| Title
+
-
!width="10"| Books
+
-
!width="10"| ©
+
-
!width="40"| Chapters
+
-
!width="30"| Pages
+
-
!width="40"| Kanji
+
-
!width="40"| Audience Emphasis
+
-
!width="40"| Writing Emphasis
+
-
!width="80"| Spoken Emphasis
+
-
!width="40"| Audio
+
-
!width="40"| Workbook
+
-
!width="40"| Reputation
+
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!width="40"| ISBN
+
-
|-
+
-
|Adventures in Japanese
+
-
|4
+
-
|1998
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|High School
+
-
|Parallel
+
-
|Technical
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Unknown
+
-
|088727420X
+
-
|-
+
-
|Colloquial Japanese
+
-
|1
+
-
|2003
+
-
|15
+
-
|312
+
-
|200+
+
-
|Self-study
+
-
|Integrated
+
-
|Conversational
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|No
+
-
|Average
+
-
|0415194784
+
-
|-
+
-
|Contemporary Japanese
+
-
|2
+
-
|2005
+
-
|26
+
-
|496
+
-
|100+
+
-
|College
+
-
|Kanji+rubi
+
-
|Technical
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|No
+
-
|Average
+
-
|080483377X
+
-
|-
+
-
|Elementary Japanese
+
-
|2
+
-
|2005
+
-
|27
+
-
|835
+
-
|200+
+
-
|College
+
-
|Kanji+rubi
+
-
|Technical
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|No
+
-
|Good
+
-
|0804835047
+
-
|-
+
-
|[http://www.thejapanshop.com/home.php?cat=270 Genki]
+
-
|2
+
-
|1999
+
-
|33
+
-
|697
+
-
|303+
+
-
|College
+
-
|Kanji
+
-
|Technical
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Great
+
-
|4789009637
+
-
|-
+
-
|Idiot's Guide to Conversational Japanese
+
-
|1
+
-
|2002
+
-
|25
+
-
|432
+
-
|0
+
-
|Self-study
+
-
|Hepburn
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|No
+
-
|Poor
+
-
|0028641795
+
-
|-
+
-
|Ima
+
-
|2
+
-
|2004
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Unknown
+
-
|1876209151
+
-
|-
+
-
|Introduction to Modern Japanese - Bowring & Laurie
+
-
|1
+
-
|2002
+
-
|52
+
-
|481
+
-
|1100+
+
-
|College
+
-
|Kanji
+
-
|Conversational
+
-
|No
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Great
+
-
|052154887X
+
-
|-
+
-
|Introduction to Modern Japanese - Mizutani & Mizutani
+
-
|1
+
-
|1977
+
-
|30
+
-
|425
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Classroom
+
-
|Seperate
+
-
|Conversational
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|No
+
-
|Average
+
-
|4789000583
+
-
|-
+
-
|Japanese for Busy People
+
-
|3
+
-
|1996
+
-
|UNK
+
-
|796
+
-
|200+
+
-
|Self
+
-
|Kana or Hepburn
+
-
|Business
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Average
+
-
|Roumaji ED 4770018827
+
-
Kana ED 4770019874
+
-
|-
+
-
|Japanese for Dummies
+
-
|1
+
-
|2002
+
-
|20
+
-
|408
+
-
|None
+
-
|Self-Study
+
-
|Hepburn
+
-
|Conversational
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|No
+
-
|Poor
+
-
|0764554298
+
-
|-
+
-
|[http://www.thejapanshop.com/product.php?productid=16729&cat=70&page=1 Japanese for Everyone]
+
-
|1
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|384
+
-
|Unk
+
-
|Self-Study
+
-
|Parallel
+
-
|Conversational
+
-
|No
+
-
|No
+
-
|Great
+
-
|0870408534
+
-
|-
+
-
|Japanese for Young People
+
-
|3
+
-
|1998
+
-
|45
+
-
|602
+
-
|160
+
-
|Junior-high
+
-
|Kanji+Rubi
+
-
|Conversational
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Yes
+
-
|Average
+
-
|477002178X
+
-
|}
+
-
;Intermediate, Intermediate-Advanced
+
:''[http://www.thejapanshop.com/Japanese-Everyone-Textbook-Revised/dp/B003VKO4LM Japanese for Everyone]'' is equally good, maybe better, but I rank it lower because it teaches at a faster pace to make up for it's 1 book length and the audio must be purchased separately--and seems difficult to acquire and there is not many exercises.  This faster pace can be too much for many people, although the pace did not seem to be extraordinarily fast.  I'm sure many will find the pace perfect.
-
:{| class="wikitable"
+
-
!width="10"| Title
+
-
!width="10"| Books
+
-
!width="10"| ©
+
-
!width="40"| Chapters
+
-
!width="30"| Pages
+
-
!width="40"| Kanji
+
-
!width="40"| Audience Emphasis
+
-
!width="40"| Writing Emphasis
+
-
!width="80"| Spoken Emphasis
+
-
!width="40"| Audio
+
-
!width="40"| Workbook
+
-
!width="40"| Reputation
+
-
|}
+
-
;Advanced
+
:''[http://www.thejapanshop.com/Japanese-for-Busy-People-Japanese-Textbooks-Japanese-Bookstore-Products/b/2359181011 Japanese for Busy People 3rd Edition]'' by the Association For Japanese-Language Teaching (Ajalt).  The 3rd edition has been heavily revised to make this series much better where before it had some major problems.  Now it deserves a place near the top. The three primary books in this series are rather cheap--the first textbook can be bought for under $20 and includes audio although the workbook must be bought separately.
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:{| class="wikitable"
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!width="80"| Title
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:''YesJapan.com'' This nice website has a lot of advantages for the self-study to make it well worth the monthly fee.  It has 24 hour teacher access, you can adjust the level of writing instruction with a simple mouse click, there are instructional videos, games, sound files, and a forum to share experiences with other students.  Of course, any question can be answered at our own forum, but it's nice to share with other people taking the same course.
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!width="10"| Books
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!width="10"| ©
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!width="40"| Chapters
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!width="30"| Pages
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!width="40"| Kanji
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!width="40"| Audience Emphasis
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!width="40"| Writing Emphasis
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!width="80"| Spoken Emphasis
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!width="40"| Audio
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!width="40"| Workbook
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!width="40"| Reputation
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|-
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|Advanced Japanese
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|1
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|1998
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|10
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|211
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|Many
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|College
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|Kanji
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|Technical
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|Yes
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|Yes <!-- Not sure it is actually a "work book" but it has a separate volume with kanji readings and explanations and such by section -->
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|Good
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|-
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|Japanese Life Today 現代日本事情
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|1
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|1987
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|12
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|161
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|JLPT 3
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|Self-study
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|Kanji+rubi
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|Conversational
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|None
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|No
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|Good
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|}
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== Related Pages ==
== Related Pages ==
-
*[[Reading Material]]
+
[http://www.thejapanshop.com/ The Japan Shop.com] Clay sells textbooks too!  Every book he sells he reviewed and rated.  <br>
 +
[[Japanese_Textbook_List]] For more more complete list of textbooks and in-depth reviews for each title.  Very much a work in progress. <br>
 +
[[Reading Material]] This page is mainly for people looking for Japanese reading sources.<br>
 +
[[Japanese Supplements]] Reviews and listings for any Supplemental works. <br><br>
 +
 
[[Category:Practice]]
[[Category:Practice]]

Revision as of 07:40, 4 December 2010

Contents

Introduction

One of the first questions a potential Japanese student asks is, "What is the best Japanese textbook to get?" After much trial and error and also watching the experiences of others, the answer to this all-important question is: "all of them." Unfortunately, an average search will usually not reveal many of these good books, so the purpose of this guide is as much to bring some of these titles out into the light, as it is act as a reference.

Each textbook meets different goals in differing orders, but the final result for nearly all is a student that can speak--if not read--Japanese well. It is important to not waste time looking for a better textbook once you've already started. Persevere and study daily and you will be learn Japanese well.

Know your goals first

Learning a new language is about goals before anything else. Why are you studying Japanese? If you know your goals, then you can select a book that caters more effectively toward those goals.

The first thing you have to decide is speed. The faster you need to learn one thing the greater the sacrifice you need to make somewhere else. A diplomat might be satisfied with a spoken course, while someone that just wants to read manga will be happy with a written course. In terms of speed we can rate the courses from fastest to slowest.

  1. Travel Guide
  2. Primer
  3. Spoken only
  4. Written only
  5. Both spoken and written

For example, a spoken course does not need to worry about learning Kanji which adds a significant amount of time to learning Japanese. Likewise, a strictly written course has no need for pronunciation or speed drills. The longest route is learning to be good at both. Still, there is some room for variety. A course emphasizing literacy might emphasize reading (passive recall) but not writing (active recall).

Primers are great for the tourist that wants get more out of their tour guide or a thrifty parent of a child that wants to learn Japanese. They give a smattering of everything but are weak on vocabulary and like travel guides often have no audio component. Because the primer is much cheaper than a full course, it can be used as a gauge of the child's discipline. If the child is able to complete the primer, then the parent might more seriously consider buying a full blown course. Primers also can be good supplements to a more robust course.

Travel guides are written for the clueless tourist and can generally get someone by, provided they spend a week or two learning the format of the book. Although primers can easily become a source of aggravation for all parties, they also contain a lot of categorized vocabulary so an intermediate student or upper beginner might find them useful as a study guide. In truth, they can be a godsend even for the advanced student that goes to Japan then suddenly discovers a hole in one's knowledge.

Because a good course is designed to advance a student to the intermediate level. Any course that does not have enough material to make a student self-sufficient at about the intermediate level will be rated as a primer.

Spoken courses come in three varieties, spoken only, romaji, or kana. Although there is a bit of controversy over the use of romaji, a spoken course will not be criticized for that here, however, a written course will.

Know the format before buying

I highly recommend examining any course before buying it. Even though I try to recommend courses that are well formatted and are paced in a way that is easy to stay motivated, it might not work for you. It is a bad sign when the page layout incites a headache, so make sure you like the format and pace before buying. Generally, many short lessons seems to be easier to remember and progress through than few longer more in-depth lessons.

Also, this list will now attempt to cover all media formats. Software, audio only, and web site courses as I see them will be added to the list. Textbooks will continue to be the preferred format, because you can take them with you anywhere, but other formats will be mentioned.

Best Highlights

To save some trouble this list is for those who want a quick answer, there is a short list here. The full list of known textbooks is also available ot the Japanese_Textbook_List. Most courses are rated on quality not speed. I do plan to make a note of any courses that seem to emphasize speed. Better courses are listed above weaker courses, but to be listed at all in the "Best" list is a good sign. Please realize that these "Best" courses are rated extremely subjectively. If a book is not listed here that doesn't mean it is bad, these are just the best of the titles we've been able to review in-depth. If you look at the full list, you will see that there are many books still to be reviewed, so don't be discouraged if a book you already have or desire is not listed in the "Best of" list below. Hopefully, after reading this page, you will know enough to judge for yourself if a given course fills your needs. Usually I will try to give a reason one title is listed over another. If you don't see the book you want here, check out the complete Japanese Textbook List. If Clay is selling a recommended book, I'll point the link to his store in thanks for hosting the site.

Travel Guides

Barron's Japanese Vocabulary by Carol and Nobou Akiyama. This is as the title says, mainly a vocabulary list, so it's more for someone that has already knows Japanese grammar. It is the only book of it's kind, however, to list such a large number of themed vocabulary. Vocabulary words are listed under the most appropriate topic, "Clothing," "Likes and Dislikes," "Jobs and Professions," etc.. Kanji are given for words in the back, and the book says that it also notates changes in pitch, but very few accented words are marked. In spite of this negative, the book is very portable and can be used to quickly look up a word at need.

Primers

Colloquial Japanese by H. D. B. Clarke. This can be bought as the book alone or the book and audio can be bought together as a package. Great for someone going to Japan in the near future or that wants a good overview of the language before starting a more intensive course. This moves at a fast pace but does not overload the student with vocabulary. Also, the vocabulary builds on each previous chapter very well. Unfortunately, there are a relatively large number of typos throughout the book that the student will need to keep their eyes out for, however, they all seemed rather obvious because the parallel text will not match. Primers usually don't come with audio so this gets the highest recommendation.
Easy Japanese by Jack Steward. This little primer has a lot going for it. It strongly emphasizes pattern sentence and substitution drills, one of those boring things that you only appreciate later and something many courses neglect because they are unpopular. No audio.


Spoken Only

Barron's Mastering Japanese Written by Eleanor Harz Jorden author of Japanese, the Spoken Language is a technical course designed for the self-study. Even though this textbook is old, it gets the highest recommendation because of the extensive drills in the book. The benefit of extensive drills is well worth any perceived negative factors associated with this course.
Ultimate Japanese and Japanese Complete Course by Living Language are both spoken courses even though UJ does teach Japanese writing it is segregated from the other material and can be easily ignored. UJ is a technical course while FCC is a conversational course. JCC therefore, better meets the above stated purpose of a spoken course. UJ acts as a sort of bridge between a spoken course and a written course teaching too slowly to really benefit from a spoken only approach but the segregated writing system removes the benefits of an integrated course. Both are mentioned because the marketing for both courses is confusing.
Pimsleur's Japanese This conversational course comes in 3 volumes of 30 lessons each. The course is weak on vocabulary but strong in pattern sentences and completely spoken (CD or Tape); there is no accompanying text. This can be a problem because the untrained ear often cannot distinguish some sounds, however there are PDFs of the lessons floating around the internet. The course is very expensive, but seems to be at many libraries for free and is worth checking out. If nothing else, the lessons are very memorable and can give some insights in how to structure one's study sessions for maximum retention.

Written Only

An Introduction to Modern Japanese (Bowring & Laurie). This is an extremely detailed 52 Lesson course that has the stated goal of enabling the student to read--with only a dictionary for reference-- short stories by the half-way point and newspapers by the end. It comes with a workbook, essential for taking full advantage of this course, and emphasizes the subtleties of _written_ Japanese. Thus, making this course best for the student with the primary goal of Japanese literacy over spoken fluency. It covers more Kanji than any other known course and gives detailed explanations of each grammar point.
Japanese in Mangaland With the addition of workbooks this book series graduates from a gimmicky grammar book into a legitimate Japanese course more dedicated towards the student that wants to read manga. Has good explanations, mini exercises and more specifically targeted vocabulary. For example, onomatopoeia and sound effects are taught from the very beginning. Currently 3 textbooks and 1 workbook; workbooks 2 and 3 may be in the works. There only seems to be one workbook at this time, so utility for using this course may fall off quickly after the first book.

Spoken and Written

Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. This is a 2-book course with a strong following. Each book has an accompanying workbook and audio. It is one of the more expensive courses but worth the money. However, this is not so much better than Nakama that you should ignore a good deal if you find it.
Nakama. Nakama consists of two volumes, each consisting of a textbook, workbook, and listening. The text is targeted towards college students, but is also excellent for independent study. Kana is used from the beginning and kanji is introduced starting half way through volume 1. Nakama is a solid choice if you're willing to a pay college textbook price.
Elementary Japanese. Also a two book series, it has the advantage of an audio CD that does not need to be ordered separately and has lots of exercises, although it does not have an accompanying workbook at this time, rather exercises are all within the book, making this a bit thicker than many other textbooks.
Japanese for Everyone is equally good, maybe better, but I rank it lower because it teaches at a faster pace to make up for it's 1 book length and the audio must be purchased separately--and seems difficult to acquire and there is not many exercises. This faster pace can be too much for many people, although the pace did not seem to be extraordinarily fast. I'm sure many will find the pace perfect.
Japanese for Busy People 3rd Edition by the Association For Japanese-Language Teaching (Ajalt). The 3rd edition has been heavily revised to make this series much better where before it had some major problems. Now it deserves a place near the top. The three primary books in this series are rather cheap--the first textbook can be bought for under $20 and includes audio although the workbook must be bought separately.
YesJapan.com This nice website has a lot of advantages for the self-study to make it well worth the monthly fee. It has 24 hour teacher access, you can adjust the level of writing instruction with a simple mouse click, there are instructional videos, games, sound files, and a forum to share experiences with other students. Of course, any question can be answered at our own forum, but it's nice to share with other people taking the same course.

Related Pages

The Japan Shop.com Clay sells textbooks too! Every book he sells he reviewed and rated.
Japanese_Textbook_List For more more complete list of textbooks and in-depth reviews for each title. Very much a work in progress.
Reading Material This page is mainly for people looking for Japanese reading sources.
Japanese Supplements Reviews and listings for any Supplemental works.

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