My guide to self-studying Japanese

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

It’s time to contribute my little share to all the websites out there telling you how to learn Japanese, which textbooks to buy and which resources to use. I’m just a beginner myself but tried a lot of stuff, gave up twice and then started again with a different approach. There are a couple of things I want to make clear from the beginning which really got on my nerves reading different blogs trying to teach you how to learn Japanese – There are multiple ways to achieve your goal – There are many different sources which offer great ways to learn Japanese – If you like something, stick with it  I’m nowhere near the point where I would say that the stuff I’m doing and using for my Japanese studies is the perfect way to go. But it’s the right stuff for me and maybe for you too. Just some friendly tips from one Nerd to another which may save you a lot of time and money!

Revisited: 24.12.2013 I thought the time was right to update this page a little. Since then the ways and tools which I use to learn Japanese have changed and why not share the good stuff with you.

Revisited: 20.08.2014 It’s a time again for a little update. Included Japanesepod101 and Japanese the manga way. Will re-structure the article and give you my personal laid out plan how I would start learning Japanese.

Revisited: 13.02.2015 Small update to the layout. Added my favorite Japanese dictionary App.

Revisited: 29.09.2015 Added a section on productivity and how to stay motivated for long term learning (and with this, success).

Revisited: 16.08.2017 Added a study routine.

If you buy the books through my links, I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome books for review.

In the beginning it’s always comfortable when you have a list you can go through. A numerical one at best with all the steps you should take in an orderly fashion. The tips in this posts aren’t random but for a beginner it may be a little confusing with what to start nonetheless. That’s why I decided to break my Japanese learning process down. Let’s begin:

1. Learn Hiragana and Katakana

The two Japanese syllabaries are essential for every book and tool in this list. Hiragana is used for everything that’s not written in  Kanji (the complex Chinese characters), Katakana on the other hand is used for “imported” English words or when Japanese want to stylise a word. I found the Dr. Moku Apps the absolute best for this purpose. It’s available for iOS, Android and on your Desktop so there should be a way for everyone to learn from the Doctor. If you prefer a physical version you should check out these here.

2. Get a textbook. My favorite: Genki (second edition with a lovely MP3 CD)

Awesome textbook which teaches you the basics of Japanese grammar in two volumes and 25 lessons . Everything is very well explained with lots of example sentences, recurring characters who take part in various short stories and the exact right amount of vocabulary for each section. The MP3 Cd contains the text and vocabulary read out loud which is crucial to work on your listening comprehension in an early stage. It won’t get more easy when you wait with this step, trust me. There is also a corresponding workbook available but there is more than enough stuff to practice within the main book itself.

Still, I got both workbooks and went through them as well. Each one is accompanied with an MP3 Cd (in the same manner like the main textbook) which contains all the text and dialogue spoken by a native speaker. If you got both down and the main books, basic Japanese grammar shouldn’t be a hurdle for you anymore. To sum it up, you don’t need the workbooks but some extra practice never hurts, right. Your call.

Forget Minna no nihongo and all the other books which are just crappy for self learners. Genki is the real deal. Don’t forget to buy the answer key which contains every answer for both work- and textbook for Genki I & II in one single volume.

Buy the book: Genki I & Genki II // Answer Key (crucial!)// Workbook I & Workbook II
WRJ has it also in store. If you include the shipping costs from Japan, it’s not such a bad deal even if it’s more expensive. And I got the feeling you might want to get the textbooks as fast as possible.

There is also a pretty neat iOS App available which let’s you train conjugations. Trust me on this one – just get it while studying the mighty Genki textbooks.

Genki Volume 1&2

how to learn japanese-2

3. Get this dictionary for Japanese grammar

There will come the situation when you’re reading something and can’t make sense of a grammatical term. You’re trying to look it up in Genki but with no success. Tae Kim can’t give you a solid explanation either. But fear not, there is a great tool to help you in these moments. The dictionaries of Japanese grammar. It’s a series of three books published by the Japan Times (like Genki) with a beautiful layout and really well written explanations with lots of example sentences. There is a reason why these three books are used by Japanese teaching universities all around the globe.

I’ve already written a more in-depth post about the first dictionary of basic Japanese grammar with a couple of pictures. Just have a look and decide for yourself if you could need one of these. For me it’s the best thing that happened to me after Genki and a steady partner on my night table.

  • Buy A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar from CDjapan

dictionary of basic japanese grammar japan times

20131215-DSC_0103

4. Give your listening comprehension a boost and learn some sentence structures with Japanesepod101

When I signed up for TextFugu a long while back I also got a coupon for Japanesepod101. Heard a lot about the program before but never really considered subscribing because the whole site looked a bit “sketchy” to me. They just tried a little too hard to sell their stuff. But I thought to myself “if the tofugu team recommends something, it has to be good”. And it was the right decision.

Before Japanesepod I even struggled with the most basic sentences in Japanese. My listening comprehension was really crap. But thanks to this little podcast it got a lot better. It’s even incredibly useful to learn some grammar on the way with example sentences and explanations right away. Every episode has a little story up front which contains a specific grammar point. After that a native speaker and the host Peter Gallante are talking about the story, make some jokes, explain and just have a very well thought out discussion. Honestly, I’m always amazed how they make their episodes so poignant and casually at the same time. Kudos.

I really love listening to Podcasts on the go and if you do so as well you may know the feeling you get over time. Like you really know these people who you’re listening to regularly. Just like a bunch of old friends you like to hang out with and chat. I get that feeling when listening to Japanesepod as well which should tell you how much I enjoy the cast.

When I first started with Japanese I completely neglected any listening comprehension. Which was a big mistake. You’ll never be able to really understand a language if you’re not used to the “flow”, the rhythm of that language. At least it was an immense game changer for me.

Just head to their website and give it a try or read my more in-depth review of Japanesepod101 if you want to learn more about their service first.

Japanesepod is sending me some coupons from time to time and I thought it would be a good idea to update the post with the new ones.

Coupon Codes August 2017 (links attached)
30% OFF Premium PLUS
25% OFF Premium
15% OFF Basic

  • Subscribe here (coupon code already applied!)

_-3

Recommended study routine: 

  • After learning Hiragana & Katakana start with Genki I. I don’t think its the best idea to write your own flashcards for vocab so I would opt for a different route right away: iKnow. You train your reading ability and learn Japanese words in context. There is no better way (at least for me).

The program itself is not included in this list and that’s for a reason. I had to decide between two time consuming SRS programs. Wanikani (just look below for a detailed explanation) and iKnow. The latter one is great for vocab but not essential so I opted for WK instead. 

  • Join Japanesepod101 and start with Newbie Season 1. Use it alongside Genki but don’t try to find the same grammar points in both the podcast and the book. Just let it flow and learn from both. The beauty of this method is that you’ll eventually encounter already learned grammar points again, get a second explanation and make them really stick.

You want to read manga in Japanese? Get this book.

Not really a necessity but – If you like to read manga in Japanese or want to get to that level where you can enjoy your favorite series in Japanese – buy this book. It’s really the best thing you can buy. Don’t confuse it with Japanese in Mangaland. This one here teaches real written Japanese using different scenes from popular manga as examples. A little like the column which once ran in the now defunct Mangajin magazine if some of you remember. You’ll learn a lot of useful grammatical stuff you really don’t get teached in regular textbooks. If you want to read manga – tries this book here. It helped me immensely in understanding some of the more obscure sentence enders and terms.

If you work through this book I guarantee you that you’ll at least have the grammatical foundation to comfortably read manga in Japanese. Yes, it’s that awesome. Japanese Tease reader Chris recommended it to me on twitter a while ago and I’m really glad he did. Worked my way through the book and reading Japanese got a lot more easy for me afterwards. All these strange sentence enders and variations I couldn’t place anywhere were described in this book. Or at least a good part of em’. Even when watching Anime to learn Japanese you’ll notice that this book here is essential. The slang remains the same not matter if you watch the shows or read the manga.

Buy Japanese the manga way at Amazon.com

japanese the manga way

japanese the manga way-4

japanese the manga way-5

5. Start learning the Kanji and tons of vocab with WaniKani

I’ve already written a post about getting back to learning Japanese with WaniKani but it just had to be included here. I always wanted to write a blog where article that matter were updated when the time was right and that’s exactly what I’m doing now. WaniKani is great. Even if you’re just making your first steps in trying to learn Japanese, learn hiragana & katakana and make yourself a WaniKani account. It starts from scratch and is a great alternativ to Heisig. It’s actually the one I prefer nowadays. JT reader NinKenDo pointed out that he is actually using WaniKani in conjunction with Heisig. So that’s also an alternative. If you want to know more about WaniKani and it’s immense benefits, just read the above linked post to the original article. But in short: You’ll learn the Kanji, learn tons of vocabulary and meet great people in the community. The best thing I did for my Japanese studies was signing up with WK. Hands down.

To make studying with WaniKani even more easy  I compiled a list with the extensions I use with the site to make things a little faster and more efficient. Safari is normally my go to browser but specifically for WK I switch to Chrome just for the sake of using all these little helpers.

Heisig: Remembering the Kanji – Before WaniKani came around this was the ultimate way to learn the Kanji. The key was to brake down the Chinese characters in small parts called primitives. Out of these you make up a story that will help you memorize the meaning of each Kanji. If you got a meaning down for each Kanji you can advance to learning the different meanings.

how to learn japanese-4


When someone asked me how he should start to learn Japanese as a self learner these were the tips I would give him. But there is a lot of other stuff out there which is great as well. Let’s start with a classics. The infamous online Japanese textbook.

Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide

If you want another shot at Japanese grammar or want to read more about a certain topic Tae Kim’s grammar guide is my go to place. It’s free, it’s awesome and very well explained. Good stuff for beginners who like a more casual and natural approach towards grammar and always a great complement to Genki. Some are even using solely Tae Kim for their grammar needs but I wouldn’t recommend that. Not because his site isn’t great (it is) I just think that it’s a little confusing at the beginning and a little vague with his explanations sometimes as well. If you already have a foundation in Japanese you’ll greatly profit from the many example sentences and small grammatical nuances Tae Kim explains so well. If you don’t have a certain background you’ll probably feel the same I felt back then. Not being able to see the forest among all the trees.

There is a also a free IOS Version of the guide which is really well made – and free. A no brainer if you have a fitting device. I actually bought the printed version as well but am not that keen about it. Maybe because the App is just too good to be true. And free, did I mention that?

Get a Japanese dictionary for you mobile phone and tablet.

No matter if you’re using Android or iOS there are many different Japanese dictionary Apps available and they are more or less all offering the same. At least they’re all referring to the same database of words. So in the end it’s a matter of preference which one you like to use. Or rather a matter of style. I tried out a couple of different ones but stuck with Midori and am using it now for a couple of years. I really like that the App is already searching for the word while I’m typing. Makes finding words where you only know the Kanji and you’re not quite sure about the exact reading a lot more easy. There are a lot more bells and whistles to this App but I’m using none of them. Built in list to which you can add your words, Kanji and vocab after JLPT and so on. In this regard all the dictionary Apps are more or less the same and in the end (again) it’s just  comes down to which interface you like best.

Imiwa has been mentioned in the comments and I tried it myself. Nothing wrong with this App either. There is even the functionality to change the language to German or French or Spanish. But not all Japanese words included in the dictionary are available in all translations and some may still be shown with an English translation. It’s free and a great alternative to Midori (which costs a hefty 10$). Download it and try it for yourself.


Reading material

Learning Japanese is a journey that never seems to end. At least for me it doesn’t. Luckily there is a vast market of neat books and programs out there which make studying the language a joy to do so. I’ve written some articles about nearly all the books I’ve used up to now and always aim to give you a personal feel for the books with the pictures I’m taking. Hope that works. Some stuff which I love to recommend to nearly all stages of learners are the Japanese Graded Readers books. Available from super easy to intermediate. They come in attractive little boxes, each story in a separate booklet, but have a look yourself.

Japanese Graded Readers – When native material is still far too difficult and frustrating these are an excellent way to start finally putting your newly learnt Japanese to some use. You can choose a set from grade 0 to 3 with rising difficulty in grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. Each story gets is printed on a different booklet and they accompanying MP3 Cd has every little story read by a native.

Read manga in Japanese – I made a total of five posts with manga recommendations for Japanese beginners. You should always keep in mind though that every one of these manga is aimed at a native Japanese audience and thus it can be quite a harsh entry if it’s really the first thing you read in Japanese. But it’ll get better over time (like always) and the above mentioned book Japanese the manga way will help you out a great deal.

Nihongo Notes – When learning and trying to understand and speak Japanese you’ll always face to difficulty that you just express yourself a lot different in Japanese than you would do in a European language. Nihongo Notes is collecting all the essays from the colum with the same name which run in the newspaper The Japan Times. In fun little stories covering everyday situations in Japan you’ll learn a lot about how to use different phrases correctly and more importantly about their heritage and true meaning. If you want to slip inside of a Japanese and make sense of all the seemingly random dos and don’ts in Japan these two books are your best bet. – Read the full review.


Productivity

Habitica – If you want to tackle your daily tasks and to-do-lists like they were missions in an RPG this is the website for you. You earn some in-game money and experience points for every task you finished which will level up your character and even allows you to be some neat gear. Join the Japanese Tease guild and let’s tackle some monsters together through learning more Japanese.

Moleskine Notebook – Tracking you learning progress is essential to keep you on plan and motivated as well. A technique that works very well for me is just to write down with a few keywords what I learned each day. Or if I have to work through a big bunch of pages in a textbook I’ll write down where I started and finished that day. I personally love the little Moleskine weekly planers, but of course even the note function or calendar on your mobile is up for this task.


Defunct. The section for all the stuff I don’t use anymore but once have. Loved these tools at one point but don’t use them at my current state anymore.

Anki

If you don’t know about Anki yet here us a short description of the best program/app I own. Or at least the most useful to me. It’s a program to make digital vocabulary cards but instead of just having to sides you can do the wildest things with Anki. The Ultimate Japanese Vocab Packs by Tofugu support Anki as well and are really well made. With sound files and different forms. Just download Anki and get these Vocab packs. There is no better introduction to Anki out there. A nice feature of Anki is that you can download ao called “decks” by other people directly within the program. So if you decide to tackle the Heisig method fo learning all the Joyu Kanji, just search for a deck. Maybe someone else was kind enough to upload his own Anki-deck which can safe you a lot of time. And the good part is: You alwas have the opportunity to customise these decks. Well done Anki!

how to learn japanese-5

Make your own vocabulary-decks

When you finished the essential packs you will have some basic Japanese vocabulary knowledge which will come in quite handy reading stuff like Yotsubato! and Shirokuma Café. But because Japanese is damn complex you need to learn more vocab and I mean: Lots more. I just expanded the Tofugu decks and made additions to them whenever I stumbled across an unknown word. I would advice you to do the same because the tofugu vocab “template” is really well made with the ability to learn the different froms and kanji reading in a breeze. Little tip: Add a field for the te-form within the Verbs template, which will make things much easier for you in the long run.

Where do I pick up my vocab?

When reading a manga I try to put all unknown words into Anki. Sometimes I skip a few. There is really no need to learn ancient Japanese words when you’re still trying to figure out the basics. You can rather spend the time on the more useful stuff first which you will actually use and com back for fancy vocab a couple of months (or years) later when you have a decent knowledge of Japanese. Of course there are some places with more useful vocab to pick up than others. Manga may not be such a great choice all in all because of all the slang and sometimes fanatsy lanagueg (always depending on what you rerad of course). But Yotsuba with its everyday anecdotes really is a good way to start. I compiled a list with beginner friendly manga in Japanese which should give you plenty of suggestions.

Tags from the story
, , , ,
Written By
More from Jakob

In search for some great Anime and Manga

I'm living the good life at the moment. With some free time...
Read More
  • Miss Cephalopod

    Tolle Seite! Besonders fuer die Leseempfehlungen bin ich dankbar.
    Momentan lerne ich mit TextFugu, aber an sich haette ich schon ganz gern ein “richtiges” Buch. Was mich an der Genki-Reihe abschreckt, ist der Preis. Unter 55€ hab ich noch nichts finden koennen. Gibt’s irgendwelche Geheimtips, wo man die Buecher guenstiger kriegen kann oder muss ich einfach in den sauren Apfel beissen, falls ich mir sie wirklich zulegen will?

    • Erstmal Danke für dein nettes Lob :) Von TextFugu bin ich leider nur mässig begeistert gewesen. Im Ansatz alles ganz nett, vor allem auch der Gedanke gleich vorweg grossen Wert auf Motivation zu legen, aber inhaltlich war mir das alles viel zu breit ausgetreten. da ist Genki wirklich ganz hervorragend :)

      Wenn du die Bücher direkt über honto.jp bestellst kommst du ja auch erheblich billiger weg. Für beide Bücher inkl. Porto macht das dann vielleicht 70-75€. Klingt gleich etwas happig, ist es aber definitiv wert.

      Guck mal hier, da findest du alle infos, wie man ganz einfach so ziemlich alle Japanischen Bücher direkt bestellen kann:

      http://japanesetease.net/guide-where-to-buy-japanese-manga-and-books/

  • Pingback: EASY TO READ MANGA FOR JAPANESE BEGINNERS - Vol. 01 | Japanese TeaseJapanese Tease()

  • Shahrzad

    Helpful as always. Actually I was wondering if I needed Minna no nihongo or not. I have Genki 1 but heard good things about Minna and couldn’t afford both of them! But now I know that I will just need Genki 2.
    Thanks again

    • No problem. Always happy if my posts can help people out. I didn’t like Minna no Nihongo at all and there is definitely no need for it if you already started with Genki. Genki & Tae Kim are a great combination.

  • Matthew Slanker

    I know I am late to the party but I really like the list of resources and wanted to thank you for the post. I also would like to recommend that you take a look at imiwa? (formerly kotoba) since you appear to be an iOS user. Thanks again and good luck!

    • Never to late for a good party :) Thanks a lot for your comment Matthew and if you have any more tips please share them. Always more then welcome. I have imiwa on my phone as well but found midori much more comfortable to use. If I understand tis correctly all these Japanese dictionary apps use the same material so it’s just the interface that I like a bit better.

      But I’ll include because it’s free and basically got the same value as midori. Thanks Matthew for reminding me of this!

  • Pingback: Easy to read manga Vol.04 - A mixed bag - Japanese TeaseJapanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Review: Kanji pict-o-graphix - Japanese TeaseJapanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Getting back to learning Japanese with WaniKani - Japanese TeaseJapanese Tease()

  • Alba

    Hello :)
    I have started to learn Japanese for only a couple of months now, but I like it a lot :)
    I am using WaniKani for vocab, and a French “textbook” called Assimil (I am French… ^^ ), with audio files, for the grammar. I was recently introduced to the Human Japanese apps, and I like them a lot (beginner and intermediate levels), but I wanted to know how good they are. Do you know them? What do you think of them?
    Thank you for your answer!

    • Hey Alba, great that you’re studying Japanese 頑張ってね. Unfortunately I haven’t tried any of the Human Japanese Apps before. Haven’t even heard of them. But just had a look at the free lite version and it looks very promising. Please let me know your thoughts about it when you should try it out. Sorry that I can’t be of any more help.

      • Alba

        Hi!
        Thank you very much for your answer! :)
        I have tried it (still working through the chapterse), and I like it very much! I think it’s beautifully laid out, and the lessons are both easy to follow and very rich in what seems to me to be high quality content.
        In the end, I would highly recommend it, especially for beginners who are serious about wanting to speak Japanese!
        Cheers from France!

  • SuperYokai

    I just found this website and I’m already in love with it, keep the good work and god bliss

    • Thanks a lot for these nice words. These are the comments that keep me going :) Are you learning Japanese as well?

      • SuperYokai

        Yeah this guide is very useful, but its hard to find time to study japanese in university.

  • Camille

    Hi! Thanks for this post! I was really having a hard time choosing between Genki and Minna No Nihongo. I actually preferred MNN at first, but I’m going to order Genki after reading this (and going through some forums :P) MNN’s requires a lot of books before you can actually use them and that would be too expensive. I’m also self-studying so..yeah. :)) I actually wanted to learn Japanese because of my love for anime and manga so I’m also going to consider getting Japanese the Manga Way. :D Keep up the good work! :)

    • Genki is awesome, you can’t do wrong with this one. And you’re so right that Minna no nihongo takes too much for granted. Maybe you’ve seen my review about it. Don’t really like the book even if it may work in a classroom setting. Thanks a lot for your kind words. Really glad that you found this list helpful. Regarding your love for manga and anime? Have you already started to read some stuff in Japanese?

      • Camille

        No prob, I enjoy reading your posts! I’ve already tried reading manga and visited some Japanese sites. So far, I can read Hiragana and Katakana but can only understand certain words and phrases. With Kanji, not much. Just memorized some common ones looong ago but totally forgot them:( And I don’t know much about grammar yet so it’s still a long way to go! :D

        • Just stay strong and hang in. You’ll quickly learn more and there is nothing better then coming back to a manga you didn’t understand a single line in and completely rock at it.

  • Tommy

    Just discovered your blog, very nice! I’ve been studying Japanese for just over a year, and took the JLPT N5 last Sunday and was very happy with it. Initially I started with night classes here in Ireland which ran for 8 months and covered Genki 1. During that time I became obsessed with Heisig’s RTK and worked through the majority of that over 2-3 months, and later finished it in Japan. I can understand that RTK isn’t for everybody but I loved it.

    I spent five weeks in the summer doing a homestay in Kyoto and studying at a language school there. We used Minna no Nihongo for grammar and Kanji Master for kanji (I had used Basic Kanji with my classes in Ireland). Again, I loved both books. Minna no Nihongo is a good companion to Genki I think. If nothing else – Minna no Nihongo is excellent reading practise because there is no English (if you don’t have the translation notes). Another benefit is that Minna no Nihongo has an intermediate series after you complete books 1 & 2.

    Right now I have one-on-one weekly lessons with a Japanese man who lives locally, although they have just finished until the new year. I’m using Genki 2 for grammar, and Kanji Master N4 for kanji. I have just started a couple of children’s books that I am using as reading practise and have created anki decks for them both. Ideally I would like to finish both Genki 2 and KM N4 by next summer, and then work through Minna no Nihongo 2 and my other kanji books for supplemental learning/revision (Basic Kanji, Kanji in Context…the parts that are relevant for N4). Hopefully I will be well prepared to sit the N4 next December.

    I’d like to apply to the JET programme at the end of next year (to go to Japan in 2016) so I’ll also be thinking about that over the next twelve months…

    • Sorry for the late reply, but I totally forgot about it. Congrats for mastering JLPT5 and thanks a lot for the kind words. I just discovered another neat tool for learning Japanese: KanjiBox. Messed around with it for the last couple of days and really like it. Not to mention that it’s dirt cheap for all the goodness you get.

      I’m sure it’ll help you out a great deal when studying for JLPt especially because all the content is sorted that way. Let me know how things turn out for you.

  • Pingback: Textfugu is on sale and why I think you should pick it up - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Probably the best App to learn Japanese with - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Learn Japanese through playing video games - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Wanna read manga in Japanese? Try Mangajin - Japanese Tease()

  • Katelyn

    Thanks for sharing! I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog! It’s like a breath of fresh realistic air. When I was reading other blogs I too was also getting very annoyed by the fact that they all thought that they knew the “best” and most “perfect” methods that one simply must follow in order to be successful in Japanese. As a total beginner I felt used and misled. They recommended very specific products and continued to preach about them continuously like the bible! These products were the only “real” way to learn Japanese and become fluent. In fact, one of the most prominent of these blogs urged forcefully to “just ignore the negative reviews” and immediately purchase one of the expensive products! Unbelievable! I’m not looking for a success recipe! I’m not looking for a quick fix! I don’t want you to tell me how I should, shouldn’t, and must learn Japanese! I just want to hear your ideas! I want to hear your suggestions and I want to hear your observations stated as such. I want to expand my worldview by reading your writing instead of having you attempt to narrow it! I want to make up my mind in the end instead of you try to make it up for me. I don’t want you to flaunt and micro-manage every aspect of my language learning process with your own opinions! You sir, are an exception among the crowd! I can’t wait to continue to learn Japanese! Your blog has helped to fuel my motivation to do such! Other websites and (know it all) blogs tend to bring me down about learning the language which I am naturally so motivated and interested to learn. But, at the end of the day after spending time on some of these websites I end up feeling discouraged, criticized, inferior, and ignored. And, then learning no longer becomes the exciting and fun work hard adventure it once was. It starts to feel like dull drudgery and work. Recently, I deleted a bunch of these sites from my bookmarks and I was going to delete all of the english Japanese advice blogs of which I thought all of them were too heavily opinionated but your blog will remain. You share your opinions as any good writer does but you also are able to look at things in a more objective light but most importantly you are respectful and keep the reader in mind! Thank you. I greatly appreciate it! Keep up the good work! I hope you are satisfied and continue to find plenty of fulfillment with the Japanese language and the unique culture it is fused with!
    – Katelyn

    • Wow. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a long comment. And a very nice one that is. Thank you. I definitely wouldn’t spend so much time working on the website if the Japanese learning community wasn’t such a nice one. Didn’t make one single negative experience with Japanese Tease in now pretty much two years.
      Have you checked my latest article about iknow? Love that little website and it’s probably a gift for every beginner who starts with it. Have fun with your Japanese studies and please let me know how things are going for you.
      And thanks again for all the praise kind words. Really means a lot.

      • Katelyn

        I will definitely check iknow and your latest article out! As an update I am purchasing the Genki 1 textbook, Genki answer key, A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, and Japanese the Manga Way! Your blog has really and truly helped to encourage me! I can’t wait to gain enough skill to be able to form simple sentences and comprehend basic material in Japanese! There is so much content out there! I’m just so excited to be apart of it! Recently, I’ve been watching my favorite anime on Netflix solely in Japanese just to start to get a feel for the sounds of the language! It’s really helped spark my appreciation and curiosity! To think that one day I might comprehend the meaning and subtleties behind the words! Do you know any online subscriptions that would offer streaming Japanese video content in the Japanese language? I want to fully immerse myself! This is so exciting! I’ve just started my Japanese learning journey and already my life is so enriched! I’ve already recognized a few words in the anime series and learned a couple thanks to Midori! Currently, I’m I’ve just downloaded Anki and am reading the long manual whilst still practicing reading and writing Hiragana which I plan to strongly master before moving on too far. Have you heard of the app Human Japanese? It is on iOS and there is one for total beginners and one for intermediate students! I would definitely recommend checking it out! It is like a friendly interactive textbook packed with the most important content though I am no expert! It is also very down to earth, humorous, concise, engaging, beautiful, and easy to understand! If you check it out I wrote a review on iTunes on the beginner iPad version of the app by the username of “slyfin”. I would love to hear what you think of this series of app(s)! I’m very impressed with them and think that it might make worthy content to cover in your blog! Another Japanese app that I have really been enjoying is MindSnacks Japanese! It’s teaching is very limited but you learn new basic vocab in many fun ways by playing games and completing “quests”! Not only am I finding it useful but it is extremely fun, challenging, and easy to pick! There is an assortment of 8 arcade like minigames that you unlock in turn each focusing on a different aspect of the language such as spelling, listening comprehension, and meaning identification all done in a fun way where you are always trying to beat your previous high score and unlock new content and levels! I also found this youtube video inspiring with good ideas! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0 What do you think? And finally, this article has really given me a new perspective on language. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?pagewanted=all Sorry, for making so many requests! They are actually just potential suggestions and if you don’t take up any or all of them I won’t be offended in the least! You’ve got your life to live and you might be busy or have better things to do with your time. Also, I believe that your amazon links are all affiliate links, right? Any Japanese material that I purchase off Amazon will go through your affiliate links! I want to support you! I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across your blog at the last minute while being fed up with blogs but I am very very thankful that I did! How opportune! :D Thank you for your content! Thank you so much! :) I feel like I know where to go from here to start learning Japanese! It feels like an adventure! The content your blog has provided me has led directly to this moment. It has led to my full commitment even if it is just a small fraction of the day, to learn and breath Japanese!

        • Thanks for all this information Katelyn. Will check out everything for sure. Already got Human Japanese suggested a couple of times but just gave it a quick look and didn’t work with it. I don’t have the need for it anymore (luckily) and am just sticking to iknow at the moment.

          All amazon.com and cdjapan links on this site are affiliate links which means that I’ll earn a small percentage of everything you buy when using them. Be it a Japanese textbook or a vacuum cleaner. Thanks a lot it really helps to pay for hosting, backup, domain and to contribute to my textbook and manga purchases.

          Watching the video right as I’m writing this. Thanks a lot for sharing looks great. I’d suggestion using the iknow coupon http://japanesetease.net/learn-tons-new-japanese-words-context-iknow-jp/ and learn Hiragana/Katakana with iknow (I’m not affiliated with their service but really love it).

  • Pingback: Learn tons of new Japanese words in context with iknow.jp - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Review: Konnichiwa Nihongo - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Review: Nihongo Notes - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Review: Minna no Nihongo - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Review: Japanese Cheat Sheets are a good way to refresh your memory - Japanese Tease()

  • Pingback: Womit Jakob (mit k) Japanisch lernt - Neulich in Japan Neulich in Japan()

  • Alena

    Hello. Thank you for your wonderful blog. It helped me to find(in your another article) the website where I can order Japanese manga and books. I live in Russia, so the shipping is usually very expensive. But the cdjapan has the perfect price/shipping costs ratio. Can’t wait to get my books. Thank you!
    I wanted to ask you for an advice. I’m using first Minna no Nihongo now and was going to order the second volume. But you write that Genki is much better than Minna. If I get the second volume of Genki won’t I have a gap in knowledge? As I understood the first Genki gives much more information than the first Minna. But I don’t have the ability to order both first and second Genki(spent almost all money on cdjapan and going to spend more haha). So, I’m confused what I should do: to continue with Minna or Genki? But I’m afraid to lose some very important knowledge while migrating from first Minna to second Genki.
    P.S. I really like to read your blog!

    • Thanks Alena and thanks a lot again for using my links. Helps to support the site! If you like Minna no nihongo and don’t have any problems with it I would just continue with the second volume of the series. The new version has a CD included as well and if you like the style of the textbooks you’ll definitely be fine with sticking to Minna no nihongo. The only complain I have with the series it that I personally don#t think it works as well for self learners as Genki and I didn’t exactly enjoy the rather stiff tone the books are written in.

      I have just written about a great textbook which would definitely come in very handy at your learning stage
      http://japanesetease.net/review-understanding-basic-japanese-grammar/

      Everything important grammar wise in one place. Should cover everything in Genki 1+2.

      • Alena

        I can’t say if I like it or not. I haven’t tried anything else(except books from Russian authors.. and they really suck). But the fact I don’t have any problems with it is true. I’ve just grabbed the translation of Minna and here I am. I think I will learn about Genki II a little bit more, read other reviews, look through some book previews. I’m just a little bit confused that it’s mostly in English as I understood. I’m used to this style of Minna when everything is in Japanese.

        Yeah, I’ve read it(thank you a lot for this great review) and already added to the basket at Honto website. Thinking about the purchase. I was looking for some grammar dictionary and was thinking about getting this book first http://japanesetease.net/review-essential-japanese-expressions/
        But you said it’s not really for beginners.. Though I’m not a completely completely beginner. 私は日本語が少し分かります。( ̄^ ̄)ゞ

        • The book you mentioned is great with tons of example sentences. If you already know at least some Japanese you’ll definitely be fine. I just meant that if you have no clue about the language it’s nothing you should start with.

          Genki is completely in English, there are not translations in different languages available like it is the case with Minna. Seriously, it sounds to me like you get along quite good with the textbook – stick with it. Don’t confuse yourself with another textbook. Rather finish Minna no nihongo and then move on to something more intermediate.

          • Alena

            Probably it’s not really correct to compare these two books, but which one you would recommend more? The Understanding basic Japanese grammar has deep explanations but lack of grammar structures(though not for beginners). On the other hand, Essential Japanese expressions has a lack of explanations but contains tons of grammar structures. Ugh! Can’t decide which one to pick.

            I know. I meant there are a lot of non-Japanese text in Genki book(from what I’ve seen). In Minna everything is in Japanese, so you need to strain your brain to understand what they want from you. I think this is good.
            Thank you for this advice. Hope to read your reviews of some books for intermediate learners in the future(or maybe there are some already but I missed them).

          • Tough choice. I really love both but they’re not really for the same purpose. Just choose what you’re most interested in :)

          • Alena

            Thank you sensei for advices. I’ll choose wisely. ( ̄^ ̄)ゞ

  • Pingback: Nihongo Nikki Noto (Writing a Diary in Japanese) - Japanese Tease()

  • Becky

    Hi. I found your site a couple of days ago and would just like to say thank you, it’s really great! I found it while searching for reviews of TextFugu and was all ready to purchase, but your review saved me the money. I haven’t even started studying Japanese yet (waiting till exams finish) but come Monday I plan to get stuck in as I always love having something to work on and anime has sparked my appreciation for the language, and the culture! My favourite thing about your site is how you clearly love and immerse yourself in Japanese culture, rather than just the language, which encourages me to buy Genki on your recommendation. However, I have heard that it teaches you only formal Japanese rather than everyday, conversational Japanese. As I said I haven’t even started my journey yet so have very little idea even which one of these would be best, but people seem to lean towards wanting to learn more conversational Japanese. Do you think Genki fails in this respect?
    Thank you again for your hard work!

    • Hey Becky. I can only recommend Genki. It’s a fantastic and very complete textbook. Especially when coupled with Japanesepod and ikon (I have articles for both on this site) it’s highly effective. You should always learn a language the proper way which means you should learn it formally. After that it#s not very difficult to get into informal speech. Sure there are always tons of slang words and expressions which you’ll have to learn separately but that’s always the case.

      Let me know what you decide to do Becky. And if you’re interested in the informal ways of Japanese “Japanese the manga way” is a very dope book to have :)

      • Becky

        Thank you so much for the advice! I’ll make sure to get the Genki books then. Exams are finished now so very excited to start learning. Looking forward to your future reviews :)

  • Noura Omran

    I like how organized your blog is. I’m also a huge fan of Japanese anime and manga and I’ve to admit that this is what made me so interested in learning the language. I’ve been taking classes with a teacher since December but only two days a week (2 hours/day). My teacher is using the Japanese for Busy People series and I’ve to say it’s a pretty good book. We already finished the first book and now we’re on the second. The first book was quite easy for me but the second one is a bit more difficult what with all the grammar rules and stuff and so little exercises. I’m also using the workbook but again, I don’t think Japanese for Busy People explains the grammar rules as sufficiently as Genki. BTW, I’m reading Genki on my own while using JBP in class. I also have the two books of Minna no Nihongo and I already started the first book two months ago and I found it interesting enough. I actually like both Genki and Minna no Nihongo but I’m currently focusing on the former to get as much grammar points as I can. The only thing is that Genki has a lot of exercises that are designed for a classroom setting but other than that, I find it good. Minna no Nihongo is good as it’s all in kana but you also need the Translation and Grammar Notes which come in English and explains a lot of grammar points and vocabulary.

    I think Genki and Japanese for Busy People are good for self-studying but I honestly don’t think I’d have come this far had I not enrolled in a class. I also won’t say that my teacher is excellent but having a teacher does help in pushing you to study more and work harder. While I love Japanese so much, I think I’d have been lazy to be diligent in studying and keeping up with it every single day. Saying all that, I think there’re people who can do it, so it really depends on the person and how motivated he/she is.

    I started reading some manga but I can’t get far yet as my vocabulary bank is still small and I need to know more grammar. Japanese Graded Readers are good for beginners as they’re written in simple language and you get to know some new vocabulary which is good.

    • Wow thanks a lot Noura. I think I really need to check out Japanese for buys people. Heard so much great things about it as well.

      • Noura Omran

        Japanese for Busy People is pretty good but it does not give you enough explanations or details about some grammar points. I usually go to Genki or Minna no Nihongo for that. I think Japanese for Busy People is good for self-study. If you are not sure you want to sit through Genki, you can give this series a shot.

  • Pingback: Review: Shadowing - Let's speak Japanese - Japanese Tease()

  • Michael

    Just wanted to post my gratitude here for this guide. I just got back from my first trip to Tokyo a few weeks back and had such a great time I decided I wanted to take a stab at learning the language. I’m 1/4 Japanese myself and my grandmother doesn’t speak great english, so in addition to being able to communicate better on my next visit I have the motivation to have a conversation with her in her native language. This guide has been a great starting point for studying, Picked up the Genki series and a bunch of the apps suggested. Dr Moku has been great and I pretty much have hiragana/katakana down although I’m still working on getting better at the symbols with diacritics and contracted sounds/double consonants. Also getting some benefits out of iKnow and WaniKani. Picked up Kanjibox as well although I think it is a bit advanced for where I’m at now, definitely can see where it will come in handy in the future. Keeping my head in Genki and also working on some anki decks on the long holiday weekend here in the US, excited with the limited progress I’ve made so far. So just wanted to send my thanks and let you know what a great help its been reading this guide. Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated

    • Thank you very much Michael. Really glad my post helped in finding some great study tools.

  • Adam Škuta

    Hey thanks for the tips. Just ordered my GENKI I textbook. I was just wondering. You mentioned earlier about the Tofugu ultimate verb packs but I just can’t find them. Can you help me?

    • Seems like they took ’em down but I would now recommend iknow over it any time. Far more comfortable and the word lists are just ridiulously well selected and executed.
      http://japanesetease.net/learn-tons-new-japanese-words-context-iknow-jp/

      Just check my post if you haven’t already and let me know how things are going with your studies. Sorry for the late reply btw :)

      • Cassle

        If you compare Wanikani, Anki, and iKnow, which one do you choose?

        • Probably iKnow. But WaniKani is fantastic for Kanji learning.

  • Pingback: Japanese Learning | Tram's Space()

  • Pingback: Easy to read manga for Japanese beginners Vol. 05 - Japanese Tease()

  • Usman

    Hi, I was wondering how long it would take me to be able read and understand a seinen manga series like Kingdom? I just learnt hiragana in 3 days.

  • Heather

    Hi, I just recently read your article and I am about to buy genki 1 and I was wondering if I need to get the dictionary of basic japanese grammar at the same time or would it be better to buy it later?

    • You should definitely buy it sooner or later. So considering that you should probably get The Dictionary Of Basic Japanese Grammar alongside Genki. It really helps to read another explanation especially when things are so vary and not exactly definite how Japanese grammar sometimes is.

      Just buy both at once, money well spent but it’s not a must in the beginning.

    • You can also join online Japanese course -Yomuzoku where students get complete knowledge of Japanese with easy Japanese examples. It is an online accessible tool where students not feel any pressure while they are learning Japanese because we have shared interesting stories, news and gossips on daily basis with meaning.

  • Heather

    Hi, I was wondering, are you referring to the basic subscription for Japanesepod in your review or the premium?

    • I went with the basic subscription and got myself a one year deal. Was well worth it. Personally didn’t need the extra bells and whistles which come with the premium package but maybe it’s right up your alley. Can vouch for the basic subscription, their podcast really is fantastic.

      • Heather

        Thanks. Also when is the best time to start using Wani Kani and Japanesepod? Would it be better to wait until I’ve finished a few lessons in Genki or should I start them both right away?

        • You can definitely start with both right away when you learned Hiragana & Katakana. You will need both for WaniKani. It’s pretty slow at the beginning (which is not a bad thing) and builds up tension steadily.

  • Rubb3r

    Much thanks for this guide!
    Btw. Revisited: 29.09.2105 – Time travelling at it’s best. :D

  • Pingback: I just started with WaniKani again and my Apple Watch is the perfect device for it | Japanese Tease()

  • Sad Monkies

    Can we skip genki and use Japanese the manga way instead?

    • Definitely not. But you could try the Human Japanese Apps. I still think Genki is the best choice for every self-learner and a fantastic textbook.

  • Joel Stevens

    This is a great list of resources. I have too more which are indispensable.

    An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese: http://amzn.to/2pgD4gP

    And for reading materials, “Read Real Japanese Fiction” which has nice short stories with really good grammar explanations: http://amzn.to/2oOMTq9

  • Dani W.

    hey man, great resources! I heard about the 625 wordlist from ‘Fluent Forever’, apparently its a great vocabulary starter.
    I have one question: would you recommend the japanesepod101 lessons OVER the Genki textbooks? I’m hesitating because I know the textbooks are good, but its super expensive, and I have the feeling like jpod is more complete and updated, or am I wrong here? Would love to hear you opinion about this. Thank you, your blog is awesome!

    • Hey Dani, the japanesepod101 is great but doesn’t substitute Genki (which really is a great textbook). Just get it from cdjapan where you only pay the original Japanese price. Money well spent, trust me. And thanks for all the kind words. Love that you enjoy the site :)

      • Dani W.

        great, i will trust you on that :) thanks for the reply man. cheers!

        • Of course, just write in the comments if you have any more questions.

  • Zettabytes

    Jakob! I’m just wondering if you would have made any adjustments to your recommendations at the present time. It’s been roughly two years since your last update and I was curious if anything has changed. I’m currently learning Chinese but I would like to learn Japanese for fun (anime, manga and games).

    • Hey Zetta, I revisited the guide just a couple of days ago but didn’t put a note in just because nothing much changed. Even when I initially wrote the guide four years ago – nothing much has changed.

      I still wholeheartedly recommend to use Genki as a textbook (for grammar), Japanesepod101 (for listening and grammar, just started to use it again and it’s really a great tool to learn Japanese with), WaniKani for learning Kanji and The dictionaries of Japanese Grammar as a great research book.

      I’m currently using iKnow heavily again and aim to complete the whole core 6k. It’s a great program for learning vocab and was debating to include it in the essential list as well. But because you’re learning tons of words with WaniKani and JPod as well I decided against including it for now. You can’t work on too many ends at the same time. Genki and then WaniKani and JPod101 are more than enough to sink your time in.
      http://japanesetease.net/learn-tons-new-japanese-words-context-iknow-jp/

      Just let me know if you have any more questions and have fun studying Japanese.

      • Zettabytes

        Thanks Jakob! From your perspective, am I in over my head trying to learn both Chinese and Japanese? I enjoy Japanese but Chinese is a priority for other reasons and I’m afraid learning both will end up in me knowing neither.

        Also, I tried to order from CDJapan but the shipping is insane. Getting two books for a total of $10 will cost me $16-$40 for shipping. Ouch! Do you recommend any other sources?

        • Shipping costs from Japan can be quite high and of course I don’t know what you wanted to order. I’d always choose the cheapest shipping option though. SAL is really fine. Aren’t the shipping costs at CDjapan just estimates which can be lower after the initial packaging when you get charged the actual amount?

          I just recently ordered Genki II and the Answer Key at honto and paid 1.700¥ for shipping.

          I would concentrate on learning Chinese for now because if it’s your goal to read manga/watch anime it will be quite a bit of woprk you have to put in until you can start enjoying Japanese the way aim to do. On the other hand – I know nothing about learning Chinese so …

          • Zettabytes

            Thanks Jakob. I was just ordering two mangas from the list you recommended as easy reading. Could I ask you how long you have been studying Japanese and how long it took to for you to enjoy Japanese games, manga and anime?

          • Wow, that’s steep. But again maybe they just messed something up with their estimate and it won’t be the actual shipping costs you will get charged for. Just drop them a mail, they usually respond pretty quickly.

            I have been studying on and off for more than 6 years now and there is always so much new stuff to discover. It really depends on your learning schedule and motivation but if you really stick to it, I’d say a good year until you can enjoy simple stuff like Yotsubato. Or better said: Finish Genki I + II and the first 2k of iKnow. But Japanese manga tend to differ greatly in difficulty so there will be a huge step up for something like Great Teacher Onizuka.

            This shouldn’t discourage you from starting in the first place though: It’s a great language and a very friendly and helpful community.

          • Zettabytes

            I messed up. I was reading the last number as the shipping total and it was actually the items total + shipping.

            I really want to learn Japanese. I’m just a bit sad that I have to wait till I learn Chinese first, which could take a while.