There are not a whole lot of books that I endorse for learning Japanese however There are a few that I got out of curiosity sakes that I must admit are pretty darn cool. If you are a beginner to an intermediate person, or looking perhaps for a spark after you’ve been studying a while, these books might be able to help put a little jump into your Japanese battery.
The first book I want to go over is one that a few people have recommended to me. So after much debate I decided to get it and read it up.
The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast by A.G. Hawke
While this book is mostly intended for a beginner, and offers an intense boot camp like feel to it for a 30 day adventure, it can be reworked for any level of learning.
The first 3rd of the book basically gives you an overview of what’s going to happen and how the author came up with this plan. It also tells you what to gather and how to get in the swing of the language. If you’re familiar with AJATT method of immersion, then you’ll be right at home here.
The second 3rd of the book is the layout of Days 1-7, where you grapple the basics of your language, create yourself a language notebook, and get down and dirty with your new language.
The last 3rd of the book basically deals with the remaining time of the month, where you streamline and customize your lists and such to suit your growing need for new material to learn.
The book is pretty neat in helping you lay out self learning techniques if you’ve done them before. A lot of beginners just don’t know where to start, and intermediate to advanced learners can always use a little boost of ideas to improve and help them get further along.
So if you’re feeling a little lost on what things to do next, this book might just help you out with that dilimea. That said, I do want to state that this book is not about Japanese specifically and must be modified to fit it just a bit.
While I’ll tell you the best grammar book I’ve ever enjoyed is Japanese The Manga Way, there is also a really good sentence example filled book that is All About Particles!
All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words by Naoko Chino
This very affordable book I would even go as far to say is a great addition to any beginner to intermediate learner’s book shelf. I personally bought mine from Amazon, used, and super cheap from The Book Depository, and when it arrived, I was pretty happy with my purchase.
While I must admit I’m a tad bit further than the book, in terms of understanding particles, it has not been a waste of money. The book really goes into detail explaining useages of the particles as well as giving sentence examples of every instance. Usually there are about 3-4 sentence per usage, and to boot there are plenty of notes to help you along the way.
The sentences themselves are set up in the following way: (this is the first example shown in the book for wa/は):
asoko ni akai hon ga arimasu ne. Are wa kanji no hon desu.
Over there is a red book, right. It’s a kanji book. / See the red book over there? That’s a kanji book.
While I’m not overly thrilled by the appearance of romanji, its not so bad since there is no furigana for the kanji. so if you come across a kanji you are unfamiliar with, and aren’t completely sure of the sounds it is suppose to have, you can use the romanji as reference. However, you could just write the furigana yourself, and whiteout the roman characters.
There is both an excellent table of contents and index to help you find what you’re looking for. Otherwise, there really isn’t much more to say about the book, other than its really easy to understand, especially through the examples. The sentences themselves never seem complicated, and they are mostly short and pretty good for sentence mining methods.
I saved the best for last. This book is really helpful for intermedete to advanced learners who’ve found themselves in a rut. This 173 page book is packed with a lot of really useful tricks and tips about getting more out of your studying experience.
13 Secrets for Speaking Fluent Japanese by Giles Murray
Generally when books promise crazy results, or some unknown secret, I get extremely skeptical and do not buy them. This one however, after hearing rave reviews from personal friends decided to buy it. It was extremely cheap for me to get used, so there wasn’t much of a financial investment if the book was a dud. I was most pleasantly surprised however at this book and its contents!
Beyond the table of Contents, a little introduction, and an index, the book is divided into 13 sections. The 13 Secrets that is.
Each Secret is broken down with a little objective, explanation of the secret, some examples of it in Japanese, then a Quiz followed by its answers.
To me, the best of them all (#4) dealt with number bands, as numbers are my weak point once they get past 100. There is a lot of incorporated vocabulary, grammar, and so on, which its only downfall being no furigana and romanji for those who can’t read Japanese well enough.
But I must admit, even for me, this book brought a lot to light that I had not ever considered to incorporate into my studying. And it was like a breath of fresh air that helped mix things I knew with things I didn’t know to make a nice warm yummy awesome cake. It was a tiny shove in the back that helped me begin to climb another mountain of learning. So this book, of them all is the most recommended, especially if you’re stuck in a rut!
There were about 3 other books I tried out, which I have to admit, I didn’t like nor found as useful as the books I already use, so they went out to find a home of someone else, and I wont talk about them. I’m a great believer that just because it didn’t help me, that it couldn’t revolutionize your world, so I’ll refrain from even mentioning their titles. Just know that sometimes, a book that only cost you 5 bucks (ie. 13 secrets!) can be worth a gold mine for your learning!