3 Perfect Japanese Learning Books For Beginners

3 Perfect Japanese Learning Books For Beginners

Japanese books for beginners aren’t all made the same. Language learning is a tedious process and finding the right materials to take you through to each stage can be bothersome. Today I’ll be guiding you through the basic layout of 3 Japanese books for beginners.

Here are my top 3 Japanese Learning Books For Beginners!


Genki I

Target Audience: Elementary Level I

Method: Dialogue Conversations, Vocabulary, Grammar, Speaking Repetition, Audio

Place Most Likely To Be Used: Any Japanese 100 Level Course

What Genki Will Do For You: Teach you how to read hiragana, a few basic kanji, introduce you to grammar concepts, get you accustomed to speaking Japanese

Recommendations While Using Genki I: Supplement your study time by reading the stories in the textbook aside from the dialogue.

Mary Genki I

Story Line: Mary is an exchange student you just arrived in Japan. If you’ve ever been an exchange student in Japan you know just how scary it can be at first, literally terrifying. Mary is looking for all the help and advice she can get while trying to learn more about Japan and Japanese. She meets a young man named Takeshi and they go on adventure after adventure. The storyline is designed to teach you a new aspect of Japanese culture while learning the language, just like Mary. Its an extremely interesting tale, and quite frankly I don’t think you’ll get bored of it… it reminded me of a comedy-drama.

 

Reminder: Be sure to also use the workbook to supplement your studies with written content.

Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Workbook I [Second Edition] (Japanese Edition) (Japanese and English Edition)


Genki II

Target Audience: Elementary II- Lower Intermediate

Method: Dialogue Conversations, Vocabulary, Grammar, Speaking Repetition, Audio

Place Most Likely To Be Used: Any Japanese 200 Level – 300 Level Courses

What Genk II Will Do For You: Improve your reading speed, expand your common word vocabulary, teach you everyday grammar usage, expand common kanji knowledge.

Recommendations While Using Genki II: Supplement your study time by reading the stories in the textbook aside from the dialogue. Also be sure to practice the new grammar by creating new sentences of your own each and every day.

Story Line: Mary has become a bit more adapted to the lifestyle at this point and more or less she’s just doing her own thing now. Takeshi begins to come on to Mary (in a more friendly way of course, because this is a children’s book) and he starts to offer more social outings and hangouts to Mary. However, Mary becomes a bit rebellious and troublesome due to her homesickness, and the situation just flairs out of control for a couple chapters. How will it end?

Meet Mary Genki

Reminder: Be sure to also use the workbook to supplement your studies with written content.

Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese, Workbook 2, 2nd Edition (Book & CD-ROM) (English and Japanese Edition)

The combination of Genki 1 and Genki 2 are the ultimate Japanese books for beginners.


James: Heisig Remembering The Kanji

Target Audience: Elementary II –  Any Level

Method: Mnemonics, Kanji Memorization, Radical Memorization

Place Most Likely To Be Used: Independently, or alongside a kanji software such as WaniKani

What Heisig Remembering The Kanji Will Do For You: Upon completion, you will have memorized nearly 2,500 kanji’s English meaning, their radicals and have a creative story for each of them.

Recommendations While Using Heisig Remembering The Kanji: Since the book only teaches the English equivalent of the kanji, you want an alternative source of knowledge. If you plan to finish memorizing all 2,500+ basic kanji its recommended that you find a route that also allows you to memorize the kanji’s onyomi, kunyomi and gives you some vocabulary in context. The Kanji Study app is a great reference for that purpose.

The Crazy Kanji Rollercoaster

The Kanji Rollercoaster- An Epic Journey

If you’ve ever studied Japanese before you know exactly why that headliner caught your eye. Learning kanji is an entirely different process altogether than learning Japanese. That probably sounds strange because kanji is a part of the Japanese language, but there is a good reason for that statement. I finally decided to stop dicking around with my kanji studies in 2017, this would’ve been my third year of Japanese language studies. Yes, I put kanji off for three entire years! I certainly do regret it, because I am so much further behind than I should be in terms of literacy. In Japan, in order to be considered literate, you need to have knowledge of approximately 2000 basic kanji characters. Naturally, native Japanese speakers have a higher capacity of kanji – think about how many words you know in your native language (you probably can’t because you haven’t been counting), that’s how many kanji characters there are in existence.

The Great Ascent Up The Kanji Rollercoaster

Heisig Holds My Hand

The very first thing I turned to when I started to learn kanji was a book focused on mnemonics. It was James Heisig (Remembering the Kanji), and this book was a priceless resource (until I lent it out in college and never got it back, but that’s a different story). The book consists of all 2000 basic kanji characters plus a couple more, each with their own little unique mnemonic to help the reader visualize, memorize and internalize the kanji. The downside to this book was that it only gave you the English meaning of the kanji. So I ended up “knowing” about 800 English meanings of kanji (newsflash – I never finished all of 2000). It was still incredibly helpful though and revolutionized my approach to learning kanji.

Climbing The Kanji Coaster

WaniKani Helps Me Get To The Top

After my pleasant experience with (Remembering the Kanji), I began searching for similar resources with the same approach behind them, mnemonics. Suddenly, I came across a blog by the name of Tofugu. Just so we’re clear if you study Japanese and you haven’t heard of Tofugu you’ve been living under a boulder *clears throat* pardon me, a rock in the words of Spongebob. Tofugu is like THE Japan/Japanese blog, and it is packed to the brim with useful resources, tips and strategies for all things Japan. One of their resources was an online software program Wanikani. Which translates into crab alligator in Japanese, I thought “Wow, this is kind of crazy… I like it.”. Wanikani promises any serious learner that it is possible to learn all 2000 kanji, their readings and 6500 vocabularies in a span of a year using their platform. For those of you who know me, you know I like results, but you also know that I can be very lazy. I went into this program and 1 year 6 months later I’ve yet to complete it, however, I’m almost halfway done at level 27 out of 60, 950 kanji and 3200 vocabularies. You know when you think you know something, but then get exposed to something completely new in that area and then realize that you knew nothing? That’s kanji in a nutshell.
Wanikani Dashboard

Trying To Come Off The Kanji Coaster

Whose Helping Me Get Down?

Well, you don’t ever come off the kanji coaster, you’ll be on it for the rest of your natural life…at least I know I will. Kanji is such a beautiful yet complex structure of language, it’s so hard to leave it alone once you’ve started. And god forbid that you do leave it, it’ll hurt you much more than you hurt it – like a bad breakup. Our memory loves to recycle junk, so to be sure that kanji doesn’t end up as junk you just have to keep exposing yourself to it. Eventually, your brain will say “Hey I kind of need this, and that, oh and I can’t forget these other 2000 over here.”
Another great program that’s really assisted me with the descent down is a software called Glossika. Its mainly focused on audio repetition, but its always a great feeling when you can read the sentence in Japanese before the audio is voiced.
Netflix, of course, is in its own league when it comes to kanji. If you’ve never tried buying a VPN, setting it to Japan and binge-watching your favourite shows with Japanese subtitles, are you really living?

Personal Goals

Currently, I’m attempting to stuff down at least 500 more before its time for the JLPT 2 in December 2018. Apparently, I’m not that far off from knowing the kanji required and I’m actually blazing through my Wanikani levels. With the right diet, mindset and stress balls I think its quite possible. Let me know some of your goals in the comments!

4 Ways To Overcome The Language Learning Plateau

4 Ways To Overcome The Language Learning Plateau

Learning a language is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your lifetime. Nevertheless, it is still a challenging task, and sooner or later everybody hits the language learning plateau. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and just like puberty- everybody has to go through it.

What is a Plateau?

Are you familiar with the straight line ridge on a mountain or rock formation? Its usually right before the mountain begins to rise again. It looks something like this /————————————————————/. Well, that’s a plateau, and in language learning, it usually symbolizes stagnancy of progress.

 

Language Plateau
This is probably a better example than a line and a slash.

How To Know When You’ve Plateaued

Symptoms

  • You feel like you’re not making any progress
  • You feel like you should be light years ahead than your current level
  • Your motivation plummets
  • If you’ve screamed aloud to yourself “NOTHINGS WORKING!!!!”

It’s almost like a disease, isn’t it? Don’t worry though unlike looking up your symptoms on google this one has a cure.

Do you have a case of the plateau?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Set Realistic Goals

If you’ve plateaued that means your goals are no longer enough to get you through your journey. What I’m saying here is that you’ve already reached where you wanted to go in your journey. So subconsciously you’ve managed to trap yourself in a limbo. You have two options in this scenario:

  • Expand your goals.
  • Change your goals completely

Example 1

If I wanted to learn Japanese to be able to read the “Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure” comic series, then that’s exactly what I would do. I wouldn’t learn vocabulary or grammar to read another series, because that would be outside my goal.

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TIP

Don’t bite off bits bigger than you can chew. Keep the content you expose yourself to slightly outside of your skillset. You’ll be able to maintain what you’ve learned and what you are currently learning.

 

Example 2

“I learned Japanese to be able to read fairytales.” If this was your motive, but you’ve realized that you want to expand your understanding of the language to more than just fairy tales, you would need something slightly more advanced than “The Ginger Bread House”. In this case, your next book should be something like “Japanese Mythology “, rather than “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

2. Don’t Underestimate Native SpeakersAdobeStock_64840949_Preview

Immersion i.e speaking to native speakers will always be number one in language learning. Think about this, you’re learning a language that you weren’t born with, but somebody else was. That means in order to learn the language in a fluent manner. Keeping silent will do more damage than good in the long run. Textbooks, audio recordings and YouTube singalongs will only get you to a certain point. If you lack communication, then you lack the language. If you can try taking a leap of faith and travel to your target language’s country – that could be just the motivation you need. Not to mention you’ll have the time of your life, culture shock is one hell of an experience.

3. Increase Vocabulary Ten-Fold!

Learn More Vocabulary
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Words are the building blocks to a language, they create everything. How many words are you aware of in your first language? You probably can’t even give me an accurate number. This should be the mindset you have when learning a foreign language. Keep stacking vocabulary, the more the better. Vocabulary acquisition in our native language is unconscious in most cases. If we see something we aren’t familiar with, we don’t take out a notepad and attempt to memorize its origin, spelling and definition. Rather we incorporate its existence into our own.

Example

“The firefighter is using the fire hydrant for his supply of water.” The trick here is that you have no idea what a fire hydrant is. What do you do? You look around to see what the firefighter is using as a source of water.

TIP

Categorize your vocabulary

What if one day you studied business-related words, the next day you did science etc. This way you won’t become easily confused when managing massive lists of vocabulary (not that you should be counting anyway).

TIP

Learn to incorporate vocabulary into your thought patterns. If you see a TREE that is not just a tree, that my friend is an ARBO. If you see an ARBO, that is not just any arbo, that’s a 木。

This is not JUST a tree
Is this really JUST a tree?

4. Change method and routine – Consistency

Routine is very important in language learning, but it is a double-edged blade. If you stick to one routine and method for too long your brain will go on autopilot. Thus meaning, the enormous amount of information needed to learn a language will not stick.  If you’re accustomed to using software, start writing more often vice versa. Language learning is not a stagnant process by any means so plateauing means you’ve been stagnant for too long.  Changing your routine can give you fresh ideas, restore your focus and re-motivate your agenda.

Final Piece Of Advice

Don’t let the plateau intimidate you! Believe it or not, although the plateau may symbolize a state of stagnancy, you’ve actually made tremendous progress to even get to that point in the first place. Stay creative, be consistent and always remember your motivations!

Language Learning: Classroom vs Solo Study

Classroom Vs Independent Study

There are advantages and disadvantages regarding learning a language in a classroom versus attempting to pick up a language on your own with independent study. To ensure that you choose the most efficient process for language learning, here are some pointers!

Classroom experience:

With a classroom experience, you can get the same type of structure that you might be used to from school. There is also a dedicated time slot focused on language learning. If you tend to have problems staying motivated, organized and focused this may prove to be a worthwhile investment. The classroom experience can also make sure that you have the assistance of a teacher. Classroom experiences can often be a more expensive way to learn the language. On the other hand, if you are someone that prefers solo learning or learning at your own pace, it may not be the best idea.

Solo learning:

With a solo learning experience, you can use a variety of free materials and applications. These same applications may mimic a classroom experience. Independent study is also incredibly flexible and you can take on a language whenever you have time. There’s no need to wait for a particular language to come up with a course offering at a local college or attend a specific session each week. You can also pick a learning strategy that works best for your mind. For individuals that have problems dedicating time regularly, this may not be the ideal strategy for picking up a new language.

Remember some of these top ideas when you are picking out the ideal way to learn a language for your needs.

 


Is It Better to Learn a Language in a Class or on Your Own? http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/languageclassornot.ht

Language Learning: The Speaking Barrier

glossika-promo-800x100.jpg


The Speaking Barrier

The fact is that speaking is naturally harder than everything else in the language learning journey. It is also one of the final stepping stones in the journey. When we try to utter sounds we aren’t familiar with, we either butcher them completely or we replace the sound with the closest thing we know by association. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s your brain putting the safety lock on your tongue so you don’t potentially socially embarrass yourself, leading to a greater threat. It’s a kind of death lock your brain activates the moment that unnatural vibe or rhythm rolls from the back of your throat. So why is it then that speaking is so darn hard?

Your Mouth Doesn’t Know

  • Firstly, it’s no coincidence that is like that, any other way would be …well…weird. The mouth is one of the only mechanisms we use to communicate our thoughts to the world. Even with all our brilliance, if we are unable to speak then both the world and our reality remains frozen. Learning to speak another language should be considered a separate category than just “Learning a Language”. The methods that need to be undertaken can seem like a full-fledged workout, think about it! You are reconstructing your facial muscles to move in ways they’ve never ever dreamed of. They are probably screaming bloody murder while you torture them to bits and pieces. There is a saying from a TED Talker by the name of Chris Lonsdale, he said: “If your face hurts you’re doing it right.”
Language Learning The Speaking Barrier
The face I make when I just don’t know how…

Is it Worth Speaking?

  • Besides the physical burden speaking places on an individual’s face, there is the aspect of social fortitude. Learning to speak a language is a social experiment, you are measuring the outcomes of opening your mouth and asking, “Is it worth it?” The thing is that your personal thoughts that you took the time and energy to express are always worth it…it’s just that 90% of the time the language learning journey denies that idea completely and treats you like you are nothing – but you know better…right?
How confident are you when speaking a language
Confidence in speaking

How Confident Are You?

  • Then there is the aspect of confidence, as language learners, we must go into speaking with the same kind of motivation that made us want to learn the language in the first place. Speaking is the only part of the journey that requires interaction. You can sit in your room with music/podcast, watch TV shows and read books without ever even opening your mouth. Unless of course…you craft up and imaginary friend and speak to yourself- but you would still be speaking to another side of you and not another person, you’d lack the different and unique reactions you need to further your jerk reflexes. When asked a question in your first language, or carrying on a conversation, freezing for 5 seconds before you respond isn’t an appropriate response in most situations. If you lean on the introverted personality types this may be quite troublesome for you, but I inspire you now at this very moment to break outside of this shell.

 

Fluent in 3 Months By Benny Lewis

The Irish polyglot Benny Lewis preaches that in order to become fluent in a language fast, you need to start speaking immediately. And when I say immediately, I mean as of yesterday. The reasoning behind this is that it helps you build confidence, think in the target language earlier and practice your accent. However. there have been many language learners who’ve criticized this method as being wholly ineffective because they claim it makes them “sound weird”, “botches their accent”, and embarrasses them. However, the point of it all is to defeat those exact moments and feelings of discouragement.  Fluent in 3 Months, is a fantastic book, that goes into detail about this head-on method, and even breaks down the study routine of Benny Lewis himself. If you want to know more about Benny Lewis his website is here.


Overall speaking holds most of us language learners in a stalemate during our journey. And it’s usually the thing that determines if we’re able to actively continue our language learning journey. It is indeed a powerful tool capable of overcoming cultural and language barriers. So we ought not to be surprised at its alarming difficulty. Keep pushing language learners and don’t be afraid to open your mouth, realize that your brain is your worst enemy in this scenario and go on gut instinct. Impulse over thought!


TEDxTalks. “| TEDxLingnanUniversity.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 Nov. 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0.

http://www.the-third-ear.com/files/TEDx-ChrisLonsdale-LearnAnyLanguage6Months.pdf

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Why Is Reading Important In Language Learning?

Why Is Reading Important In Language Learning?

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Jojen Reed from “A song of ice and fire, Game of Thrones” – George R.R Martin

Importance of Reading

As mentioned above, reading allows a person to enhance their views or broaden their visions. Reading is important for all types of people, be they, children or adults. You can never have read enough of anything no matter how many books you go through. Even if your reading consists of romance novels, it will benefit you in one way or another. Reading proves as an escape to some people and to others a new opportunity. Some think of it as a way to increase their knowledge of the world and its customs, others merely lose themselves in it so as to get some sort of direction. Whichever category you fit, reading will never prove to be a time wastage. Reading is the key to unlocking the hidden treasures in your mind.

Why You Should Read?

There are many reasons for why a person should read. Let’s discuss a few below:

  1. Enhances Your Intellect

Reading increases your intellect. By reading you unlock a wealth of information about a certain thing and the best part is that those words that you read at random remains etched into your brains for a very long time!

  1. Increases Your Knowledge

Just like intellect, your knowledge is increased. Naturally, there are many things that you can’t learn while watching a TV or a documentary or listening to a lecture. Reading about it from different authors and their point of views gives you another side to look from. It increases your knowledge or information about that certain thing or view.

  1. Broadens Your Horizons

Reading broadens your horizons, it changes the way you see the world. You look at everything in a new light. Some of the things in this world are insignificant to us, but reading shows us that everything in the world teaches us a lesson. It has a purpose. Reading gives you agency!

By learning about new things, new lives, new cultures, you evolve as a human and start understanding the world and its workings a bit more easily and carefully. Take it as a weapon of peace, an avid reader can change the world in so many ways.

Reading and Language Learning

The best way to have complete command over a certain language is by reading. Yes, you heard me correct. Suppose you’re learning English or say, French. Then you might learn the basics from a class or a tutor, watch movies without subtitles but you can never gain fluency in that language if you don’t read.

Reading is a huge factor when accounting for fluency in languages. The first time you read a foreign language, you’ll be frustrated and devastated to no end. However, slowly you’ll get the hang of it. Then, you’ll start learning new words, phrases, sentences. Eventually, you’ll be able to read more clearly and when you speak, you won’t be fidgeting either. Hence reading increases your vocabulary, your spellings and grammar, your fluency and your knowledge.

The real question is: what’s stopping you from reading?

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