I have mentioned several times before that one of my goals was to learn Japanese. I have spent several hundred dollars trying to teach myself this language and have failed multiple times so with that said, here is what I bought and what I would actually recommend keeping.
- Genki I Series. Yes, this always tops the list of everybody and for good reason. I don’t need to say too much about this series since it has been covered extensively on almost every list imaginable. It’s traditional learning at its finest and it just works, but it’s expensive with having to buy the book, workbook and answer key for each series so if you want a cheaper option, continue to read.
- Mirai Stage: 1 Set. This series is harder to find online and is still expensive at $60 for the coursebook and $30 or so for the activity book. People who have struggled with the rigid format of the Genki series swear by these books. My recommendation for this series is to buy them if you are struggling with Genki, if you can find them cheap or if money is not a concern.
- Japanese from Zero! A good and much cheaper alternative than the first 2. This is actually what I mainly use for my textbooks now. This series of books are from the creator of YesJapan.com and teaches by using something called progressive learning. The progressive learning system starts by using Romanji, an alphabet version of Japanese. Once you actually learn the Japanese characters associated with the Romanji, then it changes them to the Japanese characters. By the end of the book, everything will be in Japanese. The books have fun activities, games, cultural trivia and it has a strong focus on grammar. Grammar is the key to a language, vocabulary is just rote memorization, but if you have a strong foundation in grammar you will be able to actually use the language. The YesJapan website is a little dated but is chock full of good resources for learning Japanese. The only real complaint I have with this series that they take it real slow. 4 books in and you will have maybe learned 150-200 Kanji or so. Other textbooks bring you along at a faster pace.
- Basic Kanji Books. I got these workbooks to supplement Japanese from Zero! These books are by far the best books to learn Kanji from. The instructions are clear, concise and it’s organized in a logical way. If you are struggling with Kanji, get this series.
- Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners. I am a firm believer that writing something down over and over again will engrave it in your memory. So if you are frustrated or want to get the basics of the language down quickly, get this book.
- Mirai Japanese. This app is free for the first 20 lessons and then you have to pay a monthly subscription. It is well designed and effective at teaching you Japanese. The lessons are all vocalized, all you need to do is hit play and it’s like a teacher is lecturing you. I found it effective, but occasionally I would tune the lesson out, just like when you went to school. The problem is, if you are in it for the long haul like I am, you will be spending a lot of money on this app due to the subscription.
- Human Japanese. While I have Mirai Japanese on my Phone and Tablet, my go to language learning software is Human Japanese. You can buy it outright and it has no subscription fee. The teaching model is well, more human-centric than Mirai Japanese. It spaces the lessons with interesting facts or history about Japan.
- Learn Japanese by James Peebles. I was searching an app that would help me remember my Hiragana and Katakana when I stumbled upon this app. It has in-app purchases and I ran into a bug where I bought all the lessons for $5.99, but it only unlocked the first 2 lessons on Hiragana and Katakana. Besides that glitch, what I really like about this app is the way it switches up the way it quizzes you. One moment it is doing the traditional show Kana, match Romanji and the next it’s doing the opposite, show Romanji and match Kana.
- KanjiBox. Once upon a time well… come to think of it, maybe it’s still going on, the casual flashcard apps were all the rage. You would turn on the app in the background, go about your day and during a break or when you had some free time you unlock your phone and wallah, you could quiz yourself on Japanese. KanjiBox is the king of this genre. Boasting over 6,000 kanji and 35,000+ words Kanjibox is one of the most comprehensive and accurate apps out there. I don’t use this often due to not being advanced enough in Japanese to need its feature sets.
- HelloTalk. It’s all fine and dandy to learn a language from textbooks/apps, but to truly master it, you need to speak it with someone. This is where HelloTalk comes in. It is a free app where you specify the language you speak and the language you want to learn. It then matches you with someone who knows that language and is trying to learn yours. Then you begin a mutual exchange of language lessons. HelloTalk is perfect for finding a native speaker to practice with, something that is hard to do.