This Teacher Made an Interactive Japanese Textbook and Lesson Series

In this day and age, why settle for just a textbook? How about a textbook that comes with a free life-time supply of interactive Japanese lessons on youtube? It exists, and it’s called Japanese From Zero.

Get started with book 1!
Created by George Trombley, a professional Japnese/English interpreter, this series of textbooks is great for beginners. And, to reinforce the material, George Trombley himself posts interactive videos on youtube and his website that compliment the textbook.

The current textbooks in the series are:

Also, look out for the much awaited Japanese from Zero! 5 which is in the works.

His youtube channel and website have become very popular amongst beginning Japanese learners. His success is probably partly due to the fact that he often hosts live youtube streams where he takes questions from the Japanese From Zero community.

I should also mention that this is also one of the only Japanese textbook series I have seen that is also available on Kindle (so far it looks like only book 1 and book 2 are available). Sometimes it is not always practical walking around with your textbooks. I, myself, have been enjoying a Korean textbook that I have for Kindle. If I forget my book but have my Kindle, I’m good to go! This literally gives you no reason not to study Japanese! You can find the Kindle versions of Japanese from Zero here:

So what do the books cover and which level should I get? If you are really just beginning, you should of course start with book 1 which will take you through the various Japanese characters (hiragana, he saves katakana for book 2). You will learn basic words like colors, greetings, etc… along with simple sentences such has how to say you like things, counting, and telling time.

If you are a little more advanced than that already, you can jump to book 2 which includes katakana, how to point to object (kono, sono, ano – these X, that X, and that X over there), conjugating adjectives, and words for the Japanese family structure.

Book 3 will focus more on kanji, kanji stroke order, indicating a time span with your verbs, the “te” form of verbs (a form used for connecting verbs with other verbs and making more complex sentences), making comparisons, and “when” clauses.

Book 4 builds upon the others with more grammar and more kanji. Here you will start learning about how to make your verbs more polite in Japanese, making lists, describing things/people (what people are wearing, for example), expressing the idea “have you ever…”, asking how to do something, expressing if/then-when clauses, expressing giving and receiving, and even more uses for the “te” form of verbs.

If you are looking to start learning with a more interactive approach to Japanese lessons, why not give Japanese From Zero a try?

Books Intermediate

Best Intermediate Level Japanese Textbook

Finding resources for intermediate level Japanese can be very difficult! On most language learning shelves, it’s easy to find beginner textbooks but at some point they just won’t cut it anymore. You need to find a textbook that will push you to the next level in Japanese all the while building on top of what you have already learned. But don’t worry! I have just the textbook for you!

I would like to introduce you to “An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese” (ISBN: 978-47890-1307-9 ) by Akira Miura and Naomi Hanaoka McGloin. This book has 15 chapters and each chapter is packed with dialogues (about 3 to 4 会話, “kaiwa”), a slightly more difficult reading exercise (what they call 読み物, “yomimono”), a slightly easier reading exercise (called 速読, “sokudoku”), vocabulary lists, grammar explanations with example sentences, study exercises that you can do alone or with a partner, and cultural notes. The book also includes 2 CDs with a recording of all the dialogues so you can practice your listening skills as well.

First, let’s talk about the dialogues. In this book, they move away from the beginner’s rigid “textbook” Japanese and quickly throw you into natural Japanese phrases. Students will use politer words when speaking to their teachers while friends will use colloquial expressions with each other. The very first dialogue lets you know right away that we are no longer dealing with beginner expressions like “私はJamesです” and introduces you instead to the much politer construction “Jamesと申します”. Many of the dialogues are interactions between foreign students and native Japanese speakers. This is very interesting for the intermediate level student because you get to see how Japanese people explain certain ideas and concepts in their native language. Also, from chapter to chapter, I really get a sense that the reading difficulty gradually increases at just the right pace.

The more difficult reading materials (or 読み物, “yomimono”) in each chapter take on different styles. Some read like journal entries while other read like reports or brief articles on a specific topic. These will give the intermediate student more practice with reading written Japanese at a higher level than what they may have studied before. However, the less difficult light reading materials (or 速読, “sokudoku”) are designed to reinforce what was learned and only sparingly throw in some new vocabulary.

At this point, I should mention that the dialogues and reading materials are all in Japanese and do not have English translations in this textbook. Depending on how you like to learn, this could be good or bad for you. However, as an intermediate student, a lot of these words in these texts are words and constructions that you already know. This textbook simply builds on that and there are plenty of vocabulary lists and furigana (hiragana written above the kanji for pronunciation) to help you push through and read on your own without relying on an English translation of the whole text. The grammar explanations are in English though, don’t worry! The grammar explanations are where this intermediate level Japanese textbook really shines. In the dialogues and reading materials, new grammatical constructions are underlined and given a number. You can look that number up in the grammar section of the chapter and get a full explanation on the grammar point along with example sentences and things to watch out for (such as similar looking constructions that may have a different meaning). After looking through the grammar section of the chapter, you can confidently go back to the tricky parts of the dialogue with a new understanding of the Japanese sentences being used.

If you have finished that beginner Japanese textbook that has been sitting in the corner of your desk for way too long or are itching to figure out where to go next in your Japanese studies, I highly recommend this intermediate Japanese level textbook.

What textbooks have you used to break into intermediate level Japanese? Let your fellow Japanese learners know by dropping your favorite textbook titles in the comments.