Category Archives: books

Book review: 500 Basic Korean Verbs

In any language, verbs form the vital medium for effective communication. Korean is no exception. Its tricky verb conjugations and challenging grammar present tough obstacles for learners. 500 Basic Korean Verbs is an invaluable reference that breaks down 500 of the most common Korean verbs. I recommend that all serious students of Korean pick this one up.

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How to learn any language

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” 

– Charlemagne

Learning another language can be a lonely and frustrating process. Sometimes we need a gentle push to give us a break and boost our motivation. In this post, I am going to introduce a couple of books that serve as inspirational and practical resources for those who want to forgo expensive and ineffective language classes and go it alone in learning any language.
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The Kindle Paperwhite: A godsend for Japanese learners (if you’re in Japan)

EDIT: The situation has greatly improved since this post. Please read this update on how to find good Japanese content for the Kindle.

Happy New Year everyone! I don’t know about you, but the New Year has got me motivated to get back to studying languages and reading more Japanese. I also plan to take the N1 this summer. I will touch on that in future posts. Another of my long-term goals is to become more literate in Japanese and to read books that Japanese people read.

I like reading Japanese news and blogs like Itai News on my PC and iPad but I have always wanted to read more Japanese content offline. It’s more relaxing with a book and looking at a screen all day makes my eyes sore. However, I hate looking up kanji and new vocabulary manually. It takes a lot of time and distracts me from the book I am reading. This and a lack of space in my tiny Japanese apartment has meant that, over the years, I haven’t bought that many books in Japanese. Up until now, there haven’t been many Japanese e-books available either. Well, I have finally found my solution.
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Two great Chinese readers

1. Chinese Breeze

This is a great choice for those starting out reading Chinese. The Chinese Breeze Graded Reader Series was recommended by one of our users in response to our best Chinese books post and I have to say that I am really impressed with it so far. It is published by the Peking University Press. I bought a load of these books during a recent trip to China although it is also available on Amazon and other sites. There are 8 levels in total with level 1 covering 300 characters and level 8 apparently going up to 3500!
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Our 10 best books for learning Japanese

In the 6 years of Japanese study we have bought many many books always looking for the one to rule them all. It became almost a weekly habit and an obsession, so after all that here is what we think are the best ones we would recommend to others starting the journey.

A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

There’s a reason why this book is known as the “Yellow Book” or “The Bible” among Japan expats. It is probably the best Japanese learning resource I have ever come across. Clearly and thoroughly written with great example sentences. If you are at a more advanced level, check out the “Blue” and “Red” books by the same authors.

Pimsleur Japanese

Not strictly a book, but it’s a great audio course for starting out in Japanese. Gets a bit too corporate for my liking towards the end of the 3rd series, but you will remember and be able to use what you learn with Pimsleur. You can sample Pimsleur Japanese for free with a Audible 30 day trial. Download the taster course here.

Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary

Best Japanese-English dictionary out there. Lots of example sentences.

Remembering the Kanji, Volume 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters

An invaluable book for mastering the kanji. Required reading for all serious learners of Japanese. I haven’t used books 2 or 3 much but some people seem to like those too.

Kanji Study Cards

Kanji study cards that accompany James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji (above). It is definitely nice having all 2048 kanji with their readings in one set and it saves you the effort of making the cards/notes yourself. If you’re lazy like me it’s a no-brainer!

Kanji in Context

Wow..I guess I have a lot of kanji-related books! This book allows you to build a strong vocabulary after using Heisig’s book. Might be hard to get outside Japan, but I also recommend the accompanying workbook.

The Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary

Great kanji reference. Used this so much it brings back good memories of my first stint in Japan.

Remembering the Kana: A Guide to Reading and Writing the Japanese Syllabaries in 3 Hours Each

In this book James Heisig applies his mnemonics method to learning to read and write the Hiragana and Katakana. I found it helpful when I was starting out.

How to Sound Intelligent in Japanese: A Vocabulary Builder

This is a very useful Vocabulary Builder but more importantly, just owning it makes me feel smarter 🙂

Making Out in Japanese
Had a lot of fun with this book! Not a serious one but definitely had a lot of laughs with it.

So there you have it. There are probably more (I have spent $$$s on Japanese books over the years) but those are the books that stood out for me. Enjoy!

Update: We have since posted up some more helpful books for studying Japanese. Check them out here.