Minna no Nihongo
Minna no Nihongo, along with Genki, is one of the most recommended Japanese textbooks you can find – and it lives up to expectations.
There are two beginner-level (shokyu) volumes that roughly correlate to A1–A2 or N5–N4 and two intermediate-level (chokyu) volumes that should take up to N2. Each textbook contains 25 chapters and will teach you grammar, vocabulary, and more. They also come with a CD.
Minna no Nihongo’s main selling point, especially at the beginner level, is that it’s generally more in-depth than other popular textbooks. Compared to Genki, it has more vocabulary and grammar, more exercises, and more accompanying workbooks, including ones specifically for kanji, reading, and writing.
That said, many students are put off by the lack of English in the main textbook. They are entirely in Japanese. You can buy the official Translation and Grammar Notes for each level in a variety of languages, including English, Mandarin, and Spanish. While purchasing two separate texts can be annoying, it also has its positives: you’re pushed to try to understand the Japanese first, plus it makes it more accessible for people who don’t have English as a first language.
You should also learn the kana before getting started with Minna no Nihongo. If you’ve yet to study this, apps like Skritter (review), Scripts (review), and LingoDeer (review) will help you pick it up.
If you’re planning to move to Japan, or want to learn the language as thoroughly as possible, then Minna no Nihongo is a great starting point. You’ll get a strong understanding of the grammar and learn a lot of vocabulary. However, if you’re looking for an easier entry point or don’t want to buy the official translation, check out our review of Genki.