The goal of a Japanese phrasebook is to give you the “cheats” — the phrases you need. Without learning or studying. So, while you can use these to learn, Japanese phrasebooks are more so for travelers that need phrases now.
In this guide, you’ll get some of the top Japanese phrasebooks.
Now, which should you choose? Are you picky? To be honest, in the case of phrases, one is as good as another… they all follow a similar style.
Japanese Phrasebook Collection: Top 10 Books for Learners
- 272 pages
With this Japanese phrasebook, phrases are divided into 5 types. There’s Basics which covers numbers, time and grammar. Practical covers travel phrases, directions and checking into hotels. Social covers talking to people, obviously. Then Food covers ordering and buying food. Finally, Safe Travel covers emergency phrases and medical related ones. Lonely Planet is known for their phrasebooks so this Japanese phrasebook is legit.
- 320 pages
Want to add Japanese 1,800 phrases and sentences to your brain? Then this Japanese phrasebook is for you. Clearly designed more so for learners rather than travelers. Travelers don’t need 1,800 phrases.
The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook was published by Kodansha which is a major Japanese publisher and has published all kinds of textbooks and dictionaries.
You also get a CD in addition with this book.
This is my favorite Japanese phrasebook or the sheer volume of language that they teach you.
This little Japanese phrasebook is just 5 inches tall.
- 128 pages
So, if you want something that fits into your pocket, you may as well go for this one. It covers all the basics: travel, hotels, food, shopping and such, and all the phrases are organized by situautions.
This is a very simple and interesting Japanese phrasebook.
On every page, you get a few phrases, written in Japanese, in romaji, the translation and… the pronunciation. This is to help you say them out loud. Unique approach and a very friendly book for people that just want some Japanese words in their heads. If you’re an academic level Japanese learner, this is not for you.
- 112 pages
This is another Japanese phrasebook that has a very friendly approach. Each phrase comes with illustrations and is organized by subject. Probably one of the better phrasebooks and surprisingly was not made by a big publishing company.
Want to learn a little more than just “phrases?”
This is less of a phrasebook and more of an etiquette guide. If you’re genuinely interested in learning the culture, get it. I think travelers should read this book just to have an idea of what not to do in Japan. You know how you can always spot a tourist in your hometown? They’re usually doing something silly or getting comically frustrated at some train station ticket gate? Well, those are easy to spot in Japan too.
This may be suited more so for Japanese learners.
- 360 pages
On every page, you get images/infographics filled with words. Body parts. Bones. Clothes. Things in your house. In general, the amount of detailed words (that textbooks won’t teach you and you’d have to learn on your own) is incredible. While I never had any need to learn words for all kinds of “kitchenware” in Japanese, now I have one. Get this book if you want to add a ton of Japanese words to your brain.
- 224 pages
Berlitz is another known language-learning/language-related book publisher. While it’s not far different from other ones, you do get a bonus CD for listening practice. And that’s good because what you’re reading in a book will sound different or “too fast” in real life. So, it’s good to hear the phrases.
I’m a big fan of the “for Dummies” books.
- 224 pages
Why? Well, they make hard topics friendly and approachable to normal people like you and I. Well, as long as you’re not an expert linguist or a rocket scientist. Inside, you learn how to ask for directions, use numbers, talk about family, the weather and of course, emergency phrases. Just the basics.
You don’t need to know the Japanese alphabet for this one. Everything is written in Latin letters (the ones you are reading here.)
This Japanese phrasebook has an interesting take.
- 128 pages
It’s all about FOOD!
Yes, it’s the same type of book that I mentioned in #5 and the same publisher. Except here, you learn a ton of Japanese words for food that you will likely order and eat in Japan. So, if you want to order like a pro, check it out.
While I don’t recommend you use the phrases in this book..
…you and I can agree that learning “colorful” language is fun.
- 128 pages
Across 128 pages, you’ll learn slang, insults, “sex stuff,” and all the words you shouldn’t let your grandma know you’re aware of. Similarly, don’t use these with natives unless they’re really good friends. I only included this Japanese phrasebook because of it’s unique angle: the slang!
If you’re a traveler, whichever Japanese phrasebook (except for the last one and the food one), you’ll be alright. All teach you essentially the same thing.
Want actual textbooks? Check the link below.
Want Japanese lessons and study tools? Then you might like this one below.
– The Main Junkie
P.S. Want to learn & speak the Japanese language?
Check out JapanesePod101, a complete Japanese learning program with audio and video lessons, apps, study tools and PDF lesson notes. I think their lessons can and will help you learn and speak Japanese.