Minna no nihongo: handwriting practice?

Hi! it’s been recommended to me by several people to go ahead and start studying basic grammar as early as possible. So I’ve signed up for bunpro and have been looking at physical textbooks. (I was hoping to put off buying a textbook until I graduated out of the WK freemium levels, but tis the season of steep discounts so I’m taking financial initiative…)

I’ve just about set my mind on Minna no Nihongo, but people seem to think it’s more useful for a self-learner if you also buy the workbook. I was hoping to get opinions on this from those who have used it and more importantly, opinions on how much you think being able to write Japanese would be necessary to complete the workbook.

The thing is, I don’t plan to learn to hand write any Japanese right now. I have a good reason! I’ve tried it before, and it didn’t go well for me. :pensive: I have crippling perfectionism issues, so I wound up writing pages of kana a hundred times over and feeling irritated with each repetition instead of actually learning anything. It was a big factor in why I never really got into kanji the first time around. It’s also a big factor in why I find Minna no Nihongo attractive, since I read that it doesn’t waste pages on stroke order.

So my question is: has anyone used MNN and if so, do you think it would be a good resource for someone looking to minimize writing practice and maximize grammar? Obviously some writing will be necessary, and I can produce embarrassing, crooked imitations of hiragana. But ideally I’m looking for a textbook where I’m not expected to learn to write very much, but the entire book isn’t in romaji.

Also I know this question is kind of subjective, so if anyone can think of any resources that would be good for avoiding writing while still getting the benefits of an organized lesson structure, I’m completely open to suggestions :slightly_smiling_face:


I use Minna No Nihongo and think that it’s a good resource for learning grammar.

Minna No Nihongo has a grammar section in every chapter, where you learn grammar points. After that, these grammar points are used in a conversation and several exercises.

If you don’t want to write, you can do the exercises in your head, of course.


Honestly, I don’t see how Minna no Nihongo would help a beginner learning Japanese. I’ve seen countless times where people praise this book, but I can’t understand why.

This is my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. If you’re learning a language, any language, would a book written entirely on that language help? How? You’d be constantly checking the dictionary (only advantage here is to gradually building vocabulary) and slow down your learning to a crawl, because you’d have to translate everything.

My go to series for learning Japanese has been the Japanese From Zero books. It starts very basic, but that’s what you want when you start. Grammar is very well explained, and to reinforce the concepts you can follow each lesson on Youtube for free.

Japanese the Manga way teaches grammar in a fun way, if you like Manga.

And, also very good is Tae Kim’s “A Guide to Japanese Grammar”.

All of these are written in English and explain everything very well. That’s what you want when learning a new language.

Again, this is just my opinion. Everyone has their own methods and favorite resources, so use what you feel most useful for you.

Happy learning :wink:


@threepod if you have a computer with a Japanese IME, you could type the answers.


Minna No Nihongo has a separate translation book where you can also read the explanation of all grammar points. Why a separate book? So people who don’t speak English natively can buy the translation book in their own language (e.g. Spanish or Korean).

If you use Genki or Japanese the Manga Way, you’re forced to learn Japanese through English. I’m assuming this is not a problem for you because you speak English fluently, but not everyone does.

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Fair point, but you’d always end up having two books, and the pace of learning would be very slow.
I’m sure there are plenty of options where just one book does this, even in other languages, like Spanish, French, German, etc. I bet that all these languages have their own native resources that, in my opinion, help a lot more than a resource that uses two separate books.

It’s not the most practical way to learn a language, but then again I’m sure there are many people who prefer it, so I encourage everyone to find what works best for them.

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You’d be surprised at how few good resources exist to study Japanese written in German. In my experience, I used an okay-ish German book for beginner level (it’s called “Japanisch bitte! Nihongo de dooso” by Klett Verlag). Beyond beginner level, I haven’t found any half-decent book written in German.

I’ve heard the same situation exists also in other languages, e.g. Spanish and Portuguese.


Well, to be honest, I don’t know of any resource in Portuguese, even though that’s my native tongue. I’m not sure if I’d use them even if there were any. But in Spanish there are quite a few, like the Japanese From Zero(the Spanish version) and Japonés en Viñetas. A simple search in the Spanish Amazon for “aprender japonés” returns many results. Granted, these may not be for all levels.

But then again, anyone who uses WK will obviously have some knowledge of English or else they wouldn’t be here.

I’m quite surprised at the lack of German resources, though. Maybe there aren’t many Germans interested in learning Japanese. Or there’s no market for them. Strange, considering the size and importance of the language.

I did try the book Japanisch im Sauseschritt, which is the German translation of Japanese for Busy People. Almost gave up Japanese entirely because of how horrible the book was. That was years ago, perhaps they’ve improved the quality since then…


Yeah, probably better to learn English first, then Japanese :joy:
I do agree, that if you don’t have the proper resources, one would feel frustrated and eventually give up.

I can’t imagine what I would do if I hadn’t found WK in the beginning of my Japanese studies. No way, would I follow one of those thick books that had all the possible readings for every Kanji, and you didn’t know which one was the most common. We’re really lucky to have this resource…And others that use this SRS system.

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I was a beginner learning Japanese with the Minna no Nihongo books, but I had a teacher for anything that I didn’t understand at first (and believe me, there will be a lot).

I don’t know about the translation books, but while the MNN books are great, if you’re planning to study them by yourself, you may encounter a few obstacles.

You could always ask questions here, or even on the discord, which I see you’re a part of, and people (including me) will surely help you out.

I also used Minna no Nihongo, and I think it’s an excellent excellent resource for grammar. I would personally recommend against any of the handwriting workbooks and stuff though. There are many free resources out there that can help you with handwriting, including finding places that generate those handwriting square things that you trace over (I never used them. No idea what they’re called).

Again, many people disagree with this recommendation, but I think Heisig’s “Remembering the Kanji” is an excellent tool to get the feel for how to correctly write kanji. Once you get far enough in the book, you can pretty correctly guess how to write new characters just because you know the general flow of things. It starts becoming a feeling. You can find a free sample of it online by Googling for it.


as far as I know there aren’t any resources in Dutch, either (except for the occasional phrasebook).

I like Minna no Nihongo, but I am classroom learning, and my teacher developed a Dutch accompanying grammar syllabus, which I use to selfstudy as well. I think the book is pretty much unusable without a grammar accompaniment.

The first book also has a romanized version, though I wouldn’t recommend it if you already know kana and are learning Kanji, which you are doing. Of course you can always write your exercise answers in any script you want, there is nobody telling you it’s wrong to use romaji!!

There are no kanji writing exercises anywhere in the series. Personally I like to write as many kanji as I can, trying by heart, and copying from the book if I get stuck.


There are a lot of Germans who want to learn Japanese. But it’s dwarfed by comparison by the number who want to learn Spanish, Italian, Russian, French, etc. (not to mention English). This is of course just my anecdotal experience, but there are a lot more of those other language courses offered here than Japanese.


I don’t mind struggling to read the exercises a bit at first. I think trying to piece together writing you don’t understand is beneficial sometimes. Filling in the gaps from context helps your brain make linguistic connections it might not make if you’re given the meanings straight away, imo.

I definitely plan on getting the English-language reference. I imagine what @Gabrielmpf said is true: trying to understand complex grammar in a separate language will get tiresome at some point, and I’ll want to read it in plain English when I get stuck. But at least if it’s in a totally separate book there won’t be romaji all over the place.

I work best with structured lessons, so what I’ve found online hasn’t seemed very helpful to me since it all feels organized for people who are already taking courses and want to reference on the side. With MNN, I’d have a framework from which to reference. I mean, I imagine I’ll eventually poach a tutor from the local university courses anyway. But I took beginner Chinese years ago before I graduated and the classes move incredibly slowly (not to mention I’d have to pay for them) so I’d prefer to learn as much as I can on my own first.


It’s also a good idea to complement your Minna No Nihongo with watching videos such as Japanese Ammo with Misa. The language from to book can be too formal sometimes (which is good because you need to know that as well), but Misa tells you the natural way Japanese is spoken, subtle differences in meanings, cultural differences, etc.


subscribed. thanks :slightly_smiling_face:

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I used Minna no Nihongo in my first year of japanese study, in a classroom setting. We used the main book plus the (english) translation for the grammar and vocabulary - I would say that you definitely need to get that as well. I never bought the workbook but there are plenty of exercises in the main textbook so I presume the workbook is just additional practice? As others have said, if you don’t want to handwrite the kana, the easiest way round it would be to type them instead. That way you can write the exercises and check them against the answers in the back, otherwise you could easily be making errors and not realise.

I would say thought that I found MNN quite overwhelming as a beginner. I’ve now moved to working with a japanese tutor and using the Japanese for Busy People books (kana version) and work separately on my kanji. I’m hoping to move back to using MNN when I’ve finished the first JBP book but I want to get all the basics straight in my head first.

I tried MNN, but found it not so useful for myself. It’s intended to be used in a classroom situation and focuses mostly on speaking ability. So a lot of the exercises are partner exercises. Of cause you can talk with yourself, if you like. I had troubles retaining the points they made, as there were little writing exercises.

So maybe it is the right resource for you ^^ I personally liked the free chapter of 80/20 Japanese (but got no payment method to get the actual book). Since my handwriting sucks, I mostly typed out the answers on my pc or just said them out loud and checked if I was correct. Japanese from Zero is now on my wishlist for christmas and I hope that will finally keep me going with my grammar studies.

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Actually, there is only one decent Japanese textbook written in German: “Saito/Silberstein - Grundkurs der modernen japanischen Sprache”

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to get hold of as, up to my knowledge, it has never been reprinted.

As a reference book, there’s also “Martina Ebi - Praktische Grammatik der japanischen Sprache”.
However, for ten bucks more, one might rather get DoBJG.

Therefore, for university language courses it usually is MNN, while very few use Genki though; all other textbooks are more intended for VHS (for Non-Germans: Kind of like a community college, without the possibility to achieve a degree) usage.

And yes, “Japanisch im Sauseschritt” is still horrific. :slight_smile:

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