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Studying Japanese can be very enjoyable if you have the right attitude. Take things one step at a time, always ask God for His help, and you’ll be surprised how quick you can have a conversation in Japanese if you persevere.

In the beginning of my language studies in Sendai in 2001, I only used a few textbooks and I watched a lot of TV with my roommate. During my first year in Japan the books I used the most were:

Japanese Sentence Patterns for Effective Communication (I can’t recommend this enough! LOVED IT.)
All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words (really helpful to grasp those crazy particles)
The Handbook of Japanese Verbs (This wasn’t my favorite book but it really did help me with verbs.)
A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (great reference guide)
Having these four handy reference guides at my side proved to be extremely helpful.

Also, here is the Kanji textbook we used in my language school (not a formal language school, but one that was very cheap and good). It’s quite dry but useful.
Basic Kanji Book, Volume 1

One thing I want to throw out there is that you do not necessarily need to go to an expensive language school upon your arrival in Japan. In most major cities, many free or ultra-cheap Japanese classes are offered by volunteers. When I lived in Nagoya, the possibilities for cheap Japanese courses at all levels were endless!  My advice is to save your precious pennies for language school when you are at least at the intermediate level and then you’ll really get your money’s worth. Also, I highly recommend private lessons in addition to or in place of large classes. This will really allow you to go at your own pace and tailor the lessons to your abilities.

Lastly, here is a wonderful website from OMF about Japanese language resources with tons of great downloadable resources including a Japanese-English list of cooking materials, study materials for books of the Bible, magazine articles about learning Japanese, helps for learning kanji, and lots more.

http://www.omf.org/omf/japan/ministry/japanese_language_center/japanese_language_resources

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