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[Japanese Textbook Reviews] TOP 일본어 첫걸음

As some of you might know, I had a love-hate relationship with Japanese. I gave up on it several times (not a deliberate decision) and it was a torture getting back to it because I had to re-start from the basics (blame my short term memory). It’s pure torture to re-study from the basics and it’s only because I happen to have a great set of books that I actually managed to enjoy re-learning from the basics! I’ve introduced the KUJAP textbook in a previous post and it’s not too far off to call that and the TOP 일본어 (입문+초급) series as THE books that helped me learn Japanese. Essentially, I used these 3 books and also “An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese” and somehow miraculously managed to get to the standard to read Japanese novels lol.

I am very picky about language textbooks but I can declare that I love the TOP 일본어 첫걸음 series. It’s introduced as “이보다 더 쉬울 순 없다” and for once, I actually agree with the use of such a bold caption. I actually have no complaints about the book.


As usual, scroll down to the bottom for the summary if you are in a rush!


Introductory (입문)

One of the things I love about learning Japanese through Korean books is that the pace seems to be faster than books aimed at the international audience. The “Introductory” book actually covers pretty good ground right from the hiragana/katakana to grammar points involving the て forms. It’s challenging but well paced and you will not feel bored. I hate it when Japanese textbooks like to start off with romanization and really easy and short dialogues. Or when they try to use hiragana for everything and drag their feet when it comes to the kanji.

Each chapter starts with a dialogue (this page is lesson 4), followed by the Korean translation (which I usually ignore). The glossary is good as it does not just tell you the literal translation but also includes some explanations.


Unlike the KUJAP book, the grammar points are explained in detail, complete with example sentences. I like it that they use the Korean equivalent to explain the grammar points but also tells you the nuance differences. I dislike it when textbooks try to go the easy way out and gives you the impression that everything has an equivalent in the target language.


This is then followed by a few exercises which are helpful and doable. Again, none of that “form a pair and then discuss about xxx using xx grammar points” kind of stuff that I hate.

Elementary (초급)

Again, a misnomer. The grammar points and standard of the textbook can be considered as lower intermediate or even intermediate since you get overlapping grammar points with the KU Intermediate textbook. The “Elementary” book follows the same format but there are 2-3 dialogues per chapter and likewise, more grammar points introduced in a chapter.

As said earlier, I attribute my Japanese skills to these books and I only have good stuff to say about them! I have a good eye for choosing language textbooks (ㅎㅎ self praise) so you can trust my recommendations ^^

Things I like:

  • good paper quality and cute graphics
  • well structured, plenty of space for you to scribble notes (this is important)
  • pleasing to the eyes, good use of color, tables etc
  • detailed explanations of grammar points
  • interesting dialogues of decent length
  • helpful exercises with answers
  • ample example sentences
  • helpful glossary
  • kanji used from the start but with furigana to aid leaner
  • challenging but well paced
  • Flash CD included

To be improved:

  • I may be wrong but I think there’s only 2 books in the series. I WANT MOAR.

There’s apparently free mp3 downloads (the books come with a Flash CD each) etc on their website book.japansisa.com, so go take a look! The Flash CDs are good for those who like interactivity but I’m lazy so I just use the mp3 files for the dialogues.

Price: 15,000 each

ISBN: 978-89-402-0759-8 (입문) 978-89-402-0760-4 (초급)

Highly recommended!!

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  • Reply
    20 August, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    I would really like to start learning Japanese properly and I was wondering if these book could be used for someone with little Japanese learning background but who understands a bit the oral language. (And my Korean is intermediate) or would you rather advise the KUJAP for beginners? Also, do you think that I should start learning Japanese while my Korean is not good yet? I really want to learn both language but I’m scared to get confused… I’m really motivated (but a bit lost) and I’ve been self studying Korean for almost a year so I’ve acquired some qualities for self study (I think XD..)
    Thank you for the review and I’m waiting for your advice :3

    • Reply
      20 August, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      hello! 😀 I think that this book will be suitable. KUJAP is slightly more challenging, so I think it’ll be great to start with this series first! It’s a little hard to advise on when you should start learning Japanese. Personally I got quite confused because my Korean wasn’t that good when I first started learning Japanese. Also, I have to admit that I didn’t have that much interest in Japanese at that point of time, so I kept trying to compare both languages and I think that was a wrong move.

      Why not just try self studying Japanese? ^^ I have included a few online resources in the Japanese learning resources page, so you can check that out first. See how you feel about learning two languages at the same time before getting the books ^^

      • Reply
        20 August, 2013 at 9:24 PM

        Hi! Thank you for your reply! I think I will do like you said, first try to study with online ressources and if I’m really motivated then I’ll buy the books ^^ I was also thinking of just taking classes and not do more than what’s given in the class for a year or two (because I will have 30 hours of class per day for my masters so it’ll be hard to have self study time for the main subjects + Korean and Japanese TT), so that my Korean can improve a bit more (and reach advanced lvl by then >_<) and after that, continue the Japanese study alone with the basis I've acquired in that class haha xD
        Anyway, thanks again for your advice, it helped me seeing other possibilities too :p

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