What makes a great textbook?

This website aims to help you choose the best possible Japanese textbooks. So what makes a great Japanese textbook?

For me a great Japanese textbook should be:

  • Accurate
  • Easy to use
  • Interesting

Let’s look at each of those attributes in detail.

A great Japanese textbook is accurate.

Writing an accurate language textbook is very, very difficult, and if something is difficult it’s expensive to do well. Language is a fluid, vague topic so in order to be accurate an author needs to do a lot of research, a lot of checking and a lot of testing. The author’s manuscript then needs to be reviewed and edited by established experts.  In short, accurate language textbooks are extremely difficult to write, which is why most language textbooks are full of errors.

A great Japanese textbook is easy to use.

I like Japanese textbooks that have a detailed contents which lists the material in each chapter as well as at least two indexes, one index in English and one in Japanese. There should be plenty of exercises, with answers and explanations.

A great Japanese textbook is interesting.

I get bored easily so I look for textbooks that are written in an engaging style and that cover a very wide variety of situations. One of the most common series of Japanese textbooks in Japan is so boring that students frequently fall asleep while using it. (I’m not going to name it but anyone who has studied Japanese in Japan will know which series I’m talking about!)