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LEARNING JAPANESE can be intimidating at first, but don’t worry! Our method is designed to lead you step-by-step through the basics of Japanese grammar.

Whether you’re learning Japanese for business, travel, or to make new friends, we’ve created these lessons to make sure you feel confident in your ability to SPEAK, READ, and WRITE what you’ve learned.

Japanese From Zero! books

Japanese characters

WHAT ARE THESE STRANGE LETTERS? The Japanese language uses a set of symbols called hiragana(to spell Japanese words), katakana(to spell foreign words), and kanji(to represent entire words or names). In book 1, we will teach you groups of hiragana 5-15 characters at a time to gradually build up your understanding and familiarity.

Japanese characters

Our lessons begin with ro–maji (Japanese words spelled with Roman letters), but as each lesson progresses, we will continually substitute the hiragana you’ve learned. By the end of this book, you’ll not only be able to speak Japanese, but read and write it too!


ローマじ is used to represent Japanese sounds using the “roman” alphabet.


ひらがな is the first phonetic system learned by Japanese children to write Japanese words.


カタカナ is the phonetic system used to represent all foreign origin words such as any English word that has been adopted into Japanese.


かんじ is a photographic system based on Chinese characters. ひらがな, カタカナ, and かんじ are all required to fully be literate in Japanese.

Japanese punctuation facts

HERE ARE SOME QUICK FACTS about Japanese writing to help you get started.


In English, we learn to write both A and a, but in Japanese, is always no matter where you find it in a sentence. There are no upper and lower cases in Japanese.


Written Japanese doesn’t(normally) use the question mark punctuation(?). Instead the hiragana (ka) is placed at the end of a sentence to indicate a question.

1. なん です か.
What is it?

Play All

In the example above the English and Japanese are both questions, but in Japanese, using か does is all the is needed to make it a question.(More on this in Lesson 1.)


Japanese periods are written as a small circle at the end of the sentence.

Kore wa hon desu. → converted to hiragana becomes → これは ほんです。.

This punctuation mark 。does exactly the same job as the period you normally use to end a sentence in English.

The Pre-Lessons

Before this book introduces grammar concepts in lesson 1, there will be 4 pre-lessons. The pre-lessons are designed to give you some of the tools needed to begin to interact with native Japanese speakers. You will learn pronunciation, basic counting, initial conversation phrases, and other basic concepts.

Once you complete the pre-lessons, you will learn many key Japanese grammar concepts and how to read and write hiragana.

About the authors

George Trombley

George started his first Japanese interpreting job at age 17 while living in Japan. As a freelance Japanese interpreter for over 25 years he has interpreted at corporations such as Microsoft, IBM, NTT DoCoMo, Lucent Technologies, and traveled to interpret in countries throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Yukari Takenaka

Yukari grew up in a small town near Himeji city in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. She married George in 1995 and together formed the YesJapan Language School in 1998 in Las Vegas, NV. As a team George and Yukari developed lessons for the live classes.

Revisions to the material happened daily based on student interactions in prior classes. The live classroom courses were eventually what became the Japanese From Zero! textbook series and the interactive language learning website.


If you own a copy of the book don’t be afraid to destroy it with notes! The workbook areas should be all filled in at the end of the book. You can check your answers at the end of the book or lesson.

Learning Japanese is hard work and we sincerely want your knowledge to last forever. Japanese From Zero! is designed to be an interactive workbook where you can take personal notes, add new words or phrases of your own, and develop your writing skills from hopeless/crazy/illegible (we all start that way!) to expert-level.

Every time you write in the book, you’re making your connection to Japanese a little bit stronger! And it’s really fun to look back to see how far you have come in just a short period. Now let’s get started!

Ganbatte kudasai!
George Trombley
Yukari Takenaka


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