80/20 Japanese

Learn Japanese fast with clear, logical lessons that actually make sense. Designed for self-study.

Why 80/20 Japanese?

Japanese is easy – you just need to be taught the right way.

When I learnt Japanese, I did it the hard way – by memorizing sentence patterns, set phrases and random vocabulary. The problem was, I didn’t know how to put it all together. I knew all these various bits and pieces, but didn’t understand why everything works the way it does.

I figured it out eventually, but there are so many things I wish someone had taught me. Japanese is actually incredibly logical, flexible and intuitive, but I wasted a lot of time feeling confused and frustrated because it didn’t make sense to my English-speaking brain.

That’s why I decided to write 80/20 Japanese. I want to save you from all the difficulties that I faced, and help you understand how the Japanese language really works.

So instead of spoon-feeding you situational expressions with limited application, 80/20 Japanese focuses on what really counts – the fundamentals. It teaches you how the language actually works, and helps you avoid the confusion that most Japanese learners face.

That’s the 20% that will get you 80% of the way to speaking fluent Japanese.


How Japanese Works

A complete and easy-to-follow explanation of the basic structure that all Japanese sentences follow.

Essential Building Blocks

Detailed lessons on all of the building blocks that fit within Japanese sentence structure.

Exercises Galore

Loads of examples and exercises throughout the book to help you understand and consolidate each concept.

Express Yourself Fully

Discover the simple yet powerful way to transform basic phrases into complex, highly-detailed sentences.

Speak Like a Native

After building a rock-solid foundation, refine your natural voice with over 40 useful expressions.

Learning Strategies

Includes language learning strategies that ensure you get the most out of your time.

What You'll Learn

Everything covered in 80/20 Japanese, chapter by chapter.

80/20 Japanese provides in-depth explanations and loads of exercises to help you master the most important Japanese grammar concepts. You'll learn all about:

  • Particles and sentence structure
  • All major verb conjugations
  • The te-form (and over a dozen different ways to use it)
  • Adjectives and adverbs
  • Numbers and counters
  • Time expressions
  • Complex sentence formation
  • ... and a whole lot more

But it's not just about what you learn - it's how you learn it.

The key to the effectiveness of 80/20 Japanese is the logical order in which the lessons are presented.

By teaching everything in the right order, 80/20 Japanese ensures that every new concept and sentence pattern you learn makes total sense.

In total, 80/20 Japanese covers more than 100 topics over 12 chapters. This can be broken into four parts:

1. The Japanese crash course

The first four chapters are designed to achieve two main things:

  1. Build a solid foundation
  2. Get you conversational as quickly as possible

It's vital to get the basics right from the beginning. Having a proper framework that you can apply to everything you learn makes it much easier to make sense of each new concept - even the more advanced ones. 

Of course, getting the basics right is no good if it's all just impractical theory.

We learn faster and more effectively by doing, which is why Chapter 4 in particular is all about giving you practical knowledge that will allow you to actually hold a meaningful conversation.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the first four chapters:

Chapter 1: The Sounds of Japanese

Above all else, if you want to communicate in Japanese, you need to be able to recognize and pronounce the sounds that make up each word.

Chapter 1 walks you through all the unique sounds of Japanese so you can be sure that people understand you when you speak.

Chapter 2: Intro to Japanese Grammar

Next, you will learn the fundamental structure of Japanese sentences, with a particular focus on the particle system. Doing this early is the key to avoiding getting stuck in beginner mode for way too long.

See, most books and courses skip this vital step, and instead start with specific phrases and sentence patterns. The result is that you end up knowing how to say a bunch of random things, but have no idea why they make sense, or how you can deviate from the standard pattern to say something that's... you know... actually useful.

By giving you a better understanding of how Japanese sentences and particles work right from the beginning, 80/20 Japanese helps you build a solid foundation that will apply to everything you ever learn about Japanese grammar.

Chapter 3: General Characteristics of Japanese

Adding to your understanding of how Japanese functions, Chapter 3 covers the essential cultural understanding you need to speak Japanese effectively.

These are easy but important lessons that are applicable every time you use Japanese.

Chapter 4: The Essentials

This chapter is focused on getting you up to speed with conversational Japanese, fast. It introduces a variety of concepts that you can immediately use in real life situations, including:

  • More particles
  • Essential verb tenses needed to talk about the past, present and future
  • How to talk about things you like and want
  • How to ask questions
  • Many more useful words and expressions

2. Master the core building blocks

Now that you have a solid base to work from, it's time to look closer at each of the major pieces of the grammatical puzzle.

Over these next five chapters, you’ll develop the ability to properly use and combine the core building blocks, allowing you to speak and understand Japanese with greater flexibility and precision.

Chapter 5: Numbers and Counters

Here, you will learn how to count from 1 to 100 million and beyond.

More importantly, you'll learn how to turn numbers into the correct form (ie. counters) so you can, for example, count your friends as people instead of, say, birds or sheets of paper.

This chapter introduces some of the most common counters, and shows you how to use all counters in a sentence.

Chapter 6: Expressing Time

This chapter covers everything you need to know to talk about the three main aspects of time:

  1. Timing = When things are done
  2. Period = How long things are done for
  3. Frequency = How often things are done

For each, you'll learn all the essential counters and expressions, and how to use them in sentences.

Chapter 7: Adjectives, Nouns and Adverbs

Here you will learn all the different ways to conjugate adjectives (past tense, negative, etc.), as well as the different ways these can be used in sentences, both polite and informal.

We'll also apply the lessons about adjectives to "noun + desu" sentences, and discuss in detail everything you need to know about adverbs.

Chapter 8: Verbs

The main verb tenses, plus some useful verb-based expressions, are introduced in the polite form in Chapter 4.

This chapter goes into more depth on all things verb-related, including the main verb types, informal verb forms of each tense, the potential (can do) form, and more.

Chapter 9: The Te-Form

The te-form of verbs is insanely useful - so much so that it gets its own chapter.

Here you will learn how to convert all verbs (and adjectives) into the te-form, as well as the most useful ways to apply it.

This includes things like the "is doing" form for describing things happening right now, commands and requests, and linking multiple actions together in a sequence (eg. I did this, then that).

A dozen more te-form expressions are introduced later in Chapter 12.

3. Add complexity and depth

With the core components of the language covered, it's time to step it up a notch.

These next two chapters will expand your range of expression substantially, and set up to easily learn any new concept the language might throw at you.

Chapter 10: The Magic of Noun Phrases

This chapter really takes you to the next level. It teaches you all about noun phrases, which have a wide range of uses and give you the ability to talk about things in far greater detail.

For example, instead of saying something simple such as, “I ate lunch in Shinjuku with my friends”, noun phrases allow you to say much more interesting things like, “I ate lunch at a new restaurant in Shinjuku with some friends that I met at high school“.

Noun phrases are incredibly powerful, yet fairly simple to put together, especially in Japanese. This chapter covers them in detail.

Chapter 11: Particles in More Depth

As a key building block of the Japanese language, particles are of course covered right from Chapter 2, with more added along the way as needed. This chapter provides a far more detailed look.

The lessons in this chapter are not essential to being able to speak Japanese, but they will give you a deeper understanding of how different particles work. This will help you avoid the more subtle mistakes that even some advanced Japanese speakers sometimes make.

This chapter also answers one of the biggest questions that even confuses people who have been studying Japanese for years – the difference between the particles “wa” and “ga”.

4. Learn a boat-load of useful expressions

By this point, you will have a very good understanding of Japanese.

This final chapter simply builds on everything you know by introducing 40+ useful expressions, all explained – with examples – in the context of everything learnt throughout the rest of the book.

Chapter 12: Lots and Lots of Expressions

This chapter is broken into five parts:

12.1 Very Useful Expressions

A few of the most useful expressions not introduced in earlier chapters.

12.2 Conditional Expressions

Several different ways of saying the equivalent of "if..." and "when...".

12.3 Te-Form Expressions

Adding to the most important te-form expressions covered in Chapter 9, this section introduces 12 more expressions that make use of the te-form.

12.4 The Passive Voice

To talk like a Japanese person, you need to be able to use indirect language. This section will show one of the most important ways to do that, with detailed lessons on the passive voice, a verb form that turns a sentence like, "He saw me", into, "I was seen by him".

12.5 Other Expressions

Another 24 common expressions - enough to get you to approximately JLPT N4 level.

What People Are Saying

Shahdad S.

United States

I love the book so far. I've tried other sources but nothing has engaged me and kept me motivated to study Japanese like this. It's crazy how in one month I've gone from only knowing a few words to actually being able to put together a lot of sentences. It helps a lot how you teach Japanese from an English speakers viewpoint.

10/10 so far. I wish there was this format book for Spanish and Russian as well.

Matthew Daniels


I've tried lots of other less successful learning tools. I'm only a few chapters in but it's already given me the clearest, most understandable explanation of the particle system. I skimmed ahead and really like how verb tenses were handled.

Love the logical break down of the concepts. I really appreciate the order you are teaching things. It is very clear and straightforward.

Philip Erm


I'm an ecologist/research student but also did a degree in classics (i.e. Latin and Ancient Greek) a few years back and your ability to explain grammar simply, concisely, and empathetically beats anything I encountered in the many ancient language textbooks I used (written by professors and linguists no less!).

You've got a fantastic feel for the perspective of the English speaking student. Well done mate. Seriously.

30-Day Risk Free Money Back Guarantee

If you’re not completely happy with 80/20 Japanese, simply reply to your purchase confirmation email within 30 days for a full refund – no questions asked.

Study Your Way

With an abundance of resources to make learning easier, you can choose what you need according to your learning style and language goals.

Romaji Edition

In this edition, all Japanese words and sentences are written in ‘romaji’, the Latin script we use in English.

This is perfect if you are new to Japanese and want to focus on learning to speak the language, without worrying about learning all of the different Japanese characters.

Included in:

eBook, Self-Study Pack, eBook + Anki Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Kana + Kanji Edition

If your language goals include learning to read and write Japanese, this is the edition for you.

In this edition, the Japanese words and sentences are mostly written as they would normally appear in Japanese, whether that be in hiragana, katakana or kanji.

Importantly, with only a couple of exceptions, every word written in kanji throughout the entire book has the reading above it in hiragana (known as ‘furigana’). Here's an example of what that looks like:

This ensures that you never run into a word and have no idea how to read it. At the same time, you gain lots of exposure to naturally written Japanese, so your eyes get used to dealing with kanji.

Apart from a couple of small points that relate only to written Japanese, both editions cover the exact same material.

Included in:

eBook, Self-Study Pack, eBook + Anki Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

eBook formats that work with your device

Each edition of 80/20 Japanese comes in the following formats:

  • PDF - for use with almost any device
  • ePub - for use with most e-readers, such as iBooks, Nook, and virtually all non-proprietary e-reader apps
  • MOBI - for use with Amazon Kindle devices and apps
  • AZK - for use with the Kindle app on iOS devices

Choose your preferred option, or download the eBook to all of your personal devices - no restrictions.

Included in:

eBook, Self-Study Pack, eBook + Anki Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Soft Cover (Physical) Books

Go the old-school route with a physical, paperback copy of 80/20 Japanese.

You can add a soft cover copy of...

  • the Kana + Kanji Edition,
  • the Romaji Edition, or
  • both editions

...to any package.

Ships to most countries worldwide.

Audiobook (MP3)

This is the complete book narrated from start to finish by the author, including all Japanese example sentences, exercises and answers. Listen and learn on the train, in the car or while working out.

Comes as a single MP3 file, or as a separate file for each chapter.

Included in:

Self-Study Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Audiobook Remix

Audiobook Remix

The Audiobook Remix is the standard audiobook (above) rearranged into a format that gives you more control over how you study and revise. There are two parts:

Explanations only

Many readers of 80/20 Japanese like to binge-read or binge-listen to chapters of the book, absorbing the lessons within and then reviewing them again later, often multiple times. But when you just want to absorb the meat of the content, the stop-start nature of the exercises can get in the way.

The Explanations Only audio cuts out all of the exercises from the book for a smoother listening experience that lets you focus on the lessons, and not worry about putting them into practice until later.

Exercises only

This consists of all the exercises in the book, with none of the explanations in between.

In this version, for all of the exercises throughout the book you get...

  • a question, followed by
  • a pause long enough for you to try to answer it, and then
  • the answer to that question.

Most exercises in 80/20 Japanese ask you to build sentences, so this format is perfect for practicing your sentence-building skills, testing your knowledge, and working on your spoken fluency and pronunciation.

Included in:

Self-Study Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Hiragana & Katakana Workbook

Hiragana & Katakana Workbook

This comprehensive workbook is a printable PDF that will teach you all of the hiragana and katakana characters, with exercises to help you practice using and recognizing them, not just individually, but in the context of words and sentences too. It includes:

  • A thorough explanation of both character sets
  • A side-by-side comparison of similar, easily-confused characters
  • Writing practice sheets with stroke order guides
  • Word-based character reading and writing exercises
  • Full sentence exercises for even more reading and writing practice

It also comes with a full set of printable flashcards for individual characters and whole words (the same as in the Anki Pack below), so you can learn and test yourself quickly and easily.

Included in:

Self-Study Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Kanji Reference Guide

This 61-page printable PDF lists every kanji character you will encounter as you work through 80/20 Japanese, in the order they appear.

There's an enlarged version of every unique kanji (518 in total), plus all of the words in 80/20 Japanese that use each one, their hiragana reading, English meaning, and the location in the book where they first appear. Here's an example:

Included in:

Self-Study Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Exercises PDF

Exercises PDF

This 100-page, printable PDF contains all of the exercises in 80/20 Japanese presented in a convenient layout for easy practice and revision.

Whether you have a physical copy of 80/20 Japanese or just the eBook, this PDF means you can complete and review exercises more easily wherever you are, without carrying the whole book around or having to unlock your phone or tablet every 30 seconds.

It pairs perfectly with the Exercises audio from the Audiobook Remix above, and includes space for writing answers (in addition to the answers themselves).

As with the main book, this comes in both the Romaji Edition and Kana + Kanji Edition, so you can use the one that suits you, or switch between them as your reading and writing skills develop.

Please note: All exercises in this PDF are also included in the main eBook and Soft Cover books. This is not additional exercises - it is the same exercises in an easy-to-use format.

Included in:

Self-Study Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

Anki Pack

Anki Flashcards

Anki is a digital flashcard app that uses a proven memorization technique called spaced repetition to make it significantly easier to remember things you learn.

These Anki flashcards are designed specifically for use alongside 80/20 Japanese to help you study more easily and retain more of what you learn.

With over 7000 flashcards, here's what they cover:


This features the 800+ unique words used throughout 80/20 Japanese, which were chosen primarily based on their usefulness in everyday Japanese.

This deck includes flashcards for all of them in the order they appear in the book, so you can keep up with the new vocab as you work through the lessons, and build a seriously useful Japanese vocabulary in the process.

Hiragana & Katakana

If you can't yet read 'kana' as they are collectively called, never fear! These flashcards will ensure you can.

There are two sets of flashcards for each:

  • All individual hiragana and katakana characters (including small ya/yu/yo combinations).
  • Whole words written in hiragana (100 words) and katakana (50 words) that, combined, contain every hiragana and katakana character at least once.

Since our brains process words as a whole, not individual characters, the second set gives you plenty of opportunity to practice doing just that, so you can quickly get your kana reading abilities up to speed.


This kanji flashcard set lets you focus on the one thing you really need to be able to do with kanji - read them.

These flashcards include every word in 80/20 Japanese that uses at least one kanji character - that's nearly 600 words and 518 unique characters.

Questions show the word written only in kanji, with the answer showing the hiragana reading and English meaning, like so:

Kanji flashcard example

This deck ensures you learn to read kanji as they are used in the real world, without wasting time on rarely-used readings, or worrying about hand-writing pages and pages of characters (which in 2019 is a skill you'll hardly ever need).

Like the vocabulary decks, the kanji are presented in the order they appear in the book, and tagged by chapter and sub-chapter for easy organization and targeted study.

Verb Conjugations

There comes a time when you move on from the simpler polite verb forms to the more complicated informal ones. The book shows you all the rules for conversion, and these Anki flashcards will allow you to easily practice recognizing and producing each verb form until you just know them. It includes flashcards for:

  • Verb meanings
  • Informal present/future tense (AKA dictionary/plain form)
  • Informal past tense
  • Informal negative form
  • Potential (can do) form
  • The te-form

No more fumbling about trying to find the right conjugation while people stare at you impatiently. Work through these, and you'll never have trouble conjugating verbs on the fly again.

Whole Sentences (and a few non-sentence phrases)

This is where you get to practice applying all of the grammar lessons covered in the book.

It contains every single example sentence and exercise featured in 80/20 Japanese so you can practice putting all of it to use.

That's over 1200 sentences.

And they all appear in the same order as the book, meaning they build on each other logically, one new concept at a time.

The flashcards have also been meticulously combed through and formatted to minimize confusion:

  • Multiple possible answers provided where appropriate
  • Context and other hints given where needed to eliminate ambiguity
  • Chapter references so you can easily find each sentence in the book and review the lesson it came from
Anki sentence flashcard

The point of these sentences is not to simply memorize them. It’s to give you copious amounts of practice building and understanding Japanese sentences.

That's the most important skill that will help you communicate in Japanese.

Practicing what you learn is vital to being able to actually apply what you know. These sentence flashcards make that easy.

Other features of the 80/20 Japanese Anki flashcards

Audio for every flashcard

Hear and practice correct pronunciation for every Japanese sound, word and sentence featured in the flashcards.

Powered by Text-To-Speech and meticulously checked for accuracy, the near-native Japanese audio ensures you always know how each word is supposed to sound.

Choose your character set(s)

All of the flashcards for vocabulary, sentences and verbs are provided in multiple character formats, including:

  • Romaji
  • Kana + Kanji
  • Kana + Kanji + Romaji

Detailed User Guide

Included is a detailed Anki User Guide specifically for this set of flashcards, ensuring you can start studying as quickly as possible: 

  • Step-by-step instructions for getting started with Anki and the flashcards in the 80/20 Japanese Anki Pack
  • Detailed explanation of each set of flashcards and how best to use them
  • Tips for making the most of your study efforts
  • Advanced customization tutorials for those who like to have full control

Additional information about Anki itself

  • The Anki app is free to download on Android, Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • The Anki app is NOT free on iOS devices, where it will need to be purchased separately. This is how the developer has chosen to cover their development costs. We have no affiliation with Anki, and have only chosen to use it because it's awesome, popular and versatile.
  • The app is mostly easy to use, but some people do find it a bit confusing as it has a ton of configuration options, though most of these can be ignored. The detailed user guide mentioned above will show you everything you need to know to get started using the 80/20 Japanese Anki flashcards, and email support will be available if you get stuck.

Included in:

eBook + Anki Pack, Self-Study + Anki Pack

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  • Kana + Kanji Edition eBook
  • Romaji Edition eBook


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Self-Study Pack

  • Both editions of the eBook


  • Audiobook
  • Audiobook Remix
  • Hiragana & Katakana Workbook
  • Exercises PDF
  • Kanji Reference Guide


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eBook +

Anki Pack

  • Both editions of the eBook


  • 80/20 Japanese Anki Pack

Including flashcards for hiragana, katakana, kanji, vocabulary, verb tenses and 1200+ full sentences


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Self-Study + Anki Pack

  • Everything in the Self-Study Pack

Including both editions of the eBook


  • 80/20 Japanese Anki Pack

Including flashcards for hiragana, katakana, kanji, vocabulary, verb tenses and 1200+ full sentences


Add a physical book from +$30:

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Want to try before you buy?

Read Chapter 2 now, and for free!

Includes the complete Table of Contents, so you can see exactly what you'll learn.

About the Author

Hi! I'm Richard Webb. 

Japan and the Japanese language have been a huge part of my life. I first went to live in Japan when I was 15, and have since spent over 6 years living in the country. I have a degree in Japanese, studied linguistics at a Japanese university, passed the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), and worked for two Japanese companies where virtually all communication was in Japanese.

It was a long road and it wasn't always easy, but learning to speak Japanese has been one of the best things I've ever done. It's opened many doors, and allowed me to have some amazing experiences.

I hope that this book helps you get as much out of Japan and Japanese culture as I have.

Hi! I'm Richard Webb. 

Japan and the Japanese language have been a huge part of my life. I first went to live in Japan when I was 15, and have since spent over 6 years living in the country. I have a degree in Japanese, studied linguistics at a Japanese university, passed the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), and worked for two Japanese companies where virtually all communication was in Japanese.

It was a long road and it wasn't always easy, but learning to speak Japanese has been one of the best things I've ever done. It's opened many doors, and allowed me to have some amazing experiences.

I hope that this book helps you get as much out of Japan and Japanese culture as I have.


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