Self Study Guide for Minna no Nihongo みんなの日本語

Self Study Guide for Minna no Nihongo (みんなの日本語)

Out of the few popular beginner textbooks for Japanese, Minna no Nihongo (みんなの日本語, or MNN for short) is probably the most daunting textbook for most beginners, featuring an Japanese-only main textbook, with only limited translations for materials in a different book.

Many fans of MNN, including myself, like this textbook because it forces you to get comfortable with Hiragana and Katakana really quickly, which also trains you to be able to read longer paragraphs and texts required for intermediate and advanced levels. Some call this immersion learning.

If you are planning to study Japanese in Japan, there's a 90% chance that the school will be using MNN - and any native Japanese tutor will be very familiar with it as well. In my personal experience, I can tell any native Japanese tutor that I am currently at which chapter in MNN, and they will instantly know how much I am supposed to know and don't.

This guide will help you get past that initial hurdle by showing how you can succeed with self studying MNN to reap the benefits of an all Japanese textbook.

Prelude: Hiragana and Katakana

Given that the main textbook is entirely in Japanese, you will need to be rather good at Hiragana and Katakana before you proceed.

You don't really need to memorize all of them right away, but it will be good to do a self-test on to make sure that you have gotten at least 70-80% correct, or reading the textbook will be an exercise in frustration.

You will very quickly be able to recognize almost all of the characters after 1 or 2 chapters.

Getting the Right Books

Many sites and people will tell you that there are actually two books that you need to buy for Minna no Nihongo:

mnn books

The book on the right is the main textbook. Note that the translation book on the left comes in different colors depending on the language.

When you are self-studying, the Translation and Grammar notes book will be your best friend. It lists out all the new vocabulary used for each chapter, their translation, translated grammar explanations, and some cultural notes.

Now that you have the books, you can move on to preparation.

Self-Study Guide For Each Chapter

Having studied at a Japanese Language School as well as with online personal tutors, one very clear pattern emerges with how they teach and use the textbook for every chapter.

Here's our recommendation on how you can maximise your experience with MNN for every chapter of MNN:

  1. Read (out loud) the words in the vocabulary section in the Translation and Vocabulary book
  2. Make sure that you understand the meaning of each word, using an online Dictionary such as as required.
  3. Review the grammar section, view additional grammar videos on Youtube (more on this below)
  4. Move to the main textbook's Review 練習A (Practice Section A) and the new grammar taught there
  5. Work on the problems in 練習B (Practice Section B), and refer to both 練習A and the vocabulary book as needed.
  6. Work on the problems in 練習C (Practice Section C), and refer to both 練習A and the vocabulary book as needed.
  7. Once you have finished all problems, complete the 問題 Review questions at the end of each chapter

Understanding the nuances of each new grammar is probably the most important part of each chapter, as future chapters will introduce grammar points that looks similar to the early chapters' grammar points.

We have an English and Chinese playlist recommendations for you to watch for each chapter during Step 3 of the guide above.

NihonGoal screenshot

Explanation of a Grammar Point from Chapter 1 by NihonGoal

I personally watched the Chinese version as I personally understand Chinese, but you should be able to find the same type of videos for your language on Youtube.

Understanding the Different Question Types

There are many different question types that can show up in 練習B (Practice Section B), which might be confusing to some of you on how to answer.

Here are two examples from the first chapter.

Example 1

mnn question example 1

This question asks you to follow the grammar example (例) to form your answer.

In the example, グブタさん is an employee of IMC, so the answer explains his name, followed by where he works at. Hence the grammar point here would be,

Q: あのかたはどなたですか。(Who is that person?)

A: <name>さんです。<company><role>です。

Using the same example, we move on to the first question, which talks about イーさん. Following the example given, the answer would be:

Q1: あのかたはどなたですか。(Who is that person?)

A1: イーさんです。AKCの研究者です。(She is イー。She works at AKC as a researcher)

Example 2

mnn question example 2

This question asks you to write both the Questions and the Answers.

This type of question is very common in MNN, where you are given two sentences (or phrases), and you are required to write both the question and the answer, similar to a conversation between two parties.

Let's break it down.

In the first example, you are given ミラーさん and 会社員、グプタさん.

From here, you will craft a question with the following grammar point:

Q: <name A><role>です。<name B>さんも<role>ですか。 (A is of this role. Is B also of this role?)

From here, there are two possible answers, either Yes or No. There are two examples in this case because they are showing you the grammar point to use for both Yes and No answers.

A-Yes: はい、<name B>さん<role>です。 (Yes, B is also of this role)

A-No: いいえ、<name B>さん<role>じゃありません。 (No, B is not of this role)

Note that in Yes case, we use も which can be used when you are saying "also", but not in the No case.

What about speaking?

練習C Practice Section C problems are typically used as conversation practice in classes where two students roleplays as one of the persons. If you have a friend or two learning Japanese as well, they can be your partner.

Alternatively, do consider tutoring with our teachers to practice your speaking skills as well. As certified tutors, they are very familiar with MNN and can help you with any questions that you might have as well.


And that's it! With this, you are probably good to go with self-studying with MNN, all the way from Chapter 1 to 25 (JLPT N5 level), and Chapter 26 to Chapter 50 (JLPT N4 level).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or even over Messenger (bottom right corner), and we'll be happy to help.

All the best for your studies!

-- Team Hanayoku

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