Who It’s For and What’s in An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese

With the beginner stage completed, An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese is one of your options to transition out of the beginner level and into the intermediate level. But especially if you’re a self-learner, its difficult to know whether this textbook will be right for you and if you are you are ready for it.

An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese is aimed for use by learners who have completed about 240 hours of beginner level study and who know about 100 kanji. It can be used right after completion of a beginner level textbook, such as Genki. Self-learners can use it with some limitations.

No matter what resource you used to learn beginner Japanese, An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese (IAIJ) can be your next step. It is published by Japan Times, the same publisher as Genki. If you worked through Genki to build your beginner foundation, IAIJ is a logical next step which probably offers the easiest transition from Genki and presents less of a steep learning curve than other options. But it is important to note that IAIJ seems designed mainly for classroom study and there will be some limitations for self-learners, but it can still work for you. Personally, I worked through half of the book in class and the other half on my own. 

IAIJ is a good step above the beginner level. The reading passages and dialogues are all in Japanese with no English translations. This is a big part of becoming an intermediate learner. Getting used to Japanese in its native form and learning to understand it without English translations will really elevate your abilities. It might be frustrating at first if you can’t understand everything without English translations, but its ok. It just takes time. As you acquire more grammar and get more exposure to more Japanese content it will get easier.

Topics covered in IAIJ mainly surround being a foreign student in Japan and university life, but there is still content that is applicable to anyone reading the book, such as: recreation, vacationing, getting sick, and even the topic of women in Japan. In addition to the reading passages and dialogues which surround the topic of a given chapter, lots of new grammar, vocabulary and kanji are introduced. And there is a decent amount of practice exercises both in the main textbook and in the workbook. If you choose to use IAIJ, do invest in the workbook as well.

An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese at a High Level:

  • Two books: main textbook and workbook
  • 15 chapters
  • 153 grammar points
  • 1750 vocabulary words
  • 800 Kanji
  • Two CDs containing all accompanying audio
  • (bonus) keigo table in chapter 6

Structure of a Chapter

Each chapter starts off with a Culture Note. These are written in English and as the name suggests, gives you a bit of insight into Japanese culture. The Culture Note corresponds to the topic of the chapter e.g., restaurants. It’s easy to skip over these things or take them for granted. But I found that when I was in Japan, they were spot on, even though the book is slightly dated. If you go to Japan, you will likely encounter these situations and it’s helpful to know how to do as the Japanese do in a respectful manner.


Next come three back-to-back (to back) dialogues, as mentioned, in Japanese only. The dialogues are also recorded on the accompanying CDs, so you can practice reading and listening. Tip: listen first, then listen again but read along as you listen and read out loud! I recommend this because one of your goals of learning Japanese is probably to become proficient at verbal communication. Listening is harder than reading, so its worthwhile to take advantage of opportunities to practice your listening and speaking skills.

Reading Passage

Following the dialogues is a 読み物 reading passage, which is typically a page to a page and a half long based on the topic of the chapter. One such topic is Japanese sports. One reason why intermediate learning is fun is that you start learning more in depth on specific topics, for example, baseball and sumo in the sports topic. The reading passage is also recorded on the audio CDs. As with the dialogues, I recommend you take the opportunity to listen to it first before reading. If you are really lost without English translations, I wrote about a way to use machine translators in my article about how to use Tobira (another intermediate Japanese textbook) here.


After the reading passage is a list of new vocabulary seen in the dialogues and the reading passage. There are about 1750 vocabulary words presented throughout IAIJ. Kanji, furigana and English translations are given. I really like this approach because first you see the words in context in the dialogues and reading passages. Learning new words in context is so beneficial! You can see where and how they’re used and maybe even infer their meaning before seeing the translation.


A list of new kanji comes next. There are about 800 kanji in total presented throughout the textbook including about 100 you should already know from beginner level. Kanji lists are divided into two parts. One part is the list of kanji which you should learn to write 書くのを覚える漢字. The other is the list of kanji that you should at least learn to read読めればいい漢字. The lists are not just of individual kanji, they are presented in the context of a whole word, usually a noun or verb. This is a great way to help remember a kanji’s meaning! On the kanji quiz page of their online resource library, the creators of IAIJ say: In terms of learning kanji at the intermediate Japanese learner’s level, learners should not just be learning an individual character in isolation, it is more effective to always tie a character to a word, and then tie that word to a context.


Next is the grammar section. There are 153 grammar points in total throughout IAIJ. About 10 points are presented per chapter. Explanations are in English, which are sometimes brief. Then a few example sentences are given. If you find that the explanations are not quite sufficient, you can easily supplement with online resources. I touch on a practical way to search supplementary grammar resources online here (which is the same article referred to above about how to use Tobira).

Conversation Tips

Following grammar is something called 会話練習のポイント (points for conversation practice). These points are not just applicable to the specific conversations (dialogues) presented earlier in the chapter; they are applicable to those types of conversations in general. This section will break down parts of the conversation, highlight certain phrases and explain what function they serve and the cultural importance of structuring a conversation in a certain way, e.g., when asking for a favor from someone higher on the social hierarchy.

Practice Activities and Exercises

Next is 運用練習 (practice applying (what you learned)), which is probably more naturally translated as ‘putting into practice’. This is a series of role play activities in which you have conversations with a partner based on the given prompts. The topic is related to that of the chapter. Here’s an example of a role play: one person is an interviewer the other is an interviewee. The interviewer calls the interviewee to book an appointment. Even if you don’t have a partner, try playing both roles. This is better than skipping over the role play completely. Trying to speak and formulating your own sentences is how you learn to actually speak Japanese. But to really get the most benefit, the best option will be to work with a native speaking private tutor.

A writing composition 作文 activity comes next in which you write something similar to the content of one of the dialogues. For example: a) write an email to someone requesting to interview them, b) imagine you actually conducted the interview and write a summary of it.

After the writing activity comes listening comprehension practice 聞き取り練習. I really liked these exercises. You listen to a dialogue form the CDs and then try to answer questions based on what you heard. You are looking for specific information like ‘what item did the student forget in the classroom?’

Last is an activity called speed reading 速読 (I don’t think you actually need to read it fast though). These passages are about a page long. They are good additional reading practice, and you’ll learn either something about Japanese culture or just something to do with survival in an everyday Japanese environment. These passages come with the bonus of a few questions to test your reading comprehension.


My personal favorite part of IAIJ is the table of keigo敬語 expressions in chapter 6. I have referenced this so many times! There are some verbs in Japanese that have keigo (honorific) forms. These forms are pretty extravagant and long-winded compared to the more common plain and polite forms. This makes them harder to memorize. For example, the keigo form of 食べる (taberu) is 召し上がる (meshiagaru).  But keigo is very much used in Japan. As a non-native speaker, you will score a lot of points if you are correctly able to use keigo, so it is well worth the investment to learn. In addition to the table, there is also a write up about the two types of formal language in Japanese: sonkeigo 尊敬語 (respect form), and kenjougo 謙譲語 (humble form).  


At the back of the main textbook, there are several handy indexes:

  1. Index of the grammar points and the chapter where they appear
  2. Index of the kanji presented throughout the various chapters. This is interesting, the list is presented according to ascending order of stroke count. The kanji, the word associated with it from the chapter, the hiragana spelling of the word and the chapter from which it came are all given.
  3. Index of vocabulary presented throughout the book in hiragana order. The hiragana, kanji, English translation, and chapter from where it came are given.

To really get a feel for what’s inside IAIJ, it would be best to actually look inside. Forty sample pages have been made freely available by the publisher. Use this link and click where it says Sample Contents: Textbook (PDF).

An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese Workbook

The accompanying workbook contains exercises to practice grammar and kanji. There are various guided grammar exercises to practice each grammar point e.g., fill in the blank, finish the rest of the sentence and write a complete sentence in response to a question. Then there are also exercises where you really apply what you learned by answering questions based on the reading passage with your own free form responses. A question might be, why did the baseball player decide to retire? There is also a kanji studying section for each chapter. Essentially it is a work sheet in which a character is given with 音読み onyomi and 訓読みkunyomi readings. Stroke order is shown, and space is given for you to practice writing the kanji over and over.

Between the main textbook and the workbook, there are a fair number of practice exercises. Please do these exercises. Practice is critical for internalizing the content that you learn, especially for self-learners. Role playing, writing, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension are in the main textbook, while grammar and kanji are in the workbook. As mentioned, if you choose to use IAIJ, do invest in the workbook as well. But one really important thing to note is that there are no answer keys to the practice questions in the textbook and workbook.

For a sample of pages from the workbook provided by the publisher, use this link and click where it says Sample Contents: Workbook (PDF).

An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese Website

There is some additional content on IAIJ’s website, which you will find in the resource library, such as a kanji quiz and a particle review sheet. But the best thing in there are the scripts to the listening practice「聞き取り練習」スクリプト. The link to the resources library is here.

Colten Dumonceau

My goal is to provide information that will help you learn Japanese as quickly and effectively as possible. I have spent more than ten years learning Japanese, mostly self-taught, from absolute beginner to an advanced level. I believe its possible to go much faster than I did. Please let me share with you the best learning strategies I have uncovered.

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