Let’s start with what to avoid.
You might think that by getting these gifts for your loved one that you are showing that you care about their language learning and are being thoughtful. But in actual fact, you need to be very careful in buying these particular gifts because the chances of you getting it right are very slim.
1. Textbooks. Textbooks are not so generic so as to be applicable to all language learners. ‘Beginner’, ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’ can be very subjective terms, especially for a gift buyer who has not learned that language before. Unless you are sure about the receiver’s actual proficiency in Japanese and can find a textbook to suit that exact level then we recommend staying away from textbooks as a language gift. Also, who honestly is ‘over the moon’ with receiving a textbook as a gift for Christmas or birthdays? Textbooks create thoughts of work and study in the mind and so will not exactly delight your loved one.
2. Japanese Dictionaries. While these are generic enough to be applicable to all learners, not many people use actual physical dictionaries any more, and if they do, they are spending a lot of unnecessary time looking up those words. Online and app-based versions are far more convenient and often more comprehensive and accurate. They can be carried anywhere and words can be found within seconds. In fact, many Japanese dictionary apps can even use the camera function on your phone to read the text for you and automatically provide a translation. Compare this to the traditional method of a paper-based dictionary and you will find that the more practical option is app-based.
3. Writing-practice books. Just like textbooks, writing-practice books have various different levels and so the one you buy is not likely to be for the level of your loved one. Also, because writing Japanese is so difficult, many learners choose to focus on other facets of language learning such as speaking, listening and reading. In fact, handwriting is actually the most unusable and irrelevant focus for a language learner as computers have replaced the need for handwriting in almost every context.
Ok, great, we know what to avoid. So what kinds of gifts should you consider? Well, we've found that these 7 gifts are the best and most applicable to all learners of Japanese and will be instant hits!
Great gifts for Japanese Learners
7. Japanese mugs. Who doesn’t like tea and coffee? Allow your loved one to show off their Japanese skills around the office with a Japanese mug.
6. An iTalkie gift card. iTalkie is a website that allows you to get personal one-one-one lessons over skype.
5. Japanese keyboard stickers. This is a great gift if you know your loved one does not yet have a Japanese language keyboard.
4. Japanese gesture book. We have all heard stories about gestures that are harmless in one culture being terribly offensive in another. If your loved one is planning a trip to Japan, this might be a great book to get.
3. A book on Japanese slang and swear words. Obviously this might not be an appropriate gift for some people, for example your mom or an aunt. But other learners of Japanese may enjoy learning about some of the grittier aspects of the Japanese language.
2. A Kanji poster. Reading Japanese is difficult as they have three different writing systems. The most difficult systems is called Kanji. A poster is a good idea as your loved one can stick it up in their room and review it every day.
1. Japanese Language Stickers. Language stickers are a fun and easy way to make language learning a lot easier. You simply stick them around your house on all sorts of items and, by sheer volume of contact and interaction with the new vocabulary, your loved one will be learning all sorts of great new words and phrases. Note, these are applicable for beginners but also quite advanced learners and the vocabulary list is so large. This kind of gift gets them out of the textbook and into the real world with their Japanese! Click here.