Technical Japanese Books & Software

Created by scientists & engineers for scientists & engineers

Why learn to read technical Japanese?

English-speaking scientists and engineers occasionally need to read Japanese language technical papers, manuals, FAXes, and patents. Writing in English typically takes 10-20 times longer for a Japanese scientist or engineer than writing in Japanese. In fast-moving fields such as microelectronics and biotechnology, English versions of Japanese reports are dated, if available at all. In many cases, it is not practical to use translation services. Even when a translation is purchased, it is likely to be seriously flawed because the translator did not understand the subject matter.

The basic reading skill for technical Japanese that can be learned in a year of hard study can open up valuable windows into Japanese technology. Usually a technical paper will contain one important nugget of new information immersed in bulky supporting material. The ability to scan the material, locate the nugget, and translate it on the spot is the obvious payoff.

In addition, Japanese study leads to a cross-cultural empathy that results in more productive, longer-lasting collaborations. Japanese colleagues appreciate the effort their foreign counterparts put into Japanese language study, especially the effort to learn to read KANJI.

It's easier than you might have thought!

Learning to read technical Japanese is much easier than learning to read news or cultural materials; the required vocabulary and grammar turn out to be very restricted. Only 365 KANJI are needed to cover 80% of the KANJI found in physics, chemistry, biology, and their related engineering disciplines! The repetition of vocabulary is far greater for technical material than for normal Japanese materials.

A one-year course at the University of Wisconsin takes students from absolute zero understanding of Japanese to being able to translate documents in their specialities. We at Kanji-Flash Softworks work together with the University of Wisconsin in producing the materials supporting that program.

The texts and software are used in traditional classrooms, distance-learning classes, small company study groups (a Japanese tradition wherein study progress is coerced by peer pressure), and for self-study. The texts clearly explain the peculiarities of Japanese grammar as used in technical writing, and the Kanji-Flash/BTJ software makes it much easier to overcome the formidable barrier of KANJI memorization and vocabulary building.

Basic Technical Japanese

A textbook by Edward E. Daub, R. Byron Bird, and Nobuo Inoue
ISBN 0-299-12730-3, 664 pages (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990) $35

A hard-cover textbook that takes the student from zero knowledge of Japanese to being able to translate technical articles. The 20 chapters covering physics, chemistry, biology, and physiology are taught as a 1-year course at the University of Wisconsin. 365 carefully selected KANJI and 4000 scientific words are presented along with the specific grammar constructs most often found in technical literature. An appendix presents an additional 145 KANJI useful for technical materials.


DOS Software by Craig T. Van Degrift
ISBN 0-299-97077-9 (Kanji-Flash Softworks, 1991) $49

A flash-card software companion to the textbook Basic Technical Japanese that follows the text chapter-by-chapter and teaches HIRAGANA, KATAKANA, and its entire 510 KANJI and 4300-word vocabulary. Japanese character fonts are built into the program so that it can run on an ordinary U.S. DOS system, including OS/2, Linux, Unix, and Macintosh DOS emulators. It requires color VGA or EGA graphics (or 16-shade grey scale) and comes with both 3.5" and 5-1/4" diskettes, but these days I usually send it as an e-mail attachment.

Detailed specifications & quantity/combo pricing for Kanji-Flash/BTJ

Supplements to Basic Technical Japanese


A supplementary textbook by James L. Davis
ISBN 0-299-14714-2, 155 pages (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995) $25

Solid-State Physics & Engineering

A supplementary textbook by Craig T. Van Degrift
ISBN 0-199-14734-7, 100 pages (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995) $20

Polymer Science & Engineering

A supplementary Textbook by R. Byron Bird and Sigmund Floyd
ISBN 0-299-14694-4, 92 pages (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995) $20

These are three supplements to Basic Technical Japanese. They provide additional vocabulary in specialized fields. Each has 11 lessons to be studied in parallel with chapters 10 through 20 of Basic Technical Japanese. Each lesson includes exercises to assist in learning the vocabulary as well as samples of Japanese text with translations.

Comprehending Technical Japanese

A textbook by Edward E. Daub, R. Byron Bird, and Nobuo Inoue
ISBN 0-299-06680-0, 437 pages (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1975) $35

This is the pioneering technical Japanese textbook which introduced the concept of tightly focusing Japanese language study for scientists and engineers. It assumes at least 1-year of previous Japanese study (HIRAGANA, KATAKANA, and some grammar) and then presents the 500 most frequently found KANJI in technical Japanese literature. While still a useful text, the newer text Basic Technical Japanese can be considered a replacement for Comprehending Technical Japanese. Although BTJ begins from zero Japanese knowledge, it ends at substantially the same level as the end of CTJ.

Kanji for Understanding Technical Japanese

A supplementary textbook by Edward E. Daub
ISBN 0-299-14704-5, 207 pages (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995) $30

Additional information and usage examples for the 500 KANJI taught in the pioneering UW Press technical Japanese textbook Comprehending Technical Japanese (1975).

This page was last revised on January 17, 2014.

Kanji-Flash Softworks /

Back to our home page...