For those who have been seeking out the best resources to self-study Japanese, you may have already come across some recommendations for the Genki textbooks. Genki accompanied me through my first two years of studying Japanese. The first edition came with its fair share of complaints, but the second edition that luckily debuted just before I started my own studying has seemed to have corrected all its shortcomings. As a note, I did use this textbook for my university Japanese course, so I won’t be able to give recommendations for how to use it specifically for self-study. But I can give my review based on my experience and usage that hopefully can help you kickstart your own journey with studying Japanese.
How They’re Organized
- Dialogues: Each chapter begins with two dialogues that take place between the Genki cast of characters.
- Vocabulary list: Includes nouns, verbs, adjective, adverbs, and other common expressions.
- Grammar: Instructional explanations for a number of grammar points.
- Practice exercises
- At the end of the chapter, there’s either a Useful Expressions section that gives common expressions and vocabulary for specific situations- such as how to describe your symptoms if you were to visit the doctor- or a Culture Note section which describes certain important details to Japanese culture.
- Kanji: At the end of each textbook is a section of kanji that pertains to each chapter.
- CD: Both books include CDs that contain native readings of most of the material including the dialogues, vocabulary, and practice questions.
Overall, Genki does very well to cover all the bases when it comes to starting to learn Japanese-reading, speaking, and listening.
Having made my way through both Genki textbooks, I can say that they certainly were my main resource for developing my simple foundation in Japanese. One thing to note is that since they were written as college textbooks, much of the dialogue situations and vocabulary is geared to school life, at least in the beginning. Aside from this, I’d say that the vocabulary, grammar, and kanji are all generally useful for basic communication needs.
The pacing of the textbooks is very good. Since certain grammar points build on one another, often it is important to master one chapter before moving onto the next. If you are self-studying, your own pace certainly plays a role in how quickly you progress. The grammar explanations are clear, conjugation charts are included and they make sure to make a note of the most common irregular verbs and grammatical exceptions.
The practice exercises in the textbook, as well as the workbook aren’t too demanding and do well to give a sufficient amount of practice to more or less master the grammar and some of the vocabulary. There are a number of group activities, so if you’re self-studying you may be able to use them as a reference to modify for independent use, or if you have a study buddy, even better!
There are no answer keys provided with the textbook or workbook, but thanks to the wonderful power of the internet, you can easily find answer keys provided by others who have paved the studying path ahead of us!
I wouldn’t say using Genki is exciting, but the amount of fun you have while studying Japanese really depends on yourself and your level of motivation. What Genki does do is provide a starting point for those who are itching to learn but have no idea where to begin or what even to learn.
A piece of advice: I studied abroad in Japan for 4 months, and when I arrived I had just finished the first Genki book. I knew just enough Japanese to ask for help as I traipsed about the country, but unfortunately I hadn’t quite learned enough to understand the responses I received >
Long story short, if you’re learning Japanese with the intention to go to Japan sometime soon, I would recommend making your way through both textbooks. I certainly survived just fine in the end, and Japan is a wonderful country that I hope to return to in the near future, but I definitely feel I would’ve had a very different experience and had more confidence to explore many more places if I had a better hold of the language.
If you have any further questions or comments, either about Genki or anything pertaining to my experiences learning Japanese and visiting Japan, please don’t be afraid to comment! I hope to include more posts as a series to explore the resources I’ve used, my struggles and my recommendations for learning Japanese. I’m nowhere near fluent, but I want to do what I can to help those seeking to start learning Japanese!