I am completely new to japanese language and at this point would like to get a textbook so I can start to get my grammar game on. With such a wide supply and variation in recommendations I am quite lost when it comes to choosing which one to get. So, what is the best textbook for an absolute beginner, in your opinion?
If there’s any requirements, it needs to have furagana in it and it would be nice if it would also teach the non-keigo variations :3
Are you set on the idea of a physical textbook or would you be happy to work from online sources?
There’s been a fair bit of work put into developing The Ultimate Additonal Japanese Research List! so I’ll share those recommendations:
Personally, I find using BunPro for grammar and then browsing the additonal reading they suggest to be a great way to absorb grammar points, but if you want a physical textbook then Genki is the most widely recommend. You can also use it alongside things like BunPro (for grammar SRS) and Kitsun.io (for vocabulary SRS) as people have already done work to make a route (for the former) and a card pack (for the latter) that has all the Genki grammar points and vocab :3
As the quote above says, Genki is fairly classroom focussed, so you might find it doesn’t suit you for self study. I personally use LingoDeer for general Japanese study, with the above solution of BunPro + KitSun for long term memory.
It entirely depends on how you want to deal with things. I tend to only check in on BunPro once a day, do a batch of three lessons, then not check it until the next day, maybe twice a day if I’m feeling productive. So long as you don’t add too many lessons a day, I don’t find that it gets anywhere near as busy as WaniKani does with reviews. The most I’ve ever had in one day, with 41 grammar points unlocked, is 20 review to do after leaving it for a full day.
As far as using multiple SRS solutions, it’s been determined that there’s no cause for concern and that it doesn’t detriment your learning at all ^^
In that case I’d probably say Genki, without hesitation. Though you can also get a physical copy of TaeKim’s guide and the benefit there is that you can check the website version of that and see if you like the writing style.
You can also get samples of Genki here to see if you like it:
Ooh! I thought bunpro would be as time consuming as wk! In that case it sounds good since despite the pretty constant frustration I have with wk it feels like the easiest way to learn things since you have to constantly keep up with it. You don’t have to make the timetable, the software does it for you. I think I’ll check bunpro and keep Genki in mind
There isn’t necessarily a ‘best’ one, they’re all good in their own way. I used Genki with very limited Japanese knowledge and it’s as good as anywhere to start. My partner used Minna no Nihongo and rates it highly - she is fluent and translates Japanese professionally so that’s something in its favour. I learned solo and she learned in the classroom, so basically it’s just a case of whatever works for you.
I recommend checking out other resources as well though - for example what I would often do when learning a new grammar point in Genki is then go and read about it in Tae Kim or the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, which often explain things in a different way, which can be helpful for getting a more well-rounded understanding of each point.
Also check out Japanese the Manga Way which is maybe not a textbook that’s going to teach you Japanese by itself, but it’s well worth going through.
The only resource I don’t really recommend is Imabi - I find it too unnecessarily in-depth for a beginner resource.
I will put in another recommendation for Genki. I think it’s just the best all-around resource for starting Japanese. After Genki 2 you have pretty much everything you need to start immersing. Of course you will need to continue learning new things and looking up unknown words/grammar points. But the Genki series covers pretty much all the basics.
I’ve studied with Minna no Nihongo in a classroom setting in the past and am studying with Genki right now. I’d say they’re both good for a very nice introduction to the language. They include a decent amount of vocabulary and grammar with exercises that focus on all aspects of learning a language. I’d recommend the Genki textbook and workbook purely because it released a new version this year - the vocabulary has been updated (with less or no focus on words like the newspaper, stamps etc) and you can listen to the audio on your phone (instead of a CD).
Genki is very classroom oriented and formal – if you’re into that, it’s a good choice. I prefer Japanese from Zero, since it’s more fun. There are 5 volumes and a lot of supporting videos on Youtube by the author George Trombley – I don’t know how much if any of the text is available on-line. He teaches in an informal, sort of practical way, not in a way that’s going to help you pass tests, so whether it’s for you depends on your needs. But I’ve been through the first 3 1/2 volumes and it’s worked for me.
I would also like to chime in for Genki. I used it, passed the N4 exam a while back. By the end of Genki 2, I was translating manga for fun. I also recommend picking up The Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar as a companion guide. It helps further clarify grammar points and it’s an incredibly useful resource to have when reading native material. I rarely encounter any grammar not in the Dictionary. It is a little dense, but it is one of the best Japanese resources I have ever purchased, up there with WaniKani.
So, tried registering to bunpro but I haven’t received the authentication email. Tried two different email accounts too, just to be sure. Nada. Nothing in spam folders either. Anyone any idea whats up?
edit: nvm. It came to my gmail account but not to my tutanota account. Strange.
I took a course at uni which used Genki and for me it worked quite well. In addition to the textbook there’s a workbook, both with CD and audio exercises. One negative point when you’re studying alone is, that there’s no answer key to the exercises.
But if you’d decide to use Genki here’s an additional link for audial learning: http://mykikitori.com/ I think the author constructed that for their bachelor thesis and it contains short dialogues in two different speeds based on the vocabulary in the Genki-lessons.
EDIT: just remembered another link i bookmarked: https://bilingualmanga.com/ when reading manga there you can switch between the japanese and english version. So you can make sure you understood something correctly or “cheat” when you’re not sure.
Because Genki is so ubiquitous, it is easy to get help if you need it via Google, HiNative, etc. Also, if you decide to hire a teacher (strongly recommended, if it’s in the budget), they will most likely be familiar with it.
I also prefer Japanese From Zero, for the simple reason that Genki is more classroom oriented. The lessons George does online are, in my opinion, really good for grammar. If you subscribe to YesJapan.com, which is the website for this series, you will also get games for learning hiragana and katakana as well as George’s lessons which go along with the books. It has quizzes, too, which I like as a way of reinforcing that I know the material.