Genki - Handwritten vs IME

Decided to make a separate topic as a tangent to the discussion I found here: Anyone else facing burnout? - #38 by Swyn

There were several users that offered good insights into Genki, including but not limited to:
@rawrdinosaur @konekush @KinokoNeko @ninjaflautist90 @SoraR

Main question:
Do you have opinions about doing Genki with pen and paper vs. electronically?
I have been handwriting it but looking up kanji stroke order is a real distraction for me. I don’t know if I just need to push through it or switch to doing my exercises electronically with an IME. On one hand it sounds a lot more convenient, but I wonder if the IME’s auto-suggest functions (conjugations in particular) take away from the learning. I guess I don’t want the IME to become a sort of crutch if that makes sense.

Side-Notes & Caveats: I’m asking about the perspective of people that have completed Genki, and I’m looking to avoid a prolonged discussion about the pros/cons of handwriting Kanji. I’m well aware of the Tofugu stroke-order article but that’s not the one size fits-all that folks seem to imply. I’ve been refining efficient ways to look up stroke diagrams and I have recently found something that looks promising.


Really good question. Minna no Nihongo for meet, but the principle is the same. I have terrible handwriting in any character system so I type my answers. I get your point about the auto suggestions being a crutch although it can get you the other way - sometimes if you type a wrong answer and it will come back to haunt you in autocomplete.

I think its fine if you acknowledge the limitations and back stop your learning with something else. I’m still looking for the perfect thing to drill me on conjugations in particular - its probably the weakest aspect of my Japanese right now.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on stroke order. I get it more or less right an dI think that’s good enough. If you dowant something that is going to be a hardware on you for stroke order you could do worse than the ‘Kanji Teacher’ app on iOS - its a hardarse not only on stroke order but stroke position and length, even when you turn it’s sensitivity setting right down. It’s one of the reasons I gave up on that app.


Imo there are definitely benefits to doing everything by hand but I am slightly confused about your question. If you have the physical books, how would you do it electronically?

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What’s the worst that happens if you don’t know the stroke order off the top of your head? If you’re not studying stroke order at that time (which I assume is why you called checking it distracting) then I don’t see what the issue is. Give it your best shot and move on. If the shape of the kanji is right, then it’s fine.


(I’ve never finished Genki, but I did go through a textbook series when I was studying Japanese in uni. No one even knows it exists, and the uni has since stopped using them and switched to Genki …)

I think that looking up how to write a kanji the first time learn it in Genki/other textbook would be helpful in helping you learn/recognise the generalities of stroke order. After that first time, though, I wouldn’t bother looking it up again if I forget and just focus on whether it looks all right at the end.

As for answering things digitally vs on paper … my instinct goes with either going the pen & paper route entirely, or doing half the drills on a subject in p&p and the other half digitally. P&p has been known to really help with the quality of studying, and when you physically write something you can’t fool yourself with ‘oh, that was a typo’.

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Midori (Ios Dictionary app) has a stroke diagram on the Kanji entry. I am quite sure this is not a unique feature to Midori.

Unless youre taking the KanKen knowing the exact “correct” stroke order is not really that important. The important thing is to write each stroke properly so the details are accurate. This is especially important when there are Kanjis similar to the one youre writing such as 末 and 未. Fwiw the stroke order of those two Kanji are exactly the same but knowing that wont necessarily help you write them correctly.

Following a few general principles for order and practicing writing in boxes for proportion will help you much more than memorizing stroke order. Also, the correct stroke order is not universal across all the countries that use Kanji and they all seem to be able to write fine.

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When I’m doing exercises (pen and paper), I don’t look up Kanji stroke order unless it’s severely hampering my ability to write a recognizable Kanji. I found it far less distracting to just study stroke order separately with the writing quiz function of the Kanji Study app on Android.


Lot’s of other good notes in the responses. I think it’s pretty clear that I was probably being too much of a perfectionist, let’s say when it comes to worrying about writing kanji. That said, I’m also acknowledging that while stroke order is discretionary, balance/proportion/geometry, not so much. And especially compared to a few months ago where I was more “differentiation-based” when it came to kanji, I’m getting better at absorbing the kanji as a detailed whole.

Moving forward. Thanks!


On the subject of apps

Android user here and Kanji Study is one of my fave apps. It has great stroke order features. However, it’s too slow for me during a round of exercises, but ad-hoc lookup is great.
I like this site on the desktop: Viewer - KanjiVG
One of the main reasons is that I can put a string of kanji in the input box and it will give me the diagram for the first one. That’s nice because I can enter (as a contrived example) 飛港庸 view the first diagram, delete it press enter view the next, etc. That ends up being way quicker for me compared to touch input, sites like jisho, even other stroke order sites

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I’ll be the contrarian and say even if stroke order isn’t important now, if you ever think it will be, learning it correctly (or one of the “correct” ways) now is 10x easier than trying to change a bad habit later. It seems hard at first but after a while as you internalize the common features, your first reaction is very very likely to be correct and it gets easier. You only end up looking up some odd ones more than once.

What distinction are you implying there?

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I can’t prove it offhand, but I swear I’ve seen different sources disagree (very slightly and unimportantly) on what the order is. But it could be I’ve just caught an oddball once in a while. (like 右 and 左 having a different first stroke). More likely I just discover I’ve been wrong the whole time when I thought I knew.

It does depend on the language. Like in Chinese 左 and 右 are taught as having the same order for the first two strokes.

The discrepancy seems to be derived from whether you treat the shapes like they were invented as is (the way it seems to be done in China currently) or if you maintain the historical stroke order from back before the character came to look the way it does today (the way Japan seems to handle it). Originally left and right were pictograms of left pointing and right pointing hands, which is why they were drawn coming from different directions. The standardization of the hand parts and the addition of 工 and 口 came later.

Ah, that could be it exactly. I learned quite a few playing around with Mandarin years before starting Japanese. It’s possible some of the ones I’m surprised I’m wrong about actually were different when I learned them first.

Is modern Chinese stroke order different from Japanese? I learnt mandarin before Japanese and something has always felt a little off with Japanese.

Haha, I don’t know. I didn’t really learn enough or for long enough to know if my memory is playing tricks on me or not. Leebo indicates it is different in some cases, though.

When the shapes are identical, it’s usually the same order, but there are exceptions. There are more situations where the shapes are not identical.

I tend to agree, actually. The key criteria is how much should it interfere with making progress in grammar et al.

You only end up looking up some odd ones more than once.

  • Eventually yes, but who could say how long…
  • I have definitely internalized a lot of features. I have studied stroke-order rules in several sources and while most of it is consistent, each author puts their own spin on the topic.
  • It’s very easy to gloss the rules, but much harder to disambiguate them and how they correlate to many kanji.
  • Surprisingly, rules about which stroke goes first, the horizontal or the vertical in particular are difficult to apply without factoring in lots of caveats, but guides will focus on the kanji that make the rules look simple
  • The (grapheme) patterns you can recognize depend on how many kanji you’ve been exposed to. Learning more kanji means they’re easier to spot.
  • In light of the above, penetrating strokes are prone to difficulty because at scale it can be difficult to discern a pair of vertical strokes where the end of one meets the start of another, vs a stroke that penetrates all the way through the grapheme.
  • Incidentally, I am aware of the whole Chinese/Japanese stroke order nuances because of all the frustration that resulted from just trying to grapple “horizontal before vertical”

Here’s some examples of Kanji that don’t lend themselves to a simple application of the common patterns, in my opinion. With the exception of the first one these are all kanji I found myself encountering a lot as a beginner.


image image
I’ll mention this a good example of a contradiction that beginners have to wrestle with. You want so bad to say oh 月、門、飯、食, 狼 must share patterns, but there’s snags to be found

I get tripped up a lot on the bottom horizontal ones, like in 里. But without really knowing many “rules”, I do guess a lot more right than I do wrong, and it makes the wrong ones stand out enough to remember.

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I suppose it’s hard for me to relate, since I have taken Kanken and all of those just look like… “yeah, that’s how you write them what else would it be.” I’m sure I made mistakes with them at some point in the past, but now I don’t even really remember that feeling. So it’s not like I was hindered by never devoting time to specifically memorizing stroke orders as part of my study regimen.