Has anyone tried out Minato?

https://minato-jf.jp/ was one of the first sites I’ve heard for learning japanese. It’s a site who’s funded by the Japan Foundation, who’s goals in general is to make japan and japanese stuff more accessible for the western world. It is mainly free to use (from what I’ve seen), offers basic level classes and hiragana/katakana classes.

I haven’t used it much, the layout can be a bit confusing, however, it seems like a very good resource for beginners like me. Has anyone heard of it/tried to use it? Was it worth it?


If you search for Marugoto here, I think you can find some opinions! I’ve seen several people mention it, and I don’t think I heard anything negative about it, but haven’t used it myself.


I tried it and I didn’t like it at all. I guess it’s okay to use if you are just beginning with grammar. But for me learning with Minato (and Marugoto) overall felt sluggish and not challenging enough once I knew some basics.


Knew that name sounded familiar. Just dug through some files and found my “certificate” for the A1-1 course, dated January 2017.
Don’t really remember much about it though.

It starts getting more challenging at about halfway through the first book (Starter A1) and then again a bit more in the next book (Elementary 1 A2) when they drop roomaji completely. But for sure, it’s a far gentler start than Minna no Nihongo or even Genki.

I’m using the Elementary 2 A2 books in my course right now and to be honest I think these books are terrible. Compared to other material I’m learning with the dialogues and phrases they teach feel stiff and lifeless, the grammar explanations are too basic and the exercises are not challenging at all. Most of the time you just have to choose the right word from a little box and fill a gap with it.
I prefer books like Genki where you learn to recognize basic kanji early on and have to write your own sentences, do translations etc.

Textbook dialogues tend to be more simplistic and formulaic than the real language in general. That’s because the goal is not to teach natural sounding Japanese, but to simplify it down to a level where a complete beginner would immediately be able to start using it and make themselves understandable, even if they sound a bit robotic. And, if you’ve noticed, most the topics are also chosen based on what they think a typical foreigner might realistically encounter in Japan and what could be useful for them – meeting new people, talking about food and hobbies, travelling, etc. I generally have found Marugoto to be more natural sounding and realistic in this regard than Minna no Nihongo or Genki, but of course YMMV.

As for grammar, I usually supplement these with lessons of my own design and provide more thorough explanations than the textbook does, but the philosophy of Marugoto is not to really teach grammar, but to point out a few rules and let people acquire it on their own through practice.

As for writing, did your teacher not assign you the small essays at the end of each chapter? That’s where the bulk of the writing assignments are. Other than that, yes, it’s not really focused on written output, but more on classroom activities. Not to mention the kanji teaching is quite slow and they don’t really explain anything about them, let alone how to write them. But, then again, no general use textbook I’ve seen has really been very good in that regard.

I understand that textbook dialogues in general tend to be formulaic but to me the patterns teached in Marugoto seem a bit too stiff and don’t encourage you to try them out in other contexts. They are always used in regards to the same topics (self-introduction, food etc) and in my opinion they rarely show you how to use grammatical structures differently. I see this with some of my classmates, who study Japanese for almost two years now with Marugoto and nothing else, and are confused when the て-form is used for anything else but describing the means of how something is done. Because that’s the usage they learned a lesson ago and I think Marugoto is not really good at connecting different lessons and contextualizing - a grammar point often just pops up and then isn’t mentioned again for a long time.

Yes, I do write these essays. But here again, they mostly present you a certain pattern and only expect you to fill in the gaps. We are allowed to write more freely, which is great, but that doesn’t change my feeling that nothing about Marugoto really inspires me.

I guess Marugoto might work for many people but to me personally it feels lackluster. The two books I had to buy for the course were quite expensive considering that there is not really that much content. But I think it’s great for self-studying that they give you answers and transcripts at the end of the book and you have access to all the audio materials.

Part of it is that Marugoto mainly teaches the polite language, which tends to be more stiff in general. Sure, there are a few very stiff expressions used, like 結構です to decline an offer, but other than that, I don’t think Marugoto does an especially terrible job, if you take this into account.

Marugoto’s pacing is slower in general, that is true, and the て-form is a good example of that. They don’t even start to teach how to connect sentences with it until lesson 14 in the Starter book where you have to use it to give directions. But then, in Elementary 1, they teach ~ています in chapter 1, ~てください and how to use the て-form to connect a sequence of actions in chapter 6, using it to give a reason in chapter 7, ~てくださいませんか in chapter 9, ~てみます in chapter 10, ~てきます/~ていきます in chapter 11, and using it to show how much time has passed (~て◯年になります) and ~てもいいですか in chapter 14. As far as I’m concerned, this is all within expectations for a beginner textbook. It sounds more like your classmates could use either a review of the lessons in the previous book or more real world experience with Japanese to see the different て-forms in use. A lot of the things textbooks don’t teach, people can acquire on their own. It’s not like they are little hapless chicks waiting patiently in a nest until the teacher comes to drop morsels of knowledge between their open beaks.

On the subject of Marugoto doing a bad job at connecting different lessons and contextualising, I’d have to disagree, though. Marugoto does this thing where it keeps circling back to certain topics and introducing grammar points in increasingly complex scenarios, so if you look a grammar point up in the index at the back of the book, you can see which lessons it has been used in. And it also gives example sentences right there, so you can see at a glance all the different contexts it is used.

And yes, the essays should be free form. But I have found the example essays at the beginning are very good for giving guidance to people who fear the blank sheet most of all and just don’t know what to write or even how to begin.

Any tool can only be as good as its user and textbooks aren’t really meant to teach you the language in full, but act (together with other learning materials) as a springboard to launch you into engaging with the language, so you can then start acquiring it for real. In my view, it is not by learning grammar rules, etc, but by internalising the language through repeated engagement where language ability comes from. And I think Marugoto’s role-playing exercises are a very good first step to get learners more comfortable with certain situations before they start putting it into practice in real life. And the material chosen only further encourages that.

Let’s take a look at a chapter in the book you’re using currently, for example. The second topic is 店で食べる and the activities of the first chapter are:

  • Say the number of people in your party and where you want to be seated in a restaurant.
  • Read a menu vertically in Japanese.
  • Talk about your recommended dish at a restaurant you have taken someone to.
  • Say in simple terms what things you cannot eat or drink and why.
  • Order a meal, saying what dishes you want and how many of each.

Yes, all of these are easy tasks and might not feel very inspiring, especially if you already know how to do all that, but this is what textbooks are all about – teaching beginners very simple interactions that you can put into use in the real world and also learn a few basic things about the culture, like how the restaurant staff speaks differently and some formulaic expressions they might use.

To be fair, I haven’t really used other textbooks extensively, but in my experience, Marugoto does a better job than most in keeping the students engaged and it is very easy to tie the lessons to real world experience. And for a teacher it is also very easy to bring in outside real world material to use together with the lessons.

I appreciate that you gave such a detailed answer and it’s great that you can see all these positive things about Marugoto.

Forgive me that I’m not really interested in a further discussion or analyzing my aversion in detail. I just told you about my personal experience with these books and I don’t doubt that other people will find Marugoto helpful or even enjoy learning with it. :v:

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.