People who didn't start with Genki, what did you use?

I’ve been curious about this for a while. Both on the forums and in real life, I’ve been in situations where I’ve made recommendations to beginners recently, and I always have to begrudgingly point them toward Genki, because although I have some misgivings with it, as far as I’m aware it’s still the best there is.

I used it in high school and got a foundation it’s … fine, but it oversimplifies elements of the language to a point I think almost requires you to unlearn them later, and I feel like it also backs off on highlighting some of the differences between English and Japanese to its detriment.

Are there any other good textbook alternatives though? Is there something I could point adult learners to that’s a little less afraid of frank grammar talk, etc.? I’m especially interested in hearing from people who didn’t start with Genki, and what they used to get a foundation, especially if they’re at least intermediate now (i.e. they’ve kept up after whatever they started with).


I used Nakama, roughly equivalent to Genki. Also used Japanese for Busy People and TextFugu for side-study. And read the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar literally from cover to cover. :smile:



Then this:


Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide was my foundation, but I also used a variety of other sources on occasion.

I’m getting that for Christmas, I’m excited! I’ve heard it recommended so many times.


@jprspereira I know videos can be effective from using Nihongo no Mori for N2 grammar review/clarification. How did it go for you not having a workbook though? Or did Bunpro substitute? (Bunpro’s another thing I’ve been iffy on for intermediate levels, but it probably is effective with the simpler structures at lower levels.)

@Belthazar Nakama is a textbook, right? I guess it’d be hard to find people who are familiar with both that and Genki, but are you aware of any differences in approach? (I can look into it too; just curious.)

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KawaJapa CureDolly really helped to make some basics clear to me, since they explain JP grammar as JP grammar. They don’t explain things by way of English grammar, which is much more useful to me as a non-native English speaker.

Yes, they use a grating voice filter and a creepy digital avatar, but if you can manage to look past that, there is useful stuff there. They’ve also released two very affordable books online of their work, and have a website.


I used Tae Kim’s Guide as well as Genki, I also highly recommend A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. Other than that BunPro is a good resource for only 30 dollars a year.


In my opinion, Misa’s videos (in English) are the best out there, easily. Her quality is pretty high, the only downside is that she’s still adding videos… and those require work (cuz good stuff takes time). Because of that reason, she doesn’t have an extensive list. She covers until halfway of N4. But to be honest, I still believe that it’s better to do Misa’s videos and then jump to Tae Kim’s grammar guide/other textbook once you’re finished.

Bunpro is like going to cram school after classes. The fact that you can search by a grammar point and check the links they recommend in a matter of seconds makes it pretty good already (you can do this using the free version). So, going from textbook => Bunpro links is a very good method to make sure the new info is solid :100:

I didn’t use textbooks because I don’t like any (tried Genki, Tae Kim’s, Tobira, shinkanzen master series). And that’s why I’m trying to make my own…


Same here :ok_hand:


@jprspereira’s textbook is going to be the best, so everyone should just wait for that :smile:


It’s going to indeed. :crazy_face: But please don’t wait…


If that becomes a reality I’ll definitely buy it.


Really I don’t think the resources you choose matter too much, do what works for you, everyone is different. It’s the journey not the destination that’s important, have fun, experiment, and try new things.

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I used Japanese From Zero, which was pretty good as an absolute beginner.


Exactly how I started.
Before Japanese From Zero, I had been using a couple of apps, like Duolingo and another one to learn Kana, for a few weeks, and then I decided I wanted to take it to the next level. Since Japanese was always quite intimidating for me, I searched for the best Japanese resources to learn. This series came highly recommended in a list I saw, and once I read the Amazon reviews, I knew it was the right choice.

I’m just finishing the second book, and I plan on buying the next two this month. It’s really good for anyone that’s just starting and it doesn’t overwhelm you with too many things at once. Also, the youtube videos, made by the book’s author, that accompany each lesson are very good and a it’s a nice way to cement what you’ve learned.

Besides Japanese From Zero, I’m also using Japanese the Manga Way, and I love it. Really helpful to understand more difficult grammar.

As for Genki, what threw me off was how they have separate books, like one as a textbook for the lessons, another one as a workbook and yet another one as the answer keys. Too expensive and not that practical, in my opinion.


I started with Duolingo and then got frustrated with the lack of explanation of what was going on from a grammar perspective. I picked up Genki along the way but have also worked through a lot of the Maroguto Online available from the Japan Foundation. Sprinkle in some LingoDeer and a couple of weeks at a Japanese Language School that introduced me to Minna no Nihongo.

I guess I am a textbook and tool dilettante; my current focus is on consolidating what I currently know, wanikani, bunpro and kaniwani with more reading, watching and listening. My goal is to attempt the N4 next year.

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i tried out a lot, but my priorities were clear from the start: i needed to understand spoken japanese, and i had to become able to speak, since i planned to move to japan, to be with my wife.

so what i did was pimsleur, then michel thomas, then japanesepod101. i used smart fm (now iknow) for hiragana, katakana. imabi was a reference guide for me.

i basically learned the absolute basics from michel thomas, while getting drilled by pimsleur was great to make me speak. pimsleur is also an SRS in audio format, which helped me remember a lot of things until i’d understand them later, after meeting them again on jpod.
japanesepod then took me to some very solid upper intermediate level.
i came to japan first on a student visa, enrolled in a japanese language school, but graduated the 2 year course in 1 year, since everything they could teach me, i’d already know (but it did it’s job of providing me with a visa, which is what i wanted out of it really).

i used other stuff, of course, like rikaikun, which enabled me to practice on lang-8, twitter, facebook. i tried out various resources to get the kanji into my head, found wk, did that for a while, then dropped out again and just started again relatively recently.

i didn’t use any traditional textbooks to learn myself.

my school then went with みんなの日本語, but that was all repetition for me.
i found michel thomas to be awesome to start out with, then japanesepod101 to take you to a level where you can listen/speak fairly well.

it would be a crime to not mention that, with all that prior knowledge and practice of 2 years, coming to and living in japan had a huge impact on my language abilities. i got to listen to japanese all day long, and to try out my fledgling speaking skill. my wife has been using japanese with me from the start, too. both listening and speaking are physical skills and require training. nothing gets you around that, and i had ample opportunity to practice.

i’m now working on reading and the kanji, after a few attempts in the past, including wk. wanikani provides guidance, a well trodden path. it’s not perfect, but the best there is for what it does.

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Tae Kim -----> Japanese Ammo with Misa ----> BunPro ----> Tobira

-----------------------N5/N4-ish -------------------------- Finish N4 ------ N3/N2ish

I know Tae Kim is always presented as a beginner source but he also teaches quite a few N3/N2 grammar points as well.

Also, fun fact, I got to the 40’ish in WK before I even started Misa’s videos. My learning was really lopsided…


That’s definitely true–the motivation of the leaner is always going to matter a lot more than which material they use (provided we’re talking about professional study material anyway)–but they definitely have individual strengths and weaknesses.

Genki makes for good, gentle classroom foundations, but in particular I’ve taken issue with things like the way it teaches (or doesn’t teach) the true meaning of things like the volitional form, obfuscating は vs. が (and the larger implications that has for foundational Japanese sentence constructions that don’t parallel English well), and other topics that require really delving into Japanese grammar and its differences from English. Its approach means there are things I had to functionally unlearn at an intermediate level, and I feel like there has to be something that’s a little more upfront about grammar and language differences for adult learners who can hack it. Especially being on JET, and recommending beginner materials to other JETs, when they’ll be surrounded by elements of the language everyday that I don’t feel Genki makes as clear as it could. (Again, because my vibe is that it backs away from hard grammar discussion as much as it can and kind of goes too far trying to match everything up to English parallels, which is … okay … for the kind of English-language classroom learning it’s designed for.)

Thanks for the input so far, everyone! Good to have a few more things to look into!


That’s interesting, I didn’t have that experience using Genki at all. I found it explained the grammar points simply and effectively. I used Genki I, II, Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, and 中級から上級への日本語, and I didn’t feel like I had to unlearn anything along the way. I also supplemented things with the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar and Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar.

I took and passed JLPT N3 after Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, and then got distracted with other things after 中級から上級への日本語, so I never got around to taking N2, I could probably pass it with a bit of a refresher though.

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