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

I used Japanese for Busy People - it was the textbook used in the language class I took at a community center and then I kept going on my own. While yes it has a business focus it’s also very easy to use in self study: each chapter has a sample dialogue, a short explanation of the grammar point, and a variety of exercises with an answer key in the back. It really gave me a solid foundation.


Well, I’m only familiar with Nakama…

They’re both mentioned in Tobira as being good prerequisites, so I’m pretty sure they’re similar in content, if not in approach.

I didn’t use Genki though I did purchase a few textbooks (Japanese the Manga Way, Japanese Step by Step, Tobira, and a couple others I don’t remember). I just read through them but mainly used Tae Kim as a reference in the beginning. Once I began to read Japanese, I started looking up grammar points and studying patterns used from conversation partners from Hello Talk. I ended up purchasing Shin Kanzen Master Grammar and Vocabulary books when I was taking the N2 but never end up going through the entire books. I feel the majority of my learning came from online resources (Tae Kim, Learn Japanese Adventure, Maggie Sensei, Renshuu, etc.). I find it easier for me to grasp concepts when they are explained in different ways using different examples.

Like the OP, I have a hard time giving suggestions to new learners because my learning path was littered with a lot of different resources. What I have done is shared with them what I have used, which I feel is enough.


I started my 日本語 journey by learning ひらがな and カタカナ with this simple and helpful site. I also fully immerse myself in Japanese music and anime to build listening skills and solidify simple vocabulary understanding. Along with other resources I have tried like Punipuni japan, Japanesepod101, and plenty of japanese learning videos on youtube.

Human Japanese and Bunpro :ok_hand:

I also have one of the Cure Dolly e-books and found it to be a nice little supplement to certain grammar points. I also went through the entire Duolingo Japanese course prior to starting WK, but that was more as a supplement and a refresher than a standalone tool.

When I was at a bookstore a few months ago I paged through this book (Essential Japanese Grammar) and found it to be pretty cool. Not sure how it stacks up against the “Dictionary of Japanese Grammar” series, but I might try to look up both someday to compare.

I’ve looked at Genki a few times and find that it’s really tailored for a classroom setting. I find the Human Japanese series to be more friendly to self-learners who are completely new to the language.


Maybe I’m not being totally fair on it. My Japanese history is pretty scattered. I learned from Genki I and II in high school and early college, then finished an intermediate course at my university (the last offered, which completed my minor), then didn’t use it in any serious way for six years and resumed serious self-study after coming to Japan.

I remember things like 1) the true implications of the volitional form (I would say I genuinely had to relearn this at some point in intermediate study), 2) topic-subject constructions and 3) the idea of when to use passive voice in Japanese vs. English all being fairly opaque to me until late college, if not last year, and some of those issues I maintained glancing through other peoples’ Genki books recently. I feel like everyone I know who used Genki came away with misunderstandings about things like は and が and the volitional (for both general verbs and でしょう/だろう) after they might have been easily clarified. Like, I remember it giving you all kinds of sentences like 私はねこが好きです, obviously, but not really being clear about what’s happening grammatically there in a way that would allow you to make your own basic statements like 田中さんは集中力が強い。Volitional-form explanation stopping at “let’s” (which I think it does?) also covers one usage, sort of, but can actually be prohibitive in dealing with the uses that start to come up in intermediate study, and I think makes the languages feel more 1:1 than they really need to. I wish they were more up front with ideas like, “Hey, this just means doing something voluntarily. In context it can mean ‘Let’s,’ but keep in mind this general meaning for situations down the line.” It’s not too much to present. Those two are emblematic of my feelings that it generally backs away from grammar and ideas without a 1:1 English equivalent more than it needs to, and establishing those things early on can really help.

But it’s been forever since I actually used it, so maybe that’s on me. To be clear, I have been recommending it in the meantime, because it definitely does instill the foundations, but that’s mostly been for lack of a better option. I might be off, or other resources like the Basic Dictionary might have filled in some of the fundamentals for you that Genki leaves half-clear. (Though I do like textbooks and like the way Genki is structured.)

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I first started dabbling with the language in 2011 or so (when I was still in middle school), learned kana somehow and watched some of Tae Kim’s videos as well as a few by a guy called gimmeaflakeman. All in all, I didn’t really learn anything that could be considered usable Japanese. Also bought some books for kanji after getting all excited but Remembering the Kanji proved useless as I had no context as to how to use the kanji or how to say them.

What I “restarted” with was with a Japanese 101 class this past spring, which had us using Japanese: The Spoken Language/The Written Language. It doesn’t seem like a particularly common book in comparison to JFZ or Genki, and it has heavy emphasis on getting you to look at complete conversations first, then working backwards and learning the vocabulary and the grammar. The grammar explanations are fan-fucking-tastic IMO. I’m sure reading a further dumbed down explanation like you’d see in most places would not do me any favors. The audio/video parts included helped with understanding the context as well. I can’t say too much about the “Written Language” part though since I already knew katakana and apparently that’s all we went through in that class for actually writing Japanese. Fortunately got all these other online sources such as WaniKani to make learning Japanese a relative cinch.

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I started with online version of JFZ (and finished it some time ago), I also read thru Tae Kim’s book, and have it at hand for reference. Now I’m mostly doing WaniKani, watching Misa’s videos and try to read simple things (like なぜ?どうして or よつばと).

me too, swear by them

I’m not as far advanced as most of the others here but do have as well a bit scattered history of things. I took a few days to learn ひらがな and カタカナ with Heising. I took an evening class (due to having a full time job) where we used みんなの日本語. I did like the book and the classroom setting for diving right into the Japanese writing system and having speaking practice with others. Class got cancelled due to low attendance and I then got recommended WK, started until lvl 3 then stopped again. Took a semi break and now picked up WK + Bunpro as my main learning resources and using みんなの日本語 as an exercise supplement. Especially since みんなの日本語 has also a lot of listening exercises.

I started with Textfugu many years ago. From there, I started using Tae Kim’s Guide to Grammar, which helped me a lot. Then I took Japanese courses using Situational, Functional Japanese. This is a textbook series (3 volumes total, which has accompanying workbooks) which not a lot of people ever mention. I found it to be a great guide, though. I feel it does go into grammar a bit more than Genki and covers all of the basic grammar.

However, I recently started again from scratch and just needed a review so I’ve picked up Genki + the workbooks for myself. I find that the sheer amount of practice and listening comprehension is quite useful, although it’s mostly just review for me.

I also have わくわく文法リスニング100耳で学ぶ日本語 (Mastering Japanese by Ear) which I found to be a valuable secondary source of listening comprehension which is over 100 pages of listening exercises, complete with an answer key and script at the back of the book, making it useful for self learners.

And, I have Graded Readers (Ask Publishing Japanese Graded Readers). These are fantastic to get you reading actual material. It gives a huge boost to your confidence when you’re able to read a book and makes you feel like you’re making progress. Very rewarding and great to put your skills to use in a fun and controlled way that’s less overwhelming than trying to read actual native materials. They’re expensive but you might be able to find them at your library, especially if you live in Japan. My partner goes to a foreign studies university so luckily they have a ton of them there that I was able to get my hands on.

I started with with minna no nihongo, because of my school.

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I’ve been using Human Japanese. I’m not that far in my studies so I might not be the best judge of quality, but so far, it seems to be striking a good balance between introducing concepts gently and being honest about them, and it’s easy to follow if you’re self-studying. I would definitely recommend it, but only to a complete beginner, since it has some things about it that would be very annoying to someone a little further along (the lack of kanji, for example).

Ive been learning since August with Pimsleur and Wanikani as my core, then adding memrise for vocab, Bunpro - following the lesson links for grammar lessons, Duolingo, and Tae Kim for reference. Tried Japanese from zero book 1 but really hated the mutated Romaji. And 5 days to n5 which I’ll probably fail but has been a great push to encourage me to learn grammar.

I started with a website called Nihongo Master. I then started Wanikani and NHK Easy, and basically looked up whatever grammar I didn’t know. Then I did Genki, and hated it. After many failed attempts to get through the books, I forced myself to do it about 2 years ago. Hated it. Then I read straight through Tae Kim’s guide.

At this point, I’ve reverted to my previous method of reading first, checking grammar second. I make notes as I go and review grammar points I don’t know. I also use Lang-8 as a chance to test my understanding. My references are Basic Dictionary of Japanese Grammar and Tae Kim.

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Rosetta Stone, which was the WORST decision.

I’ve dabbled with a LOT of resources over time, including genki, minna no nihongo, pimsleur, japanesepod101, and even the 55 year old Beginning Japanese by Eleanor Harz Jorden.

But if I remember correctly, I think my real start at actually learning Japanese was Tae Kim and Human Japanese (which I guess used to have a lot of free content? I don’t remember paying for it). So those are the two thinfs I tend to recommend to people. I remember specifically that Human Japanese is what taught me what the kana are supposed to sound like.

Those two things got me started pretty well, but I’m very self-motivated in language study and hate going through textbooks. I also recommend wanikani now.

Same here. I found the format kind of intimidating at first but I really enjoyed the number of example sentences it provided. And that the practice questions had answers at the back!

In my Japanese class, we use the Bunka series. I like it since it’s 100% in Japanese, but I do feel like you need a teacher to help you, because there’s not really a lot of explanation about grammar points. It’s more or less example after example and you need to figure it out from there.

Japanese for Busy People. It’s what is used by the the classes taught by a Japanese culture organization in my city.

For grammar self-study, I use a combination of Tae Kim and Wasabi.

I used Japanese from zero to start it was amazingly helpful in teaching me hiragana and basic starter grammar the vocabulary is also very useful

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