Struggling with Genki

So Genki and I aren’t getting along as well as I’d like. I’m only on chapter 3 and I’m finding the exercises (the ones that you CAN do by yourself) insanely difficult. It’s like I read it, I understand it, until I have to apply it and then it’s back to square one.
At this point I should also mention that I have bad ADHD.
But anyway. I’m using Genki, Tokini Andy’s videos, Bunpro, the Genki github and occasionally CureDolly. I’m absolutely sucking at Bunpro now that I’m on verb conjugations too.
I try to do the github exercises but I can’t understand what they’re asking me.
I’m so frustrated you guys. Does anyone have any advice? Anyone else struggle with this book? Should I get a different one? I just want to start moving forwards again and I feel so trapped.
Thanks for reading my rant, if nothing else.


I loved Genki but before using it, I was using an app called Human Japanese (1 & 2) that gives a superficial but broad and motivating coverage of basic Japanese grammar. When I used Genki, I was reviewing the HJ content at a deeper level.


I wouldn’t take too much pressure about doing all the exercises. Feel free to just move forward and come back to them later if you feel like it. You’ll probably at least browse the book a few times, so you can just get a feel of the content on the first read. You don’t need to (or can’t) master the basics as a beginner, anyway. It’s a gradual process.

Personally, I was never a fan of exercises, and progressed just fine without them. I know some people swear by them, but I just hate having to test myself constantly.


I might be one of those people :joy:

Personally, they really helped me in practicing and were of more use than the ones in Tae Kim’s guide.

As I understand you’re starting from the very beginning, right? :slight_smile:
I would say any first grammar book would be challenging so don’t feel bad about it.

Sticking to Genki sounds like a good idea, because it really goes from the very basics, even kana and kanji wise and covers important grammar points with decent explanations from natives.

We could devote this thread to helping you work through the book, for instance, like in the other thread about Cure Dolly’s videos, to kind of better understand where the difficulties are and how to address them :slight_smile: .

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Don’t feel bad for struggling to learn grammar, it is MUCH harder than learning through WK. I am feeling the same way right now with Genki 2.

What I will say(that probably won’t help) is that Japanese is a highly contextual language. If you are coming at this from English like I am, it boggles the mind how many words are omitted during speech. Words like “he”, “she”, “you”, and “I” are rarely uttered in every sentence like in English.

I would suggest going through the examples and trying to understand how they are being translated. Japanese <=> English translations are far from perfect 1:1 conversions. It’s difficult to describe, but you’ll eventually learn to understand Japanese grammar as you become exposed to more Japanese sentences.

Also, give yourself some time :slight_smile: if you ever need help, you can always on the forums and we’ll do our best to clarify things.


Have you yet tried joining the Absolute Beginner Book Club, and learning grammar as you go that way?

I found textbook-style learning didn’t work for me, but looking up grammar as I went through reading a manga worked a lot better for me. The book clubs make it even easier when first starting out with grammar because you have more context, and book club discussion of the grammar is targeted to the specific usage case.

The first book or manga is always the most difficult thing to read, and will be a huge struggle. But after a few volumes of struggling, it only gets easier from there. (Until you pick up a book or manga from a different author. And then move on to something more difficult.)


I skipped the exercises on chapter 1 and 2 but 3 is on verb conjugation and every resource I have is seeming to stress that that’s really important. My worry is when I go back to chapter 1 and 2 stuff with the github, I can’t do that either. So I worry I’m not really learning anything? Bunpro is helping me some with grammar but now that that’s on verb conjugations too it’s a really big struggle.

Yea I started with the beginning and have made it all the way to chapter 3. I understand the stuff at a basic level but I can’t apply it to anything. I’m however not sure I need to as my goal with Japanese is to be able to read, maybe listen, not speak.

I did try the absolute beginner book club once (with the doggy detective book) and it was a hot mess. I just wound up reading the English translations cuz there was so little I knew kanji-wise and even less grammar-wise. It was a very frustrating experience where I had no clue what I was doing or how to do it better.

Is it a matter of having trouble with building sentences like “a dog sits on the table” ? I had this issue at the very beginning, for instance. It does get easier the more vocabulary and grammar patterns you pick up and the more you practice them.

This is a fairly important detail. In that case what you need is the following:

  • understanding basic grammar patterns (not necessarily needing to use them)
  • verb conjugation (at least basic knowledge on how it works, what verb groups there are and how they undergo conjugation in different tenses)
  • kanji (this you will get from WaniKani)
  • vocabulary (this you will pick up while reading books)

This is completely normal :slight_smile: . The first manga/novel/book will be a massive challenge and a page/week struggle. But the more you read, the easier it gets, because you pick up more grammar patterns, nuances, vocab, etc. The main real issue I see is needing to know at least some grammar (N4 level would be good), but that you can pick up reading JLPT level guides, online resources like , vids, etc.


Yep. That’s a huge part of it. Every single sentence I try on Github I get exactly backwards. Even doing basic stuff like は and の particles (together in one sentence) I’m backwards. It’s so discouraging.
I’m not doing stellar with Bunpro either. Yesterday I got 50% on my reviews. The verb conjugations are killing me.
I’m working on my graded readers but I’m not sure how to make the best use of them. I so far have understood about 80% of one of the level 0 books, as my record. Was thinking about making flashcards of the kanji in them but not sure how to really slam home the grammar points.
Thank you for the link! I’ll be sure to check that site out.

I really like Sarah Moon Japanese’s Youtube Genki series. She goes through the books (her Genki I series is complete and she’s working through II) and adds a lot more context and examples than you get by only reading the book. It’s a great companion to help self-study.


Hmm that sounds like you might just need more exposure to how Japanese word order works. I think Tae Kim’s guide is pretty good at explaining that, even though it gets very technical about parts of speech sometimes. But maybe that would be useful here :slight_smile: .

That’s awesome! :smiley: Sounds like reading might be a good approach for you.

Instead of flashcards of kanji, I would recommend flashcards of words with those kanji so that you can better approximate the nuance of each kanji. One doesn’t always need to know explicitly what a kanji means, but rather what kind of emotion (anger, fear, joy, etc.) or concept (love, big, small, cat, dog, etc.) it encapsulates.

I actually do have flashcards for grammar points, but mostly so that I don’t forget them through the lack of exposure. Truth is, some grammar structures are so nuanced, you might not see them very often, especially at the beginning.


My 2 cents is to not worry about it too much: making mistakes is part of the process and its normal to not remember things at first. Especially with really basic grammar, these things will continue to be re-enforced as you continue learning and then one day, magically, things will just start to click in place. When you are reading over explanation, can you understanding the general gist of what they are saying? Yes? Then you are good. Being able to reproduce that knowledge on demand will come later with practice.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but I would actually just move on to the next Genki chapter. As you continue, you will naturally review what you’ve already learnt and start consolidating your knowledge. You might have to keep referencing those early chapters when doing the exercise, and understanding the example sentences, but eventually it will sink in. Repetition is key here.

Also: if you feel like you are hitting your head against a wall with bunpro, or the other practice websites, feel free to just put them on pause for a bit. Sometimes a break can work wonders.


I also kind of struggled with Genki at the beginning. I was doing the exercises, but I felt like I still didn’t have a grasp on what I was learning. I ended up doing the first half of Genki, stopping, then starting from scratch with Minna no Nihongo, and then switching back to Genki. What I like about Minna no Nihongo is that it has a lot more really basic drills. I find the activities to be easier overall and they’re great for just drilling grammar forms into your head. Genki has more application and free response questions, which is more difficult, but great for working on your high level understanding and output abilities.

So if you’re struggling, I would recommend doing the Minna no Nihongo sections for that grammar point, then doing Genki.

I agree with this. I studied with genki, cure dolly, and other grammar sites about basic particles and conjugations many times over and it still didn’t feel natural for me to conjugate verbs and construct simple sentences and stuff. Later on as I read more sentences, learned more complex grammar points, and made a few sentences on my own (though maybe you wouldn’t do this if your goal is understanding input only not output) I felt conjugating verbs were so natural I could do it unconsciously when learning new vocab in WK and I could skim through the topic of the sentence (the words before は) and focus on the latter half of the sentence instantly when I needed to. In the end, it is my belief that if you read more and more and increase exposure to Japanese grammar, you’ll find that the basic grammar will come natural to you as long as you have a basic foundation (that you’ve already learned from Genki).


I’m looking at Minna no Nihongo. Looks promising but also intimidating! I can’t even keep up with the Genki work so the idea of something as busy as Minna no Nihongo is a little scary. How did you conquer it?
That being said I worked a little on chapter 4 of Genki today and I am so lost you guys. I can’t retain anything. It’s in one ear and out the other. I want to go back to Human Japanese (mentioned earlier in this thread) but I remember it having way more vocab than I could keep up with. Genki has a lot of vocab too and I’m having a similar problem.
Sorry. Just overwhelmed. I’m not good at choices.

Instead of doing the exercises I just find examples of the grammar and vocab in sentences on the sentence search website, and then use the sentences to make flashcards in Anki with audio.

The grammar points also come up elsewhere in my studies so I don’t really worry about memorizing them all or practicing as I go through the book.

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As far as Minna no Nihongo goes - honestly, the fact that the main text is in Japanese is intimidating, but definitely also makes the whole prospect of looking at all Japanese text less frightening. The pages are not particularly dense. The exercise pages are denser, but it will be 5 of the same exercise with different vocabulary, then a slightly different exercise - so you might be making these sentences in 1 exercise

  • this is a pen
  • this is a pencil
  • this is a book
  • this is a table
  • this is a dictionary
    That high repetition is quite nice - they give you the structure in the example, and you just substitute in other vocabulary words, at least for the initial exercises in the chapter.

All the grammar explanations and vocabulary lists are in the translation guide, and are in whatever language you get that in (English, French, there are options). I sometimes get annoyed at the exercises for being too rote/repetitive, but I never feel like I don’t know what they want me to do, or like I can’t figure out how to do it.

I know there are tons of add on books for Minna no Nihongo - the main book + translation guide is all I have, and it’s done fine as far as getting me comfortable enough with grammar to start reading (with lots of looking up of things I haven’t learned yet, but that’s expected), and fairly well at helping me start to form sentences (I’ll note the level of sentence I can form is way behind what I can understand, and that’s fine with me - I mostly want to read stuff) - if I was getting another one of their books, I might look at the reading comprehension one, because I really enjoy the reading exercises in the book as we get further along

I too have decision paralysis all the time - there are so many resources, and I always want to pick the best one, but have gradually come to ‘the best one is the one that I’m successfully using right now’ - when I’m not successfully using it anymore, I need to look at myself, but I also need to look at whether that resource is the right fit for me right now


I do pop in and out of other grammar resources, especially to look up specific points, or learn more details about a point that I learned, but don’t seem to quite get when I see it being used. I’ve used apps just to practice conjugating verbs and adjectives and recalling which conjugation is which. But it’s definitely helpful to have a main source that’s helping you sequence your learning.

Honestly, my husband uses LingoDeer (he’s quite ADHD, not a textbook person) and it introduces stuff super gradually, along with vocabulary, which is nice. Mostly it’s motivating for him to have a streak to keep working on a thing everyday. If that’s something that helps you, it might also be a good option. For the real basics, the source doesn’t matter a ton - they’ll all introduce the basic concepts - with more or less detail, and more or less practice - and you can certainly use other resources to dig deeper into that grammar point if/when you find you’re missing something.


I don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet. I find that stuff doesn’t stick as well for me if I don’t hear it while reading. It’s harder to recall the sounds of it in my mind if I haven’t heard it yet. I highly recommend saying the basic conjugations out loud as you look at them (if you don’t already). It will help your brain get used to the new arrangement of sounds, and it will be laying the groundwork for when you start speaking, too. I think Genki says somewhere near the beginning to say the basic/dictionary form next to the conjugated form as you learn it (especially for the beginning). 食べる たべる、食べます たべます。 買う かう、買います かいます。Just as you listen to the WK words when you learn them, listen to the conjugations, too (even if you are the one making the audio).


I was just about to pop in here to suggest Lingodeer! I think that there definitely comes a point where you will want to move onto other resources but I think it introduces the beginning concepts really well and at a nice pace. I used it to cover maybe the first 3/4 of N5 content and then moved to other tools/reading. The other thing I used right at the start of studying was Pimsleur, which I also dropped after maybe 3 or 4 months in but also think helped in the beginning as it introduces new concepts gradually with a lot of practice and speaking and hearing things as well as reading them helped. There’s so many tools out there, sure there will be one that works for you :slight_smile: