Struggling with Genki

Can confirm genki is hard and needlessly confusing. Definitely was written with the idea that there would be a teacher we could confirm items with. Also I’m a bit of an idiot so that doesn’t help. Works great as a reference guide though

I’m also using Minna no Nihongo! It’s actually not that bad if you focus on learning the vocab before trying to read the lesson. What I do is put the lesson vocab into Anki and run through it until I feel comfortable with it. This generally takes at least a week. I also spend time learning to write the kanji and taking physical notes on some of the words, but that’s optional.

If you SRS the vocab words ahead of time, the only thing you have to decipher while reading is the grammar. Usually I read the grammar section in the translation text before I start to read, then try to just read through the main textbook without referencing the translation text at all. It’s surprisingly really effective!

I do all of the exercises just off of my own memory without referencing the translation text, then check the answers at the back of the book, and if I got anything wrong, I take the time to figure out what my mistake was, and why the correct answer is what it is.

Lessons take me about two weeks to work through with this process. Basically, I try to get at least something done every day. The first half of the time, I just focus on learning the vocab, and sometimes my only textbook study for the day is 20 minutes on Anki (most days I spend substantially less time than that on Anki, but when I’m working through new lesson vocab, it takes longer).

Once I move on to actually working through the lesson text and exercises, it usually takes me several days to get through the textbook and my workbooks (I have two of the workbooks, the Bunkei Renshucho and the Hyojun Mondaishu. They’re optional, but nice practice). If I don’t have a lot of time/energy, sometimes I’ll only get a section or two done, but other days I’ll work for over an hour. As long as I’m getting at least a little work done each day, I feel pretty good about it.

If I had more time and wanted to get through the lessons faster, I could start learning the next lesson’s vocab while working through the exercises of the previous chapter, but my two week pace works for me.

I would say a good strategy for successfully using MNN that probably also applies to most other Japanese textbooks is to: 1) break down the process into concrete steps so you know exactly what your task is for the day, and 2) learn the vocab before reading the chapter.


I’m not crazy about Genki, either. I much prefer Japanese From Zero, and George’s videos on youtube.

Other people have given really good explanations of how to approach the textbook. I just wanted to add on that for me, if I’m not retaining information (be it vocab or grammar) it’s usually a sign to me that I need to try using it more. I’m shit at memorizing, and I have an allergic reaction to flashcards (I’m barely hanging on with wanikani lol).

In order to learn new words and grammar I try to do a lot of practice. That’s what I like about Minna no Nihongo; it gives you some really easy, very repetitive practice activities to get your feet wet and then builds in complexity. The Genki textbook/workbook activities give you more advanced practice. If I’m still struggling after that, I’d try and write my own sentences using the grammar. If you’re unsure if you’re doing it right, you can use something like HiNative to get a native speaker to check the sentence for you.

I approach vocab similarly. I have to use it to remember it. That means making sentences, reading simple texts when possible, ect. It can also mean just accepting that you won’t always remember every word. Some words on the vocab list are more important than others. You should definitely walk out of Chapter 1 remembering that にほんご means Japanese lol. But I remember for a fact that せんこう (college major) and けいざい (economics) are in Genki Chapter 1 and tbh I only actually got to those words down like last month. I’m studying for the N2 now for context lol. If the vocab you’re really struggling with are the words that don’t really matter, it’s ok to write them off as half remembered and solidify that knowledge later.


I just wanted to take a second to thank you (and everyone else) for the thoughtful, helpful replies here. I’ve ordered Minna no Nihongo and look forward to something I can (hopefully) wrap my brain around. You guys are the best.


If you do try the strategy of SRS-ing the MNN vocab, one thing that has worked well for me is using Yomichan to add audio to my Anki flash cards. I have a MNN deck installed that I downloaded from someone else, and I go through all of the vocab cards before each lesson and double-check them (whoever made the premade deck made some errors in it, so if you download a deck that someone else uploaded, it’s good to double-check it) and also remove furigana on kanji that I already know, and add in audio if it’s available (if you create a card with Yomichan, you can copy the audio link in the card and paste it into another card).

It ends up creating a little extra work for you at the beginning of the lesson, but it pays off in the long run, in my opinion, because at least for me, I’ve noticed that putting in the work here goes a long way to help me recognize the words when I hear them spoken aloud.

If you don’t like working with Anki, or you want a good quality flash card deck without having to do the work of fixing it yourself, there are other programs that are already set up to SRS the MNN vocab. I think Memrise has all the vocab for the textbook, and I believe Renshuu has it as well.

My reasoning for going with Anki is that I want as much of my SRS outside of WK to be in the same place if possible, and Anki is the most stable and flexible program out of all of the options available, and is also free. It can be a bit outdated and clunky, but it integrates with many other programs and also can be heavily customized. There are definitely pluses and minuses, though!

The good news is you will already know a lot of the vocab and the kanji from WaniKani, so that will mean that learning the vocab for the lessons is less work for you! And if the WK method is one that has worked for you, I think you’ll have pretty good success with doing a similar method here. does too! Minna no Nihongo I – Prebuilt decks – jpdb


I really struggled with Genki also when I started out. Everyone in my class seemed to understand everything perfectly.

Years later when I started to study for a Japanese test I was surprised by how much I understood when I read genki again.

My journey of learning Japanese have been like that. I revisit something years later and it is shocking how much I improve. Wish I could improve faster lol


One important thing to remember is that outputting Japanese is a different skill from understanding it. If you’re really struggling to produce it doesn’t mean you’re not improving - you’re just not improving at output as much as you’d like. I’m also primarily interesting in understanding written and spoken Japanese so I don’t worry when I screw up output because I don’t practice it much. Ignoring output when starting out is actually recommended by some people, particularly in the mass immersion community.

As for 50% on reviews, it never feels good when you don’t do well but everyone has their bad days - I got a 16% on wanikani one day! It sucked but it was at least 16% better for my Japanese than not doing the reviews at all xD

As for Genki specifically, I’m working through the last lesson of Genki 1 right now and I can tell you I’ve forgotten a TON of content from earlier lessons. Some of that material I spent extra time drilling and/or went back to multiple times too! A lot of times content you just need to keep seeing the same thing in different context before it really clicks. Just keep practicing and trying different resources and I promise you you’ll eventually get it and it’ll seem natural!


Hey - I was wondering if you could answer a question I had regarding Minna no Nihongo? I didn’t want to make a new thread.
I’m wondering what the pink boxes are on page 8 (repeated elsewhere through the book) and why there are arrows by the problem numbers on page 9 and 10. That would help me a lot to know. Thanks!

The pink boxes in the 練習(れんしゅう)A sections are showing you different words that you can plug into the sentence structure. The darker pink ones are how to ask a question. This part confused me at first, too, because I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be doing! Then I figured out that it isn’t asking me to pick the right answer (all of the examples are correct), just showing me some possible sentences. I recommend reading through it and making sure that you can understand what’s going on in all of the sentences, but you don’t have to worry about answering any questions!

The arrows by the questions in the other exercises are just indicating that the question accompanies an illustration, and it’s pointing at the illustration that you will need to reference in order to answer them.

Don’t worry, these things confused me at first, too, haha! But once you get through the first lesson and figure out the style of the textbook, it gets a lot easier.

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Thank you! I’m doing the first set of exercises now and boy are they more manageable than Genki. I actually like the book being all in Japanese because I feel like my brain has to apply what I’ve learned moreso than a book in English. I may go back to Genki after finishing Minna no Nihongo and see if I can actually wrap my head around it, but this is great so far!

I’m glad it’s working well for you! I completely agree about really liking it being all in Japanese. I feel like it also makes diving into native materials less intimidating because you’re already used to looking at pages full of text in Japanese.

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If using Genki, I recommend this: Genki Exercises - 2nd Edition | Genki Study Resources for the exercises. Seth has reworked all the exercises to useable.

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I thought I’d chime in here since I am also struggling with Genki.
Actually, I’m not, because I haven’t opened it in a month… I’m also on chapter three.
I find myself putting off going anywhere near it!

I was trying to do all the exercises - in the text and the workbook - (except some of the paintwork) and I think I was finding it just to tedious…
I’m not ready to give up on it and try a different textbook, but after reading the replies here I’m going to try a different approach.
I’m going to try just reading through and only doing a couple of exercises if I feel like it. If I get a loose idea of how things work that’ll be good and I can make another pass through later.
Thanks for the helpful discussion everyone!

Edited to add:
I have a Genki deck on Anki that I have been using intermittently… I think I will rededicate myself to that, as well as putting in some daily minimal effort into the text itself :slight_smile:


Hey, just wanted to say that I’m kind of in the same boat, down to your experience with BunPro!
I also mainly want to read and understand rather than write and speak. I believe these skills will come easier eventually with input.

Going through Genki has been kind of a slog, and I always feel that I’m skimming through the chapters without retaining as much as I should. The fact that the textbook exercises are meant for a classroom (and therefore I can’t really do them) also make me feel like I’m ‘‘cheating’’ by skipping. I do have the workbook and answer key, but I haven’t really been using them and, instead, been using BunPro as a tool for drilling the grammar points using the Genki route. I think that’s okay.

The conjugation stuff really caught me off guard! I guess I was growing accustomed to WaniKani basically spoonfeeding me mnemonics and stuff. I was doing really bad at BunPro reviews, couldn’t remember a thing. What helped me a little bit was creating some crude mnemonics in my head for the conjugation charts, and basically sticking with it even if I was doing really bad.

I hope Minna no Nihongo proves fruitful to you. Also, thanks to everyone who replied with tips and encouraging words. It wasn’t my thread but it was certainly relevant to me.