Textbook or no?

Is a textbook necessary to get a good foundation in the Japanese language?
I know from myself I’m not really a textbook guy. For now, I got the lingedeer or bunpo if I get the paid version, of course, an app where I will go through the n4 section.


I might not be necessary but I would say is a good “hack” I didn’t buy something like a textbook to have a good foundation on English, but I did read a good amount of blogs and an English course focused on grammar, but even so, sometimes I’m doubtful about my grammar skills, I still think they’re not as good.

The point here is, reading something that is structure definitely is a lifesaver, it helps you clarify and get a feel for the language you are aiming to learn in a quicker way.


I think so, but I am not you so :man_shrugging:
Kidding aside, it all depends how you learn. Despite having BunPro, I still like to go through the chapters in Genki. So in my case, yes on the textbooks. But only you will have the answer as to how effective one might be for you. Have you checked your local library for a Japanese textbook you can use? Try it out so you don’t have to pay for a textbook you may not want to use.

All the best @izildop!


Personally, I don’t do very well with textbook usage. I found having a copy of Genki I around has been nice reference material to have for review, but I’ve basically learned everything and more outside of Genki, and at a much faster pace than if I had tried reading it cover to cover.

If you have any friends who are learning through Genki I still found it good practice to try the scenarios or do the picture matchups that the book has.

If you’ve never checked out Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese then I would suggest giving it a look. Tons of good material there, and I like how it’s explained compared to a textbook. I always double back and check Tae Kim’s after learning some grammar in Bunpro to see if I can get any clarification or verify that I’m using certain mechanics correctly.


I’d recommend anything that allows you to do exercises to practice what you learn. I think that’s particularly important early on. I personally used Japanese From Zero, which is targeted towards self learners.


I would say a textbook is great but to also be sure not to rely solely on the textbook and to find plenty of other resources. Especially for beginners I would say it can be vital, because who knows where to begin?

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We used paper sheet back then when I took japanese lessons, it was fun because of the teach and you could also ask questions.

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You can look up in a textbook when you need further information.

I would use a textbook to get a grip on the basics but not really worry about “learning” everything. It’s good to read through. On average people spend too much time on basics in my opinion. I try to get to listening and reading more “real” material as fast as possible. Also they’re usually pretty boring.

I don’t find exercises that helpful and hate them so I never do them.

I think getting stuck reading Tae Kim really stumped my previous attempts at learning Japanese because I was trying to understand everything as a beginner when I didn’t even have the experience for it yet.


Okay, my Japanese is not brilliant to say the least (in fact it’s downright awful, so don’t take any advice from me), but I just don’t understand why anyone would spend time in a boring (and often patronising) textbook when they can jump into actual native material which is much more fun.

Of course actually, I do understand, it’s to get a foundation in the basics and so on and so forth, but just those very words “foundation in the basics” make me want to sleep. I’d rather be having a great time sinking or swimming in a volume of Yotsuba than trying to keep my eyelids open in a text book full of impenetrable grammar and facile “culture tips”.

So, for me, no, no way!


I’m super curious about how you got your foundations! Native material + grammar reference maybe?

(Personally I mostly like the structure and hand-holding a textbook gives, but totally agree that native materials are fun once we’re comfortable enough to use them! :blush:)

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I’d say skim through a grammar guide such as Introduction – Learn Japanese
To get a basic understanding of grammar. Then just use it as a reference. For example, if you’re reading some Japanese and keep seeing the structure 〜っぱなし popping up, reread the relevant section in the guide.

At least, that seems to be working for me


I found the first two books of Japanese From Zero to be quite interesting actually. And I know you know from experience, but without a solid foundation, real Japanese books and manga can be quite difficult and even painful.


Nor am I, and honestly I have a hard time answering this question.

On one hand, I think a textbook can be good to provide a guided path along with related materials (Tobira has Anki decks, several textbooks have audio CD’s…).

On the other hand, I honestly don’t know which textbook I’d recommend for beginner Japanese. I don’t know if there’s anything out there that’s great.

I picked up Genki, and I didn’t love it for self study. Might be great for a college classroom setting. But it seemed slow and hand-holdy with topics centered on like… “Ask your study partner about their major.” My freshman year was 17 years ago, and I don’t have any study partner here at home :laughing:

I tried Textfugu briefly (from the same crew as WK) and didn’t love that either. Felt way too verbose and “fluffed” leaving me like, “Okay can we just cut to the chase here?”

I did enjoy Tobira a bit more than the Genki series. Seemed a bit more serious - but it’s not a beginner book. Also thoroughly enjoy the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (and the Intermediate and Advanced editions) because it’s very information dense with clear examples. But that’s a grammar dictionary rather than a textbook.


Absolutely frickin´ no. Textbooks like Genki are really only helpful in a classroom setting in my experience. The only redeeming thing about them for self learners is to get yet another view on some grammar point, but there are so many different perspectives already on the internet that even that argument kind of checks out.
However i agree with seanblue on the Japanese From Zero series, it´s a really comfortable introduction to japanese - if you aren´t that far in your adventure, that is.
Personally, if i could go back in time, i would start with JFZ while getting a different view with Tae Kim´s content, then i would move on to Imabi for really deep insights and review all of that with BunPro. Every once in a while i would use the fantastic Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar and beyond!

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I use native material + wk bookclubs!

That’s still what I use, it’s my main learning tool (right now I’m working through Girls Last Tour, vol.2).

But… as seanblue says…

Oh yes, seanblue is right, I’ve had a good share of pain!

But I’ve never used a textbook, I know I never will, and despite the pain and setbacks, and despite my age and lack of ability in languages, I am slowly learning this language!


Sure, a textbook, Tae Kim, YouTube channel… I think you should read / listen about grammar, but without getting overly concerned about drilling exercises or too much practice from the book itself. That’s where I think more engaging material (graded readers and basic native material) can quickly provide something to progress over. Soon you won’t be reading about grammar first but looking new grammar points that you’re encountering while reading, which really helps to keep the interest.

So, nothing wrong about textbooks, but keeping the time you spend with those progressively been less than with real material I think is a much more practical use for them.


My question was always how can you notice a grammar point? The beginner is simple like no, wa, mo etc…

Some sort of textbook (be it Tae Kim’s guide or something else) might be a good starting point, and if you discover that you learn just as well without them, you could drop them!
Here’s what I did/am doing:

  • Started off with Japanese From Zero 1, then finished it in maybe a month
  • Went on to do the BunPro N5 and N4 courses
  • Started Wanikani
  • Borrowed Genki 2 from a library (skipped Genki 1), read all the grammar stuff and did some exercises (not all of them, they get pretty redundant after awhile if you’re already using BunPro)
  • Did the N3 course on BunPro, now on N2 course
  • I might go through Tobira to reinforce the N3 grammar? Still deciding…
  • Did some Memrise courses here and there

Interspersed with all of this, I try to consume native materials when I can, be it from manga, video games, YouTube videos, browsing on Twitter, etc… Doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as you can practice Japanese! I even read a strategy guide for Final Fantasy V for practice! I think if you decide to go textbook free, you have to make sure that you use Japanese outside of BunPro and Wanikani, like joining one of the bookclubs here on WK. If you can find some way to do some grammar exercises online, do those to!

Unlike vocab, grammar structures are limited. So after you cover some basic ones, you’ll notice that you can go over basic text just by looking anything new in a dictionary (after a point looking up new grammar ain’t so different from any other new vocabulary you bump in with), with the small difference that most relevant grammar structures will appear over and over while reading, even more so that regular vocab, as such a simple explanation upon your first look up will be reinforced many times after that first encounter. Which is also why for me drilling exercises or adding any SRS routine to grammar never felt so useful as just consuming media.