What's the best textbook for self-study?

There is romaji in Genki I in the first two lessons only. After that it moves into mostly hirigana with some kanji, and more and more kanji as you progress through the textbook. I haven’t opened Genki II yet, but I imagine it continues to ramp up the kanji and drop more hiragana away.

I was very distracted for the first two chapters, but they were also so easy grammar-wise (for someone like me who’s been watching anime in Japanese for 19 years with English subtitles… and already had greetings down pat), I was able to mostly skip those.

1 Like

I’m using Minna no Nihongo - and the content is fine, but a warning to the old and feeble (like me), the text is really hard to read. I had to buy a magnifiying glass.

1 Like

I recently bought Japanese Sentence Patterns for Effective Communication, which is actually a self-study course; it introduces a pattern, gives some examples and explanation, and then gives you a quiz to practice. I think it works well with WaniKani, because you can cover the romanization with a bookmark and then practice your Kanji skills at the same time. I haven’t finished it yet, so I don’t know how comprehensive the material is.


I’ve seen a lot of posts suggesting Genki, which I think is a good place to start.

But I’ve also seen something that I felt like I wanted to point out.

I’m all about saving money where I can, but the price of a textbook shouldn’t deter you from getting it. Of course, buy used over new every time. Save as much as you can, where ever you can. Look at websites like abebooks.com or bookfinder.com But if you’re in need of a physical textbook, guess what, you’re probably going to have to buy one. You’re most likely already paying for WK, what’s a couple more dollars? If you’re seriously committed towards learning the language, 30 dollars is an investment that is worth taking. As others have pointed out, there are vast amounts of Japanese language tools for free too. JapaneseAmmo is pretty good for beginners. I’ve seen Tae Kim thrown around too. Just remember not to overwhelm yourself! Work through one textbook at a time. I tried working through Genki and my night class textbook and just ended up confusing myself.

You (most likely) won’t become fluent in a language within a year or two. You’ll be learning it for the rest of your life. But if you set yourself up with a good start, it’ll get easier in the future. Think of it like cooking: sure, buying new pots/pans/silverware is pretty expensive and going for groceries adds up. The start up costs are a bit high, but pretty soon, you’ll spend more money by eating out every day as opposed to cooking it at home. Same with language. Pay the 30 dollars for the textbook now, and enjoy the language as long as you continue learning it.

That to me, is priceless. Don’t put a price on knowledge.

Unless you’re the American education system, which has robbed me of all of my money and will continue to do so for the next twenty years. :joy:


Japanese For Busy People

This is more a question than an answer to you, sorry. I want to study for the JLPT 5 and 4 and I’ve seen people recommend Minna no Nihongo for that purpose, but I also read good reviews about A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar so I need to decide between these two.
Everyone seem to throw in Genki, I’m so confused because they say it’s one of the best but also that it’s not that good for self-learners and it’s boring, then on the tofugu blog there’s a post saying that A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar explains things better than Genki (don’t remember which post it was). It’s normal since everyone has their own thoughts about something but who should I believe, help.

1 Like

A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar is just that, a dictionary. It’s not intended to be used like a textbook. Do you normally read the dictionary in English (or whatever your native language is, if something else)? That’s not to say it isn’t useful. I have the first volume (“Basic”) and find it very useful when I don’t understand a specific grammar point. But the main difference is that a textbook builds on what you have learned from one chapter/lesson to another, whereas A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar is just a collection of grammar points sorted alphabetically.


I see, thank you, the “dictionary” part of the name got me confused for a moment but I didn’t give it too much thought, so it should work well as a supplement, right? (I’m Italian btw ^^)

1 Like

Didn’t read through all comments, but here is my recomendations:

Of all the ones I’ve tried I love Japanese from Zero the most =)
They start of basic enough, and progress at a nice enough pace so you feel you get to grasp it without being overwhelmed.
I also love Japanese the Manga Way, though you need to work on it yourself to fully grasp it and remember what it teach (I use flash cards with it)
I’ve more recently gotten Japanese in Mangaland, which works on the same principle but made in to more of a workbook with lessons to help learn and remember. They look great but have yet to find time/energy to actuall try them =)

Yes, it works very well as a supplement.


Dutch person here as well !!! Hi there! I just started WK haha.

Welkom! :smiley:

I just got myself the Tobira textbook and the Tobira grammar workbook for when I’m done with Genki II, next to that I have also gotten myself the Dictionary of Basic / Intermediate Japanese Grammar books and I’m loving them! It’s so handy to use as a reference!

Finally, I also took a look at Japanese the Manga Way, and I like it a lot so far. I think it works well as a fun way to reinforce the grammar learned from other sources, and not per say for learning from scratch because it lacks exercises. Which for me, makes the grammar stick way better.

I just bought Japanese For Everyone thanks to this topic! It sounded like the one that would work best for me and the reviews were good (even the Amazon one-star reviews that said it was “too challenging” lol). Mostly I wanted a beginners text book that didn’t feel so slow (since I have studied Japanese before in the classroom, even if it was like… 8 years ago and I’ve completely forgotten most of the lessons while remembering the rest really well. Kinda frustrating!). Also it sounds like it has a lot of content for a low price. Definitely hoping I’ll like it! If not I’ll buy Japanese the Manga Way :wink:


I’m wondering about finally investing in Genki. At the beginning I thought I could primarily learn with TextFugu. I’ve realized that was a mistake. There is a lot of content missing later, especially exercises. I already purchased Basic/Intermediate Dictionary of Japanese Grammar and Japanese the Manga Way to supplement TextFugu, but the lack of exercises is, well, terrible. I feel kind of ridiculous at this point, but maybe someone else can learn from my stuggle at least?

Anyway, what I would like to know is, is it really necessary to get the workbook, audio CD, and answer key for Genki? The cheapest I can find is about $40 USD which is about $50 CAD, so it’s a little pricey but not the worst, but to get the whole bundle would be…quite painfully expensive at this point. (Yeah I know, it’s my fault, I should have started here, but everyone said it was SO BORING!)

Edit: managed to find a $38 CAD one, yay! But my question is still valid.

I didn’t buy the answer key myself, but got it from “other sources”. The answer key is very handy though, as many exercises have some trick questions at the end (e.g. use of irregular verbs) which could easily be overlooked if you can’t check your answer. So I would definitely recommend it!

1 Like

+1 for Japanese the Manga Way. I bought the book a little too late into my studies to learn much grammar from it, but it’s still a very good book. I enjoyed flipping through the pages and reading the explanations. Some of them were really helpful to make sense of some of the more tricky grammar points.

I’m still wondering which one I should get: Minna no Nihongo or Genki?

Gotcha :wink: What about the workbook and audio CD? Do you find the textbook + answer key are enough?

I would say the workbook is required. I usually skip the classroom exercises in the textbook and do all workbook exercises after finishing the chapter. Without doing the workbook exercises the grammar really wouldn’t stick in my memory.

The main point is that doing the exercises requires you to actually think about conjugations, sentence structure and other grammar points while answering the questions. Next to this, it builds well upon the previously learned grammar points, which gets you used to using it.

Cool! I think you’re the only other person I’ve seen on here with that book. I used it and thought it was great. You’re right about the amount of content. Pretty sure it covers more than any other book plus the textbook itself functions as a workbook since it’s packed with exercises. It is definitely challenging, but there’s the internet to help you out these days so it shouldn’t be a problem.