Why do some people dislike Tae Kim's guide?

I don’t understand why some people advise against using it and such. I find it very easy to understand and neatly categorized. Genki is a mess in comparison IMO opinion (from a learner’s point of view) with all the exercises designed for classrooms. The number one criticism I hear is that it has some mistakes, but none of those people specify what mistakes there are.


Not sure to be honest, but I just wanted to say if it works for you then that’s great and you should continue using it.

As far as there being mistakes, I’m not sure if there are, but this is why it’s important to get a lot of input and use a variety of sources when learning especially with languages. If you purely rely on one source for your knowledge and it’s full of mistakes you would never know.

If you use multiple sources, and you find inconsistencies / inaccuracies or lots of exceptions it might be worth looking into and trying to find out exactly what’s right and what’s wrong.


This video covers some complaints (が, だ, conjugation):

Whether you agree or disagree with her assessment will probably be based on what you’ve learned, and how you’ve learned it (where you’ve learned it from).


I started out with Tae Kim and I found it super fun and easy to learn with. I wouldn’t worry about the “mistakes”. Even if there are some (I didn’t notice any) they wont stop you from learning the grammar anyways.


I used it for a bit too, not really bad, but honestly has a suboptimal approach to japanese grammar.

It’s really the same old issue textbooks have with becoming “grammar points” instead of teaching why the grammar is the way it is and enabling the students to actually understand grammar.

It’s like teaching people how to cook one particular dish, but not teaching them how to boil/fry/braise/stew/etc. any ingredient they have on hand.
Ultimately you cant cook, you can only replicate one dish through pure memorization.
Much the same happens in japanese if all you do is memorize grammar points. If a sentence has a grammar point you can remember, you can understand it. But if its any variation of the same grammatical function you cant remember youre f****d because you dont know how it works conceptually (as in actually understanding the grammar structure and not just a single example).

Now im not saying Tae Kim fails completely in this regard, but he just doesnt do it well enough to justify it. Genki is just a trainwreck at this point…

This is also a reason why i like cure dolly, because she targets concepts, not individual grammar points. She uses the top down approach i like to use in my studies aswell to find the core concept. Knowing the logic behind something means theres no need to memorize all the various shapes it can appear in, because it’s the same thing (which is not the case if you choose to memorize each variation without understanding the concept itself)
Note that this works particularly well with japanese because most of it is pretty logical, much more so than any european language i know of. (meaning for most other languages we are required to memorize more special cases)


For the most part I like Tae Kim’s approach. It’s short, to the point, focuses on literal translations (which is so important for beginners, yet so horrendously overlooked by many textbooks), etc.

But on some topics, I think he’s a little too brief. I treat his guide sort of like a quick and dirty reference, which is great. When I forgot some piece of grammar that I’ve already studied before, or want a little clarification, I find his short and to the point writings to be awesome. But if it was the first time I was seeing some of that material, I’m not sure if it would be as useful to me as some other sources.


There are several topics about Tae Kim if you search.

  1. Tae Kim’s guide has almost no exercises. Genki’s workbook has lots and lots of exercises that can be done outside classroom. Exercises take time so Genki’s slow pace is actually a plus.
  2. Genki has a slow pace but if you just want a quick reference to a grammar point, then instead of using Tae Kim’s guide, you are better served by using a Grammar Dictionary.
  3. Genki has lots of dialogues and other reading materials (in the second half of the book) so you are exposed to more context.
  4. Tae Kim has some weird personal view about the が particle.
  5. Lack of credentials. I never saw anyone mentioning this before so this is probably a minority opinion. But I tend to trust professionals rather than amateurs that think they know better:

Tae Kim started learning Japanese in college and ended the first year very confused and only able to use the polite form. Eventually, he figured out how to talk like a real person and started a website for learning Japanese (www.guidetojapanese.org) to explain everything he had to figure out on his own.

Since then, he has worked at a big Japanese company in Japan as a Java developer, passed the JLPT level 1, got a perfect score in TOEIC (the Japanese company administered it every year) , and continues to work on his next book for learning Japanese in his spare time.

I think the lure of Tae Kim’s guide is because one can read and finish it very fast but that grammar is not going to sink unless you do lots and lots of exercises but then you are better served with Genki.


OP: I suggest you just search the forums for this topic. There have been plenty of discussion about his guide already.

And perhaps, start here with this rather comprehensive review of what’s problematic about Tae Kim’s guide:


There have been a lot of discussions about his work. In the end, I think it’s a decent starting point.

You’ll learn a lot from it, but by the time you understand enough to appreciate the criticisms people have of his guide, you’ll be ready to jump ship anyway. Anything from Cure Dolly (also a bit iffy, but usually good enough) to imabi to A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar or maybe even The Structure of the Japanese Language aka the only linguistics book I actually finished will do. Just something that looks at the language from a more nuanced perspective than “grammar points”


Care to elaborate? Would you say it’s suitable for people who aren’t linguistics majors? I’ve been trying to find a book that will explain ‘what makes Japanese tick’ in its own right without making ham-fisted equivalences with English.

Maybe? It’s been about two years so I can’t give too detailed of a review

I’d say it’s a suitable book for non-linguistics majors in the sense that it doesn’t get bogged down trying to explain it’s way through every minute detail of the linguistics discourse for whatever the topic is. Kind of just throws out a reasonable explanation and peaces out.

You may need a dictionary to look up random linguistics terms, as it is a linguistics book, but it’s not as if it’s a linguistics book written to contest the findings of other linguistics books.

It’s definitely not trying to make equivalences with English (which I would argue things like Tae Kim or any “grammar point” based guide would).

Instead, it hits upon many fundamental topics such as analyzing Japanese as a (primarily) left-branching language, postpositions, how interpretations of verb/adjective “tense” differ between English and Japanese (preferring to think of it in terms of states, and perfect/imperfect instead of the standard English past/present/future paradigm).

On the other hand, some of the topics are pretty inconsequential, depending on what level of Japanese you’d like to acquire (ex: in this grammar construction, what difference does it make in feel to a native if you swap out this particle for this), and if you’re not planning on becoming a Japanese wordsmith, they can be skipped.

Not every topic has a perfectly delivered conclusion. The chapter on what exactly ている means left me with a terrible existential dread that I didn’t have before I read it.

Overall, I learned a lot from it and found it interesting. One linguistics book is good enough for me though.


This sounds like it’s exactly what I’m looking for! I’m going to give it a go :grin: Cheers!

1 Like

40 bucks on Amazon and no ebook available :cold_sweat:

1 Like

That’s academia for ya


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.