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What’s The Best Japanese Textbook? — 28 Comments

  1. I’m using genki for the rest of my 1000 sentences. I own the three Japanese from Zero books, but I strongly dislike the way they teach Japanese. I used to use Tae Kim, but I got bored. I think it’s too dry. I like Japanese for Busy People since it’s an easy layout and has a lot of sentences. I own Elementary Japanese too, but the layout and the style of teaching is too confusing. Text Fugu is good, but not for me. Japanese Demystified is good too, but not for sentences, in my opinion.

  2. My beginner’s Jpn textbook was Yookoso. It was useful to me when I was an undergraduate and I definitely learned everything it had to provide. I can’t say whether it’s the best though ’cause I’ve never seen the other textbooks so I can’t compare.

  3. I did use a textbook for a year and a half but didn’t even finish it. Can’t remember where it is or what it’s called, but I’m glad I stopped using it. I like Minna no Nihongo because it mainly uses Japanese, but I’ve only come into minimal contact with it.

    Now I’m picking my way through どんなとき、どう使う。日本語表現文型500 which is a book of grammatical expressions with explanations only in Japanese. It’s a bit dry and I use it more as a supplement to my native materials, but I’ve found to be really useful so far. This is a link to it on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/cmrcqc8

  4. The textbook that finally got me to get serious about learning Japanese was Japanese for Everyone.
    For $20, it covered about 450 kanji and 2500 vocabulary words. It also, over the course of the first three chapters, slowly stopped using romaji and expected you to read the kana. They did the same thing with kanji for vocabulary – furigana was given the first 2-3 times, and no more after that. It seems to be comparable to books 1&2 of Genki, but much, much more affordable.
    Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print and impossible to find, which is a shame.

  5. Wow, this is a very interesting pool but I’m so confused! I’ve been studying Japanese for 2 years now, have been using Minna no Nihongo I & II in class and these books are good but not great when it comes to making the student understand what is said outside class considering if, of course, you’re a typical classroom learner (even though that’s one of the main goals of the textbook).
    While trying to have my cake and eat it too, I’ve made use of both Japanese for Busy People III and Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide on my immersion journey, but they were so helpful that it’s a shame to make me choose between one or another. JFBP III has got some real Japanese texts that weren’t dumbed down to a level that’d pull off anyone who wants to go through the intermediate Japanese. The use of Kanji, the vocab, examples and explanations… everything seemed fine to me and the exercises were pretty fun as well, I definitely enjoyed finishing everything. It goes without saying that Tae Kim’s material is amazing, the explanations are informative although I felt he could have put some more examples. Despite that, I still make use of it whenever I need some grammar aid.
    Have to confess that somethings you just have to learn by yourself. When one start learning an agglutinative language like JP, the primary focus is always vocabulary right? I don’t really think any learner must be obsessed with grammar but, it’s important as well. I remember that many J-Pop songs and Japanese versions of K-Pop songs would make use of てく such as in 「止まってく」and「ハマってく」and I just couldn’t find an explanation for the grammatical form! There’s one for ていく in Tae Min’s textbook but I wasn’t smart enough to figure out the contraction at that point. Some other stuff like 「っけ」and「ちなみに」anime taught me to save my life. So keep in mind that immersion is THE WAY, but textbooks can be very helpful if used right ^_~’

  6. I can’t really vote for any text seeing as I’ve only studied “grammar” through Tae Kim’s website. If the poll asked what text books I had used, that would be my choice. In my opinion the way the grammar is broken down, and the large amount of example sentences is what makes Tae Kim’s website great (not to mention the ease with which one can SRS the sentences).

    I have a question for others on here though. When studying grammar what techniques were employed? For example when I went through Tae Kim’s guide at the very beginning of my Japanese Sentence mining my cards didn’t have any grammar points whatsoever. An example:

    Front:
    僕はお酒を飲みたい。

    Back:
    ぼく は おさけ を のみたい。

    飲みたい [のみたい]- want to drink

    • I don’t see why you consider this card to have “no grammar points”, since that’s what I would describe the “飲みたい [のみたい]- want to drink” as being.

      Your card looks normal, i.e., not much different from my cards at that stage, except that I used kanji with furigana (via the japanese support plugin), which I would recommend over pure kana sentences.
      Although, if you are getting those cards from Tae Kim, you might as well just use the shared deck which is available, and save yourself some work (though you might yourself needing to alter the cards here and there).

      • I went through this process about a year ago and was just wondering what others had done to study “grammar”. For some reason I expected a grammar point to mean a general rule on the back of the card.

        As for general study, I’ve never used any pre-made decks (I’m at about 4500 sentences and 15000 MCDs). I preferred to look over Tae Kim’s sentences and choose which ones I wanted. A lot of the time there were repeated examples with only slight changes that could make things confusing with MCDs. Also having my own deck just makes the study of Japanese feel that much more like a personal journey.

        • “For some reason I expected a grammar point to mean a general rule on the back of the card.”
          That seems like too much clutter when you are reviewing and just want to check you were right… At least to me.

          “As for general study, I’ve never used any pre-made decks (I’m at about 4500 sentences and 15000 MCDs). ”
          The Tae Kim deck was the only pre-made deck I used. Since I was just going to be using the sentences from there, and since I was already creating cards from the sentences in the Genki books anyway, there was no much point in creating those myself too, though I did end up having to alter them.

          We appear to maybe be at a similar sentence count (I’m at around 3000 J-J after around 1500 J-J), but I don’t use MCDs, though I have been curious about them. How useful do you find them, and how easy are they to create?

          • “How useful do you find them?”
            I would say that MCDs are probably the most important part of my study. This is how I go about reviewing.
            Front:
            お酒をちょっと飲み過ぎて、僕は今ちょっと[…]っている。

            Back:
            酔 [よ]

            酔う[よう]- 飲んだ酒のアルコール分が体中にまわり、正常な判断や行動がとれなくなったりする。

            To pass the card, I not only have to get the kanji written correctly (I write it out with my finger on my phone screen or on my desk), but also the reading.

            When it comes to learning nouns/kanji compounds learning the reading is incredibly easy. Some examples with the kanji 方: 一方 [いっぽう], 方向 [ほうこう], 方がいい [ほうがいい], 両方 [りょうほう], etc.

            The sentences in my MCD deck and Sentence Deck are exactly the same. I use my MCD deck for learning readings/definitions and reviewing writing, and my Sentence Deck mainly for understanding and overall reading practice (besides books, manga, wiki articles, etc.)

            “How easy are they to create?”
            There’s an MCD plugin that also works with the japanese support plugin, so it’s incredibly easy to make a large amount of cards.

        • What does MCD stand for, I’ve been trying to follow along with your conversation but I don’t know what this means? In addition, what’s this sentence thing your talking about? Sounds interesting! :)

  7. ”When it comes to learning nouns/kanji compounds learning the reading is incredibly easy. Some examples with the kanji 方: 一方 [いっぽう], 方向 [ほうこう], 方がいい [ほうがいい], 両方 [りょうほう], etc. ”

    Is this meant to be any different from your “drunken” card? I.e., would you be seeing each of those readings from an MCD sentence card, or do they appear together in a single card? (I personally learned the readings of those examples from normal sentence cards, so I don’t see what you are getting at in this case).

    And how do you do MCD cards for stuff that is harder to figure out from context? Or for some abstract word you just saw for the first time and are trying to learn but the definition of which you don’t feel fully confident about yet?

    “I use my MCD deck for learning readings/definitions and reviewing writing, and my Sentence Deck mainly for understanding and overall reading practice”

    So you don’t test correct readings in the Sentence Deck?

    And just how many daily reviews are you up to these days? Your MCD deck is a bit gigantic…

  8. ‘Is this meant to be any different from your “drunken” card? I.e., would you be seeing each of those readings from an MCD sentence card, or do they appear together in a single card?’

    Naw, they’re not different. I MCD sentences. Those were just examples of words with common kanji.

    “And how do you do MCD cards for stuff that is harder to figure out from context? ”

    I can’t put my finger on it, but somehow you just figure it out. I try to make sure I find sentences with plenty of context, sometimes one can figure out the meaning of the word just from the context of the sentences. I also have a strict i+1 rule that helps with this.

    “So you don’t test correct readings in the Sentence Deck?”

    I do, in that when I read aloud the cards, the readings are on the back. However, there are no definitions on the back. Since I learn/review my MCD deck first I rarely fail my sentence cards. I fail maybe 1 or 2 everyday.

    “And just how many daily reviews are you up to these days?”
    Kanji Deck: 5-10 (~1min)
    MCDs: 200-250 + 25-35 new (~45min)
    Sentences:80-100 + 15 new (~15min)

    It’s kinda a huge number, but I somehow manage to get my reviews done in about an hour.

    • “It’s kinda a huge number, but I somehow manage to get my reviews done in about an hour.”

      Actually that’s not huge at all. You are doing around the same amount of cards per day total that I am (I’m averaging 300+ reviews day, with currently 13 new sentences daily), except to me it takes me maybe 100 min to review, which I guess is explained at least partially by the fact that I always read the full sentences, which should take longer than MCD cards.

      But even so, you do seem to have a genuinely faster pace (how much this has to do with the fact that I do not have a strict i+1 rule I don’t know), and maybe the MCDs have a lot of the credit… I think I’ll try introducing some into my daily “diet”.

      One more question though: you have about 3 times more MCD cards than sentence cards. Do you find that this is a steady average, or was it higher at the beginning and has now been declining?

      • “Do you find that this is a steady average, or was it higher at the beginning and has now been declining?”

        At first when I was doing Tae Kim’s grammar guide, I would MCD the entire sentence (so I would end up with a card for each character) which initially gave me a ton of cards. At the moment I’m adding about twice as many MCD cards compared to sentence cards so the average is tending towards that.

        Also I didn’t mention it earlier, but when I review MCDs there are situations in which I haven’t seen a card for a while and guess a “wrong” yet similar kanji (meaning) for a card. These 曖昧 cards I delete without hesitation.

        P.S. Sorry good people of JALUP for carrying on such a long convo in ur comments. Maybe JALUP would benefit from a forum ;)

        • “At first when I was doing Tae Kim’s grammar guide, I would MCD the entire sentence (so I would end up with a card for each character) which initially gave me a ton of cards.”

          I can imagine. That actually sounds like a measure of questionable sanity :p. It also helps explain why you have so many cards, and why it was so important for you to get to choose your Tae Kim cards.

          Anyway, I’ve started my own MCD deck. The plugin actually make the cards ridiculously easy to create (I’m actually having to restrain myself), and realized that most likely one of the reasons why your MCD cards can be reviewed faster is the lack of sound.

          Whether I will really like MCDs or not is to early to tell, of course, but they definitely promote interesting types of interaction with the words.

          Thanks for all the help and patience.

          P.S.: I don’t think anyone will resent this convo too much, even if it is a tad off topic…

          • On average MCD cards rep way faster than sentences because there is one singular answer. Most of the time you can just look at the surrounding context and nail it, thus actually having to read the entire sentence or even several of the sentences is pretty rare.

            If you do find a card where the answer and context don’t work out then just delete it. If that information is truly important then it will come up again in a new card or you’ll acquire it another way.

            Finally if you have any questions or feature requests be sure and open an issue on the Google Code site!

            • I have a question about the MCD plugin, actually. I’ve been trying to start making MCDs, but I don’t know how to make multiple MCDs at one time. How?

        • It’s fine. The discussion between the two of you is most likely helpful to other readers as well.

          Though, I have been considering the possibility of a forum recently…

  9. I second Japanese for Everyone (FYI it is NOT the same as Minna no Nihongo). I’m using it now, about halfway through and I like it. Definitely not for everyone though…its pages are dense with information, it’s fast-paced, and it doesn’t hold your hand at all, but if you want an inexpensive textbook and you can handle a lot of information thrown at you, take a look! It’s still in print, but occasionally it takes Amazon a while to get more copies. It wasn’t available on amazon for a few months but it’s available again now. The audio is out of print, but if you don’t feel guilty you can find it online and download it.

    • I’ve seen this trend with some good textbooks going out of print. I guess they just can’t sell enough to always be available.

      Thanks for the review!

  10. Japanese for Everyone. Genki 1 and 2 on speed with less a less studenty flavour to the vocab. Great for people who’ve dabbled in Tae Kim’s Guide and want to zoom up to a position where they can work towards N3.

  11. I have a question: I finished Genki 1+2 and bought the Tobira textbook (and grammar workbook) as the next logical step in progression. However, reading this site, I’ve found that it looks like using native materials instead is suggested at this point. Tobira is a very (very) dense textbook, and I was wondering if I should just cut my losses and not use it, instead opting for J-J cards with native materials. It might be difficult to take out sentences from the grammar sections due to the fact that they use vocabulary I don’t know without furigana to enter them into the computer.

    • -I was going to say “use Tobira” since you have already spent money on it but after thinking…(assuming you have ~90% understanding of Genki 1+2) the most efficient way would be starting J-J, now.
      For any grammar you come across that gives you trouble, and you can’t understand it in Japanese use the tobira text book.

      -There may be Tobira anki decks available with kanji and furigana on anki website. Just remove the English field and you should be good to go.

      -It’s great you are not letting sunk costs affect your decisions.

      -After ~4000 JalUp sentences I can personally attest to the fact that going monolingual is one of the most important steps in language learning. The sooner, the better.

  12. I’ve used japanese for busy people, but only the first book, which I really didn’t enjoy at all. I’ve been able to learn much better and at a faster pace with Minna no Nihongo, but this was with a teacher. I’m planning to pick up genki at some point because I’ve heard good things, and it might be a better resource when self learning.
    My brother studies Japanese at university and they use Human Japanese Language in 90 days. Seems like a pretty good textbook and is all in kana and kanji which I really like. I’m going to borrow them while he’s home. I can’t find Japanese for everyone anywhere though.

  13. Just want to share this amazing website. http://www.imabi.net/ its grammar is so vast and even teaches classical Japanese. I always go to this website when I have trouble with grammar used in jalup beginner

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