As mentioned in my last post (here), I recently finished the Genki 1 textbook and workbook, and in doing so appear to have reached a point where passing the JLPT N5 is looking fairly promising.
Anyone who is learning Japanese will no doubt already be aware that the Genki books come quite highly recommended by countless people who have used them, review sites, Japanese tutors and even language schools themselves. So there really isn’t much point in me attempting to do a review of the Genki 1 books as there are already so many out there. I will just simply say that having completed them, I fully agree with all the praise these books get, and that they really are worth every penny.
Instead of doing a review, I thought I would just go over a few things which I found worked for me when studying with the books; and give a few pointers on what I realise I could have done differently to get more out of the books.
Approaching the lessons
There are 12 lessons in Genki 1, each lesson opens with a dialogue, followed by two pages of vocab, followed by pages explaining the core topic of the lesson (grammar points, verb forms etc), followed by various exercises. There is accompanying audio for the dialogue, and for the listening exercises (A CD is provided with the book, but MP3s are available online & on YouTube).
When approaching the lessons I found it easier to read the vocab list first, then read the dialogue, followed by the grammar section. The exercises in the early lessons are quite easy to finish in one study session, but for some of the later lessons I found it best to split them over two study sessions, re-reading the grammar section at the start of the second one. With the workbook I found it best to work a week behind, so if I was doing lesson 8 in the textbook, then I would also do the exercises from lesson 7 in the workbook to make sure I still remembered the content from the previous week.
The questions in the workbook are similar to the ones in the textbook. The textbook does not come with an answer key, but one is available separately. I didn’t buy the answer key, but instead for any questions to which I didn’t feel confident in my answers to, I would post on Hello Talk where native speakers would check (and if needed correct) my answers.
Look at the back of the book!
From lesson 4 onwards you will start to see kanji used in the textbook (don’t worry they have furigana), but the lessons don’t teach kanji, they just introduce it to get you used to seeing and reading it. Toward the back of the book, just after lesson 12 there are actually extra exercises for each lesson, and each of these starts off by listing about 10-12 kanji which are used in the book.
So from lesson 4 it’s worth skipping ahead to this section and looking at the kanji list so you will have a better understanding when working through the lesson. The back of the workbook also contains kanji to provide writing practice for them
I didn’t actually realise these extra exercises were there till I was quite near the end of the book, so I just did them all once I’d finished lesson 12. But if you are currently working through the book then I would suggest doing these as you go, as these exercises give a little more variety, with things like larger dialogues and word searches. (the workbook also has additional exercises for each lesson at the end of it).
Now look at the very back of the book!
Hidden away at the very back of the book is a verb conjugation chart, and a dictionary with all of the words in the book. This is incredibly useful for if you need a reminder while doing the exercises and something I didn’t actually realise existed until about lesson 7 or 8! So if you are using Genki and you haven’t looked at the back of the book yet, the please do so, it really will make your life easier!
Do the pair work even if you’re alone!
Huh, that sub heading actually sounds a little depressing. But what I mean by this is even if you are self studying then make sure to still do the pair work and classroom exercises in the books. These are typically things like “ask classmates what they did on the weekend” or “ask your partner what type of music they like” etc. Now for self study that’s obviously a little difficult, but don’t skip them! I ended up just imagining a variety of answers and writing them down to practice various vocab and sentence structure.
Talk to yourself!
Hmmm, I’m starting to sound more crazy by the minute here! Studying alone can do that to you! Anyway, when your studying make sure to read out the dialogues and questions aloud, even do so when you are writing down your answers. As mentioned above there are some tasks where the book asks you to question classmates and write down their responses, if you are studying alone, then ask questions out aloud to yourself.
Self studying offers very few chances at speaking practice unless you go out of your way to do it. For extra practice you could actually record your questions and post a voice message on Hello Talk to get responses to write down. Though I didn’t do that as the idea has only just occurred to me!
Write everything down, and I mean everything!
This may sound obvious, but when self studying it can be very tempting to read a question then just write down just one or two words as an answer. But if a question asks you to fill in the blanks of a sentence, then don’t just write the answer down. Copy out the question and write out the whole sentence as the answer. Not only will this make more sense if you look back through your notebook, but the more writing practice the better (especially with kanji!).
Genki 1 starts using kanji early on, so should you!
As I’ve mentioned, from lesson 4 Genki 1 starts to introduce kanji. Because the kanji has furigana it’s very easy to gloss over it and just read the furigana instead. Which is exactly what I did, I decided to use Genki to just focus on grammar, verbs and vocab, and would practice kanji by using my separate kanji book.
But from about lesson 6 or 7 I started paying more attention to the kanji in the dialogues, copying out the questions with kanji, and using it in my answers. This approach helped me memorize kanji a lot more effectively than by just writing out lines of the same character like I was doing with my kanji book. That’s not to say the book I have for kanji is bad, it’s just that I have found it much easier to learn kanji readings and meanings by seeing it in the context of sentences or dialogues.
If you get in the habit of using kanji in your answers for all of the exercises in the lessons, the workbook exercises, and the extra exercise as the back of the books, then you’ll be surprised just how much you’ll have practiced each character.
Get some apps which have content based around the Genki books.
The Japan Times (the company behind the Genki books) have created some flashcard apps to further help with your studies using Genki. The kanji and vocab apps are available on both Android and iOS, but the verb conjugation one is only currently on iOS.
They are paid apps (£4.49 each on Android, £5.99 each on iOS), the prices are a quite steep considering that they are quite basic flashcard apps, but the content in them does cover both the Genki 1 and Genki 2 books.
I have been using the kanji and vocab app on Android, and have found them helpful. Although there are lots of other free flashcard alternatives out there which will do the job just as well, so a bit of searching around could save you some money. (I’ll be writing more about some apps I’m currently using in another post soon)
Hopefully there’s a few tips there that can be of some use to anyone just starting out with Genki 1. In the meantime for me, onto Genki 2 I go! If you are currently studying using Genki and have any tips of your own, then please share them, I’d love to here what works your you.