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Hey everyone, I've been lurking for a day or so, and decided to get an account
I'm literally just starting on the long quest to learn the language. So I'm a beginning beginner, if you will. I'm still making the decision as to which textbook would be best, but I'm leaning towards the Genki series. So any recommendations (there's about a million ways to go about this, so far) as to what would be the best course of action would be much appreciated.
I'm a college student at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, however, no Japanese course is offered (although a few students get to go to Japan every year, so hopefully in the future I can do that) . So I'm currently only able to do self-teaching methods. I haven't found a native Japanese speaker around here yet, although my English teacher spent two years in Japan, so he may have some insights.
Either way, yeah, I'm the new guy. I hope to be posting in something other than English not too long from now!
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I haven't used the Genki series myself but those that have generally give it a good recommendation.
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I think getting a textbook is a great idea because it provides you with a structured path forward so that you can mark your progression and have confidence that you're learning solid and accurate material etc.
I also have Japanese For Everyone which is much more compact with less hand holding, but covers roughly the same amount of material as Genki I and II in one book with the answers and a vocabulary index included in the back.
I can confidently recommend both.
Genki I goes at a slower pace and does a lot more explanation etc... it also starts with formal Japanese and doesn't start introducing informal Japanese until several chapters in. While this, in my opinion, makes it easier to understand as you go forward, I was anxious to start learning informal/casual Japanese so that I could better understand the Japanese I saw in the TJP chat room and in tv shows, anime, etc.
Japanese For Everyone dives right in with casual Japanese (along with the formal) right from the start and expects you to be comfortable reading kana without romaji by the time you start lesson 2 on page ~32 (kanji are introduced as you go, and furigana included the first few times you see them until they feel you should be familiar with them). You'll spend more time referencing back to material you've covered, or charts for conjugations, or looking up words in the back etc... but it keeps a good pace and if you don't mind having to do that extra bit of work, you can really start to feel that you're gaining a functional grasp of the language sooner (again, in my opinion). Basically less hand holding and much more dense, but excellent material that you can start applying immediately.
I'll attach an image from each to give you an idea what I mean.
The JFE book is much more dense and introduces things right as you move along, so that a grammar point is introduced and you are questioned on it immediately afterward, generally right on the same page etc. Vocabulary is introduced integrated into the material as you go and new words have their definitions given sometimes at the bottom of the pages, or sometimes following a section of text etc. I often don't notice these until after I've already looked up a new word in the back of the book.
Each lesson starts with 2 pages of an ongoing story about the characters Michael and Barbara Webb (and their friends and coworkers etc) written in Japanese that you need to try to understand. Each story is meant to be a little beyond your current level as it will be introducing new grammar points and vocabulary that you'll be covering in that lesson. By the end of it they'll give you a reading comprehension test to see if you've gained enough new understanding from the lesson to understand a paragraph they give you and be able to answer some questions about it.
It's a bit more intense over all, and I believe the audio material is no longer available(?). But for the price it's a great deal.
Genki is much more spacious, as roughly the same level of advancement that JFE has in a single book is spread out over 2 textbooks with Genki that are each roughly the size of JFE or slightly larger, AND a workbook for each, AND a separate answer book (and they still have all the audio available in multiple formats, both with and without the pauses to allow you to practice along etc). So obviously they have a lot more room to lay things out, explain things, make things nice and neat and orderly etc. Vocabulary for a chapter is all introduced on 2 pages at the beginning of a chapter so that you can easily work on memorizing it before you begin the chapter, or refer back to it as need be. There are also dialog pages at the beginning of each chapter, similar to JFE which feature a cast of generally recurring characters. Grammar points are then covered over the next several pages with plenty of explanations and examples before you move into the practice section where you are quizzed one what you've learned. Occasionally there will be a page or two to cover specific cultural points, or vocabulary particular to something like visiting the Post Office or Camera Shop etc.
Genki was my first real textbook and really gave me a lot of confidence to move forward with my studies by making me comfortable with a relatively easy and enjoyable learning experience. I picked up JFE later at the request of a friend who also had it and wanted someone to be able to work together with. It was easier to dive right into JFE by then because I'd already gone through about 10 chapters in Genki and was already comfortable with the kana and a number of basic kanji and vocabulary etc. I'm really glad I got both of them for different reasons.
Hopefully this information was helpful to you.
... and good luck and welcome to TJP!
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