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Genki and Remembering the Kanji

Of all the physical Japanese resources out there for beginners, I hear these recommended the most often.

Has anyone tried both? I'm wondering if it's worth investing in both (for extra practice) or not. And if it is, which would be better to pick up first?

November 14, 2017



A lot of people use Genki but it's not like you can't learn without it. However one good thing I heard is that you can just use Genki 1, then Genki 2, and then move on to Tobira, so you don't really have to think what to learn, just go with the flow and the books will take you there. Also I don't recommend learning kanji alone, it's better to learn them alongside vocab


Needless to say, there's not a single source out there that will suffice all on its own. Genki is probably one source that tries to take a comprehensive approach including everything - writing, grammar, vocab, listening etc.

In my personal experience, I'm sure that Genki is great for many but Japanesepod101 offers about the similar experience in terms of structure, in that it also builds on the vocab and grammar gradually. So I find that you can use one of those two as the baseline to structure your studies around - sorta like the skeleton.

then you have to add the muscle to your skeleton and beef up your course - pardon the horrible pun :). basically, duolingo is perfect for that - that way you're reinforcing what you learned in an algorithmic way, and putting it into a more practical use (at this stage of your learning anyway).

P.S. not enough praise can be said for Anki. There's a whiteboard feature (at least on Android) where you can draw the Kanji. if you've got a good font that provides a decent idea of stroke order, you'll have the best review tool for kanji, because actually writing it out helps reinforce the memorization process.


Didn't know that about Anki. I'll definitely check it out. Thanks!


I learn from genki. I like it very much, everything is explained in english, and you also get a disk with it with some listening practice. Although it is suited for a whole class with pair works, etc, and though I haven't yet tried other books, I think it could be worth it. Yeah, and one more thing, if you'd like to practice writing, it doesn't give you a display (sry for my English... I don't know if it's the right word). It has a chart (table..?) for hiragana and katakana so you can try to memorize them, but you have to practice writing somewhere else.


There are different schools of thought on this but there are some very good arguments to spend a decent deal of time using Heisig's Remembering the Kanji.

One of the key issues learners of Japanese face is literacy. The hiragana and katakana writing systems are not too bad, but needing to learn a little over 2000 kanji can be a pain.

Many people's take on the idea is to use Remembering the Kanji to reach a point where you can learn to properly recognise each of these 2000+ kanji as distinct from each other, and in a way which gets you used to the limited elements that form all kanji, starting from simpler to write and recognise to harder stuff, taking into account what you previously covered.

When you then come across it in learning materials with the proper pronunciation(s), as you will get different readings in certain contexts, and of course the meaning(s), it makes it easier to digest rather than drill the kanji with pronunciations and meanings all at the same time.

It makes the kanji relatable and then makes your further learning much more smooth.

The issue of course is, do you need to study all these kanji first before getting into actually learning, or do you find a combination of the two? Many on the internet swear by it, and I found it a very interesting read, quickly learning to write and recognise 300 kanji, before I decided I needed to focus on Norwegian.

It really needs paired with a spaced-repetition program like Anki or memrise, where you get decks for Remembering the Kanji.

It is possible to keep up a pace of 25-30 kanji a day, spending an hour to maybe an hour and a half. At a pace of 20 per day, you can learn to write and recognise the essential kanji in four months. Keep up your daily questions from Anki or Memrise to further strengthen your memory of these kanji, and proceed with getting stuck into learning, no longer hindered by processing a lot of info at once when experiencing a kanji for the first time.

A fairly balanced view on it:


Another balanced but fairly positive account of it:


It might be right for you, it might not. If it is, it can make your learning much easier. It suits the way my mind works from my trial of it and would recommend at least trying it. Memrise may be a good place to give it a look. Make sure the mnemonic stories are available so you can bring everything together. Good luck!

P.S. I should also add that you could try audio materials like the podcasts from JapanesePod101. You can still learn Japanese while doing the kanji study, as long as you have the time. You can get PDFs if you go for a paid subscription, and learn the hiragana and katakana used and note the kanji for future reference if you like. Might be easier doing something like that than using two sets of book material. But, if you find Remembering the Kanji a good fit, you could spend 2 to 4 months depending on how much you intend to learn a day, and postpone your proper study as others have. Up to you.


どうもありがとう for the long reply.

Intuitively, I was inclined to start with Remembering the Kanji, but now I'm certain that I will as soon as I finish the Duolingo course so I can dedicate all my focus on the book + Memrise combo.

And by "postpone your proper study", do you mean put off learning the spoken language, grammar, syntax, and etc.?



I probably should have clarified a little further! I've read quite a few experiences and advice from various people who used the book. Some thought it best to just focus on the book entirely, then proceed to using actual learning materials so you can deal with any kanji you get easily, and your experience is more like that of someone learning a language with an alphabet with which you are already familiar. It is just the sounds, grammar, syntax and meaning you have to deal with and not need to wrestle with the writing system along the way.

To me, that seems a bit extreme, but it has been done that way by some. In my case I'd be using my library of JapanesePod101 podcasts I downloaded and archived a while back, and my Assimil Japanese books while I go through the Remembering the Kanji with Anki.

You can still learn kanji from whatever textbook or materials you use in the traditional way while going through RTK, but once you have read that book your learning speed will increase dramatically as the kanji are no longer abstract, you already know them. Just not the different meanings and pronunciation.

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