Six days ago i finished working through the back of げんき2 and i felt ready to move on to An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese. Now is the time to write a review for both げんき 1 and げんき 2. The Genki series of textbooks is aimed at beginners, starting out on their adventure, to learn the Japanese language. It gives overly detailed explanations of grammar points, it let’s you practice the newly acquired knowledge on the spot, in group work as well as self-study exercises, and it gives you the chance to learn up to 150 漢字, and to read stories as well as articles. Every chapter in the book starts with dialogues, which are very short in the beginning, but getting longer during the later parts of the book. The dialogues are followed by a vocabulary list, grammar points, culture notes, exercises, and it continues at the back of the book with a reading section, a 漢字 section, and a reading section.
All that the book expects you is to be able to read ひらがな and かたかな in the first couple of chapters. They do not contain any 漢字, so it’s an easy start, but this changes at the beginning of chapter 3. From then on out you are forced to also learn how to read kanji. Once you are done listening to the dialogues, you will have to memorize up to 48 words per chapter. The degree of usefulness of the vocabulary the book expects you to memorize is varying from chapter to chapter. I had wished for more context for the vocabulary pieces that are not part of any of the dialogues. Some of the vocabulary is used in the dialogues, and they are marked accordingly, some are just there to be memorized. Some of the vocabulary is in the list, but it never gets used in the example sentences in the grammar section, or anywhere else in the book. 二日酔い (ふつかよい) is one such word that is only found in the vocabulary section. It means hangover. There are also words that are not really necessary for you to know, if you are no college student, or a classroom learner, who is expected to talk about such things as your major. Let me give you an example for what i mean. In chapter 1 you find words like 国際関係 (こくさいかんけい) international relations or 人類学 (じんるいがく) anthropology. Those words are written in hiragana in the book, i just converted them for the sake of having some kanji to impress you, dear reader. To be honest, i did convert every word to kanji, when i started out learning with the book. *hihi* You can apply your knowledge of these words when the question comes up 専門は何ですか。 What is your major? And you could then say 私の専攻は国際関係です。 (わたしのせんこうはこくさいかんけいです) My major is international relations. I still memorized all the words, useful or not, since most of the words are easy to remember. My favorite word was 意地悪な (いじわるな) mean spirited, don’t ask me why, i really can’t say.
The vocabulary section is followed by the grammar points. There are up to 8 of them per chapter. In this part of the book, you are going to learn how to conjugate 五段
(ごだん) and 一段 (いちだん) verbs, which are called RU-verbs and U-verbs in the book, な-adjectives, and nouns. Also you will learn how to build sentences, how to connect them, how to ask questions in Japanese, how to form so called “short forms,” and many other things. The length of the explanations was just right for the most part. Only sometimes they are too detailed, which mustn’t be a bad thing per say. But looking back at them, i would have found it better, if the explanations had been a bit more to the point. Some points just contained too much information, that didn’t really add to the understanding, of the underlying grammar points.
Following the Grammar section is the aforementioned 表現ノート. They can only be found in some chapters. Most of the early one’s contained them. There is not much i can say about them, other than they were straight to the point for the most part. Other than that there really is not much to say about it. At the end of some chapters, there are also dialogues, revolving around themes like Developing of Photos, with vocabulary and dialogues, or Post office. I found those sections very useful.
The last 課 [か] section of every 課 lesson, contains ペアワーク pair work, classroom, review and self-study exercises. There are generally more ぺアワーク and classroom exercises, as this is a book for college and classroom learners. If you are willing to spend money, you can get the ワークブック workbook, which contains only exercises for self-learners. A typical exercise looks like this.
Translate the following sentences.
1. Yasuo wears glasses.
2. Noriko is wearing a new T-shirt today.
Rewrite the sentences below, using the verb stem + に行く / 来る / 帰る pattern.
The 聞き取り練習 [ききとりれんしゅう] listening comprehension section, marks the end of a chapter in the workbook. In the back of the main book, you are going to find a section which contains 漢字 that you are expected to know, a reading section, and some additional questions. I must say, that i didn’t pay much attention to the 漢字 section or the reading section. Thus i was missing the opportunity to learn some additional vocabulary, which could have proofed useful, while working through げんき 2.
The good thing about this book is, that everything is easy to understand, because all the information is presented in great detail. I see this as both as a strength as well as a weakness of both げんき 1 and げんき 2. Because it contains too much English, and sometimes information, that you really don’t need to know. The real weakness of the books is, that every chapter feels somehow disconnected. By that i mean, that you have your dialogues, which are containing grammar points, and vocabulary. You will find the vocabulary used in dialogues in it’s own section, so you will have some context which makes it easier to remember them. However, most of the vocabulary is only used for exercises, or to demonstrate a grammar point. It would have been really useful, if grammar, dialogue, vocabulary, and exercises were interlocking. Not only for the main part of the book, but also for the back, which contains reading sections. It is a waste that there are up to 8 grammar points, and you only find one or two of them in use, in a lengthy story. I would have loved to see a short summary of the grammar points at the end of each chapter, but this is just me. Another thing about the books that could have been done better, is to move away from English, not only in the main part of the books but also in the exercises. There is more English in the main part of the book than Japanese, at least it felt like this to me, looking back at it. The back of the book is a different story. There is plenty of Japanese, and little English, other than vocabulary. So if you are going to read the stories in the back, you will have to translate them yourself. As easy as they are to read, this should be no big hurdle. Now that i moved on to An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, i can only say i wish that both books were organized like this. Everything interlocks, you see the grammar points in use in the dialogues, you don’t get any unused vocabulary to memorize, and the grammar explanations are to the point. Of course, it also uses other grammar points, the sentences are very long, and often complicated and there is no translation of it anywhere. So this book, too, has it’s strengths and weaknesses. But since this article is about Genki I and Genki II and I’m only into chapter two of AIAIJ right now, it is too early to write a summary.
Overall i can recommend both books to you, dear reader. Even thought they have been written with classroom learners in mind. In the end there is no perfect book to learn a language from, only better one’s and not so good one’s. So, whatever book you are going to use, this one is surely one of the better one’s out there.