Make Japanese a Breeze
The Genki Japanese textbook series are my personal favorite for first and second-year language textbooks.
Many other very good textbooks have a flaw that isn't big but that can become a recurring nuisance. Not the case here—both Genki I and Genki II textbooks are clear and well-organized.
What I Like About It
The exercise instructions aren't confusing. That's partly because they include some English instructions. Many textbooks try to "immerse" you by having instructions for class exercises all in Japanese.
That's great in theory, but I've made a fool of myself far too many times because I didn't totally understand the instructions. With the exercises in the Genki textbooks, you make progress because you actually know what you're doing.
The kanji lesson sections are great. The kanji are printed large, and they don't hit you with 40 of them at a time.
The content of the kanji sections is great, too: next to each kanji is not only the general abstract meaning, but also several of the most common uses or compounds. This is especially useful when using the Genki II textbook, because you will have started to build up a pretty good knowledge of kanji.
In the Genki Japanese textbooks, vocabulary sections are also clear and organized. Many books just throw a bunch of words on a page for you to sort out and memorize yourself. Here, they break up all the vocabulary into several types of verbs, as well as nouns and adjectives.
There is an extremely handy verb conjugation chart at the back of the book. If you've covered the material and just blanked out on how to change a verb around, it is incredibly handy.
Because it's an actual chart, you can see the patterns of how to conjugate the verbs, and that works wonders for helping you understand it quickly for yourself. Yes, it even shows you how to do those sticky -te and causative-passive forms!
One handy trick I've found with this book is after you've studied for a chapter kanji quiz, just go into the next reading passage you'll be doing and write down the kanji pronunciations (known as the furigana) next to all the kanji you just learned that show up in the reading.
That way, when you are trying to understand the meaning of the passage in class, you don't have to fumble around trying to remember how to pronounce the kanji.
My Humble Overall Opinion
Last I checked, the Genki series doesn't go up to intermediate Japanese textbooks. It's a shame, because Genki I and Genki II make your first two years of learning Japanese easy and a pleasure to do.
Genki I and Genki II: An Integrated Course in Elemantary Japanese. The Japan Times, 1999
Did you know...
The native inhabitants of Japan—the Ainu—are related to the people of Siberia.