I’ll be finishing Tobira soon and wanted to know what people are using as the next step. I will be reading native materials as well but I would still like to have a structured resource for use with my italki teachers.
I’ve read about the New Authentic and Images of Japan books, but I’m curious how they compare to the Shinkanzen Master reading comprehension books.
I’m moving to Japan soon (paperwork pending, border closed again), so I’m trying to get as much practical skill into my head as possible in advance.
SKM is a set of exam prep books. The others you mentioned are textbooks. So SKM will focus on reviewing materials, while the others are more focused on teaching new material in the same general way that Tobira and other textbooks do.
I’m comfortable staying at intermediate level a while longer, but I have been eyeing the Sou Matome books. From the reviews, it seems that they don’t have good grammar explanations, but I reckon that can be remedied with the Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar series.
I moved to 新完全マスター after Tobira and I can absolutely recommend them.
I only bought the Reading and Grammar books for N3, N2 and N1 as I felt like I could get the rest of the practice from other natural resources (dramas/youtube for listening, Japanese friends for speaking, etc).
For the reading books, I completed them front to back without skipping any exercises or sections. I absolutely love how they’re structured and you can feel your reading comprehension increase. The aim of the books are not to get you to read more words and longer passages, but to actually understand what you’re reading and extract needed information from a block of text.
For the grammar books, I only used them for their content and didn’t do any of the exercises within them, as I used another system for grammar exercises. The grammar points and their explanations are worth gold, however if your goal is not to pass the JLPT N1 test, I would only go up to N2 grammar as the N1 grammar might be too specific with very few use-cases and not very useful in normal conversations.
(If you move from Tobira, you’ll see that there is some overlap in the grammar content with the N3 book, but I would still go through it as most of the grammar points are not found in Tobira)
Keep in mind that while going through these books, my goal was never to be able to pass the JLPT, but to get a very good level in Japanese.
I also have no intention of taking the JLPT, but am looking for good solid content to raise my comprehension. I’m using the N3 grammar book with one of my italki teachers right now, doing the exercises aloud. I like how they make you distinguish very similar grammar points by grouping them together, whereas most textbooks spread them out. That always bothered me.
Would you say that the reading comprehension books use natural, native passages, or are they more of a dumbed-down textbooky style?
I finished the N3 reading 新完全マスター and since N3 is still very limited when it comes to vocabulary (if you compare to native text) of course it’s going to be “dumbed down” to a certain extent but I REALLY love the various texts they provide and I totally felt as if my reading comprehension improved so I would totally recommend it.
However, I am currently more than halfway through the N2 reading comprehension textbook and since I am not a native speaker I cannot say for sure, but I do get the vibe that it’s very close to what native text would look like. A lot of the texts are actually extracted from actual books made by native speakers for native speakers.
There is basically no furigana, they use words way above N2 sometimes (which you are supposed to ignore or just guess through context at times) and the section with more “business like” Japanese is going to give you a lot to work with if you never encountered formal e-mails, notifications, instructions etc
Rough outline: 中・上級日本語教科書 日本への招待: ‘This textbook for advanced-level students of Japanese is organized into a series of narrarive texts about Japanese society. Contents include education, the role of women, youth culture, the working world, and the position of foreigners.’ In short, it seems to provide a fairly advanced discussion of complex elements of Japanese society.
上級日本語教科書 文化へのまなざし: From the summary on the Kinokuniya website, we have
In essence, while some of the book definitely touches on Japanese society, I get the impression that it handles topics that are a bit more likely to get technical (like clones), and which involve more abstract things. It’s probably a bit harder than the first textbook.
I own the first textbook (日本への招待), but I haven’t started reading it yet. However, based on the sample pages on Amazon, it’s much more challenging than Tobira, meaning that it’s packed full of things to learn for people who have finished Tobira or people who found Tobira too easy/slow to introduce new structures and vocabulary. With Tobira, I learnt maybe 10 words I couldn’t deduce from context per chapter at the very most. If we exclude stuff like names of festivals and the contents of 文化ノート, that number probably drops to about 5 words per chapter. On the other hand, in 日本への招待, in the very first passage in the Amazon sample, I’m hit with at least one word or structure I don’t know and whose meaning I can’t really deduce from context per sentence. That’s true even for the title of the passage. In short, I think it’s a textbook worth studying.
@anon1067447 I’ve heard that the 新完全マスター series mentioned by everyone else is very good, but it’s ultimately a test prep book. How well it suits you depends on your objectives, I think. I personally will only consider buying it when I’m preparing for the N1, and ideally, I’ll get past the N1 level without needing to use it. I think that’s still a way off though.
I totally agree that it’s absolutely a test prep book but I still find it very useful for closing the gaps in my vocab knowledge.
Since I don’t live in Japan I don’t get any exposure to business e-mails, notifications from landlords etc so in that way I would still recommend it to people who want to improve their Japanese. I’m not planning on taking the JLPT but I still find the content very valuable.
Ah, if it contains stuff like that, then I see where you’re coming from. That sounds helpful. I didn’t notice earlier because I just skimmed the other posts. I mean, some of those topics can be researched online (there are tons of sites about whether or not a particular sort of keigo is wrong for an email etc), but a book that gathers all those things into one place is definitely going to make things easier, particularly since there are things that we, as learners, don’t know that we don’t know.
Even though I’m not interested in the test itself, I like the way the N3 grammar book forces you to distinguish similar concepts. If the reading books are anything like that, it could be useful for general improvement.
I also looked at some sample pages from the Images of Japan book, and it looks interesting. It’s a tough call between that one and the New Authentic book. I wish I could go to a store and look. Stupid 2020.
I felt like the passages were quite natural and covered many different topics! There are also a wide variety of formats such as essays, articles, debates, stories, diary entries, letters, business emails etc.
The 完全マスターN3 reading passages are quite a different level than the ones from Tobira, and there is an even bigger gap between the N3 and N2 reading passages. I also thought that jumping straight to N2 would spare me time and effort by avoiding practicing things I already knew, but I’m glad I didn’t skip N3 in the end.
I feel like finishing Tobira will barely get you at N3 level, whereas 完全マスターN3 will get you at a slightly higher level than N3 and make sure that you pass with a high score.
I feel you. It’s also unfortunate that the chapter available for preview from Images of Japan isn’t really a ‘fully-fledged’ chapter. It’s just the introductory segment labelled ‘はじめに’ on the contents page. However, my general impression, just comparing the first passages in each book, is that Images of Japan is more difficult, meaning that it’s likely to teach readers more. I don’t know how long Authentic has been around, and it’s true that the latest edition is significantly more recent than the last edition of Images of Japan, but in 2014, my friend was doing advanced Japanese as a school subject (just as I was doing the same with French), and the textbook selected by the teacher at the national language centre was Images of Japan, not Authentic. That’s the reason I have Images of Japan, actually, because I wanted to know what he had used.
My personal concern is that Authentic might be redundant and overlap significantly with Tobira in the beginning. They’re written in a similar style, and while there are a few expressions that I find slightly challenging, I can get through the first paragraph of the lesson text on ‘self-introduction’ quite fluidly. I’m aware that there are words I need to look up, but getting the gist while leaving a few blanks is quite easy. With Images of Japan, I can’t do that with the text on stereotypes. It forces me to stop. Too many expressions I don’t know well enough.
Ultimately, this is just my view, but if I had to choose one, I’d go with Images of Japan. I went into Tobira knowing most of the grammar in the first few chapters, and I picked up more grammar from anime and dictionary searching as I went along, so I kept feeling like I was wasting my time each time I started a new chapter. I’m at Chapter 13 now, and I’ve basically stopped because I feel it’s not teaching me enough. I don’t want to repeat that with my next textbook, and that’s why I’m glad I have Images of Japan waiting for me back home.
Tobira was supposed to target the old JLPT Level 2, which was supposed to be something like N3-N2 – if you can pass N2, you can pass Level 2. N3 would be between the old Levels 2 and 3. That’s what the new JLPT format is supposed to do. In other words, I’ve always thought that Tobira is supposed to bring you up to the very basics of N2.
However, well, you have the 完全 series for reference, so I think you might have a better idea than me. I think that the name 完全マスター does suggest that it should make you very familiar with N3 material though… maybe Tobira just covers enough grammar to get you close to low N2 in theory, but in practice, you’ll probably need more practice to score well, which is where the 完全マスター series comes in with something that’s at least high N3? I have no idea.
Same! Well, I’m on 13 in the grammar workbook, but still have to go through the conversation section of chapter 12 with my teacher and will start the chapter 13 reading next week. The holidays broke our rhythm.
If I weren’t about to move, I’d probably just buy both and feel them out, but I’m an anti-hoarder right now. I did find Tobira somewhat challenging with respect to grammar, but some things were vaguely familiar. I still get confused with all of uses of things like ように and all the ~こと~ sentence-ending phrases. I feel like these things eventually click with more reading, which is why I’m looking at this style of longer form text-based textbooks.
Yeah I also thought Tobira would get me to a confident N3 level, but moving to 完全マスターN3 I realised that Tobira’s reading passages were too forgiving and too academic, whereas the 完全マスター one’s felt more realistic and tricky. I felt like I really needed to understand what the writer meant in order to answer the questions correctly, and not base my answer on guesses and my overall impressions of the meaning of the passage.
With that being said, Tobira is still my favorite textbook! I just don’t think jumping straight to N2 level resources after it is effective.
It’s true that I prefer to get a feel for things through reading, and that just reading rules alone doesn’t cut it for me. Hm… Well, I guess Authentic might be better in that sense, because it does seem like it has more text in it, and it’s probably a more gradual transition from Tobira than Images of Japan.
I guess that’s the difference between a test and a textbook. Good to know though. And it’s true that Tobira’s passages are generally easy to follow, possibly too much so. In any case, I know that news article sentences from NHK confuse me so much more than Tobira sentences.
Possibly. It might be too much of a jump. I intend to take the risk though (partly since I’ve already bought the textbook, so there’s nothing I can do ). In any case, based on a JLPT grammar point list I went through a few days ago, I already know almost all the N2 grammar points, so what I want to focus on now is harder texts that will force me to learn more. I’ll probably work with news articles for now since I don’t have my textbook with me, but I think it’ll be good to have something for which I won’t have to search all the vocabulary myself. Plus, like I said, my friend used this textbook a few years ago, so if I’m really lost, I can ask him. Might jog his memory.