JLPT N4 and Tobira/AITIJ

I’m almost finished with Genki 2 and thinking of choosing Tobira over AITIJ because I’ve read other posts and they said that Tobira is hard and some grammar points were unnatural. Is this true, are here some of you who showed the textbook to your Japanese friends and they said “this grammar point is weird” because I would love to talk to you =D I’ve also heard that the grammar explanations are in Japanese as well. As you can see, I am very intimidated :') with Tobira. What’s your take on Tobira and which one should I go with next?


I’m planning to take JLPT N4 and I was wondering how would you prepare for the exam? I’m planning to take it this December. Also, is it true that the June/July test is more easier than the December. I was planning to take N5 exam but that was too easy for me. I even brought the book =C


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Pretty much any textbook’s introduction or explanation of grammar is going to look unnatural to some extent. Their purpose is to introduce it in an understandable way.
Unnatural isn’t necessarily the same as ungrammatical. Understanding the grammar for its logic is more important in your early studies. Speaking like a native can come later once you have a more fluent understanding of each concept.

That said, I’m not sure exactly what parts of tobira might be being referred to. Probably important to bare in mind that preference of expression can seem to conflict with supposed grammatical rules in lot of cases in Japanese (and many languages).
Also Japanese people tend to be very particular/elitist about the way language is expressed, i.e. if it doesn’t match their own style they will be inclined to say that it is weird.


The Summer and Winter JLPTs are the same level of difficulty, I’m sure…

Also personal opinion I hated Tobira the readings felt terrible to me. But I think it explains the grammar pretty well.

readings? w

While it’s possible for JLPT exam difficulty to vary from sitting to sitting, it’s not intentional, and they then weight the results to eliminate any deviation from the intended difficulty.

This is why results take months to get sent out even though the test is a scantron.

I use tobira (hahah I asked this same question a few months ago) I like it a lot just because the explanations are easier for me to understand. I also like the pre-reading activities and the reading (Usually around 1-2 pages then some dialogue reading) in general. My favorite part of Tobira are the notes at the end of each chapter, they are so interesting to me! But I have heard from a few of the Japanese people I work that some of the grammar isn’t used anymore. They do know it, they just don’t really use it. But one of them did point out that if I wanted to read a novel written a long time ago, it might be useful.

Grammar for me is really difficult, I have a hard time wrapping my head around it but I find myself having an easier time remembering the grammar in this book in comparison to when I studied with Genki.

My japanese tutor recommended Minna no nihongo jyoukyuu but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the grammar and the fact that there was a translation book that you had to buy separately really bothered me. So I ended up not using that one.

I saw this post today that has a little overview of tobira with pictures: https://polyglotplotting.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/textbook-experience-tobira-gateway-to-advanced-japanese/

I’ve skimmed through the post and it seems like a decent explanation as I’ve used tobira too and agree.

Also note that it is probably not the grammar points themselves that are weird…but whether you know how they are properly used.

If you live near a public university or other large library, you could try looking for it there. Or there might be others to compare it to. I found several circulating Japanese textbooks, including Tobira, at the university in the town where I live.

I also echo the sentiments about the unnaturalness that come from language textbooks. There is a clear separation from it being ungrammatical unless there are genuine typos found in a text. Additionally I’d take commentary/opinions from Japanese speakers who don’t specialize in teaching Japanese with a huge grain of salt. Just like many native English speakers cannot explain properly explain grammatical structures in English, the same is true for Japanese laypeople. I’ve had the teachers at my Japanese classes all tell me that the way Japanese is taught to foreigners is not intuitive and seems very odd because they’ve never thought of their own language organized in the way textbooks present grammar.

With that being said, I own Tobira, but I’m not really a big fan of it for using it for self-study. The way it’s structured seems more suited for being used in a group context, you’d want to practice doing the conversations with someone, preferably a native speaker. Additionally there aren’t explicit grammar points for each unit, but rather grammar points and vocabulary are extracted from the readings in the book and listed in a separate section with a brief explanation. I haven’t finished the textbook yet, but these are some of the observations I’ve made since purchasing it.

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This this this!!!

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I think the points that need to be made (like natives typically don’t 100% know everything about their language) have already been covered, but specifically on this point I’d be curious to know what points they thought weren’t used anymore. As someone who did use Tobira all the way through, the grammar it’s covering are still fundamental things and quite a bit of basic things.

Even looking through the grammar list now I don’t see anything that is archaic to the point one won’t see it while reading. I can pick out the ones where i think a Japanese person might make a comment like that though. Just because it’s not used in everyday language doesn’t mean one won’t see it writing/novels today :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

@akirayonsanrokku to op, it is after all a textbook haha It does what it sets out to do pretty basically. With the comment about the readings, personally felt they were fine. But honestly by that point I feel one would already be reading native material + so much reading out there in general so it’s not a big deal. Textbooks never have enough “reading material” in the first place lol

I found it to be a fine source for my self studying because I supplemented it with sources like Imabi, Dictionary of Japanese Grammar, etc. Went overkill with checking multiple places about one thing because a) it’s fun. b) one place might miss something another covers. Naturalness comes from exposure and real practice, not from a textbook. One or two “uncommon” points isn’t enough to outweigh all the fundamentals Tobira covers :ok_hand:

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Yeah I just thought I’d mention it because it came up with the 国語 teacher at my job. And I also skimmed through a lot of the replies and then started rambling. Sorry :see_no_evil:

Specifically the Noun さえverbば. That’s the page I was on when he looked over my shoulder and started talking to me about it.

I used AITIJ after Genki 2 and I thought it was great. It and WK were the bulk of my study materials, and it adequately prepared me to pass N3. I don’t have as much experience with Tobira though. Either book should get you through N3 level. They’re both good text books, pick whichever one speaks to you more.

(For context if you look at my level, I used to be much higher, then stopped studying Japanese for almost 4 years, so I reset my WK account so I could reinforce all of the earlier kanji.)

ドンドンドン!私が選びました! You have a point there. About the outdated grammar. Right now, what I DO need are fundamentals in order to have as stronger understanding of the language. I’m just curious as to how you incorporate “Dictionary of Japanese Grammar” into your study. I want to buy it before but I never saw use for it and I didn’t want to spend a whopping $34 dollars for a dictionary (Yes I am stingy XD) that I won’t use right now.

@anon75098302 does tobira have a workbook?

yes it does, but it’s sold separately

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