Need help with transition to tobira

hey everyone, just needed some clarification on a question. I’ve finished minna no nihongo 初級1 and am just reaching the end of 初級2. i know that the minna no series has a 中級 book and i’m not sure whether i should switch to tobira now or finish the 中級 minna no nihongo and then go to tobira. either way i have intention to go to tobira as it’s a more challenging and better resource; i’m just not sure when to make the switch

Minna no Nihongo I am not familiar with, but I can say a couple of things about Tobira:

  • it’s mostly geared towards improving reading comprehension, and incremental learning and use of grammar patterns

  • the grammar patterns it introduces are not all JLPT grammar points, but more things the authors thought are worth emphasizing

  • topics vary from sports, politics, pop art to art, theater, etc.

  • only the grammar point explanations are in English, the rest is almost exclusively in Japanese

  • sometimes the language feels a little stilted as if the authors couldn’t go all out to not overwhelm learners and per reading text there is a strong emphasis on a couple of grammar points which a given chapter introduces. When you have a look at the preface, it’s way more natural.


Tobira is largely intended to follow on from Genki (or, in my case, Nakama) - the website includes list of kanji that are assumed knowledge for Tobira which aren’t taught in Genki (or Nakama), but fortunately there’s no more than a handful of them - though even then it’s suddenly All Japanese Almost All The Time, so it can feel like a bit of a jump. I confess I don’t know how Minna no Nihongo compares to Genki.


minna no is exclusively in japanese as well, and i had to purchase a separate book for translations and grammar points. i only use the english book for the explanations of the grammar points so an all japanese book isn’t really a problem for me. that’s also one of the reasons i started with minna no because the all japanese book allows me to get used to it better. so anyway, i think from what i’ve read that i can follow on from where i am straight to tobira since minna no brings you to a similar level as genki

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the book being in japanese is fine as minna no is the same. the topics seem more interesting that the minna no topics which are sometimes bland. and i think at this point reading comprehension is one of the best ways for me to move forwards, so i think i’ll go straight to tobira right now; it doesn’t seem like too big of a jump

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I haven’t finished MNN yet (I’m just past 2/3rds of the way through 初級1), but from my own understanding, completing 初級1 and 2 should put you a little further than completing Genki 1 and 2, so there shouldn’t be much of a gap between 初級2 and Tobira. I don’t think you need to do 中級 and also Tobira, as they are both intermediate textbooks, and they probably teach a lot of the same material. You can pick whichever intermediate textbook seems like a better fit for you.


Fingers crossed then! :slight_smile:

I found the reading passages in Tobira bland as well after a while. Especially when I started reading actual books and manga in parallel :stuck_out_tongue: .


I’m doing the 中級 Minna No Nihongo books with my tutor at the moment (currently on chapter 7 of the first intermediate book). There are some similarities to the beginner books but it was also a bit of a steep learning curve for the first few chapters. I’m not sure how well the intermediate ones would work without a tutor as there’s a lot more discussion and a lot of practice questions where the answers are left quite open (e.g. a whole sentence rather than just conjugating one verb and filling in the gap) and they only give example answers in the back of the book. There is one reading passage for each chapter but the majority of the focus is on situational dialogues - as with the previous books, these are still mostly work-focused.

For me they work well a)because I have a tutor and b)I’m doing a lot of reading outside of the books, however I’m not sure how well they would work as a self-study tool.


The transition might be less steep than you’d think. It helps if you have started reading native material before. Kanji wise/vocab wise I don’t think you have to worry much, there is a reading guide and vocab list.

I’m not that familiar with Minna no Nihongo, but I think one thing that’s quite obviously different between Tobira and beginner textbooks is reading speed in recordings. It might be a little hard to keep up if you’re trying to read along, or if you’re trying to repeat after the speaker while understanding what’s being said. However, I think you’ll get used to it eventually.

In terms of grammar points, Tobira is pretty rich, I guess? But I’ve heard MnN is really detailed too, so perhaps the initial jump won’t be too great: I found the first few chapters of Tobira very manageable in terms of grammar after completing just one beginner’s textbook. Still, I’d just like to share my experience: honestly, I learnt most of the grammar points Tobira covers by watching anime and checking the dictionary/googling whatever I didn’t understand. That doesn’t mean that Tobira is no good, but the grammar is stuff you can probably find fairly easily through other media. It’s the vocabulary that you might not encounter as often. The topics Tobira covers are pretty varied, and will probably appeal to you as long as you’re not learning Japanese primarily for the purpose of university exchanges and socialising. However, I’ll just say that they weren’t really to my liking (possibly precisely because I want to study and possibly work in Japan, so I’ve got a whole bunch of other words I’d like to learn as soon as possible), so there’s no guarantee you’ll like them. Ultimately, however, I think what got me to drop the book after chapter 12 was that I just wasn’t learning new things fast enough, and I felt like the words I saw wouldn’t be particularly useful unless I was discussing Japanese traditions and trivia with friends. Sentence mining with anime and two dictionaries (EN-JP and JP-JP) was teaching me a lot more.

What I’m saying is not that you should throw Tobira aside: rather, you should go into it with your eyes open, and assess it based on your preferences before you start. I expect it to be a good resource for most people, and most learners aren’t like me (English & Chinese native speaker + previously learnt another language – French – to at least average native fluency), so it’ll be up to you to see if it meets your needs. All the best!


Was thinking the exact same, I was just worried about the gap between the two. Thanks for clearing it up, I’ll go do tobira once I finish this mnn in like a week

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Thanks for response. That’s even more reason for me to go straight to tobira which loads of people have said isn’t too hard at all. I don’t have tutor thought so I’ll see how it goes.

That’s great cuz I’m currently reading one piece :sweat:slowly but I am able to follow the book ok besides vocab which I have to search up very very often. I’ll move to tobira and see how it is

Thanks for detailed response. The thing is, I learning Japanese as a method of communication, but since I’m only in year 10, it enables me to use it as a tool for uni and work once I get older and am able to work. So although I’m not necessarily interested in learning words for school etc. it’s something I have to do. So that basically means that the more material I cover, no matter what it actually is, will help me out one way or another. And usually when I go through textbooks I focus solely on the grammar and just learn like 60 percent of the vocab, and just pray that wanikani will catch me up on the vocab. So when it comes to tobira I think the main thing is just that I want it to be manageable, but also have a lot of useful grammar points. And I am native speaker of 2 languages and speak English and spanish fluently so my learning experience is probably gonna be similar to urs since both of us khad prior knowledge of languages. So the only thing that’s throwing me off is when you say that you felt that you didn’t learn quick enough? I feel like over time if that’s what I feel I’ll get pissed off as well, so now I’m not too sure about tobira. I guess I’ll still buy it and try it out? And if you have any tips on just watching anime and sentence mining, can u help me out and send some Links or anything like that?


Ah, well… I think I felt I wasn’t learning quickly enough mainly because I already speak Chinese, and there’s quite a large overlap between Japanese and Chinese vocabulary (for kanji-only words/phrases that use on’yomi), which means that the number of words Tobira could teach me was reduced by my prior knowledge. I think it still contains quite a lot of new words and structures though, but since anime covered a lot of grammar for me, well… you see what I mean. However, I have to say that I really studied Tobira on and off, taking breaks as long as several months between chapters, because I really didn’t have the time to sit down and study what was in it. If you study it diligently and regularly, I think it’ll be less likely that you find it lacking (because you won’t be spending as much time on other sources of exposure).

Essentially, I’d say that you need decent dictionaries to do it. For EN-JP dictionaries, is one possibility. I prefer because it contains the same data as Jisho, along with additional dictionaries and translated example sentences. Jisho’s interface is cleaner though, and it contains some WaniKani data as well. For JP-JP dictionaries, Goo辞書 is not bad, but there are also other sites that aggregate multiple dictionaries, like Weblio (I just mentioned their EN-JP site above) and Kotobank. If you have an iPhone or some other Apple device, you can download スーパー大辞林 (JP-JP) and the Wisdom Dictionary (EN-JP) for free in Settings or in the Dictionary app. You can consider Takoboto on other platforms, but honestly, it just accesses the same data as Jisho, so I’m not sure if there’s a point if you don’t need a dictionary app on your phone.

In practice though, what I usually do is this: if I feel like I’m looking at a new word or set phrase, I just google ‘[phrase]とは’ to get explanations and definitions. If I feel like it’s a structure or pattern, then I search ‘[pattern/elements that form the structure] 文法’ in order to see if there’s an explanation for the grammar. The reason I search this way is that I want to try my hand at reading results in Japanese. If you find that they’re too hard though, feel free to search Jisho or Weblio’s EJJE site for definitions, and for grammar, typing ‘[pattern/elements that form the structure] grammar’ should be just fine. (There are some translation sites out there that offer quick and simple definitions of Japanese words, but I don’t like those because they don’t provide you with additional context and example sentences, meaning that you won’t get to learn how to use those words.)

As for how I identify words in anime, well… sometimes I just listen and do my best to catch the word I didn’t understand, and then I search it. I may have to try several similar sounds in order to figure out what it’s supposed to be. However, there are some sites that make your life easier. For example, Anicobin is a good resource because it provides screenshots of anime scenes along with dialogue from those scenes, so it’s very easy to find the words that you missed. The only issue is that not all the dialogue is transcribed, but transcriptions are still very complete for certain anime (e.g. for The Rising of the Shield Hero, I think I can safely say that 95% of what was said is transcribed on the episode reaction pages). The other thing that’s nice about Anicobin is that below each screenshot, reactions from Japanese viewers on Twitter are collated, meaning you can read those for practice as well and get a window into how Japanese viewers think. I think there’s another site with fairly complete transcriptions that goes something like gno.izumi, but I don’t really remember. In order to use Anicobin, you can just google ‘[anime name in Japanese] [episode number in Arabic numerals] 話 あにこびん 感想’. Don’t forget to add the season number (‘[number]期’) if the anime has aired more than one season. However, some anime haven’t been transcribed on Anicobin, especially those from before 2013, so it’s a little hit-and-miss. The final strategy I use is searching for phrases with holes in them. I type the words I heard before and after the one I don’t know, and then I see if any of the results contain a transcription. If I’m very sure of the words that came before and after, I google using double quotes and add an asterisk in the middle to represent the word I couldn’t catch.

That’s about it. I think the last thing I can offer you is sites that might be useful, like Maggie Sensei and WasabiJpn for grammar. You can also use JLPT prep sites for standard structures, though JLPT sites rarely provide detailed explanations. Honestly though, you probably won’t need those as much once you’re fluent enough to read explanations in Japanese, and I frankly think that even JLPT sites written in Japanese already tend to do a better job than their English-language counterparts. Some of the ones I like include Edewakaru, and, but I’m sure you’ll discover your own along the way. HiNative answers are often pretty good too. Ultimately, as long as you can find the answers you need somehow (including by asking questions on these forums), you’ll be fine.


This is such a perfect answer, thanks for everything so much. I’ll look into all of those links

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So if I was to watch anime with Japanese subtitles and use the jp-jp dictionary along with searching up grammar for Japanese explanations, is that a good way to learn?
Ps. U singaporean? Chinese + English so my guess is that youre singaporean lol

I guess that’s workable. Whether or not it’s a good way to learn really depends on whether or not you’re comfortable with the monolingual definitions. If you’re not able to understand the information you find in Japanese, then it’s probably better to stick to English for now. To put it another way, I think you should aim to transition to JP-JP definitions and explanations as soon as possible, but you don’t have to limit yourself strictly to monolingual resources before you’re ready.

I guess it’s not a very common set of native languages around the world, is it? I am Singaporean. I haven’t had anyone guess based on my native languages in a while, to be honest. What about you?

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I would genuinely not count on WaniKani when it comes to vocab. Unless you wanna talk about baseball or use words one finds mostly in old books :stuck_out_tongue: . I’m exaggerating obviously, but books, manga and articles are a much better source of vocab.

Can definitely second this. Out of the books I worked through so far, Tobira gave me the biggest boost in usable grammar, meaning not just patterns one records in a SRS and then just slaps periodically, but actual blocks one can use in conversation and/or writing :slight_smile: . I think the biggest selling point of Tobira is combining reading comprehension with grammar so you see the grammar you learn in action. So I would definitely give Tobira a try.

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I’m not singaporean,but I’ve lived there for 8 years of my 14 year life so pretty much all my memories are there. I moved there from India when I was like 3 and moved away from there just last year.

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