Tobira Reading Strategies

Hey, all. So, I started Tobira, and the grammar in the readings is definitely difficult.

What’s a good strategy for understanding the readings? Thanks!

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I feel like they are pretty easy actually. What do you have problems with?

Do you have problems understanding the grammar explanations? Too many unknown words? Problems reading the kanji without furigana?

I would advise to go through the vocabulary (learn it) and grammar after the first read through and read the text a second time.
After that there should be practically no unknowns left. If there are still some repeat the last step until you feel you have a solid grasp on the material. (1-2 unkonwns don’t kill anyone ^^)


I think it always help to look at the structure of a chapter. Before reading the section, there’s usually a before reading part that should warm you up about the passage.

Use the reading help below the passages. Look at the vocabulary list preferably after reading, but if you need it don’t sweat it too much. As for difficulty, I feel it differs per chapter and also what you’re used to. There were definitely passage that I had trouble with and ones I found quite easy.

If there’s anything in particular you’re struggling with it can also help to post it here. Identifying the problem is half the work!


I’m on chapter 6 and so far I feel that they are really easy! Usually I’ll go through the text and conversation and find between 2-3 sentences with grammar structures that I can’t understand already, which I then read again after I read the grammar notes. What exactly do you not understand? Maybe you need to change the way you study or something?

Thanks for the replies. It’s the syntax, mostly. The longer sentences have phrases within phrases, and I always interpret it wrong. What should I be doing/reading to fix that issue?

Just keep on reading. You’ll see more of that in written Japanese :). Although sometimes I feel like Tobira tends to overdo it and even in newspapers I see shorter sentences. However, nested and relative clauses are very common in Japanese so you’ll see plenty of them.

If you’re having trouble with grammar it may help to start a chapter with the pre-reading exercises, then go through the grammar notes and then vocab for a reading passage. Finally, read the passage.

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Yes that is true. The sentences in Tobira tend to be on the longer side. But I would second what Inchou said. Its a process. The more you read the easier it is to realize you are inside a relative clause or this sentence is just modifying this one noun later on.

I don’t think you are doing anything wrong. Its just that learning another language, and one that is as different as Japanese is quite a challenge. As long as you think after reading the text that you understood what you read you are making progress.

So keep at it.


Thank you both. So, here’s a big question. What should I be reading outside of Tobira that would help my comprehension? Is there really anything in that N4-N3 space that’d be helpful?

For best effiicency you should start challangeing yourself with native material on that level. Good news source is NHK news web easy. For Manga and book recommendations you can take a look into the Absolut Beginner Book Club and (maybe) Beginner Book club threads.

Another potential avenue is Bilingual readers ( : read real japanese for example). They have the japanese on one side and translation notes or whole translations on the other side. Often also a lot of furigana.

If you are looking for curated reading maybe the high levels (4 I think?) of the tadoku series can still be used but you are pretty much at the end of the road when it comes to curated reading material.

The most important thing is to find something you enjoy reading and isn’t too much a chore for you. Its a steep learning curve in the beginning so don’t feel bad if you need to get help for some Sentences/Grammar points in this forum. This is where the Book clubs really shine since you are not the only one who struggles and everyone can learn together.
Its really surprising how much encountering the grammar and vocabulary in a real enjoyable story can strengthen your knowledge.


Keep doing wanikani, then you’ll see more kanji and some vocabulary.

As for reading. I think anything will help, but you’ll probably learn the most as a beginner-intermediate learner by those that detail daily life first. You’ll see more common words and expressions.

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Yeah, this is a pretty good resource. That aside, I guess you need some awareness of what relative clauses in Japanese look like. That is, you need to know that if you find a verb or adjective in the end-of-sentence plain form in the middle of a sentence, then you need to realise that it’s a relative clause. Complex Japanese sentences are like onions: there are little core components (relative clauses) that you’ll find near nouns, and they expand outwards from there. They grow larger towards the right, typically, with every smaller relative clause modifying the next noun on the right. For example, here’s a sentence from The Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 18:


Here’s how I broke it down:

That’s essentially what you have to learn to do. It takes time and practice, but I figured providing an example might help you get an idea. Aim to see sentences as a series of blocks by the time you’re finished parsing them in order to get a feel for their overall structure. Over time, you’ll get better at it.


Thanks for the replies. Basically, the layering of phrases within a sentence is my issue. At least, it’s normal to have this difficulty.


Totally normal.

@Jonapedia had a good rundown on parsing, so in addition, I have two rules of thumb that may help:

  1. What comes before modifies what comes after - you see this in 出された飯を. Seeing an object at the beginning like that is a clue to start hunting for what it’s modifying. It’s an object so you’re looking for a verb.

  2. Start at the end of the sentence - 欲しい物だ, ok so you’re talking about wanting, but what is wanted? Ah,
    見習う, “to follow an example”. And it’s in the て-form before 欲しい so that’s usually a clue that you want someone else to follow an example or, possibly in this case, just a generic 3rd person, “the thing is, I want people to follow the example of ____”. In this way you keep filling in the blanks.

Keep in mind the second rule of thumb is a crutch to aid in understanding a difficult sentence.You’ll eventually get used to parsing things in the proper order.

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Definitely can second that. For optimal effect I recommend reading the various tornado, landslide, typhoon, etc. warning pamphlets first, since they’re rife with useful day-to-day vocabulary and expressions related to movement of people and things. Once one finds an interesting article in NHK News Web Easy, it’s useful to have a look at the “grown-ups” version of the article to compare and learn even more constructions and vocabulary.

The EASY articles are around N4+ level, the full articles are N3-N1 level, depending on the article. For instance, political and economic news are very formal and use appropriate to that expressions, including lots of する compounds. Around N2 level kanji should not be an issue anymore, though :slight_smile: .

Ergo, reading Japanese is like peeling onions? :joy:


Yes. The key is knowing the right technique so you don’t start tearing up :laughing:

Alternatively, X-ray the onion. Might be easier that way. :rofl:


I appreciate the responses. I started reading NHK News Easy, and it’s been helpful. I have been having issues with particles, though.

Of course, I know the basics of particles, but how it connects these longer sentences, I’m getting confused. Is there an “advanced particle guide” that’s helpful for this sort of thing?

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I don’t think it is necessary the particles. Often we can have a long sentence describing a noun. For example, 織田信長を裏切って殺した醜悪な男の名前を忘れてしまった。Parsing Japanese sentences used to be one of my main weakness. My suggestion is start at the end of the sentence: identify what is the verb. Next, work it from the end to the beginning.


One important rule is that particles always stick to the left side. That might clear some of the confusion, especially in regards to と.

Also, do you have a specific sentence in mind which we could go through, for instance? :slight_smile:

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