Tobira study group - chapter 2

This is the thread for chapter 2 of Tobira. Our home thread for this study group is here.

We’ll spend 2 weeks on chapter 2, just like we did on chapter 1. There is so much content in these chapters so we need 2 weeks to get through them.

Here is the link to the Tobira web site where you can find recordings of the main text and dialogues in each chapter plus kanji and grammar resources.

Who will study chapter 2 of Tobira the next 2 weeks?

  • I will study chapter 2 now
  • I will study chapter 2 later

0 voters

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It’s looking like I won’t get hold of my books til June. I’m coming for you guys in Chapter 4!



I’m a bit late, have been slacking a little last chapter and I’m still doing the grammar book. Hopefully I’ll start tomorrow or on Wednesday, but it doesn’t worry me too much cause I’ve done up to chapter four on my own before, so should be easy to catch up.

I remember the text in this chapter being a bit of a challenge because of its length and long sentences, but it was very fun to put every piece of the puzzle together and finally comprehend it after a bit of struggle.


I think this chapter will be fun! Just reading the first few pages now. One line in the manga on page 27 had me laughing out loud!

The manga on the left, panel 2 from the top, the first sentence:
パパはお(さけ)だ。Daddy is sake! Sometimes I just love Japanese.
(And yes, I know that it means that daddy will drink sake.)


Now I have gone through the main text on page 28-31. It’s very long (almost 10 minutes if you listen to the audio from the Tobira web site), but it doesn’t feel as hard as the text from chapter 1. With the help of a dictionary I think I understand most of it. How are you doing with the text?


Yeah I saw it was long - haven’t started on it yet though, hopefully tonight or tomorrow!

Edit: just finished a first read-through of the main text – it was quite dense and long, so I’ll be reading it again a bit more slowly and intensely – but I agree, it didn’t feel too hard!
I was surprised to see I already knew most of the vocab, which made reading relatively easy!

I only recently started working on keigo stuff, so it’s nice to see clear comparisons between levels of politeness!


:wave: I re-read the main text, and read the dialogs today. On dialog 2, I’m having trouble parsing line 36:


I understand it as “I still some have things to do”, but I don’t really know what I’m looking at with しなきゃなんないこと…

Any pointers?

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I did this chapter a while back. Got to chapter 7 a few months ago and stopped (too many other things to do)…

Speaking of things to do, that’s what this sentence is about (as you’ve already noticed). I guess you want to figure it out yourself, so I’m not gonna translate more than that, but go back through the chapter and look for common contractions of verbs in informal speech. It might be in the 読み物 about スピーチスタイル. There are two contractions in しなきゃなんないこと. Another hint if you know this sort of grammar: it’s a common structure for expressing obligation.


I recognize しなきゃ as しなければ (I have to do), but how does the なんないこと fit? Sorry, having a brain misfunction I guess… :sweat_smile:

Nah, it’s OK. I’m honestly not sure if I learnt the contraction from Tobira. Let me go look again…

EDIT: OK, I’m back. I’ve found it, but it’s not explicitly taught. Flip to the next page and look at the table under くだけた話し方. You see 分かんない? What do you think that means? (I’ll let you look that up while I type some explanations/corrections related to your post.)


OK, I’m fairly sure that, perhaps like you, I learnt しなきゃ as a contraction of しなければ thanks to Tobira. I can’t find the page in Tobira that specifically mentions it though, so I’m just going to explain from my own knowledge. (You’ll probably find the relevant section later, if you haven’t already.)

Technically speaking, しなければ just means ‘if not do’. Nothing more. It’s only when しなきゃ (the contracted form) is at the end of an informal sentence that you infer the full phrase, しなければ ならない・いけない, which is literally, in this context, ‘if [I] don’t do [it], it won’t become/go’ = ‘if [I] don’t do [it], it’s unbecoming/it won’t fly’.

Given what I just said, and also given what Tobira shows about 分かんない (which is just an even more informal version of 分からない) in that table, なんない=成んない=成らない=ならない. See the connection?

Bonus about the difference between ならない and いけない in this structure: not sure how strict the rule is, but generally, ならない is more for external, social/moral obligations. You know, like how we always say something is ‘unbecoming of [a type of person/organisation etc]’? It’s about what’s expected of them, right? Whereas いけない is for an obligation/necessity felt by the individual on a personal level, maybe because he or she has standards that require action, or because the action is necessary for obtaining something he or she wants.


Thank you so much for taking the time to explain!! I definitely did not recognise なんない as ならない :woman_facepalming:

The whole sentence makes perfect sense now thank you! :dancer:

And thanks for the extra details on ならない vs いけない too, I never did understand the difference between them :sweat_smile:

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You’re welcome. Just a heads up though, so you don’t get too confused: Tobira itself explains the difference later, but it says いけない tends to be used to impose a sense of obligation on the listener, whereas ならない tends to be used to discuss one’s own obligations. Sounds pretty different from what I said, right? I have to admit that I’m not sure I can reconcile the two, though I will try.

Thing is, while I’m definitely not as qualified as the writers of Tobira, I’ve seen several Japanese sources (namely my dictionary, スーパー大辞林; this site: 「~なければいけない」と「~なければならない」; and this other one: 株式会社アルク) that don’t make the same distinction as Tobira. The two websites both say that ならない is used for duties, rules and things that are 当然 (obvious/natural), whereas いけない is used when the speaker considers that not fulfilling the obligation might be unpleasant or detrimental to somebody. One of them (ALC) notes that in Japanese laws, it’s more common to use ならない than いけない.

The dictionary, for its part, says ならない is for 当然の things (pardon my mixing of Japanese and English grammar) and duties, whereas いけない is used when ‘some reason or rule’ creates a ‘need or duty’ to do something. We can see that the dictionary isn’t exactly aligned with the websites, but notice that for いけない, a particular reason or constraint is needed as the source of the obligation, whereas for ならない, no particular justification is required. That isn’t too different from what the two Japanese sites mentioned.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the ‘external, natural obligation’ vs ‘personal, subjective obligation’ split is valid. How can we reconcile this with Tobira’s explanation, since the authors had no reason to put something false, particularly about practical usage, inside the book? I suspect (though I haven’t had enough exposure to Japanese conversation, so I can’t say for sure) that the reason it’s more common to use ならない to discuss one’s own obligations, while using いけない for those of others, is that it’s probably impolite or difficult to impose a universal/natural obligation on somebody else, whereas we can discuss our own obligations whichever way we want. Of course, what I’m saying is pure speculation, but I guess we’ll all find out when we start wading deeper into the world of Japanese speech. Either way, I have a feeling both Tobira and the other sources are right, it’s just that Tobira chose to give practical advice instead of a fundamental analysis of differences in meaning.


Wow, I wasn’t expecting such detailed insight :sweat_smile: That’ll take a while for my poor little brain to process, but thank you :blush:

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I found this lesson’s text quite digestible as well :smile:

Gonna start with the dialog’n’stuff tomorrow.
Also wanna express my thanks @Jonapedia for those explanations, that’ll help us remember the details! :slight_smile:


Week 2 of chapter 2 starts tomorrow. How are you doing?

I want to translate the dialogues but I find it hard to translate the nuances to English. I’ll try again.

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I focused on deep understanding of the texts this time, instead of translating (that took me way to much time in the previous chapter). I haven’t started looking into the exercises yet though, and need to review the grammar points too!

Things were a bit quiet around here last week – participation seems to have dropped off sharply since the previous chapter… :woman_shrugging:

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Yes, me too. I find that I understand most of it without translating. The dialogues are difficult to translate anyway. We just don’t have the same levels of politeness in English. It’s really interesting to read it though, and to reflect on how I speak and how the Japanese people I listen to on YouTube, drama and so on speak. I think really understanding and using the different speach levels correctly is very important if you want to sound natural in Japanese.

There are probably a few lurkers out there. I’m not giving up though! I hope more students join us, but if not then I’ll still work my way through Tobira. I’m glad you’re still here!

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Did you get through the dialoges? Did you find them difficult?


IDK if I count as a lurker, but I guess I’ll drop by from time to time. I started Tobira on my own quite a while ago, but I had to stop because it was too time-consuming given how much work I had in my university course. I intend to pick it up again after exam season (which ends in July). I stopped at Chapter 7, and since then, I’ve mostly been studying through anime. I guess I’ll try to help out if I notice any questions (no guarantees). Just one thought though:

Completely true. The comment I wanted to make though, was this: I’ve seem some books claim that it’s OK to switch between speech levels during a conversation with the same person. I guess I’ll only know for sure when I start making Japanese friends, but my friend who lives in Japan told me not to do it. It’s strange. I mean, of course, it’s fine to add 敬語 to your 丁寧語 if you’re talking to someone to whom you have to show respect, like an elderly stranger or a boss, but switching between 丁寧語 and タメ口 aka 砕けた話し方 without clear reason could make you either seem suddenly strangely distant (from a friend) or suddenly rude/too familiar (to an acquaintance). I mean, I doubt everyone has been given such advice, but just in case that’s what you’ve been told at some point…

PS: if anyone was given this advice, but found it to be true/justified, by all means say so. I’m curious as to how a textbook could give advice so different from what apparently happens in real life.


Have you ever watched Terrace House? It’s a reality show on Netflix where 6 Japanese strangers meet in a beautiful house and live together for a while.

I have noticed that when they meet for the first time, or when someone new enters the house, they are very formal and polite. After a while, they «warm up» and start to use less formal forms. I guess the switching between degrees of formality happens naturally as you get to know someone.

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