I have been studying Japanese at university for a couple years, and finished both Genki books. Could anyone recommend an intermediate textbook for studying grammar? I am specifically looking for something that explains grammar points. I am already reading my way through all kinds of texts, but it is hard to look for grammar points if I do not know they exist.
I really like Tobira. I’m almost finished with it right now, and I feel like it accelerated my abilities quite a bit. I also use the Shinkanzen Master N3 book for practice, but wouldn’t use it as a main book.
If you want something with detailed explanation of the grammar points I would recommend not using Tobira. I tried using it, but they put like 15 grammar points on three pages every chapter (or something like that). As you can probably imagine, 1/5 of a page is not really enough to properly explain a grammar point.
I would definitely recommend using https://bunpro.jp for grammar lookup. Their SRS and example sentences are questionable (some people love it, others hate it), but using their website to look up grammar points is incredibly convenient. If I see anything that feels grammar-ish and I can’t find it in a regular dictionary, I go there next. You’ll get better at identifying grammar points as you read more, so it’ll become easier to know what to look up as you progress.
Tobira’s explanations may be brief, but their example sentences are pretty clear and the workbook helps you get comfortable using the grammar. A native teacher is recommended, as with any textbook. The readings are challenging, but level-appropriate, and incorporate the grammar so you can get comfortable with it in context. No textbook is perfect, and Tobira has certainly annoyed me at times, but overall it’s been a great experience (I’m on the second to last chapter).
I agree Bunpro as a system is ちょっと…。I tried it for a few weeks, and I’m still not seeing the appeal. The explanations are even less detailed than Tobira, and they simply link to well-known resources that you could search anyway. There is another site called Kanshudo with a grammar lookup function that is more or less similar, but maybe a little better for the examples I tried.
That’s always the thing isn’t it? I didn’t have a teacher, so the workbook having (some) completely open-ended questions were a complete waste.
I only did the first few chapters, but I found the readings to be easy overall. Maybe that’s also an indication that Tobira was below my level when I used it due to all the stuff I learned just by reading books. I’m not sure I could explain many of the grammar points in Tobira, but I can understand a large portion of them just from exposure.
My main point was that some grammar points are incredibly difficult to search for. I’ve found that grammar points with multiple parts are harder to find when googling, but are easier to search for in Bunpro. They’re like a phone book for grammar points.
I agree with @anon1067447 I think Tobira combined with Shinkanzen Master N3 is a pretty good combination.
The grammar points, by and large, should not require big ass explanations, and practice, and usage examples are going to be just as, if not more, helpful. Also, once you go beyond Tobira, you certainly aren’t going to get many of those. So Tobira is a good point to to start moving towards that direction. In addition, Shinkanzen Master shores things up with its explanations as well as the sections later in the book which differentiate similar grammar points, like わけ vs はず, etc.
Note: I’ve written my post as if I’m talking to OP primarily, so don’t mind me if it seems like I’m not addressing you even though I’m responding to your post. However, comment is free, of course, since this is forum. それでは…
Tobira is probably the best-known intermediate textbook, and as a whole it seems to cover the most advanced vocabulary and grammar among intermediate textbooks. However, if you’re looking for extensive explanations, I think An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese offers more of those. It may not go as far as Tobira though.
In terms of target audience and content, there are differences as well: Tobira is a university textbook, but aims to provide information about Japanese culture and society in general, often providing highly specific vocabulary that you frankly probably won’t have a use for outside Japan, unless you have a strong interest in Japanese culture (e.g. you watch a lot travel shows and documentaries about Japanese festivals in Japanese, and like reading articles about such things). An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese is a university textbook targeting students who might go for a homestay. It covers – in my opinion – more aspects of how Japanese social interaction works, along with the challenges one might face in the context of a homestay, like communicating with one’s host family when one has a problem, or writing an email. It also tackles Japanese culture, but not as broadly as Tobira does. If I were to compare the two, I would say that Tobira would probably interest working adults, whereas AIAtIJ would probably interest students who are likely to face ‘student’ problems and who might want to be sure they’re interacting ‘properly’ with people they meet for the first time in Japan, according to social customs. (In Tobira, most relationships in dialogues are already clearly established, and social conventions are usually not explained.)
Generally speaking, AIAtIJ is probably more similar to Genki (they’re from the same publisher) and more friendly-looking, because there’s lots more English, but Tobira (being almost entirely in Japanese) will allow you to immerse yourself in the language and the culture, albeit with little explicit explanation. Neither textbook is truly designed for self-study – they’re classroom textbooks – but given that AIAtIJ contains more explanation in English, I think it’s easier to use without external help. Ultimately, I’d suggest you take a look at sample pages from each book and decide for yourself.
This is completely accurate, and every single lesson is like this. If you’re like me and constantly engaging with anime and checking the dictionary or the Internet whenever you read or watch something, including Tobira, then it won’t matter. Tobira just tackles the essentials that you need in order to use a grammar point correctly, then gives you 5-7 examples so you can see how it’s actually used. You can look for further explanation on your own. On the other hand, if you’re not able to learn grammar independently – I’m not looking down on anyone here, because I know it’s genuinely hard for many people, especially if they’re not experienced in self-studying foreign languages to a high level, and it really depends on the individual – then you might need help from a tutor or a friend. I generally handle most things on my own, but in the early stages, I sent my answers to the exercises to a fluent friend to get them checked for mistakes. Even now, I send him questions from time to time, but most of them don’t involve Tobira because I’ve stopped. (I finished chapter 12 of 15, and I got bored, because I wasn’t learning enough per chapter to justify continuing seriously studying it.) Again, please consider your learning needs when deciding what to do next. I’m speaking as someone who’s entirely self-taught, Q&A sessions and exchanges in text with my fluent friend aside. Your experience may differ from mine.
I haven’t tried Bunpro, but Kanshudo seems decent, even if its explanations are brief. What I do personally is to google what I think the grammar point is (e.g. ‘だけに grammar’ – I guess what the grammar point is based on what I’m unable to parse). I then see whatever comes up. Typically, JLPT prep sites have most intermediate grammar covered, but they only offer a rough idea of how the grammar point works. I add the names of my go-to sites as well, just to try my luck (e.g. ‘らしい maggiesensei’). Sometimes I find detailed explanations there. At present, the best JLPT-prep-style site I’ve found is https://nihongonosensei.net, but the explanations are entirely in Japanese and Chinese, since the author is teaching in China. Ultimately, once you’re at a fairly advanced level, most ‘grammar points’ can only be found in JLPT prep books or in a monolingual dictionary, so you’ll have to slowly shift towards using those.
Yes, the workbook definitely would be a mess without a teacher. I did find that I learned a lot from doing them with a teacher, though.
It gets progressively more difficult and incorporates different styles. I remember the early readings were not that hard, but I find myself having to read many sentences a few times in later chapters to figure out exactly what is being said.
Most people will recommend Tobira. However Japantimes (Genki publisher) also have their own intermediate books which is “Quartet 1 and 2”. So, if you like the way Genki teach Japanese, it might be another good option to check it out.
I just want to point out while both An Integrated Approach and Quartet are published by The Japan Times as well, neither of them have the same author(s) as Genki.
My opinion on this is that because the grammar introduced in Tobira is not as giant as the fundamental concepts you get in Genki (like a whole new verb form or something), a brief English gloss and a few well-chosen examples usually does the trick.
As a 中年の人, this is why I went with Tobira. I’m moving to Japan as soon as they open, so I am interested in the readings on festivals and politics, etc. I think the social norms (like politeness levels based on position) are there in Tobira, especially in the dialogs. Those sections do a good job in illustrating the roles of casual speech among friends and talking to professors, etc.
This is a whole topic on its own, but my experience is that having a teacher makes things go much more smoothly and could lead to a more well-rounded approach since you need to speak and listen a lot more. I feel like online there is an assumption that self-study is the norm, but I think it is much harder that way. Interaction with a native in the target language is a bigger boost than many might think.
Also getting insight on textbook lessons and how they relate to real world usage can set one on the right path without all of the bumps and bruises of learning something on your own that might not be 100% natural, and then having to correct it later. It’s not cheap in an absolute sense, but iTalki is still a crazy deal relative to classes or most local lessons I’ve seen. And pandemic-friendly :).
Have you tried it? It’s relatively new and I haven’t had the chance to look at a copy yet. Curious, though.
It depends on the individual. I was fine with Tobira’s explanations, generally, but sometimes I wanted more information on fine nuances. In other cases, what Tobira provided contradicted something I had read from another Japanese source, so I needed to do additional reading.
They are demonstrated, yes, but not explicitly explained, which is what I said. As an example, the very first page of AIAtIJ’s lesson content is in English, and briefly explains the customs behind meeting someone for the first time in Japan, covering the exchange of name cards, bowing, introducing oneself and others, and tips on forms of address. The explanations are fairly detailed, even if some of them are clearly directed at university students. Some of these, like forms of address, can be easily learnt through imitation when studying Tobira, but the rest have to be learnt through on-the-spot imitation in real life, or by searching for etiquette guides online. The basics of politeness are easy – just constantly stick to teineigo or whatever register is appropriate for the conversation – but the details of social interaction in a new culture are finicky, especially when your home culture has no analogous traditions (e.g. in France, it’s horribly rude not to say “bonjour” before saying “excusez-moi” or asking for some other favour. This is rarely taught.) They can be learnt through self-study, of course, but I just found it nice that all this information is well packaged in AIAtIJ. For example:
At a reception for new students, for example, you may be asked to introduce yourself in Japanese. State your name, the name of your home institution, your major, and end it all with どうぞよろしく and a bow.
I wouldn’t have thought of mentioning my home institution, just my home country or the one I travelled to Japan from. I wouldn’t have mentioned my major at all, and I might have forgotten よろしくお願いします in a moment of nervousness. My point is that Tobira isn’t as detailed about these things. Not everyone wants to have these things in their textbook, but I would have appreciated it, even though what I own is Tobira, not AIAtIJ.
I agree that that’s a common impression, and I also agree that interaction with natives is enormously helpful: the only reason I’m as fluent as I am in French right now is because of a two-week immersion programme. That kickstarted my ability to express myself with ease. It also is somewhat more difficult to study a language completely independently.
My main reasons, however, for not having a teacher are quite simple:
- I currently don’t have the time for regular lessons, contrary to what my long posts on the forums suggest
- I’m not a working adult, so I don’t have the money for lessons. I’m also not going to ask my family for money for something that I can do myself, especially since they’ve already paid for my textbooks: while interaction with natives did get me started on the road to fluency in French, the biggest part of my progress was a result of hours and hours of self-study. I only had 4h in class at school a week, but I easily spent anywhere between 1h and 3h reading news articles every single day. I also listened to radio podcasts. Ultimately, I managed to pass the C2 proficiency test administered by the CIEP (now France Éducation Internationale) with a good score even though I had only spent one month total on French soil in my entire life up to that point, with the rest of my practice coming from writing essays and answering questions in class with the knowledge I had acquired from self-study. I did so before graduating from high school, with a curriculum that was only supposed to allow me to pass C1.
I do hope to go for Japanese classes some day, however, and my current plan is to sign up for them once I’ve been admitted to an engineering school, since most French engineering schools provide language classes, and Japanese classes often have native teachers. To get there, I’ll need to pass the engineering entrance exams in France first. However, once the exams are over, I intend to study extremely hard over the summer to get as close to N1 as possible so that hopefully, I’ll be able to test out of all basic classes upon enrolment and be permitted to study technical Japanese and business Japanese as soon as possible. I’m aware that there’s lots to learn beyond the N1 level in order to reach full fluency, and I want to get started as early as I can, particularly since I won’t need to pay extra for language classes in engineering school, so I need to make the most of them. That’s about it. If I were a working adult, however, I would certainly consider iTalki, among other options. Thanks for the suggestion nonetheless.
I didn’t know Quartet existed. I hadn’t heard of it.
Do you know how they differ? Is Quartet meant to replace An Integrated Approach, for instance? I’m just curious.
Yeah, I think some points were easier than others. I’m happy I used the SKM exercises in parallel with another teacher. The approach of that book is to take very similar concepts and disambiguate them by zooming in specifically on examples where it is difficult to figure out which to use. Very different from Tobira, and often complementary.
Oh wow, that does sound useful. I never looked too hard at that book (post-Genki rebellion), but maybe I’ll pick it up after I move to have as a reference.
Those are the best reasons not to do live lessons :). I have to admit another reason I do lessons with a teacher is that it really helps keep my focused on getting through the work. Since it’s been years since I was a proper student, I just don’t have that much discipline anymore. Self-study often devolves into staring at this forum or watching Twin Peaks again (well, I do have some Japanese dubs of the old ones…).
My feeling is that the things I learn from self-study are like fuel, but they don’t release their potential energy until I light them up in real life. There’s a switch from abstract knowledge to actual language that comes from mentally tying vocab/grammar/etc to a real world experience. But I kind of have a mathematical background and learning style.
Ordinarily, I dislike test prep books unless I’m actually preparing for a test, but that sounds really great. Maybe I’ll consider buying some of the SKM series. When I was studying French, I bought several reference books that covered the “difficultés” that trip up even native speakers, and they often covered disambiguations or fine nuances like that.
I think it’s best if you have a chance to flip through a hard copy in a book store before deciding (pandemic notwithstanding), but I quite like the culture notes I see in the sample: http://ij.japantimes.co.jp/IJ-textbook_sample.pdf They’re not extremely detailed, but they cover enough to make you aware of some basic facts that you might not discover on your own.
Haha. I’m still a student, and I do that sort of thing sometimes, albeit not really for Japanese. How I ‘study’ Japanese now is mostly reading news articles or watching anime, and stopping every once in a while to check a new word… I’m actually more distracted when it comes to the work I’m supposed to be doing for entrance exam prep. (I’d best be more focused though, because otherwise, I’m going to be like those 浪人 in 塾 in Japan. France has a preparatory class + entrance exam system too, at least for the most prestigious courses.)
I think I know where you’re coming from. It’s like how I can’t always solve physics and maths problems even if I know all the theory we’ve covered in class. In all honesty, in my experience, I have needed some amount of regular practice to progress rapidly in languages. However, once I get to the point where I can think and express myself fairly freely in the target language (I’m roughly there for Japanese), I no longer need as much output/conversation practice for growth. Of course, more conversation practice is still desirable, and I thoroughly enjoy opportunities to speak to my friend in informal Japanese, but it’s no longer as necessary as when I’m unable to get words and sentences to ‘flow’.
I strongly recommend the Japanese Grammar Dictionary series, the basic one at a minimum.
I have the full Tobira set, the Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese set, the full Japanese Grammar Dictionary set, and Shin Kanzen Master for N4 and N3. Personally, the most effective resources for my intermediate Japanese journey have been Shin Kanzen Master and the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (I’ve also referenced the Intermediate dictionary as well).
I also strongly recommend Sambon Juku on YouTube. Akki Sensei, the main teacher, teaches you intermediate Japanese using only Japanese and focuses a lot on ensuring you understand the natural way to express yourself, rather than some of the less natural / uncommon examples in some Japanese textbooks. It’s been a significant contributor to my listening capabilities. Aki’s book, Casual Nihongo, is also a nice, easy read that helps you get more into monolingual studies and also helps you learn more natural / colloquial speech. It’s aimed for N5 / N4 level students, or people who have completed the Genki series.
Unrelated note, I just noticed all links pointing to Amazon gets tagged with
Not a textbook, but similar to Wanikani in terms of it uses SRS. I use https://bunpro.jp
It’s not explicitly stated, but what I believe happened is that they decided that rather than making a 3rd edition of An Integrated Approach, they decided it was time for a totally new book. An Integrated Approach is actually older than Genki, It came out in Jan 1994, while Genki is 1999.