Becoming Fluent In Japanese In Record-Smashing Time — 24 Comments

  1. What I consider fluent is the ability to talk to people, make up your mind and understand spoken Japanese with ease.Think it can be achieve within a year or two for sure.That being said, I studied for 6 months, 2 hours/day. Managed to finish N5 level by that time. The last 1 month have been sessions of 3-4 hours/day and I cannot stress this enough but the more time you put in the better. I just have now so much time to review stuff I previously learned, do exercises, listen to podcast/genki exercises, practice speaking Japanese, chat with people.I think in another 5 months I will be done with N4. Still, I wont be able to achieve fluency but anyone who can put more hours, more dedication into learning I’m confident they can do it fast.


    • Nice, good luck! I love reading posts like yours; I have trouble finding any time at all because I have too many hobbies and find it very hard to prioritize… It feels like sometimes I just need a reminder, like your post!

    • Well said. More time just makes everything better. You’ve nearly doubled your daily study time, which I guarantee will yield you impressive results.

  2. I admit I am guilty of thoughts of disbelief when I hear people proclaim they will learn the language in a short amount of time. It is kind of frustrating, but at the same time kind of inspiring. Very good post, it gives me a lot to think about, thank you.

    • Mission accomplished. These thoughts are completely normal. Just make them empowering, not discouraging.

  3. I have been waiting for this kind of post for a long time (read my author’s box).

    “If you can learn Japanese in 4 years instead of 5, why not?”

    A funny story. Back when I was deciding how many new cards to do each day, I decided on 5. After completing them, I felt bored and increased the cards to 10 and so on, until I was looking at 40 cards. I do this everyday now. I start from 5 , and increase cards as I feel it. You won’t believe that it is waaaat different feeling that doing 50 cards/day. It is like doing small sets of 10 pushups for 4 sets, Instead of trying to do all 40 in one.

  4. One of my favourite things about this site (except for the whole method which suits me amazingly well) is the positive tone. I really love how much of a safe-zone this is. Whenever I leave this site after doing a little reading I feel refreshed and ready to face any challenge thrown at me :)

  5. Like the previous commenter, I really admire the positive attitude of this post (and website overall). The Japanese learning community I have experience in real life has been supportive, and now that I’m out of university it’s good to know there are still people who are encouraging. I would definitely encourage beginners to keep “smashing” through learning speed records, especially at the times when you feel like you’re not making progress.. those are the roadblocks that can keep people from wanting to maintain Japanese in their life.

    What has been a measure for your fluency? JLPT?

  6. Following the Jalup scale for fluency (10,000 sentences) with my current pace of 30 cards, I should hit that by late December early January which is 1 year and 1 month. The only reason I can maintain this pace is thanks to the amazing anki feature called study reviews ahead. I wished I had discovered it sooner, it can let you have a fast pace with low reviews, or completely avoid anki avalanche. I think I won’t achieve 10,000 this fast because once I finish intermediate I am going to start immersing a lot so anki time will be cut unless I make my lazy bum wake up earlier to do anki.

    • So the Jalup scale for fluency actually isn’t 10,000 sentences.

      Part of the Jalup scale for fluency is “Over 9,000 sentences!”

      However the other parts include:

      Can have conversations about most standard topics
      Intonation, pronunciation, and inflection are excellent
      Are very versed in Japanese culture and the language behind the culture
      Can write about advanced topics in a very fluid matter
      Can understand Japanese TV (90%), Manga (90%), Novels (85%), Japanese News (80%),
      Kanji: 3000+

      So there is a lot to reach fluency on this scale. Most people who reach 9000+ sentences spend most of their time on native materials in order to meet all these other goals (this is a natural process of importance on Anki fading away)

      • How do you quantify your progress toward that 3000 Kanji goal? I add important ones to my RTK deck as I come across them, but there are also more rare Kanji I recognize and don’t add. I’d guess that I can recognize something like ~2200 and I don’t often see unfamiliar ones (except in proper names). Anything outside the scope of my RTK deck is just an estimate, so I don’t think there’s any way for me to know. How did you arrive at the number 3000?

        • Not Adam obviously but rtk book 1 and 2 are 3000+ kanji combined. Maybe do the all in one kanji deck on anki shared? You can power level (or just plain delete) through the first 2000+ I assume.

        • 3,000 was the estimate based on a low average of what the average Japanese person can recognize after graduating high school. It doesn’t need to be in Anki, just when you see it, you know it. Because of this, if you are doing it outside of Anki there is no way to quantify your number, it’s more of a feel. For example, read the news and see how often you come across unfamiliar kanji.

          Does this seem too high to you? Maybe 2500 sounds better?

          • I have myself been wondering about 3000 kanji for fluency and felt it was a bit high. Reading your comment above about your motivation, I don’t necessarily think it is too high, but perhaps it should be made more clear that it is not necessarily 3000 kanji learned to the same level as through RTK, vocabulary and ability to write.

            • Thanks for the feedback. Added a small note at level 40 hoping to capture this sentiment, and decided to end it on 2500+ instead of 3000.

          • It’s hard to say, as it seems like there’s no real consensus on just how many characters a JP HS graduate can read. Even in answers from natives, I’ve seen estimates as low as 2500 and as high as 4000+.

            To expand on my comment above, I’m in the upper 50’s level-wise, and chiefly encounter unfamiliar kanji in one of 3 areas:
            -Names of people and places
            -Classical/Archaic dialog, like deity/emperor speak, incantations for spells, etc
            -Specialized subjects like biology, religion, military, etc

            I think all of those things are valuable to learn, but I’m unsure to what extent I’d lump them into the Level 65/”fluency” bucket, vs the deeper knowledge of specific subjects you’d build up on your way to Level 75+.

            At least based on my experience, I’d adjust the level targets like so-
            Level 30: ~1950
            Level 40: ~2050
            Level 50: ~2200
            Level 65: ~2500

            • Thanks Matt. I adjusted them fairly close to your suggestion and decided to end fluency on 2500+

  7. I know this is an old article but I really enjoyed reading it and it struck a cord with me.

    I have been studying Japanese for 6 months and daily use Genki textbooks, Japanesepod101, Rosetta Stone and flashcards. I also listen to music, watch movies in Japanese, listen to the Japanese news on youtube daily and read Japanese childrens books. I study for about 3-4 hours a day and my self progress has shattered what I had originally expected myself to achieve at this point.

    You can achieve anything if you provide your mind enough ways to digest a subject and apply it routinely.

    Awesome read, thanks, Nath.

    • That’s really great to hear about your progress. When people work their ass off on something they are super passionate about, good things can happen.

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