What Level Are You? — 109 Comments

  1. Difficult to say, but I think I must be somewhere between business and fluent. 55? 60? Some way to go to fluent at any rate.

    The higher levels are interesting, although I guess by that stage, a lot of people are specialising. If you can read and fully understand classical literature I’d probably still call you a master even if you couldn’t write a novel. Also I’m not sure about “Your Japanese is significantly better than your native language”, as I think the kind of person that gets high would also be someone who would have a very great knowledge of their own language too. Of course, that’s just me speculating.

  2. Level 10-12

    I feel I could understand a basic conversation, but producing it is another thing..I think this is mostly due to pace and of course SRS cards not being mature. At least in a classroom setting, I guess Genki I and II are used a bit more aggressively so all that stuff gets drilled in.

    I’d say mostly the grammar has settled from the those two books so far, vocab is getting there..even if stuff like 引換券 and 新幹線 don’t get alot of mileage.

    But definitely when I look at a sentence now it’s more that the vocab alone is what I don’t know, of course there are other possible grammar types but theres a heck of alot i’ve learnt in the past 50 or so days.

    Thanks for making this blog and the frequent articles!

  3. I’d say I’m around a 8-10. Maybe higher.

    I’ve been through 2042 kanji already, before sentences; of which I have around 730 right now with help from Khatz’ My First Sentence Pack. Very good sentences in there.

    Although right now I’m working through Genki 1 and almost done. I’m a bit scattered on the characteristics, but I can pretty much understand where I am, ha.

  4. When I was in Japan they said that in order to even get hired at a job (which was not teaching english) you’d have to have passed N2 of the JLPT and native is passing N1. Now obviously just because someone has a reading comprehension of a native doesn’t mean they can speak well at all. I guess this would assume you were evenly balanced in Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. So maybe it’s like this:

    Levels 1-10: N5
    Levels 10-20: N4
    Levels 20-30: N3
    Levels 30-50: N2
    Levels 50-80: N1

    But like you said, there are so many factors, even passing N1 wouldn’t REALLY gauge your abilities.

  5. Hmm.. I guess I’d say I’m somewhere in the mid to high 30’s, but my low point is the conversation part. I don’t have much experience speaking Japanese so I can’t really say what my level is there. But reading is definitely my strong suit and I’ve been watching shows more often lately so my listening is slowly getting better.

  6. I think the JLPT1 is way off native speaker level. I mean, maybe it depends partly on how good you are at that kind of memory/multiple choice test, but I reckon I was about 40 on this scale when I passed. Look at a Japanese high school reading comprehension (or even a junior high school comprehension) and the gap should be clear. And I wasted a lot of time, thinking my Japanese was much better than it was, just because I’d passed the test.

  7. Really good classification! I’m now at level 16. I have finished Japanese for Busy People I, have 1650 kanji and 650 sentences. On my way to the Intermediate level.

  8. I would say that I am still beginner I am around 575 in remembering the kanji I do about 10 kanji a day once this semester is over gonna go back to doing 20+ does anyone have an tips for me

    • @Jordan
      * I think one of the most useful advices I used during RTK1 was not to focus on the finish line, neither short or long term, and instead make the kanji learning/reviews a habit. Like brushing your teeth! :P This works by preventing burnout along the relatively long road ahead.. It took me almost 9 months but it IS worth it – so keep it up, you’re doing great! (During my slowest period I did about 3/day.)
      * I would also recommend carefully following the advice given in the book about the steps you go through when creating a story for the characters, thus building a good foundation for the rest of the book AND onwards.
      * Another tip is to limit the time spent learning each new kanji – just look at your computer clock (or whatever) and give each 2-5 min (as you advance it will go faster) as not to get stuck on one for 20+mins. This advice might seem counter intuitive to the above mentioned but going trough the steps carefully in the beginning will set you up for speed later.
      Best of luck!

  9. @ Richard

    Yeah you are probably right. I guess JLPT levels are really subjective because they don’t really reflect people’s level.

    Try to do as much as you can in any given day. The only advice I can give, is not to get frustrated and give up!! I remember RTK used to feel tedious, but you will be very thankful when you complete it!  がんばって!

  10. How do people keep in track with how many kanji they know? I can read a lot more kanji than I can write. I’ve never exactly counted.

    I just started using Anki. I figure that will help me keep in track from now on.

    • I posted last year on this… but now I’m at a whole new level.(^_^)

      Well, I know 825 kanji (~5th grade) now. I can read anything using those 825 and a little more because of how I’m teaching myself. I’ve learned more from Chinese and Korean but not the Japanese sounds for them.

      I use tagaini jisho, a dictionary app for Japanese. I may not know how to read as many kanji as others but my comprehension ranges from anywhere between “native” and “legendary”, based on ability to read vocabulary with these kanji (plus some more in Chinese/Korean). But, my application of the language ranges somewhere between “basic” and “fluent”. Mostly, ’cause I haven’t conversed w/or wrote to someone much.

      By next year around this time, I should know 3000+ kanji and be able to read every word in the dictionary app (~160,000 total). I’ve gotten good at learning tons (extremely massive amounts) of Japanese everyday compared to last year… and in no more than 3 hours, maybe less.

      Goals for 2013: My 3rd of self-study
      1) Learning ~5175 more kanji.
      2) Learning the remaining ~140,000 vocab words (exp, idioms, and etc) in tagaini jisho.
      3) Improve writing skills through reading and error correction.
      4) Read and write more, often.

      1) “…are a kanji master…”
      No, I’m not but I am a phonetic master.
      2) “…do you learn using radicals to simplify them…”
      No, that’s actually over complicating kanji.
      3) “Then, how do you learn them?”
      It’s very simple secret, just like English (native language) but with a slight twist. I’m somewhat sure that Japanese natives learned in such a fashion…(^_^)〜僕の秘密だから...

      • “By next year around this time, I should know 3000+ kanji and be able to read every word in the dictionary app (~160,000 total).”
        “2) Learning the remaining ~140,000 vocab words (exp, idioms, and etc) in tagaini jisho.”

        Are you really suggesting you expect to learn an average of around 400 words a day for the following year? Either you have a particularly astonishing method or you are being a tad optimistic…

        • hehe, yeah, I do plan on studying 400~600 words per day for the next year. The method isn’t astonishing, just really hard work (very tedious even). I had to write everything down (kanji and vocabulary) at first. Now, I only do so when learning a new symbol. I’ve been using Anki with this method everyday, adding only vocabulary. I’ve been writing since the beginning so kanji are deeply ingrained in my brain. I read a lot, listen to music, and play games from time to time. Originally, it took me a month to learn that many words in this manner. Now, It’s just three hours (or less) a day.

          Learning is extremely easy, when one knows what they’re doing and how to do it.(^_^)

          • I’m sorry but I’m also super skeptical.

            Assuming you sleep 8 hours a day and study the remaining 16 hours, for 4oo words per day you’d be learning one word every 144 seconds.

            Even more, you’re saying you’re doing 400 words in 3 hours which means one word every 27 seconds. And that’s just seeing new words, not counting for repetition.

            And you expect to learn 140,000 words in one year? I can see you reviewing that many words if you really feel like it but you don’t actually expect to retain all that information, do you?

            • Yeah, I expect to retain it otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. 笑

              I just learned the compound 生物学的応答調節物質 among many words I studied on the 12th of this month.

              Which in English is this topic.

              Today, I learned many words related to 心. Here’s some easy ones 中心小体、心不全、遠心力、童心、安心立命、(集団や変態など)心理学、団結心。など

              If you’re unable to learn easy words like these (some are advanced topics) in English, then you can’t keep up with my pace in Japanese. I know more words on military related topics, Buddhism, botany and etc. Those are just words in kanji. Kana vocabulary is a whole different ballgame :P ~so much fun and super easy

              My level has ramped up to light year speeds. Very soon, I’m going to benchmark myself in Chinese/Korean to see my current maximum limits. Now these two, I started just this year and they’re helping me learn Japanese at light year speeds.

            • Quote: My requirement is,
              “…being able to read a word when it presented and etc…” ~that’s it

              I think this explains a lot. It’s not necessarily retention as it is kanji comprehension. When I read, I can read new words I don’t know due to the kanji they contain, and with context I’ll know what they mean but I might not know the word enough to retain it. As in, 5 months after seeing the word for the first time, if someone decides to start talking biology (ugh, hate that subject anyway), I might not be able to pull out the word for biological response modifiers even though I once understood it when I read that one article 5 months ago.

              Plus there are certain topics you just don’t know or can’t explain unless you’ve studied them. I have a masters in organic chemistry, and trust me, I can talk circles around non-organic people with highly specialized vocabulary. They might understand the words low, high, electron, and density but maybe they don’t want it means to do a mechanism where one of the rules is to go from high to low electron density. And what does “mechanism” mean in this example anyway?

              My point isn’t to dismiss your study methods. Only to more readily understand them. Like you I study new words and new kanji every day. But without repetition later and reading native material, I certainly don’t retain it at a 100% level as it seemed you were initially implying.

              I know my problem is that I spend more time studying and not enough time using native materials. Seriously not a good thing for me! ^^;;;

          • “The method isn’t astonishing, just really hard work (very tedious even). ”

            Hard work it may be, but the numbers you propose would seem to require an exceptionally efficient method. I think kure’s post highlights very well how impressive those numbers are.

            And, for instance, its not clear to me what you require to consider a word learnt. E.g., are you ankiing every word you learn? Clearly not, as I doubt 400+ new cards a day is remotely sustainable (at least to me it takes 1h+ to deal with my ~300 daily reviews).

            And another question: are you learning in J-E mode or J-J mode?

            • My requirement is,
              “…being able to read a word when it presented and etc…” ~that’s it

              I’m learning vocab J-E only. As in, the Tagaini Jisho definitions/readings and alt.readings/kanji on the backside. Since I read very often, there is no need to do J-J. I just started learning grammar (in depth) this month… as I’m trying to write and express myself more. Now, it’s just Japanese writing w/ corrections in Japanese. Sometimes notes/comments in Japanese or English.

              I haven’t reviewed words in a while because there are tons of repetition through the way I learn. Reviewing is very rare, now. Though, I retain them much better now than previously. I’ve never used the “again” button when reviewing. I just used the SRS straight.

              Ankiより:Card Ease
              Lowest factor: 1.86
              Average factor: 2.85
              Highest factor: 3.35

              I have cards due from ~100 days ago. The last time I reviewed was 5 days ago. On top of that, I’m still adding vocabulary. Though, my learning outstrips my reviewing… there is plenty of repetition without Anki. Now, I use Anki as a… “Oh! I have ~1600 reviews and ~3000 new cards… eh, I’ll do them later for fun.”

              My largest interval is ~3 years. The first word in that range, from my deck, is 一対一。

              I’m using Anki 1.2.8. I’ve also changed the interval settings.

              [Initial button 2] 1.0~2.0days
              [Initial button 3] 4.0~7.0days
              [Initial button 4] 11.0~16.0days

              Originally, [Initial button 4] was 12.0~21.0days before I knew how to optimize Anki.

            • I see. So at this point Anki is at most a secondary part of your approach, with the main systematic part of that approach being the tagainijisho.

              And from what I gather from your comments, you are in some sense going through its database in a somewhat thematic fashion. Does the tagainijisho make it easy to keep track of the words you have seen?

        • @uvauva
          “you are in some sense going through its database in a somewhat thematic fashion.”

          Yeah, play around with tagaini jisho and you’ll see how readily one can organize their studying… to some degree. I’m surprised not that many people have used it (or even heard of it) to the extent… that I have. o.o” well, at least to my knowledge. It’s very awesome. I could do J-J if I wanted too to some extent but it’s not so important. I could always look up J defs on and remember them if I can read them… as they just show a few synonyms and examples of use.(ー.ー;)

          My retention rate now is ~94% ’cause the words are so easy to remember. :D maybe struggling w/ Chinese and breezing through Korean made learning Japanese compounds/vocabulary very easy. I would think that learning more than one language created a total change of pace, so Japanese became way easier in comparison. Now, I just keep tagging on languages and immersing in all of them. Though, I can’t listen to Japanese while I’m learning it… o.o” I forget vocab here and there remembering words from speech.

          Plus, I can always research topics in English on words that I’ve never heard before. Such as, 生物学的応答調節物質… but, now I know what the idea of it is so learning about it in Japanese is equal to that of what I already know. Now, the hands-on knowledge may never happen. Everything one learns is useful, no matter how insignificant it is at the moment. (^_^)

          Anyways… for me, learning 生物学的応答調節物質 is almost completely worthless however I’ve learned yet again old phonetics in a new word or arrangement w/repetition of old vocabulary. It’s 4 words minus 的(てき) because it’s a suffix.

          This is how I’m learning words extremely quick. I’ve been learning words based on Kanji I’ve only learned. So, it’s very easy to knock out 400+ words a day (now in 3 hours). Originally, it was harder than learning in any method that is considered “normal”. I decided to learn Kanji as “phonetically” as possible without breaking them down, as others have tried doing. Now, I’m blazing through Japanese like it’s English. Learn a few new kanji (one or more at a time), then I’ll blaze through hundreds of words using those Kanji. Since I’m learning straight from a dictionary… if I can read a word (pick it out in native speech w/out visuals), then I know it. The only context I have is the definition(s), a little bit of research (in any language I’m literate of), and etc.

          I would say the method or idea is to learn kanji, extensively. Then one can read and use Japanese, extensively.(^_^)If you’d learned this way from beginning, then you’d see why it makes “vocab retention” and “kanji comprehension” are one and the same.

          “…enhance the activity of the ‘immune system’ to increase the ‘body’s natural defense mechanisms’ ”

          hehe, it would be referring back to (everything in) the “immune system”. ;)

          • I’m seeing what you are saying. Thank you for your (several) quick replies. It has been interesting to see your thoughts. It’s actually, surprisingly enough, similar to what I do except that you are much more thorough in seeking out other words with the kanji you know.

            I’ll use you as inspiration, thank you.

          • I played a little bit with the 互いに辞書, it seems indeed like an extremely useful tool.
            In a way your method has a philosophy almost orthogonal to what I do. While you systematically “stalk” new kanji for every new possible word in an organized way, I just learn whatever random words I feel like it (and can) based on where my current japanese travels take me, something which is somewhat enabled by the fact that I already know most kanji to a minor extent (via RTK).

            To be fair, from my view (and though I’m quite less advanced than you, having started only about 10 months ago), by which I mean, the way I would count them, your 400 word/day number is somewhat beefed up by the presence of pairs/trios of words that I probably wouldn’t really count (e.g. 中心小体 really is just 中心 plus 小体、unless I’m missing something (to be fair, I don’t know the second compound atm, but I’ll anki it the moment I post this :p)), but it is still a very interesting learning method.

            All that said, thanks for bringing my attention to the 互いに辞書. I think I may try to borrow a few pages from your book and mix it with what I’m doing. If nothing else, I’ve wanted for a while to have some well organized list of words according to how basic they are, and the 互いに辞書 provides that and much more.

            • If Chinese/ korean (and other languages) had something like Tagaini Jisho for learning 漢字(or vocabulary in general)… then it would be a smooth ride to acquire them.

              Yeah, however the dictionary sorts vocab in some order (probably by frequency). So I just pick the top word from the list and so on. Sometimes, I learn solo 漢字 from a word like 寒さ… learning tons of words that use 寒. Then, the next word I learn may be 悪質 and learning a few words from that compound (related to the word itself or the kanji in the word). Maybe way later I may see 寒 in another compound maybe even after learning new kanji and etc. Eventually, I just keep doing this until I hit ~400. It’s very stable and thorough. This way, I don’t have to think about what to learn. So, I just learn it and move on to do more fun things. I always leave the learn studied kanji only, checked. The kana only words are sorted by the traditional sorting… as far as I know あいうえお and etc…

              If I did my maximum limit, I could do a little more than ~1000 each day. I would have to have the free time and break it into 2 sessions.(ー.ー;)

              @ uvauva
              Yeah, I just use it straight based on symbols I’m what I’m progressively learning (for now up to the 5th grade kanji). I learned JLPT vocab first and then learn non-JLPT vocabulary. The vocab words are beefed up based on the phonetics but the specific ideas are different. Even though, the overall meaning would be the same. In this case “centriole” would be the specific idea, in English.

              [Specific idea being referred]
              中心小体 = centriole: a minute cylindrical organelle near the nucleus (in animal cells)…

              [Overall meaning being inferred]
              中心 = center, core, heart, and etc.
              小体 = undefined, but it would be (or of) a small body, form, substance, shape and etc.

              So, a native speaker would be able to infer these specific ideas from word of mouth or from instruction… just by overall meaning alone. That would then leave the dictionary as their backup plan.

              For me, the dictionary (w/some research) replaces the native speaker. So then, a native speaker would be my backup plan. In my case word choice, usage, and correcting grammar. So, it’s just like learning in my native language. I figured, everyone learns in a similar fashion in their native language (through inference/education) but I’ll just take it to the extreme… because I have the tools to do so.

              Once knowing that, you’ll start picking up patterns in languages very quickly. The patterns can’t be too big (such as, 一 and learning every word related to it) but one can learn various small chunks. I would say learning in this manner… would keep the acquiring rate of lemmas and lexemes at a very manageable rate.

            • “中心小体 = centriole: a minute cylindrical organelle near the nucleus (in animal cells)…”

              lol, no wonder it didn’t have an entry in the

              There actually is an entry for 小体[こてい] in the, meaning roughly frugal/simple.

              “So, it’s just like learning in my native language. I figured everyone learns in a similar fashion (in a language) but I’ll just take it to the extreme… because I have the tools to do so.”

              Not really… You are learning japanese words via equivalents in english which already have extremely precise and well defined meanings, which is immensely different form learning your native language. But I don’t really think that matters in this context…

            • 中心小体 was a one word def “centriole”… so I embellished it a bit here with some prior knowledge of it. hehe

              Yeah, it is very similar to learning your own language, just this way is cutting out the middle man (e.g. wasting time). lol

              People just naturally infer words in their own language based on sound for the most part. The remainder is from context (immersion), education, parents, and etc.

              Thanks, I didn’t know of the definition of こてい, so I read it on… humble, modest, simplistic, compact(ly), cozy (snugly), and etc.

              The closes related entry of 中心小体, I looked up, would be 微小体. ( I haven’t learned 微 yet… so it’s び小体 in my mind right now. lol

              I’m sure I would have picked that one up through context. ‘Cause, I’m very familiar with sound already. Sort of like 子 and 小 related words using the sound こ. I’m not adding it yet…

              Though, I think… I’ll find some way to fill in gaps of vocabulary such as 小体, こてい in this case (undefined in app)… later. ;) Like some massive searching through kotobank or even get a really good j-j paper dictionary. hehe, ~very, very small gaps. At the rate I’m going, It’s almost not even necessary. :D

              The app actually has some readings/words spellings slightly wrong. It’s probably from the dict source. So, when words don’t sound right… I’d double check online. :)

            • “Yeah, it is very similar to learning your own language, just this way is cutting out the middle man (e.g. wasting time). lol”

              Like I said, I don’t think it actually is, but I’m not particularly interested in discussing the basis and nature of language here. As long as the method works everything else is of little importance for this particular conversation.

              微 has a keyword of delicate in RTK, though looking at the definition it’s looks like some other microorganism type thingy…, though googling the term yields mostly puppies… 怖過ぎた。。。

            • >though googling the term yields mostly puppies…
              Please use a Japanese search engine next time. (e.g. Google Japan)

            • Good point XiaYixuan. Always use Google image search with Japanese on Google Japan, not I would assume that using regular Google is bringing up Chinese results for 微小体?

      • All those kanji…but I bet you couldn’t hold a conversation at a bar in tokyo. Considering most well read Japanese only know 5000-10000 and the average person knows well less, I don’t see the point in this kind of obsessing. You should build a rocket ship or get laid…better yet try actually learning the language;) Conversation is a different animal my friend.

  11. *sigh*…unlike RPGs, if you stop “playing” the Japanese game, you start losing experience and your level drops! “Use it or lose it!”

    I’m afraid I’m level 01 again… but oh well, there’s a project that’s more important for me right now, so… I can live with being a Japanese noob for some more time n.n

    BTW… I wonder if there’s a level guide like this one somewhere else, but for the English language! I would like to know where I’m at (my native tongue is Spanish).

    Anyways, thanks for creating this awesome chart! :D

    • Even in an RPG, if you don’t play the game for a while, while your specific level doesn’t drop, your ability at playing the game does!

      Fortunately, when you pick up Japanese again after not studying for a length of time, your progress is much faster than a normal beginner.

  12. Yeah, I’d say I’m level 40 with my kanji and comprehension, but my speaking ability is really annoyingly far behind that… maybe like level 30 or so…

  13. I’m at level (Drum roll please!) 5! Lol Japanese is fun though and i can see myself reaching level 40 in 24 months! (hopefully)
    P.S. Nice website ^_^

  14. I’m thinking I’m probably around Lv9 or so… don’t really know for sure, because until I found this site I had never heard of Anki, and in class we used Nakama I and II instead of Genki (but they’re probably equivalent difficulty-wise).

    And thinking of 日本語を習う in terms of an RPG is definitely the best thing I have ever read on the internet. The main thing distracting me from my study materials (currently Tae Kim’s Guide) is Minecraft, so if I think of my 勉強 as a game it might help… Well, time to go slay some Kanji Creepers.

  15. I think I’m somewhere around level 25-30. It’s tough to say as your classification takes into account different factors and such. Let me explain a little:

    I never studied one second of Japanese in an academic setting. I moved to Japan completely green on the language (as reference I couldn’t even say “no” without people wondering what I was trying to say). I went through both Genki books my first 4 months in Japan, learning the vocabulary and grammar but completely skipping the drills etc. I quickly figured out the last several chapters of Genki are filled with things that become excedingly difficult to fit into normal conversations and scrapped the idea of actually actively retaining the knowledge of some of those grammar patterns. Sure, I know them and can recall them if I actually sit and think about it for a bit, but trigger recall just isn’t there.

    As for kanji, I’ve only currently gone through 1,300 in RTK. I try to study some every day but I’m going much slower than I planned. Sentences I’m right around 30 or so in Anki. Far short of the several hundred (or thousands!) mentioned above. So, if you rank based on those I should be way back somewhere around level 5-10 (or lower).

    Yet, as I said I’ve built my entire knowledge of the language living in the country. My first stint I was here for 1 year, returned to America for 8 months where I did listening practice once a week at most, forgot much, then moved back here to Japan and have been here the past 5 months. I’m the opposite of most university learners. I can read, but it takes me a while to sort it out. I completely suck at writing as I never have to do it. Where I excel is listening and talking. I can sit down at a teacher party and converse with the natives for 2 hours about a wide array of topics. This isn’t to say I’m a whiz, because I’m not, but I can hold my own. I can do things like go to the hospital, bank, post office etc. without an interpreter/grammar book/dictionary and get done what I need to get done. TV can be a little fast at times depending on what the show is, and much of the vocabulary I don’t know. But I think it’s safe to say I can understand 25-35% of it. Topics and certain points are easy to follow, but detailed specifics can be tough. (She’s moving to the country side where there are cherry blossoms. She’s sad about it. She likes that guy because he’s cute. vs. She’s moving to a grassy part of Nagano prefecture where the mountains smell like cherry blossoms. Her parents are very sick and she needs to look after the family farm for a few months while her grandma goes to hospital x to support her mom in cancer treatment. The guy used to look like Burt Reynolds but recently had a face lift so he looks like a card-board cutout of one of the Arashi members.)

    I’ve met many a person who majored in Japanese who can’t get past basic introductions with a native for the first 6 months in Japan. This is because you learn a bunch of patterns and set responses, and when you actually get to talking to a real person all that goes out the window. Part of “knowing” any language is going with all the twist and turns any 30 second conversation can go. Think about this from an English standpoint: Take someone who has been studying english for 2 years in a classroom. Say “hello, how are you?” to them and watch them flourish. Now, try “what’s up? Get into any trouble lately?” and watch as they just stare at you not knowing what you just said. Which one are you more likely to say to your boss? Which one more likely to your best friend? Conversing with Japanese friends is much different than with a classmate.

    This isn’t to say your rating is bad as it is based on the method you’ve previously outlined. I really think the general leveling guidelines are pretty accurate. But when estimating your own level I think one needs to decide if they want to base their level on static abilities (kanji known, sentences rehearsed) or active abilities (conversing with Japanese people in natural situation, listening to a non-scripted conversation). Or course, this is hard when one lives in small-town America. :( Luckily, the internet is making this easier all the time.

    Sorry for the super long post. I get excited for language learning, especially one I’m engaged in myself.

  16. I’m not exactly sure where I should put myself in the level chart. In the past, I’ve self-studied Japanese for a few years (on & off) which made me stuck somewhere in the Beginner’s level. Now, I’m studying Genki I, have increased my kanji knowledge, and have been translating Level 30 manga at the same time. So, I’m a bit complicated. >.> It’s like studying polite unused Japanese and colloquially spoken Japanese at the same time. @__@

    And as of right now, I’m downloading Aniki just to see how it works. ^^;

  17. I would say I’m just short of 30. I’m at around 2100 Sentences. TV for me goes like this, If I see it once, probably 30, but If it’s rewatched multiple times (10+. Some ポケットモンスター episodes :P), it can go up to 60 or maybe 70. The great thing about immersion is the vast amount of vocab, slang and grammar you can unintentionally pick up. Like Khatzumoto says, The environment does all the work. After watching the same pokemon episode like 8 times, i finally found out what そっくり meant :P

  18. I seem to have some slanted “stats.” I seem to have a broad range.
    Quite frankly, I studied using Tagaini Jisho and the book stated below. I’ve used Tagaini since the beginning. Learned every kana only vocabulary word at the 1st/2nd grade level. (^_^)so far, less than a year of self study. My goal isn’t the JLPT, but the vocab list is a good start.

    The items are listed in an approx. order.

    05~10: Beginner Elementary
    – #Tagaini jisho: All JLPT levels by grade school order. (n5-n1)(1st-6th+)
    – Can understand: Japanese TV (40%), Novels (20%), Music (40%)
    – #J-E Anki (since beginning): Kanji: ~600, Sentences: ~1500, Phrases: ???
    – Working through “Basic Japanese Grammar by Everett F. Bleiler” (sometimes)
    – Can have basic conversations and know a number of sentence patterns.

    The ones with the # symbol are used together. Also, 100% of my sentences come from actors and musician blogs. Whether it is masculine or feminine, doesn’t matter. The goal is to understand both and use a neutral/masculine tone. Currently, I’m almost done with 4th grade kanji. Kanji, JLPT vocab, and grade level… will allow me to understand approx. what a literate kid in grade school “should” know. After reaching ~500 kanji, started learning “extra” vocabulary. This would be vocab not included on the JLPT.

    JLPT vocabulary: ~3,800 (all_jlpt) (4th grade)
    Extra vocabulary: ~1,300 (non_jlpt) (kanji known)

  19. Hah, I tried measuring my English level based on this guide. Of course, English doesn’t have kanji and there’s also the fact I’ve been learning it for about 12 years now… But I guess I’m around level 70. Right now I don’t bother grinding anymore, I just sit and chill. Then again, I never HAD to “grind”. I learned English because all the cool stuff was in English, I never had to put any conscious effort into it.

    But still, learning English has opened a gateway to Japan for me. There aren’t many Japanese textbooks or learning sites in my native language, let alone ones that are GOOD. As for Japanese, I’m probably around level 17-18, which is quite bad, considering I started almost a year ago. This site is going to help a lot, though, I’m certain. That, and if all goes well, I’m going to major in Japanese in college a year from now. I want to be at least semi-good by then, though, so I can stay ahead of the rest of the class. It’ll get me good grades and with good grades I might get a scholarship and the opportunity to travel to Japan for a few months! So yes, basically, college is my ticket to Japan. And if I want to work as a translator, I suppose majoring in Japanese might be useful.

  20. I think I’m less than a beginner, but I have the skills to be a ninja spy… Lol, okay, I have no idea what you mean by “spy”, but I can’t read or write any Kanji, I can read some hiragana and write some. I know numbers 1-99 and most colors. I know how to say “I am” and “My name is” and some random words like konichiwa,iie and hai, sayonara, bekon, neko, rampu, jimu (businessman and place which you already knew.) and other random stuff like that… What level would I be?

    • I think you’re probably still level 1 (not that one can really pinpoint the specific level anyone else is at). But if you don’t yet know kanji, or have started learning grammar, I’d say level 1.
      And you might want to just get the hiragana done with once and for all (trust me, they are quick: with Heisig’s book you learn their readings and writings in 3 hours top).

  21. I really want to get 99 japanese then i could buy the skill cape!
    but seriously i am about level 1/2 about to start rtk lol

  22. I think the Proficient classification greatly overestimates how hard it is to read manga. I know around 800+ kanji, which puts me at the elementary level, yet I’ve read plenty of manga with no furigana without any trouble. I am also fairly certain I could understand more than 40% of Japanese TV as well. Any kind of novels are pretty much impossible for me, though.

    • Obviously you haven’t read some of the more difficult manga.
      I’ve read 2 novels (over 400 pages each) and find some manga more difficult than those novels that I read.

      • I’ve recently been reading Golgo 13, Akagi, Gin to Kin and Usogui. Not exactly what I’d call easy manga. Perhaps the novels I tried were too hard…

    • This is interesting, because it also took me longer to read novels. Well into level 40, and I can finally read them. I feel it’s more that the lvl. 30 underestimates of difficult novels are, even with furigana. But you do have to consider some are harder than others depending on a variety of reasons such as genre. I prefer scifi, which can get complicated. While the manga I prefer is slice of life and romance. Very different.

    • I usually don’t like telling people what they can or can’t do when it comes to Japanese ability, but 5 years seems like too short a period of time for native fluency. Remember, there is a huge gap between fluent and native.

      Maybe if you were thrown into a situation where you lived in Japan in the countryside for 5 years, studied insanely, had to use Japanese constantly every day, and no English was ever used . . .

      • I forgotten about the huge gap. I ask these questions because in 6 years, I want to go to univeristy in Japan.

        • You don’t need to be anywhere near native to go to university in Japan and study only in Japanese. There are definitely degrees and schools where you could get by once you are 45+ and pretty much any school is open to you around 60+. The only reason you would need anything beyond that is if you were going to study something like law or medicine. In fact you might find some of your foreign professors are barely level 60 themselves.

          (There’s also plenty of ways to go to university here without knowing any Japanese at all. The largest schools all have English-only faculties now.)

  23. “Is it possible to get to native level in 5 years?”

    Basically and technically speaking, it’s not possible to “become native” in any second language.Because the word itself means you were born with this language as mother tongue. The definitions of the levels above fluent provided in the article can be seen as a bit of humor.

    But then, speaking of proficiency that can be really good and maybe “near native”, to me, 5 years is possible.Anyway it also depends of what definition you give to “native level”.

  24. When (and if) one achieves native level, do they still need to use anki after? (Someone who is content with just native level, not master).

  25. This entire page is reeking with awesomeness. Anyway, I guess I’m around level 5 or something. Started studying mid-december, around 270 kanji and 150 J-E sentences at the end of january.

    Combining serious studies with a full time job leaves you with little time unfortunately, but with the studying structure that this page has provided I feel like I can just progress automatically without having to put any effort into thinking about how I should study, now I can just come home and then fire up Anki, check Heisig and Genki and get to work.

  26. I’m not sure what I’d be categorized as, but I’m a Japanese-American heritage speaker that learned kanji with anki. I usually call myself a native speaker.

    Anyway, I don’t quite agree with your criteria for “native” and “master” levels.

    >- Can write University level papers
    A lot of natives can’t do this, especially those who grew up in Japan. Japanese k-12 doesn’t really teach this type of writing, the writing assignments are usually 感想文 which basically consists of reading a book and giving your opinion on it(Book report?). No specific structure is asked of (ex. intro-body-concl, etc…), and you don’t really need much analytical reasoning.
    >- Can go to a Japanese University like any normal Japanese student with no problems
    You can do this at N1 + a bit of immersion, really. My British friend went from zero to N1 in a year and a half and attending Kyoto University within maybe half a year after that.
    >- Can teach a University Course
    You don’t need to be native level to do this. American universities are full of Chinese and Indian professors with large vocabularies, but they’re hardly what you’d call native.
    >- Can get into Japanese politics
    Tsurunen is a Finlander (I think) that became a Japanese politician, but he’s not quite “native level” either.
    >- Can become a comedian, freestyle rapper, motivational speaker, or any other profession that involves being able to play with the language in a smooth fashion
    Again, the same as before. Take a look at people like Dave Spector, he’s obviously not native. In fact, there are tons of foreign tarento that are much better than him with much better accents, but even those people aren’t quite native.

    • I’m sure that Adshap will tell you the same, but almost all the points you are listing are clearly at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
      Even because I don’t think this guide is particularly geared towards people at native level or above. After all, would such people really need this guide for anything?

  27. Haha, in a summer plus another year’s time I’ve gone from level 15 to level 30.
    Stronger in the listening, reading (though actual light novels or books will still slap me silly with the kanji, despite the fact that vocabulary is one of my strong points). I have a solid grasp of grammar of my level, I feel, often asking “how does this work” or “what is the difference between X and Y”. I can understand most non-expository and non-heavy slang portions of animes. ~35% of what plays on TV, and have a informal conversation with a Japanese friend on a wide range of topics. Still very weak in the “everyday tasks” type of conversations (finding a part-time job, asking for recommendation letter, voicing complaints, having a discussion/argument).

    Need to work on production, and also immersion. I have read a substantial amount from reading a long visual novel in Japanese, but haven’t been able to get into a routine of regularly reading material that interests me online.

    Lastly I have plans to ratchet up the vocabulary onto a next gear. I don’t use SRS sentences, and I still use J-E word-definition cards, even at the 2200 count. I prefer the preciseness and breadth that English definitions can provide, although I recognize that defining and describing words (and things in general) in Japanese is a valuable and tangible skill. Going to use a J-J dictionary for everyday use, but hold out on switching anki cards to J-J until I hit 10k.

    • “I prefer the preciseness and breadth that English definitions can provide, although I recognize that defining and describing words (and things in general) in Japanese is a valuable and tangible skill.”

      There is no “preciseness” to English translations (translations, note, not definitions), quite the contrary. There is definitely an illusion of preciseness, but it is no more than that. You will understand that after you make the leap and get accustomed to the J-J stage.

      For a more specific example of what I mean, a couple of months ago I was actually translating some maybe mangaish level stuff into english. This meant I was checking the definitions in both an english dictionary (to help choose which translation to use) an a japanese dictionary (both for anki cards AND to get a more precise sense of the word). A very funny thing would happen with words that returned multiple english definitions: sometimes looking at the japanese dictionary would provide the exact same number of definitions with a pretty clean 1 to 1 correspondence, as one might expect, but other times, while you might have some 5,6,7 english translations, you would have a single japanese definition. There simply did not exist an english word expressing quite the same idea.

      “defining and describing words (and things in general) in Japanese is a valuable and tangible skill”

      I’m not sure if this is poor phrasing on your part or not, but the way it reads to me it is definitely missing the point. Like I tried to hint at above, J-J definitions are simply superior once you get used to them. They just package a LOT more information than an english translation could ever hope to. And on top of that they avoid a lot of the inconvenient incorrect connotations that those often have.

      “but hold out on switching anki cards to J-J until I hit 10k”
      Don’t. If you really feel like you are level 30 you are already past the time where you can and should change. I was maybe bordering on 20 or a bit lower when I made the switch. I’d suggest you make a push and try to do it as soon as you can.

  28. Hmm… I know about 400 kanji, I did Tae Kim’s Basic and half of Essential, I’m halfway through Japanese fr Everyone which is supposed to be the equivalent of Genki 1 and Genki 2 together in one book, and I have no idea how many sentences I’ve done… Maybe like, level 8?

    • I just went and did the Level Test after this and completely contradicted the level I gave myself here by scoring at level 11. What?

      • I think the information in this article should be seen as more of an example than a test. The reality is that everyone is different, so your stats at level 20 will differ from my stats at level 20, or Adshap’s stats at level 20. That’s why the level test in the other article only requires 2/3 lines to pass.

        For example:
        -I really enjoy doing sentences, so I’m at ~900 J-E.
        -But I’m lagging on RTK, so only ~920 Kanji.

        I can’t do the kanji line on the level 20 test at all, but I’m close to passing the sentence lines, and I can comfortably read some easier manga like 「よつばと!」. Given that, I feel OK scoring myself at level 18 or 19.

        Some people are level 5 and know twice as much kanji as me. Some people are level 20+ and know far fewer kanji. That’s what happens when you chart your own course :)

      • As Matt said, these are just general guides. The test, and the XPNavi are meant to be more accurate (but even then, there is never a definite measure and people do vary a bit).

        • You’re right, it’s never going to be that accurate and I don’t mind. I think I’ll stick with Level 11 because 1) It sounds better 2) I did actually understand 100% of the test until I reached the sea of Level 20 kanji.

  29. Wow, this is a cool way to track your progress!

    Me? I’m probably about level 6. I’ve only ever studied Japanese in a school setting. I took one extracurricular class 5 years ago, but had to drop out due to scheduling issues ( and then it was canceled for lack of interest). Flash forward to freshman year and I took the class under the same teacher, and now I’m a sophomore, so I’ve studied Japanese for maybe… 1.5 years net study?

    And it’s going… really slow. I know a few dozen kanji but that’s it and we weren’t even using a textbook until this year. I’d like to get on the fast track, please! I’m kind of nervous about starting Anki, but I’ve heard really good things about it, so hopefully I will know at least approximately what I’m doing when I start out in a few days.

    • My current goal is to make it to level 10 in 3 months. I’m gonna use RtK with Anki (I’m pretty much level 2 going by kanji only). I’ll also try the Genki textbooks but I have no idea how to go about doing sentences in Anki… a subject for research I suppose.

      Oh and as an example of just how slow this Japanese class I’m taking is… I’m a ‘second year’ and haven’t even been taught informal verb form yet. We have a long-term sub right now who is slowly mixing it in but I have no idea when our regular teacher would have started with it… I finally just looked it up and taught it to myself.

      • Yeah classes are paced *amazingly* slow. I’ve made several times more progress in 6 months following this site than I did in a whole year of college.

        If you can spare the money, I’d strongly recommend checking out the JALUP Beginner decks:

        Adshap has a 30-day refund policy just in case they’re not to your liking, but IMO they’re a great way to build a foundation without the stress of figuring out how to set up your own cards. (Plus he’s a lot more entertaining than Mary-san and Takeshi-kun :P)

        Aside from that, your goal sounds very reasonable and I’m sure you’ll be able to do it. Best of luck in your studies!

        • Am I the only one who got into the continuing narrative of Mary’s life in Japan and her burgeoning relationship with Takeshi? At the end of Genki II, I actually found myself getting a little sad.

          At one point during my Anki reviews, I remember shaking my head and laughing and saying, “Oh, Takeshi, you’re terrible at everything.”

          • LOL. Maybe because I only did Genki I. I could very well have missed the story getting really good in Genki II ;)

            • Lol before I took my first Japanese class I didn’t know how slow it would be either. I got my genii textbook, flipped to the back and could already read it thanks to JALUP and Tae Kim’s. By the way Adam I’ve been curious when you say some percentage of Japanese tv or novels do you mean percent of all novels, or like 80% of one novel?

  30. So my concern is with speaking. Everything else is fine and I can function at a level where I used to help my Japanese cousin with his Japanese hw, but my speaking is leagues behind everything else and I no longer have the opportunity to help my cousin. After a few years of studying and reading websites like this and AJATT I understand that speaking will lag behind, but besides going to japan one time and the tutoring, I have extremely limited speaking experience. This is partially to due with not putting myself out there and my excuse is a busy schedule, but I was wondering if there is a way besides finding a Japanese person to improve my speaking ability, possibly in short spurts without having to rely on someone else (I’m surrounded by white-bread american people where I live). I understand this is extremely limiting for something like speaking, but any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • You could try having conversations with yourself, or shadowing. Other than that, you could try finding another Japanese language leaner to practice with. A native would of course be better though.

      • Thanks for the reply Dominic!
        Although I do have a primarily Japanese internal monologue, I haven’t tried talking to myself. I do talk to my dog sometimes and plan on speaking Japanese to my soon to be wife once we move in, but the dog can’t talk and the lady knows 考える and not much else. The latter is something i am looking forward to though.
        As for shadowing, I’ve been using multiple forms (the original and one that I came up with) for a couple of years now. Its great for comprehension and practice with pronunciation, but its not much help in terms of thinking on your feet and forming sentences. But definitely an amazing tool that I go out of my way to make use of because I love it so much.
        Maybe to clarify my question, I am not worried about how my individual words sound or my comprehension when other people speak, its my own ability to form complete ideas properly and concisely without tripping over myself when I turn the ideas into actual speech.

        • Have you tried online chat? I’ve found it to be a great “bridge” toward live speaking. It puts you in a situation where you have to compose your thoughts and communicate in real time, but with just enough precious breathing room to re-read and revise those thoughts before hitting “send”.

          You can find natives to chat with through a variety of services, such as Twitcast or online games (I’m partial to WoW myself:

          You’re also welcome to ask Adam for my contact info. I’d be happy to practice with you sometime =)

          • Thanks for the reply Matt!
            I haven’t tried Twitcast before, I’ll give it a look. And I love video games myself, but unfortunately haven’t been able to play a real one in about 4 years due to undergrad and now dental school. I’ve been stuck with Puzzles and Dragons lately since theres not really any time constraint. I cant wait till I graduate haha

  31. I’ve got two years to get to business lol wish me luck! Have to cram an extra half a year in somehow but I’m sure it’l be fine.. oh and there’s University work on top of that. I’m screwed haha

  32. I think you are asking to much, I mean in order to pass NOKEN N1 test you only have to learn less than 2000 kanji, And with this test passed you would be able to study in every Japanese university even Todai or work for a company in fact with NOKEN N2 you would be able to do it in some university or companies too. The most Japanese people who I know don’t know 3500 kanji, Why should I do?

  33. Really strange Levels. When you can read 2000/2136 Kanji you can read all sort of text. You dont need 3000+ Kanji. Also you can read a lot more of a Manga or a Light Novel when you know 1000 Kanji. When you can only read 20% your grammar and your vocabulary must be verry bad.

    • These levels are based on the idea of people using the RTK method where they learn all the kanji first before they even touch on grammar. So the levels will look weird if you followed the process of learning kanji on the go as you learned grammar.

  34. Was surprised at this: Can understand Japanese TV (35%) after 1.5 years.

    That’s discouraging. Though I guess that accounts for hard tv as well as it seems like a general gauge.

    • For what it’s worth, that’s just an example of how long it “might” take. Suppose that it takes 500 hours of studying to get to level 30, then somebody studying ~1hr/day will get there in 1.5 years, but somebody studying 3hrs/day will get there in 6 months. Finding a pace that works for you is an important part of the process – and if yours happens to be faster than average, then awesome =)

    • Like Matt says, it really depends on how many hours you put in. The times mentioned on Jalup are definitely just examples based on moderate levels of study. There are many people here that have reached some of these points in shorter times by putting in more effort.

      The percentages for TV are for normal Japanese television targeted at native speakers. This is one of the hardest things to learn, so don’t let the numbers put you off. Your reading skills, for instance, will be much higher at each point.

      In the end, it is also important to realize that learning Japanese is simply harder than most other languages. If you are put off by hard challenges or think of this as a temporary challenge, then it might not be for you. If you want to go all the way with Japanese, it will take you years. If you enjoy a good challenge and really want this, it will be some great years.

  35. I’m just wandering through your site. I wish I had found it much sooner. I have been studying Japanese at varying intensities for 17(!) years now. I score highly on conversation, but poorly on writing, reading, and non-interactive listening. I have a lot of knowledge about culture and history and tried to make the most of my 3 years of immersion, but since I taught English and my husband doesn’t speak Japanese, I never achieved total escape from English “crutches”. This concept is useful in helping me think about where I need to grow and what to expect, but it also is discouraging to be so puny in some categories after such a long time!

    • It is never too late to improve your skills :)
      I have been studying at varying intensities for 8 or 9 years and I’m only around level 25. Conversation skills are extremely poor since I never did much of it, however I am starting to see improvements in reading and also in pronunciation since I started reading my Anki sentences out loud.
      Even though your first 17 years of studying Japanese might not have been as effective as they could have, there is nothing you can do about that now, and despite the ineffectiveness all that you learned will still benefit you. What matters is what you do now that you have found a new source of inspiration and learning tools! :)


  36. I’m not a Japanese learner, though I find the culture and literature fascinating, but I just wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed this blog :) I am now on what sometimes seems like a neverending quest to perfect my French, which is psychologically tough because I was raised bilingual and now tend to hold myself to impossible standards with all other languages. Your material has been very helpful in reshaping my thinking! Thanks!

    • I’m happy to hear this site helps out people learning all languages. Good luck on your French adventure!

  37. I started learning for about 5 months and I am probably at 7. I have mastered hiragana and am half-way through learning katakana. I only know a few kanji such as 人 and 日. I hope to master katakana and learn as many kanji as I can by the end of the school year.

  38. I chose to focus mainly on speaking/listening skills, so I started from Jalup Beginner, skipping Kanji Kingdom. I’m studying in Jalup NEXT and actually I’m at 200 cards seen. Is the level showed on NEXT (almost 7) still accurate according to the way I’ve chosen to study Japanese?

    Sorry for my bad English. :P

    • Skipping kanji study will make everything harder and take longer to learn. Trust me, been there done that.

    • The level should still be accurate because it’s not like you aren’t putting in the time to gain that experience. Your time is just being portioned out differently.

  39. Small typo: “the likes of which know one has ever seen” should probably be “the likes of which no one has ever seen”.

  40. I have been studying English for over ten years. But my level is around “Intermediate”.
    That sounds bad.
    I think the problem I’m facing is that I use Google translate a lot when translating Vietnamese into English (I’m a Vietnamese). I’m lazy to translate by myself.

    And when learning Japanese, I depends on some apps to translate like Jisho, Mazii as well.

    But finally, I find that the key thing I must change is how to use them in an effective way, not top using them.

  41. I hope this page eventually gets updated one more time, to include the Jalup Master and Jalup Champion decks.

    And keeping my fingers crossed for those 2 decks to finally make it to the app.

    Thank you for everything you do, Adam.

  42. I have been studying Japanese for 2 years and am at N3 level. I’m stuck, haven’t found a solution to be able to review and improve to a higher level

    • For me I started making progress again by focusing on listening and production. Listening to a ton of podcasts everyday (ie nihongo con teppei) and for production italki and hello talk.

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