To play the game, you have to know how strong you have become. Where do you stand?
01: Newbie (~1 week)
- Getting your first study materials together
- Setting your goals and motivation
- Mentally preparing yourself for the massive challenge ahead of you
- Learning how to efficiently use your new tools
05: Beginner (~1.5 months)
- Learned how to read, write and pronounce the hiragana and katakana
- Started to work through a basic textbook (like Jalup Beginner)
- Started learning kanji
- Can understand and put together very basic sentences
- Kanji: ~200, Sentences: ~150
10: Elementary (~4 months)
- Finished the first half of Jalup Beginner or finished 1 major Beginner textbook
- Can have basic conversations
- Can understand and read a number of sentence patterns
- Have just introduced immersion
- Kanji: ~500, Sentences: ~500
20: Intermediate (~8 months)
- Finished Jalup Beginner or 2 beginner textbooks
- Started working on Jalup Intermediate or an intermediate textbook
- Switched to J-J learning
- Fully engaged in your immersion environment and have made Japanese a continuous part of your life
- Can understand Japanese TV (15%), Manga (20%)
- Kanji: ~1000, Sentences: ~1000+
30: Proficient (~1.5 years)
- Finished Jalup Intermediate or 2 Intermediate textbooks
- Working on Jalup Advanced or an advanced textbook
- Can have more difficult conversations on a wider range of topics
- Can understand Japanese TV (35%), Manga (40%), Novels (25%)
- Kanji: ~2000, Sentences: ~2000
40: Advanced (~2 years)
- Finished Jalup Advanced or 2 Advanced textbooks
- Working on Jalup Expert or other high level materials
- Can have deeper conversations inserting more natural expression
- Can write long passages in Japanese
- Can understand: Japanese TV (60%), Manga (65%), Novels (50%)
- Kanji: ~2100, (kanji over 2000 are usually more roughly acquired through immersion), Sentences: ~3000
50: Work Capable (~3 years)
- Finished Jalup Expert or other high level materials
- Can work at a Japanese company or a company that requires Japanese ability.
- Can understand: Japanese TV (80%), Manga (85%), Novels (70%), Japanese News (65%),
- Kanji: ~2250, Sentences: ~5000
65: Fluent (~4 years)
- 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: ~2500+, Sentences: Over 9000!
***From here on out, ability and specialty varies greatly, so more abstract terms are used***
75: Knowledgeable (7-10 years)
- Well informed: having or showing much knowledge about a wide range of subjects (Japanese culture, history, geography, science, etc. and life overall).
- Experienced: having knowledge or skill in a particular or multiple fields, gained over a period of time.
- Well rounded: covering well the necessary areas of all aspects of life.
80: Sophisticated (10-15 years)
- Aware of and able to interpret and explain complex issues.
- Cultured: characterized by refined manners and good education.
- Polished: accomplished and skillful.
- Savvy: shrewdness and practical knowledge, especially in politics, business, or other technical fields.
90: Master (15-20 years)
- Highly intuitive: using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning.
- Advanced insight: capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.
- Perceptive: having or showing sensitive insight.
- Enlighted: having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook.
99 Legendary (20+ years)
- Highly Astute: having or showing an ability to accurately assess and solve any possible situation you confront regardless of how difficult it is.
- Canny: having or showing shrewdness and good judgment the likes of which no one has ever seen.
- Powerfully Sagacious: having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgment about everything in the world around you.
- Total Wisdom: having or showing far superior experience and knowledge and being able to explain that knowledge with ease.
How far have you come?
What level are you? How long did it take you to get there?
Massively Updated (9/27/2015): The original level guide was written in 2011. The descriptions for all categories have been mostly rewritten, with numbers and percentages reworked. “Basic” was renamed “Newbie.” “Business” was renamed “Work Capable,” because the word Business is too misleading. Native has been removed (for reasons discussed here), and been replaced by “Knowledgeable” and “Sophisticated.” I’m leaving the comments here from the original guide, as they are still mostly relevant.