Any ideas for the struggles of a N3?


I´ve been studying Japanese now for a bit more than 2 years and I´m currently around middle-upper N3 level. I finished the “Japanese from 0” workbooks quite a while ago and for new grammar I use Bunpro. For Kanji I obviously use WaniKani. I also read Manga in Japanese and watch movies/shows with Japanese subtitles and I understand at least like 60%. But recently I have the feeling that I don´t Improve anymore and I honestly also don´t really know how… Of course I could grind grammar until N1, but that doesn´t feel right, because I think it´s pretty useless if I don´t use it. N1/N2 also isn´t that much used in like movies etc. so I will probrably just forget it again after some time. I really would like to advance my current level of being able to understand at least a fraction of every sentence, but a lot of the times not the whole, to understanding most of the sentences. I feel like that the thing that would help me advance the most is actual experience (I use Italkie like once a week for like 30 min and thats very nice, but I don´t have the feeling that 30 min a week will help me advance), but thats not happening because I don´t live in Japan or have any Japanese communities nearby.
Do you guys have any tips/ideas/ressources or motivation to help me out, or is this just the eternal struggle of a N3 that studies japanese bc its fun?


It’s hard to compensate for not living in Japan and experiencing the language directly. Like you, I don’t have that. Still, I think there’s plenty of other helpful things you can do. ^^

You don’t mention listening practice, but maybe that’s a puzzle piece that can push you further. :headphones: :notes:

The good thing about listening is that you’ll get exposed so language use that you might have struggled with in reading. But now you can just focus on comprehension. I’ve found listening to be very helpful for acquiring grammar and vocab, with no cramming involved.

Just find something you find enjoyable, whether that’s podcasts, YT, radio, interviews, news, or drama CDs. ^>^ :headphones:

You might find something here:

Also, maybe up the level of the media you consume. As in, rather than going for a contemporary drama → historical drama, sci-fi, political intrigue, or murder mystery or. Or try news media.

The more complex the setting and context, the more difficult the language use usually is. With sci-fi there’s all that special vocab and technical terminology; for historical drama - old grammar and vocab. Murder mystery gives you lots of logical reasoning and facts to keep track of.

And finally, have you tried playing any games in Japanese? :video_game: That’s also challenge on multiple levels. Try finding a not too action oriented game with time for you to actually read the dialogue. It might be more accessible than facing a wall of text/book kind of reading challenge - with still plenty of stuff to learn.

Good luck with your studies! :slight_smile:


You mention that you’re reading manga but you don’t mention books. I can definitely recommend reading books, even if you’re more interested in listening in the long run. But it gives you good exposure to grammar and vocab at a pace that you can determine yourself. For many books N3 is pretty sufficient, so that would be a very good match for you. If you like to read in a group, you could check out the Intermediate Book Club here in the forums; we will start our next pick next month, so it’s good timing for you! Or else, you can read the past picks and make use of the discussion threads.


Just get more input.

Also like @NicoleRauch said read, especially if you like reading. I don’t know… these days I just read about 2hrs a day during my train commute to and back to work and that’s pretty much all I do (well apart from some Netflix during dinner or the weekend) for Japanese. And I mean reading books not manga.


I think it’s time to start immersion if you have anything that you really want to try doing in Japanese. That aside… you might want to look for more advanced textbooks if you find textbook-based learning helpful. Tobira is pretty good, though a little too heavy on traditional culture for my liking. (I’d like more information on society today and stuff I can actually talk about in a social situation, rather than facts about traditional Japanese arts that I may never be deeply involved in and the words for which I may forget by the time I go to Japan because I’ll never need them otherwise.) An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese (AIAtIJ) has more English in it and touches on more of the practical aspects of living in Japanese society, but its target audience is university students heading to Japan for a homestay, so it might not suit everyone. I think there are one or two other major intermediate textbooks that people on these forums have found helpful, but I can’t remember their names. I’d personally recommend you take a look at Tobira and AIAtIJ and see which better suits your current level and learning style. Tobira probably covers a bit more grammar and vocabulary, but I don’t think that AIAtIJ is that much further behind. These textbooks should get you to lower-mid N2 if you finish them, at least in terms of grammar.

I’m not sure about movies specifically, but this is definitely untrue of anime, and I think that’s good news for you! You can watch programmes you enjoy in Japanese and pick up grammar! As for how I know: I’ve done 12 chapters of Tobira, and I knew almost all the grammar points beforehand because I had encountered them in anime, and I know more or less all the N2 grammar points on, and even about 50% of the N1 points, again thanks to anime. (However, I don’t know the nuances that would differentiate them as options for completing a sentence.) The key to learning all this through anime, however, is to keep a dictionary close by, and to be willing to pause episodes (maybe during your second viewing of an episode) to look up words and structures you don’t know. If you don’t do this, then you won’t pick up anything much.

My suggestion – if you like anime – would be to pick fairly recent series and to google this: ‘[anime name in Japanese] [episode number in Arabic numerals]話 anicobin’. There’s usually a transcription of 70% (or much more) of the dialogue along with screenshots on Anicobin for anime aired after 2013. If there isn’t, then try your luck by swapping ‘anicobin’ for 感想 to see if you can get another reaction blog with a transcription. That way, you can look up words directly from the transcription without having to guess what was said. It’s much faster.

If you don’t like anime, then… well, you can try Viki by Rakuten. Some of the dramas there are at least partially transcribed into Japanese, like シグナル (Signal – a time-travelling detective story), which has full transcriptions for… the first 3 episodes, I think? Once again, looking things up is more convenient this way.

There are also Japanese subtitle database sites (whose names I’ve forgotten) from which you can download subtitles and sync them up with videos on your computer. There are also sites that provide streaming with Japanese subtitles, but those generally have a murky legal status, so I won’t recommend them here.

One other resource you can consider is NHK News Web Easy, or even just the regular news articles on NHK. News Web Easy is (as one might expect) much easier to start with, but if you find it too simple, you might just want to jump into news articles for the general public, even if they might be a little too long for you at first, so you might not want to read entire articles. Once again, use a dictionary.

In any case, that’s about it for my suggestions. In essence, now that you’ve got a decent grammatical foundation and can understand a good portion of Japanese sentences, it’s time to dive into more real Japanese in order to learn as much as you can with the help of a good dictionary. If Jisho isn’t enough (which is often the case, honestly), then you can add to your arsenal, which allows you to search entire phrases in its database of translated example sentences and definitions. I’d also suggest you gradually start transitioning to using a monolingual Japanese dictionary like the ones on Goo辞書 or Kotobank, because that will expose you to more structures and force you to learn more more quickly. It will also teach you about nuances that translations in EN-JP dictionaries can’t capture. Whatever it is, I hope you find what you need to keep progressing. がんばって!


I just wanted to add that my friends in Japan are frustrated!! People see their gaijin-ness and only speak bad English to them, constantly. They are having mucho trouble finding actual language partners who will discuss things with them in Japanese. One has no time to study because job and driving commute. The other just signed up for a local Japanese class (a potential crapshoot). And I think I recall a Dogen where he said he had switched to paid lessons on iTalkie so he could work on what HE needed.


Actually, I’m a leetle bit jealous, because I have been studying just over two years and am scared to take N3 (might wimp and go for N4 just to have a more certain PASS)… My comprehension still rather SUX. :*( And I haven’t read ANY grammar texts, and am sort of bumbling along…

People have given great advice already. GOOD LUCK to you! :smiley:

I simply MUST remember about ANICOBIN… Thanks, Jonapedia, for posting about it!


I sometimes listen to a Japanese podcast and I really enjoy that, so I will definitly have a look at the Listening Practice thread. Playing games is actually a great idea, I will definitly try it.
Thanks for your answer :smiley:


Thanks, I´ll definitly have a look at the Book Club. I actually really want to read the Saga of Tanya the Evil lightnovel, but when I had a look at it I was kind of overwhelmed by all of the formal talk and military terms. But I guess it´s also goal to work towards.


If that’s what you want to read, and if you are willing to put in the time and energy, then why not! I was reading above my level for a long time, but I enjoyed (and still enjoy) it, and it raised my level quite a bit. But if the difficulties are demotivating, it might be worthwhile to first up your skills a bit with an easier read.


Have you seen the ASAO discord channel? For ~$10/month you can get almost unlimited lessons with trainee teachers. Basically almost free conversation practice.

More details in the thread:


I wasn´t expecting such a detailed answer, Thanks you :smiley:
I´ll definitly have a look at the textbooks you mentioned and keep on grinding the grammar. I actually use a Plug In for my browser with it I can click on a word in the subtitle and it shows me the translation. It doesn´t work perfect, buts its pretty convinient. The plug in only work with Netflix but I use a VPN to access Japanese Netlifx.


I haven´t heard of it, but it sounds pretty nice. I´ll check it out.

I’ve also studied about 2,5 years pretty seriously (before that mostly dabbled). For the past year I’ve done pretty much zero grammar or exercises; just reading books, listening to podcasts and watching videos. Occasionally also some speaking. It still is probably the period I feel like I’ve gained from the most (okay maybe anki counts as an exercise but time spent there is minimal compared to immersion). So it is definitely possible to advance further while just having fun. I do think listening without having a script or subtitles is extremely important to get “in” the language.


Alright, then I´ll start by reading a new book once I finished by exams. Where do you buy your books?

Great to know that you’ve found a way to make immersion more practical! As for grammar, just one extra tip: don’t be afraid to try your luck if you have a feeling you’ve found the structure that you’re not understanding. Typing ‘[suspected grammar structure] grammar’ into Google (e.g. ‘もし ば conditional grammar’) works surprisingly well for bringing up explanations in English. You’ll often see answers from JLPT sites, Japanese Stack Exchange, HiNative and Japanese teaching sites.


I don’t know that I’d agree with that assessment. N2/N1 comprises a lot of common-use material.

It’s not like N1 is the pinnacle of Japanese knowledge or that it’s all esoteric content.


Totally. Just unlike N5-N3 grammar it’s not used all the time. It’s more situational but still used often, especially N2. N1 has many stiff formal expressions but you still encounter them regularly. And perhaps a quarter to a third of N1 grammar is used in conversations (heard this from Nihongo No Mori’s teacher).


Do you have any examples in mind? I haven’t actually studied anything specifically for the N1, but when I ran through a list of N1 grammar points, I only knew/could guess the meaning of half of them. Granted, most of my exposure to Japanese happens through anime, but I’ve also read news articles and studies on Japanese grammar and usage from Japanese universities, and I very rarely come across structures that seem to be at the N1 level. Perhaps it’s just a lack of awareness on my part, but most of the structures I’ve come across even in academic papers feel like common things, not structures that make me pause and think, ‘I’ve never seen that before’, which is what 50% of the N1 structures I ran through made me do. There’s definitely a good portion of N1 knowledge that’s useful everyday knowledge, but I’ve also heard that passing the N1 requires extra work precisely because it’s hard to come across some of the structures in ordinary Japanese usage.

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You said you knew half of N1 grammar points, didn’t you? :wink:
I’m reading 氷菓 (teenager/young adult fiction) now and I see a lot of N1 grammar there, just to name a few I encountered recently:

And when looking through the N1 list I also so many points that I often hear in anime. Of course there are some points I haven’t seen but it doesn’t change the fact that N1 is used regularly (just not all of it).

Here’s also a video from 日本語の森 ( 会話で使うN1文法)


Hopefully. Hahaha. But very little about the nuances.

Of the list you’ve just posted, I know ごとき・ごとく・ごとし, though perhaps not all usages of them, and I correctly guessed the meaning of/understood ないものでもない and ほかに〜ない. The rest I’m not sure about, and am going to look at now. (Thanks.) That’s three out of five, so… yup, still about 50%. :stuck_out_tongue:

But yes, point taken: if I’m familiar with a lot of N1 grammar without studying it specifically for the N1, that means that N1 grammar is common. I’m just saying that the other 50% of the grammar points’ being relatively rare in my experience seems to suggest that a good lot of it is still rather obscure?

In any case, I’m not saying all this to complain. It’s just that I’d like to see if there are ways to encounter these things fairly frequently out in the wild. It would be sad if I had to learn them by buying an N1 exercise book. I mean, my friend studying in Japan knows someone who got full marks for the N1, and she learnt a lot of her Japanese by streaming on Nico Nico, and I heard she didn’t do any special revision for the test either, so I guess it’s possible to pick all this up through exposure and immersion, but the question is… how? Or through what content?