At what level can I start reading simple texts?

I’ve been doing WaniKani for two weeks now, and I really feel like it’s something I can stick with. My goal was to reach level 30 at the end of the year, and I’m well on my way there if I keep up my current pace (though that depends on whether or not I’ll be overwhelmed by reviews later down the road).

But the thing is, I feel like I would improve way quicker if I actually started reading books and such. So at what level should I expect to be able to get through a book at a decent pace (i.e. not having to decipher every sentence with a dictionary). I’m not particularly impatient, but it would be nice to have a timeline for myself.

And while I’m at it, how many years down the road of studying Japanese (I know this is not feasible with just WaniKani) would I be able to write a book? That’s pretty much the finish line I’ve set for myself, and it would be nice to know whether this is possible within five, ten, or twenty years of studying.


There are a few variables that would affect what you would consider an answer for this.

There are lots “simple texts” you can read right now because they have furigana. For instance, the NHK News Easy site. Or graded readers. Or books for very young children.

But if you don’t have sufficient grammar knowledge, you won’t be able to understand them.

If you assume that you do have grammar knowledge, and you want to read simple things that also don’t have furigana, maybe level 20 or so would be a place to start?

As for writing a book… I don’t think there’s a roadmap or timeline for that. Most natives never write a book. Even in the world of translation, people usually don’t translate into their second language, they just translate from their second language to their first.

I guess it depends on the kind of book though. I could probably write a picture book, even if no one would publish it. But I get the sense you were aiming higher than that.


Thanks for the reply.

Maybe this is just arrogance speaking, but I feel like grammar wouldn’t be as much of a problem as vocabulary. So that’s what I’m more worried about.

Yes, the goal I’m working towards is writing a completely ordinary Japanese adult novel. It’s not that I’m learning Japanese to write a novel, but being able to write a book is in my opinion the best show of mastery in a particular language.

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I’m not in a position to give advice, but you can start reading N5 material level 10 and when you’ve learned N5’s grammar (I recommend Bunpro).

Here’s a good recourse .

You’re very right. There are book clubs here that read together and discuss the grammar/story. There’s even an absolute beginners book club Absolute Beginners Book Club // Reading Next: Miss Shikimori is not just cute!


Thank you for the reply as well, I will definitely look into Bunpro and the book clubs.

And where is that screenshot from? I can’t recall seeing it in the FAQ.

There’s a relatively small number of grammar points compared to vocab, but many of the higher level grammar points carry specific nuance. Learning that nuance would be essential for writing (and certainly helps with reading too). Even some grammar points learned early on (e.g. は and が) are notoriously hard to master for learners.

It’s entirely possible grammar will be easier for you than most, but I wouldn’t make assumptions about its difficulty until you really get into it.


That’s a good point, but I was more talking about grammar being an easier gap to overcome when reading, as I assume I’ll be able to get through a novel with basic grammar and a good vocabulary.

Though I may just look back on this and slap myself in the face for my ignorance.

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Probably. :wink:


I’d say, too, it’s a heck of a lot easier to look up a word you don’t know (though it’s more difficult when it’s a kanji you don’t know at all) than to look up a grammar point you don’t know at all.


Like a simpler book as in a low level graded reader or something can be done pretty easily with a few months of study and the right vocab I feel. Not saying itll be easy to read, but itll be easy to get through without needing a dictionary every sentence.

Grammar and vocab are pretty much equal for beginners imo, but as you learn more, there will be much more vocab to keep up with than grammar.

Overall, all this all depends on how much time you actually put into studying. Some people put in 4x the amount of time as others, so you can’t really give the two of them the same timeline.


Not only is grammar paramount, it’s also not enough. Often I’ll encounter a sentence, know all the vocab in it, know all the grammar and still can’t comprehend it. Grammar can be very vague and arbitrary, sometimes even up for interpretation, it’s not as clear-cut as vocab and so is much more of a “threat” (in my opinion).

“And where is that screenshot from? I can’t recall seeing it in the FAQ.”


These are free graded readers:

They are designed for learners of japanese so you can use them to assess your skill. Start with level 0 books when you reach wanikani lvl 5, and know a little grammar. A little would be at least は、を and に particles, masu and past forms, and sentence structure.

If it’s too easy, then go for the next level! If it’s too hard, then try again when you know a little more!

Then get overconfident and try any book for elementary school kids and feel like you know nothing :joy:


The number of times this happens to me makes me incredibly sad. :cry:

One that particularly trips me up is double/triple negatives, which I have trouble with in text since there’s no tone. Other times the sentences are so long with so many clauses that it’s difficult to put the whole thing together.


I’m just going to reply by quoting whatever I’m replying to, but let me know if this isn’t how it’s usually done on this forum.

Haha, as long as I stay ignorant I can stay positive.

That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought about it like that.

I currently spend about two hours a day studying Japanese. I want to up the pace once I have more free time, but I’m luckily in no rush with youth still at my side.

That’s certainly a quote I’ll remember once I get myself in that situation.

Perfect, thanks.

That’s a great resource, thanks.

I don’t agree that grammar is less needed than vocabulary. I would say that may be true but on higher levels. You won’t understand a thing on beginning without grammar especially if your mother language has different structure (and probably has)


You can take guesses at what sentences mean without grammar knowledge, it’s just that you’ll never be sure if it was actually a wildly different meaning or something.

猫が食べた (The cat ate)
猫に食べられた (I was eaten by a cat)
猫を食べた (I ate a cat)
猫を食べれば食べるほど好きになっちゃう (The more you eat cat the more you’ll end up liking it)
猫を食べさせた (I made someone eat cat)
猫を食べさせられた (Someone made me eat cat)
猫を食べさせるようにさせた (I made someone make someone else eat cat)
猫を食べさせるようにさせるようにさせた (I made someone make someone else make someone else eat cat)

This is fun.


Yes, Japanese’s structure is indeed completely different from my native language (which is Germanic in origin).

Ah, I see. That would indeed be pretty problematic, even with simple texts.

Yeah I did about two hours a day as well while I did WK and now its around four hours a day. Level 30 is definitely doable by the end of the year while getting a good foundation in grammar assuming youre decent at picking up stuff.

I started getting into reading Visual Novels around level 25-30 which aren’t books, but close enough. Guessing by your name, you may have an interest in them as well and I think they’re much more beginner friendly than books. Not saying all of them are easier (some are far harder than you would expect), but their advantage over a book is the ability to hook the text and run it through a parser. Long story short, this makes it super easy to look up words and saves time.

Another big part is how willing you are to bang your head against a wall. Failing and sucking is an integral part to teaching yourself japanese fast in my experience. This is my biggest problem with classrooms since they test you over stuff that they expect you to get a 90% or so on and move at a pace thats easy to follow. The fastest improvement comes when you’re truly challenging yourself to the point of even being mentally fatigued by the end of your studies.

When I jumped into visual novels, I really didn’t know the verb conjugations that leebo posted. I knew of them and had looked over them, but I hadn’t memorized them along with a ton of other very common grammar. My process was simple: read an incredibly long visual novel and look up everything I dont know. It was a pain in the ass and gave me headaches by the end of hour long sessions, but I learned a lot. I could have read simple texts, yes, but honestly I feel like I learned more this way than I ever did reading something easier like yotsubato. So long story short, if you wanna get through books at a decent pace, the first step is getting through books at a dogshit pace. There are alternative methods and I wont knock them, but thats my personal opinion and experience


Adding to durtle’s response.

Read N5 level curated texts and very basic graded readers.

With a dictionary / furignana:
Read mid level graded readers, NHK easy japanese news and the WaniKani bookclub manga.

Pretty difficult / wouldn’t recommend:
Reading Manga outside of the WaniKani book club and Light novels.


Are those your recommendations specifically for someone at N5 level? It’s a bit unclear…

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