At what level can I start reading simple texts?

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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The other way is easier. :wink: Vocab you can look up easily. Grammar sometime turned the meaning upside down if you don’t grasp it well. E.g., I recently misread a sentence as “I was kind to him sometime” instead of “He was kind sometime” because of a single letter に (a particle). Knowing the meaning of each word in a string of words does not mean you know the meaning of the sentence. Try deciphering this for example (an actual sample from a book we’re doing in a reading club – with the vocab translated to english):

“long ago"の"thing"を"to know” "thing"が"to be able to"のも"book"の"assistance"だしね

Japanese grammar also has a lot of nuances. Add to that the many hidden/implied/unwritten portion of the sentence and the multiple level of speeches, such as casual (in textbook)/casual (in reality)/polite/keigo/humble, it can get overwhelming. The best advice I’ve taken in myself as I’m learning Japanese is to not let any of the aspects of the language to fall too far behind (listening&speaking – yet another difficult aspect of Japanese, writing, grammar, vocab, kanji).

In any case, if you want to try something easy that is not completely basic, you can try よつばと! There is a reading club in the forum for it as well. It has full furigana, but a lot of casual speech and contraction. Alternatively, I used to do one of the graded readers (I didn’t read level 0, but it’s probably doable with basic N5 grammar and vocab).

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Graded Readers will give you a curated environment with limited vocabulary and grammatical structure so it would be easier to read without a dictionary.

If you feel confident that you can parse and learn grammar on the fly, you can challenge yourself with this Book after reaching lvl 10 which should cover all the Kanji required for grade 1 students. This is a book of famous works intended for Grade 1 students. If you watched Bunho Stray Dogs anime then you would recognize some of the authors’ names.

Native students learn grammar in a much different order than foreign learners so dont be surprised if you find “advanced grammar” in that book.


What a ride that was. I’m familiar with causative, but I haven’t seen it in junction with anything other than passive. Really cool example. :]


嘆息 :sweat:

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That’s in my experience as someone at N5 level. YMMV.

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Did you do anything in particular to retain the knowledge of everything you were looking up after you looked it up?

I’ve tried the same before WaniKani, but felt like it wasn’t particularly sticking. So I tried various things like log everything in Google docs, or a notebook, writing the kanji and definitions. Or Anki. But I kind of switched focus to WaniKani hoping to get a better base for vocabulary and haven’t been reading much. And hadn’t stuck with any of those methods enough to get in a groove and know what works best for me.

I guess after I recorded what I looked up, I never really went back and studied it. Except to check if I already looked something up recently. And if I did study it, it felt overly specific and not super helpful.

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Seeing that you starting reading VNs only a few levels higher than me (I just started level 24 – dunno why my level indicator is 4 levels behind!), do you have any VN suggestions to start with? I had thought of picking up Robotics;Note, since I loved the Steins;Gate VNs, but I don’t know if I’d be above my head with this one… :confused:

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For vocab I would place seemingly useful words into an srs system called houhou. For grammar I dont think I really did much of anything and would rely on seeing it a lot.

Hoshiori was tough, but it had some good points. In general, I recommend starting off with standard school life stuff. Science fiction can be tough and sorta go a lot of ways, but there is a lot of material focused around everyday life stuff that will be very straightforward and use very similar vocab. Its definitely very possible to start with science fiction and in the end you’ll be fine, itll just be a bit tougher.

I also recommending finding a long visual novel if possible. This may seem weird because as a beginner, usually you just want to get through something small, right? Well, the vocabulary and writing style varies a lot depending on what you read, even if theyre about the same thing. Thats just how writers are. The more you read something, the better you’ll get at reading that and youll give yourself more time to fully become familiar with that writing style and common vocab used.

Ultimately its hard to give suggestions because the most important thing honestly is you read what you like. I speak from experience, you’ll be banging you head against the wall. It helps to keep you going if its all for something you want to read. So with that being said, heres the list I used a year and a half ago to find visual novels! Take a look and see if theres anything you like.

I think you can do it. I dont mean to sound like some motivational speaker, but you can really do a lot more than you would probably think. There are some really high level stuff that you wouldnt be able to understand with google and any reasonable amount of time, but so long as you are able to figure out what the sentence means without taking too long, its not too hard. No matter how much grammar or words you have to look up. Using a text hooker will make looking up words take 1-2 seconds, so it wont drain your time. You just gotta get good at knowing what to google to find the right grammar points, but even the text parser helps with this. If you see 逃げようとする, the definition of とする will tell you specifically that when its following a verb in volitional, it means “to attempt/try to (verb)” and hovering over 逃げよう will tell you its 逃げる in volitional form.


Where can one obtain such power

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Thank ya kindly. Hearing your story makes me motivated to jump into VN’s as I thought that would be a pretty big benefit of learning Japanese (reading VN’s, that is). I think I still have some stuff to do before I tackle it, namely grammar and getting over my seemingly adamant refusal to read SubaHibi (in English).

Are there any particular VN’s with merit you would recommend to starting with? Preferably ones that aren’t popular in the Anglosphere since I might have read them already.

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Depends on what you are into. I gave a link in my other post with a list of them that had their pros and cons mentioned. If you are into the same stuff as me, 星織ユメミライ may not be a bad idea if you wanna follow down the same path as me. I also think officially translated VNs may be a good idea too so long as you have the self control to only look at the english translation when you need it. KaraKara could be a good idea if you wanna use since they have a vocab list over there where you can add the common words to srs right away. Same goes for hoshiori actually.

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@Loafer: If we’re talking about VN’s that allow you to easily change between English and Japanese, you could also look into the fault: milestone series (only two so far). If you press E it changes to English, if you press J it goes to Japanese. Can’t get much simpler than that.

It was the first VN I actually attempted reading in Japanese and I had to bang my head against the wall pretty hard at first. I never was able to get text hookers to work, though, so it wouldn’t be as hard with one.

I really like that series, by the way. Of course taste is personal and I can’t know if you’ll like it or not, but you could see reviews on Steam or something and try to see if it’s your thing.


I didn’t see the list initially, whoops. I looked over it and I think I’ll probably go for Island since it seems like the one I’d most like to read in English anyways (disregarding SubaHibi, as I bought that before I even started learning Japanese). Thanks a bunch!

That is extremely nice. It seems to be pretty solid (and short) so I’ll put it on the list. Thanks!