At what level can you read 90%? 95%?

Haha, well put!


indeed, i read my first LN series when i was in the mid-twenties, and started my first manga in the mid-teens.

(edit: it was HARD work, but i really wanted to read that manga, and it was very much worth it)


It doesn’t. Think about it that way - WaniKani teaches you the readings of kanji, using limited vocabulary context as reference. It gives you the tools to guestimate readings of kanji in words when you encounter these words in native resources. It doesn’t teach you how to comprehend text or read words beyond the ones taught in WaniKani.

Yes ad no. How common a word is doesn’t correlate with WaniKani levels. Words in WaniKani are chosen to support kanji readings.


For me at around levels 25~30 I felt a turning point while reading manga and playing videogames. At that point my main issue for understanding was grammar and vocab, no longer kanji.

Of course I would still encounter unknown kanji everywhere but they were not as daunting because by that time you’ve seen most components, so even if it’s a new kanji you can probably identify its components and are more likely to remember it, and also many words are made up of several kanji and by that point statistically you’re pretty likely to know at least one of them.

To give you an example the word 到着 (arrival) is one I encountered several times but 到 is a level 42 kanji, so I still have a little while before I learn it on this site. However I learned to identify and remember this word a long time ago because:

  • 着 is taught at level 12, so I know it well.

  • 着 alone can mean “arrive”, so it makes it easier to remember what the word means.

  • 倒 is taught at level 20 and has a very different meaning but you can see that it contains 到 and has the same onyomi, so that means that I can read 到着 (とうちゃく) easily and I can even remember how it’s written (it’s the right part of 倒 and then 着).

So you see that kanji knowledge is hard to really evaluate because you know both more and less than what these % coverage charts tell you. You know less because sometimes you’ll encounter a kanji you know in a new word and won’t be able to read it, but also sometimes you’ll encounter unknown kanji and still be able to go very far thanks to context and some educated guessing.


One day, any day now…


I’ve been reading manga since like, level 4 or 5. You don’t really have to wait that long; the sooner the better.


Agreed. I try to read some every day even though I’m barely into level 9 so far. I have made it through the first volume of Ranma 1/2 and I’m currently reading volumes 1 of Touch and Dragon Ball. I won’t pretend manga is a fantastic representation of the way we should learn to speak, but it certainly gets me accustomed to reading a combination of hiragana, katakana (which I’m not very good at yet), and kanji. But I do need to be better about reading more about grammar. A lot of time I get the jist but I know I’m not getting the full message like I would if I really understood what I was doing on the parts I’m kind of stuck intuiting and extrapolating. Fortunately I’m the type who wants to get better when I encounter this rather than getting discouraged.


It also depends on what kind of stuff you read. Whereas knowing a bunch of fish names in kana/kanji is great for reading sushi menus, probably not so much for manga.

Stuff like mecha, isekai, slice of life, historical, etc. will have a wide variety of what’s common in them in comparison to other genres. Not that that should discourage you! It just might be better to use something like Japanese dictionary and spaced repetition system – jpdb to preview vocab by frequency in the stuff you want to read/watch


This “guide” has almost no exercises. Just reading grammar points is not going to make them stick. Any decent textbook has lots of exercises in which one needs to write using the grammar points. When I reached lvl 60 my grammar was around Genki I and was nearly impossible to read anything interesting.

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I don’t think it’s possible to say that definitively. Exercises are a tool that can aid in memorization, sure, and get people who want it started on very beginner output, and there’s no doubt some people like them. A while back I said the same thing in reverse – someone on these forums was insisting that exercises are strictly a waste of time and no one should do them. To my knowledge, that person learned grammar quite well, quicker than most people seem to really, and is now at a decent level of proficiency, reading novels and whatnot. I don’t agree that “never do exercises” is anywhere near universally good advice, but it’s a view espoused by a sizeable enough amount of people who did indeed learn Japanese without them. They in fact think that it allowed them to do it even faster, but I don’t have proper evidence either way so I’ll refrain from speculating.

In the end you just need to memorize the gist of what a grammar point does well enough that you don’t catastrophically trip over it when you come across it, then you truly learn it after you read/hear it 1,000 times. Maybe you brush up on a more precise definition when you already have a good idea and are ready for that. I don’t buy doing exercises or not as anything more than preference towards that goal.

I haven’t looked deeply into Tae Kim, but it seems like it’s regarded as just as wrong as every other grammar resource (in that all of them are necessarily oversimplifying and cutting corners for us), haha. Just want to give @MrRubiks the contrasting view; I think it’s more than fine and there are demonstrably people who have learned Japanese by using it. Of course you’re also never locked to a singular resource, and I’d totally encourage seeking out others any time you feel the need.


I did Tae Kim’s guide to grammar when I was starting and I found his approach refreshing. Also, it does have exercises, @sergiop :wink:


Depends what you’re reading. But as the charts above suggest there are levels where you supposedly “reach” this goal, but actually you’re more likely to lose about 95% of what you learned if you never used it from the beginning. Simply put around 20 or 30 you should start reading. The waiting until perfect approach doesn’t work and won’t happen. If you’re eager to read in Japanese, just do it! You’re gonna get better over time. Starting takes the most effort, but it pays off in the long run.


You can just use reading for practice, but personally I’ve used Tae Kim + bunpro with decent results to get theory and practice.

I personally can’t stand school-style textbooks (I already couldn’t stand them in school…).

Not to say that they’re bad, they’re just not for me. I tried Genki before Tae Kim and found it deeply frustrating.


that is an important point.

when you’re still relatively new to a language and start reading native content, you will miss a lot. not just in vocab and grammar, but also in subtleties of expression and word-choice, in cultural nuance, and so on.

my first manga was やがて君になる, and i enjoyed reading it tremendously. then i re-read it almost 2 years later, and because my japanese has improved so much in the meantime, reading it was a very different experience, and it had just as strong an emotional impact as the first time.


I agree very much, which is also why early on I think it’s best to read content you’re already familiar with in another language. This way you don’t feel like you’re missing out too much and can use your existing knowledge to help you through.


or, in my case, i’d already watched the anime 2 or 3 times :smiley:

edit: i feel like i wouldn’t want to recommend stuff which was translated into japanese. translation introduces a whole bunch of weirdness, and we’re going for native content after all


it depends of the media, what you read

for example when I watch anime with JP subtitles, there are series or episodes I understand around 90% they are talking, some episodes it’s just words I have never seen before and I can barely understand 20% what they are talking about (this happened a lot in vinland saga and spyxfamily), even looks like I just started learning kanji/vocab.

That’s part of the learning process in my opinion.


I can atest that, as that’s exactly what happened to me. First time I finished WK back in 2016, I thought reaching level 40 and then start to read was the point. It wasn’t. I could barely read (read the Kanji outside WK enviroment), I couldn’t comprehend the things I was reading because I lacked grammar exposure (outside of the book enviroment) and with time I forgot lot’s of things.

This time around, after reetting and coming back to study Japanese, I started reading around level 8, easy mangas and then children’s book. Here it’s important to mentioned that children’s book aren’t necessarily toddler’s book. I consider them more like children’s light novels. it has a couple of pictures here and there, like a light novel, uses less Kanjis and has furigana all around to help. I came across them through the Learn Natively website, they are usually around level 20/21 in the website rating (not Wanikani levels).

I do reccomend thou that during the first 20 levels in WK one should invest in the basic grammar and reach around level N4 (cover all the basics).


Yep. That was a major factor in choosing Ranma and Dragon Ball. I’m very familiar with both of those and it makes it easier to realize “Oh, this is Dr Tofu” instead of “what in the world is this nonsense in my sentence? Oh, a name.”


I never said it did not have exercises… I said has a very small amount compared to textbooks written by professionals.