Can you have conversations after Tobira?

Hi im planning to go to japan in 2025. I want to go to maid cafes and girl bars to have fun conversations. I also want to hang out with people if possible and dont want to just ask basic questions and say basic answers.

Im currently on genki 1 and im planning on doing genki 2 in 7 months with my italki teacher. After that we will use tobira which will probably take a year and a half to get through. That will bring me to the end of 2024. Im also learning kanji on the side so should finish the jouyou kanji by the end of 2013 and i will try to learn the most common 5000 words by 2015 although i cant be sure about the amount of words ill know.

What level of conversation would i be able to have after that?

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I’m assuming you mean 2025 rather than 2015.

It’s very hard to say what level of conversation you would be able to have since we really just have a barebones outline to work with and it’s not exactly easy to generally describe “levels of conversations” in the first place.

If I saw a students resume and it said

Genki 1
Genki 2
Tobira
Knows the most common 5000 words

I would probably assume you would only be able to engage in very basic exchanges while making a lot of mistakes. There’s a lot of things you can say using basic grammar and words, for sure, but I wouldnt bet on your ability to recall them in the middle of a conversation with seemingly minimal experience engaging in authentic Japanese and producing it yourself.

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It’s also going to depend quite a lot on how a student learnt with Genki/Tobira, i.e. how much speaking and conversation practice you did along the way. Somebody who’s self-studying, using the textbooks for learning grammar and mostly engaging with the language by reading and watching anime is not likely to be all that good at speaking, because of having not practiced it. Somebody using the textbooks in a classroom environment will be better, because the class setup usually includes interaction with the teacher, pair/small group dialogue practice, etc. Better still would be the student doing intensive private tuition focused on conversational Japanese and using the textbooks mostly as a framework/backup, better still if they also have day-to-day opportunities for speaking in the language in everyday life.

That is, your ability to have a conversation will depend a lot on how much time you’ve spent having conversations.

Your own personality also factors in – I had a friend whose Japanese ability at the time was much worse than mine, but because he was super extroverted and willing to just talk to people despite making mistakes right and left (a) he had fun doing it and (b) every time he did he got a bit more practiced at it. On the other hand I tend to be a bit introverted by default anyway and a bit less willing to get out there and make mistakes, so I had fewer conversations…

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That’s a pretty fast curriculum. If you’re going for reading fluency, I think all these steps are good, you seem devoted enough, but if you’re looking to attain a practical knowledge of the language, then you’re going to have to use the language practically. Textbooks just don’t teach Japanese the way it’s actually used.

I think if your real goal is speaking fluency, then you should slow down on the textbooks a bit (grammatical knowledge is still necessary, don’t get me wrong) and find a way to practice speaking consistently. Even if you’re making tons of mistakes, that’s how you learn to use the grammar patterns you learn flexibly and how to really express your thoughts. If you don’t practice speaking outside of book excersises, you could get all the way through Genki and barely be able to talk to your peers, let alone native Japanese speakers. If you don’t care about reading fluency, you really don’t need to know that many kanji, so Wanikani honestly might not be worth the time investment.

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I’ve had conversations with people in Japan, and have studied two-thirds of Tobira. Was I able to have those conversations because I studied Tobira? … I have no idea. Possibly the assessments we had in my university course where we had to write conversations in pairs and then perform them in class also helped.

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From my own experience, finishing Tobira (1 chapter a week, finished in about 3 months), I felt confident to finally engage in really basic conversation. After doing iTalki for a few months I got better at getting Japanese out, but how good you get depend on how often and how serious you are about fixing your mistakes. I don’t doubt you can reach your goals, but don’t be afraid of changes happening in your routine.

I guess the secret is that textbooks alone wont get you conversational, you still need them, but actually practicing conversation will get you there sooner.

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