Getting to the next "level" in Japanese

Ever since “Completing” WaniKani, I feel like I’ve been too complacent. My plan was to read a whole bunch, but to be honest, I’m not reading every day like I wish I was.

I’m at a point now where I kind of know most kanji I see, but often times I forget the meaning, reading, or both. I’m not really too keen on the idea of jumping back to WaniKani for more SRS, I’m really just hoping that I’ll remember it again if I search it up enough times.
If anyone else has experienced the same thing, how did you overcome this forgetfulness? Am I doomed to go back to SRS, or is there hope for me if I just get myself to read more?

Most things I want to read are around the N2 level, according to Natively at least. I read them, and it gets challenging with the kanji that I forget. I’d like to overcome this N2 level. I know there’s a bunch of people on here who can get through these types of books within a week.

So I want to ask those people, what did you do to get where you are now? A huge problem for me is my lack of structure, my discipline and a plan. I’m hoping that if I hear how others got to that level, I can figure something out for myself. I don’t want to end up stagnating at this level.


If you read enough, it’s ‘natural SRS’, if you don’t have the drive/desire/determination to read a sufficient amount everyday than Anki or whatever SRS you like will help reinforce your memory. Context sentences taken from books you read I personally think will help more than pre-made sentences that come with WK or wherever else. Having some kind of memory hooked into the word+sentence already is useful.

For example, you read チュベローズ, right? I have this card:


The word is 奉納. It’s a great sentence to grab because that was the only word in there I didn’t know. I could guess, but it was fuzzy so card it became. I can also remember exactly what scene that came from. This makes remembering the word much easier for me.

I flip between doing Anki when I feel like it and going on mad reading binges.

I have a chaotic enough work/life that setting strict schedules and plans more often leads to pain than accomplishment for me and my personality type. Instead I set goals. For example: I will read a minimum of 5000 pages this year. In a spread sheet I have how many pages I’ve read, what % of my goal that is, and what % the year is done. If I’m falling behind, read more!

I also have smaller goals, like reading 4 nonfiction books this year because most of my JP reading so far has been fiction. I’m lazily working through 死体は語る right now and have a handful of essays collections and true crime to choose from next.


Not really the requested N2 myself, but to me, remembering reading and meaning are a little different.

Reading might be mastered with ample reading, perhaps with Furigana, and listening.

Meaning can be mastered with good-enough understanding, with ample reading, Furigana or not. Perhaps not even subvocalization is needed. Perhaps listening too, if you have learnt those vocabularies in advance. English doesn’t help much after some point, as it’s not purely memorization. In any case, grammar is needed; otherwise, trying one’s best to comprehend.

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I’m below you in WaniKani level, but I can read at an N1 level. I’m lazy and don’t like looking things up or reading things that are difficult to understand. To get to where I am reading wise, I started with things that I could understand and gradually worked my way up.

Some people have the motivation to slog through difficult things that are way above their level purely because the material interests them. I am not one of those people. I’ll put something off rather than push through something that I can only read with a dictionary.

When I do intensive reading (ie with a dictionary, looking stuff up), I keep it pretty short. Short stories or articles. Not whole novels. Not knocking people who like to intensively read whole novels, but I could never.


I only read at about an N3 level, but maybe this advice will be useful anyway. If not, please ignore.

I think the only way to make sure you remember the kanji is to read a lot, unfortunately. Since you said you are struggling with this, my advice is this:

Lower the barrier to entry, in order to make reading a relatively stress free and shame free experience. If you go into reading expecting it to be difficult and then feel ashamed when there are kanji you don’t remember, you’re not going to enjoy it, and you’re going to read even less. So, maybe actively trying to change your perspective could help.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t understand, you could try focusing on what you do understand. I’ve enjoyed reading books when I’ve only understood 60-70% of the material, because what I did know was still entertaining.

If that’s too frustrating, and you just feel bad, why not try reading things below your level? You might think that this won’t help you read at the N2 level you want, but all reading helps, at literally any level. And if there’s only a few words or kanji you don’t understand, it’s a lot easier to look those up and remember them when they aren’t swimming in a sea of other things you also don’t understand.

I find that looking up every other word gets discouraging and stresses me out, so I only do it of I’m in the mood to do it. Otherwise, I just enjoy reading what I can. And, as I’m exposed to more things, my reading improves. I even still pick up children’s books to read, if I like the pictures, because they are relaxing and I still learn new words.

Anyway, tl;dr:
Spend your time reading things that you enjoy, and try as much as possible to turn reading into something fun instead of a chore.

Sorry, edited to add one thing: read the things at and above your level when you feel energized and motivated. If you are tired and want to relax, read things that feel good to read when you are tired and want to relax. Ok, I think that’s really all, sorry for the long post


I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to, like, boldly forge ahead, and use all that time you spent WKing on reading or self-study or speaking practice or whatever. If you just kind of drop out and don’t get any practice then yeah, you’re going to forget. Use it or lose it.

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Don’t go back to wanikani

You don’t have to go back to srs, but it’s a massively helpful tool so it’s worth consideration so long as you don’t have a very strong aversion to it.

The N~ ratings on natively really make no sense to me personally. Anyone at N2 level is still going to be banging their head against the wall with those n2 books that I’ve read and are going to be absolutely swimming in large amounts of vocabulary they don’t know.

The reality is, there is no magic trick. You get out what you put in. The easiest way to put in a lot is to read a bunch of challenging material and constantly be finding things to learn and getting exposed to what you just learned. It’s on you to build that into a routine and find content you want to struggle with to keep your enjoyment levels up.

So, basically what I’m saying is it really doesn’t sound like your issue is the need to overcome that level. It’s the need to just figure out what you’re going to do today. Once you have that figured out, you’ll just be repeating it until you have achieved your goal really. Maximize your sustainable daily input up to a cap of how much time your willing to spend and just focus on the day. From the time I started reading my first light novel in 2018 (took me like 2 months to finish at hrs a day) to being able to read a book in a day without a dictionary was about 3 years maybe and I made a grand total of 0 changes to my core work routine and only really changed the words I was learning.

I wish there was a glorious 200IQ strat, but it really boils down to just “struggle every day”. Every. Day. I’m personally highly opposed to the idea of taking breaks or days off. It’s not about the time you “lose”, it’s about the momentum you lose and the cracks you make in your habits.

You’ll suck for a while, think that you’re making no progress, be drawn to other easier stuff, question yourself, and maybe even feel like you’re just stupid because everyone else seems to be going faster. That’s what it means for learning to read to be hard. And doing your daily routine in spite of that is what separates the people who get there from the people who don’t.

Best of luck


I know it’s weird hearing this from a level 38 person, but after years of reading after quitting WK the first time, I think the thing you gotta focus on is just getting your reading in and just look up what you didn’t get in the dictionary. If you want to do Anki, do it, if not, I wouldn’t stress too much.

But you don’t need to do WK forever unless you forgot everything, but sounds like you just lack the challenge which is natural the later you get in your progress.


I’m ashamed to say I haven’t finished yet. I stopped giving updates on that thread because I couldn’t post more than 3 times in a row lol. I haven’t given up on it, I’ll finish it eventually, just reading some other things that have priority. And then there’s the times where I can make some progress on it, but choose to be lazy… Well this post I’m making is kind of like a first step to make some serious changes to how I go forward with my learning, so if you’re still watching those threads, maybe you’ll see me update it with a complete status in a reasonable time.

For the longest time I really tried to avoid Anki like the plague because I didn’t want to set it up, looked complicated. Though I’m really thinking I might try taking another look and doing this.

This might actually work for me. The books I have on priority all have a sort of imaginary deadline, and I’m the only one that technically sets those. I don’t really know why I didn’t think of this, but thanks for sharing this, I’ll definitely do this.

I honestly thought you were one of them haha

But yeah I’ve noticed furigana to be helpful rather than an annoyance as some claim. I guess if you don’t pay attention to the kanji then it could be harmful.

I’ve learnt a lot off of anime subconsciously through this. Genuinely do recommend this for vocabulary learners to a certain extent.

I’ve recently been looking into the book clubs here, something I never thought I’d participate in, but I’ve been apart of ルリドラゴン absolute beginner book club which is obviously too easy for me, but I’m also planning on going along with the beginner book club next, ロジカとラッカセイ. Still seems like it’ll be an easy one for me but I’ve been thinking of hopping on the intermediate one next if something interesting pops up. So I’ve been delving into easier reads and it’s definitely been allowing me to keep up with my reading a lot better.

I guess that is me. But that’s probably what’s been hurting me now that I think about how you shared how you’ve went about it. Still though, N1 level at level 34? Do you already know kanji? Or you’re just that good haha.

No, I appreciate everyone replying, I want to hear as much viewpoints as I can, and a long post usually contains a lot of valuable info.

Oh for sure, I mean I haven’t been reading as much as I wanted to, but I have been reading. Just wondering what I should do since I was still forgetting to a noticeable degree.

Yeah I think I have an aversion at this point haha. I love it and I’ll always recommend it, but it’s just not for me anymore.

Good to know I’m not the only one who struggles with them.

I appreciate this a lot. Puts some things in a new perspective for me, with what pocketcat said about goals this seems like such an obvious thing but I didn’t think of it. I feel like this post has been really good for motivating me too.

Haha the best readers on this site either don’t show their level or are below level 60, regardless of how you read though, I appreciate the insight from anyone.

But anyway, thank you to everyone who answered, it’s been helpful and I will be working on some daily reading goals I can keep up with.


I also recommend just searching for harder materials and since you aren’t stressing for time to do flashcards or whatever, you can take your time and try to really try and comprehend what’s being said or communicated. For me that isn’t that fun, but it’s an idea.

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I am definitely in the look-up camp, but what makes that possible is definitely the Kanji knowledge.

If possible, I want to avoid looking up the same word twice. Probably I wouldn’t understand deeper from repeated lookups, no matter JE or JJ. Rather, try to understand my best from the context. So as not to disturb the flow. Also, try to remember best the first time(s).


…need me to go unlock the thread for you? :sweat_smile: That book is a wild ride, pity I didn’t care for the second volume. IMO the first one stands alone quite well, the author should have stopped there.
That said, it’s an challenging book from a vocab perspective even if it’s not (so bad) from a grammar perspective.

Re: Natively ratings - I think they make more sense in isolation from the the JLPT after the ~N3 (or maybe even N4?) level cause at that point the books turn into “how complicated is the grammar / how flowery is the writing” and a dash of “how wide is the vocab” rather than being really attuned to JLPT. I feel like there is a logical gradation in difficulty from say, a 26 to a 30 to a 34, but that doesn’t really reflect in JLPT prep materials.
My 2c though. It’s a hotly contested topic that I don’t wish to rehash in depth :joy:

There’s other, more user friendly SRS out there. Kitsune? I think is the name of one popular here. I like Anki, but honestly use whatever works.

also re: WK levels not showing - I didn’t use WK to learn kanji :sweat_smile: I learned maybe ~300 or so the textbook route and then the rest via reading (but I started reading the news before I started reading books). There’s a handful of people, including myself, who joined the forums for the community even though we don’t use the product.


I think there is defo hope for you to just get back into reading more. I did a bit of a too long wait before getting started and decided to reset and just redo WK one more time - but that’s also because I don’t mind the WK and the SRS-reviewing, I just find it calming and relaxing.

But, reading is needed for sure to help you retain what you’ve learnt doing WK, to give you those deeper connections to items. Even if you don’t feel like reading every day, just reading more often helps a lot. Just find something you enjoy and try to focus on the enjoyment aspect of it. If you don’t feel like looking up everything you didn’t know how to read correctly - skip it and guestimate. When you have more energy, take your time with a dictionary in hand.


I’m very inconsistent about WakiKani lol. I think I just had my 5 year anniversary with this website lol. I’ve been living in Japan for just about the entirety of those 5 years, so I’ve picked up a lot from other forms of study and general life. I still like WaniKani though because there’s a lot of stuff that I somehow managed to skip or never run in to so it helps fill in the gaps in my knowledge. A good amount of stuff is review though. Doing Kumon’s 国語 course is the main thing that helped me get my reading level up


Like everyone said : read. I’d add quantity does not trump quality. In my experience reading one page of a text of which you understand 90% of what’s being said and trying to understand all the details is better than reading a lot and skipping the details.


i find this reply really useful

Apparently with any form of studying where you are trying to absorb new information the optimum level is where you can already understand eighty per cent of what you are studying.

why thank you peter, thats very kind of you

I agree with your main point, but I think there is a bit of nuance to it

The more you skip what you can’t understand, the more you’re just training the knowledge you already have. You are able to see words, structures, and grammar that you are already able to comprehend and get better at comprehending them in multiple contexts with faster recall time and less recall effort. Essentially you’ll be closer to acquiring it. You can also train reading speed (but please don’t worry about this until you are reading unassisted)

The more you sit down and try to understand stuff that you don’t get on your first pass through, the more new knowledge you will be able to acquire and increase your capacity to comprehend.

If you do the latter a bunch, it will result in you having read a lot and you’ll have no acquisition problems. At the start, though, it can be a very slow process. I would sometimes read like a few pages in like 3 hours doing that, and I think thats pretty normal if you are trying to understand EVERYTHING when your level is low. I would then however go off and read a VN when I was done and skip a lot of stuff I didn’t know or couldnt get with a yomichan lookup, so I kinda did both.

I think if you’re getting 90% comprehension on 1 pass, its kinda a weird spot. But yeah you certainly want to make sure you’re learning stuff for the day and not just skipping everything. The shit you don’t understand is really just opportunities to learn at the end of the day. You don’t need to get them all the first time you see them, but you also don’t want to pass them all up.


Lots of people have given really helpful responses above, I would just like to add a slightly different angle.

As a language learner and also as a former teacher of English and a teaching assistant of young kids in the UK learning to read, I can vouch for the claim in the article below that an average of 95-98% words known is needed for comprehension and for a smooth, enjoyable reading experience. If the level drops below e.g. 90%, that means you are missing/struggling with every 10th word, which, depending on your mood/energy level/personality type, could either be a fun challenge or an immense source of frustration.

My suggestion is: if you want to read for the pleasure of reading, find reading content that is almost entirely within your current comprehension, but pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone. If you want to study a text, you can choose something harder than this, but see it as a different activity, rather than expecting a smooth, get-stuck-into-the-story reading experience.


With regards to vocab/ SRS, I use Kitsun (not just for Japanese). I’m slowly working my way through N2 and a couple of the other decks, though no real plan to sit another exam anytime soon.

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