I think by level 10 you can already read lots of simple things.
It was about level 30 when I could recognize almost all the characters I read, but I still run into some unknown kanji every other sentence. I check it in the dictionary or just skip over the word if I’m being lazy.
There’s no tipping point that I’ve found, it just becomes gradually easier to read over time. Every new level I learn another kanji that I can immediately put to use.
I still have a long way to go, I’m very slow at reading and have to check the dictionary a lot but I’m feeling more confident than I used to.
I’m still a low level and haven’t started grammar just yet, so I can’t share my experiences on reading novels and how that has been.
But on social media, I see a handful of kanji I recognize. Even if I can’t read a full sentence or see jukugo kanji I can’t read, the small victories have been fun. And recognition is a good sign!
For example, the other day I came across: 二月二日
Which means: February Second. 「にがつふつか」
It was nothing special, but it was nice seeing what I’ve been learning being applied!
But basically, almost always I see kanji just floating around. Like person, big… that kind of thing.
As far as being able to comprehend things “in the wild” IMO it is a combo of kanji vocab and especially grammar. You can be 60 on wanikani but with 0 grammar knowledge you wont be able to tie anything together. However i do agree with thecodingfox as I am nearing lv 30 and notice a lot of kanji although I am still not able to understand most sentences on my own
I read somewhere on the forums, level 30 is when you should know around 95% of commonly used kanji. The last 30 levels, are the remaining percentage. Less common, but still useful to know. It would be annoying if you had to look up 1/10 of every kanji you see.
Around level 30 I could read the easy nhk news articles all the way through with furigana off, which is something I couldn’t do around level 20. That was the first noticeable change for me. I still have to stop and check kanji on satori reader articles though.
You’ll be able to read about 90% of kanji on NHK Easy and over 80% of kanji on Wikipedia as early as level 24 according to WK Stats, unfortunately it won’t amount to much without the supporting grammar. If you have ~N4 grammar you’ll be able to understand a lot of common stuff around 25 - 30.
For my WaniKani has been useful IRL since Level 1 lol
I constantly see kanji i learned from WaniKani and that means its useful! You are going to be making sure you are supplementing your learning with grammar or else you wont be able to read anything depsite knowing 5000+ kanji lol
This has been my experience as well. Each level fortunately that I complete though is fun, so I encourage you to keep at it. The place where I live and work are always the same (in Japan), but after each level I can read more of what’s in my environment. It’s like slowly waking up to the world around me.
Some people have really high bars for usefulness it seems. I would say basically immediately, because you would be able to recognize things on vacation or something with just stuff from level 1. Sure they may just be things like signs or banners… but I mean, that’s useful, right?
For me, it was useful within 10 levels. It helped that I was studying Japanese in college, though, so I learned a large amount of grammar and vocabulary as well, and the kanji just made reading clearer and faster.
I think if you get some grammar under your belt and then try tackling beginner manga, you’ll find the kanji quite useful as easy manga is definitely readable with 10 levels worth of kanji or even less.
Leebo, have you reached max level so many times that all of the levels have become a blur?
Of course, yes, you’ll learn very useful things like “man”, “woman”, numbers, up, down, etc. which will make some things a bit easier if you’re in Japan and there are no English signs. I think most of us were focusing on this part of the OP’s post:
So, most of the “something…something” stuff gets filled in as you approach the mid twenties and get some grammar knowledge.
In the mid 30s shounen manga became pretty easy to read without dependency on the furigana. It really depends on your goals. I’m in a Japanese workplace so I’m noticing that finishing Wanikani is key to understanding a lot of official documents.
Like any language, the more literate you become the more helpful it is. So although it will be a lot more noticeable at, like, level 30 (of course), the benefits will be immediate. I have found WaniKani to of use right away and that will only continue when I actually do my new lessons (hey, life happens! it’s okay!)
I don’t consider your commentary “nitpicking”, you brought up a valid point. I was just saying why I think so many people (including me) focused on the ability to read articles, although I very much agree that reading without a dictionary is a bit beyond “useful” and more into the realm of “literate”, which is why I focused on percentages instead.
People have varying opinions on this, but I usually advise people to start on grammar earlier rather than later. The reviews really pile up in the later levels, and it can take a lot of time to keep up with them, causing you to have less time for grammar studies, immersion, etc.
Yes, do add grammar, but don’t overwhelm yourself would be my one piece of advice. Even as you are learning basic grammar you can find rewarding moments by recognizing vocab and kanji from WK in something even if you don’t understand the full meaning of a sentence. That is a win too so enjoy those moments! I hope you will continue to enjoy learning Japanese, and kanji!