How long does it take to understand japanese?

greetings currently level 7 on my way to level up to level 8 I want to ask how long does it take for a learner to understand japanese to the point where the meaning of a sentence is automatically translated in your head like when leaning english instead of spending time translating the sentence in your head the meaning automatically register.


It can be quick if you get a good grammar book and do not think that 「X.x.と申します。」actually means “my name is X.x.” because if you do learn it like that it will only get worse. Learn to think in Japanese and see the “X.x is what I humbly say” in there…

It took me around half a year (daily 30 mins. practice back then) to go through this initial phase (and I learned to read Hiragana without having to interpret each letter separately in the same time).

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I think it depends on your studying style and focus- if you’re mostly focusing on reading and kanji, that’s gonna take a very long time, with more speaking and conversation it can be pretty fast. I would recommend doing a lot of listening practice using whatever kind of Japanese media you like most, and if possible if you can find a native speaker online to practice speaking to. The earlier, the better. But if you don’t know anyone, don’t worry about it.

I would say for the translating in your head, Japanese and English are so different syntactically that if you’re forming more than just basic sentences, it doesn’t make sense to do translating. Your sentences will make more sense if you just try to formulate them in your head in Japanese. That said, it does require more gramar knowledge to do that quickly/naturally. Do you have a textbook?


I think the time it takes depends on how much you study per day, and that for it to become automatic will require a lot of input. Most Japanese I hear/read still requires effort to parse, but simple grammar structures and vocabulary that I’ve encountered often are already automatic, no translation required🙃 The time it took to reach that point had more to do with how many times I read/heard something in different contexts than with hours/days per se

no, I used busuu to start learning japanese for wanikani I take 5 kanji per day until I reach guru with them then I go to take 10 vocab per day until I finish everything then move to the next level

I might recommend a textbook- it’s a bit of an investment but I think it’s necessary to lay a good foundation for the language. If you’re just learning new grammar points at random then you start developing bad habits. A lot of people sell their used beginners textbooks, so you could buy one cheap. Genki I is very approachable and explains things well if you decide to go that way, or if you can’t get a good textbook, Bunpro is another app that a lot of people recommend.


One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s a very gradual process and I don’t think there’s ever a moment like ‘oh, now I can understand Japanese’.

I think a goal like ‘understand Japanese’ is much like the horizon, It moves away from you at the same rate you progress. So it’d be much better to just set a manageable daily goal and be consistent with it.


As people have said, the point you want to reach is to not need to translate Japanese in your head. Japanese people don’t do that, and with enough practice, you won’t either.

You need to train your brain to be able to think in Japanese, which is an incredibly lengthy and tough process, and requires taking in a lot of native material.

Even then it’s not something that just clicks one day. You’ll start off automatically understanding certain common words you see a lot. Then maybe simple XはYです sentences will become intuitive, then who knows. It’s a gradual process.


Thank you for this comment-- I hadn’t heard of busuu until now but I really like it!

You should really look into some textbooks
index/resources - LearnJapanese (

same goes for bunpro this is the first i ever read about it

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The answer to this question depends on what I’m reading. Is it a japanese reader or easy book? Then I’m fluent! Is it something else? I speak nothing! Am I listening to Bite Size Japanese? I’m fluent! Is it something hard? I speak nothing!

How long does this take? No idea and I’m not sure it matters. It’s the journey.


Just to reiterate the point of gradual language acquisition, I have a Spotify playlist with my favorite Japanese music that I listen quite frequently, most of the time actively reading lyrics. Almost none of them I’ve stopped to do a deep study, I just try to read them if I can.

At the beginning I was able to just understand Hiragana, barely some Katakana, and some common Kanji. As the weeks (months) go by, I get some new vocabulary under my belt while listening to the same songs, and new sections of the songs become meaningful.

For example, the first line of the song Skyclad no Kansokusha by Itou Kanako reads:

過去は離れて行き 未来は近づくの

At first I was able to just get…行き (lvl 5), 未来 (lvl 7) and 近づく (lvl 8)
So in my mind I was just getting a feeling that "something something direction, future is getting closer"

Nowadays I know 過去 (lvl 22) but I have no idea what 離れて is… now that I’m curious I’ll do a little bit of research :nerd_face:
But the main point is that each step you take makes the language gradually more meaningful.


I can really relate to what you are saying - same here. :jp::notes: :headphones:

Apart from Kanji, I had also a hard time with grammar, not because most songs have complicated grammar - to the contrary - because there is a lot of colloquialisms, abreviated constructs etc. thar are just not thought in general, and even less at N4 level.

I remember how 2019 my brain just plain refused to understand why 手を (song “テオ” by Hatsune Miku) would ever mean “Take my hand”…


Did you understand why it’s 行き and not 行く?

Good song tho. something tells me you play osu


Finding language trivia in songs is really interesting, never would’ve thought of that, especially because there’s the rare dedicated ヲ character I’ve never seen it in the wild tho. Katakana in songs has some curious usages.

Yeah, the latter is the verb “to go” and the former means “bound for”, mostly in the context of vehicle directions. I feel it has a sense of inescapability, you can’t change the direction of the Past - going away.

Yeah! I love S;G and Itou Kanako, but I’m not a fan of Osu. Maybe because after I’ve played Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents in the DS era, I’ve always felt playing Osu! with a mouse kinda lame and never got into it ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌

Unfortunately this is not the case. Yuki when attached to a destination does mean bound for, but this is iki and it’s not attached to a destination so it doesn’t mean bound for here. Its the て行く grammar pattern in 連用形 form. I thought it would be pretty impressive if you knew those things before learning hanareru so I figured I’d ask

But yeah ito kanako is where it’s at honestly


As long as you want, but not as short as you’re hoping.

Nice, thanks for the lesson! :nerd_face:

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