Intermediate or not intermediate?


How would you define Intermediate? How do you know you are there or not?



The JLPT N3 and N2 are described as intermediate and upper intermediate, respectively. You should be able to handle everyday conversation and written info, as well as some specialised vocab.


At beginner level you can’t do anything, at intermediate level you suck at what you are doing, and at advanced level you know that you suck at what you are doing.


There you go:


Totally true… I feel like a kid aiming for an engineering degree, to later realize I’m just assembling Legos (and not the difficult ones :rofl: ) right now.


It’s in my experience that people who achieve N2 are near-fluent in the language. N2 forces you to memorize archaic, outdated words that even regular Japanese people don’t use. N1 is just stupidly hard. Everyone in the the graduate level translation program for Japanese at my university that has an N2 can speak fluently in Japanese about pretty much anything with zero struggle. I would definitely say N2 is more around the advanced level that upper intermediate.

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You don’t need to speak a single word of Japanese to pass N2 (or obviously any other level for that matter). Anyone with near fluency got there by speaking. And speaking more. And making lots of mistakes while speaking, only to continue speaking for hours and hours.

You need good language knowledge to be fluent, but you don’t need to be fluent to have good language knowledge.

It goes without saying that someone who reaches N1 will have no trouble making simple sentences even if they rarely speak, but you don’t just magically become fluent without putting in the speaking time, regardless of your knowledge of the grammar and vocab needed for N1.

Also, no native adult would struggle to pass N1, even if they like to tell people how impressed they are by its difficulty. Remarking on the difficulty of these tests seems to be a universal thing for Japanese people.

EDIT: And just one more point. N1 isn’t the pinnacle of testing for Japanese. On the CEFR scale, it’s equivalent to C1, and the JLPT doesn’t offer anything that is equal to C2, the CEFR’s highest level. You can get a C2 certificate in Japanese by taking another test, though, the J-Test (実用日本語検定). If you score at least 900 points out of 1000, you can get a certificate that is equivalent to C2. Scoring 700 on the same test gets you the C1 certificate.

When you take that into consideration, it becomes clearer that N2 (600 points on J-Test) is indeed upper intermediate and not yet advanced.


I completely agree with @Leebo here. I just passed the N3 test, but I can assure you that my spoken skills are nowhere around that same level since I never practice speaking.
I would consider my speaking skills around what a anyone at N5 could accomplish.


The responses in this thread are excellent. There is truth in so many of the answers, even the flippant ones!
For me, I felt intermediate when

  • I could follow everyday conversations between other people at normal speed, and get the overall gist of TV shows even if I didn’t understand all the words. (As a beginner, I could only understand if people were talking slowly, and usually only if they were speaking directly to me and helping me out when I clearly didn’t understand. TV shows could have been in any language, I had no idea what was going on.)
  • I could express myself verbally without any major difficulty, even if I made some mistakes or had to paraphrase when I didn’t know a specific word
  • I could read/understand non-technical documents slowly but reasonably accurately. (Don’t ask me about what kanji level that is, I have no idea).

Hope that helps!


Well, I just found out this morning that I passed N2, so let me reassure you that on a good day I can understand easily at least 70% of what people are saying. On a bad day I don’t have a clue


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