Is it possible to go through all the way until N1 without a tutor?

Hi, everyone!
I’d like to know your opinion on studying Japanese without a tutor. Is it possible to reach N1 and an advanced level of the language without any extra professional help?
I have experience with learning other languages; my native language is Portuguese and I’ve also studied English, German, ancient Egyptian and Spanish, but always with a tutor. However, I’ve always had the impression that the really fundamental part of acquiring a new language depended on how much time I could dedicate to self-study.
And that’s why, this time, I decided to at least start studying without a teacher, but I’d love to hear your opinions!
Thanks :blush:


I can’t share any “reliable” thoughts as I’ve only recently started learning Japanese, but I’m going to do exactly the same thing. That seems a good idea to challenge yourself, especially if you like learning and if you’re good at languages.

As for your question, I think it depends on your talent for understanding languages. My mother tongue is Russian, and I’ve learnt English by myself, without any tutor. We had some classes at school, but they really were of little help. I’ve seen a lot of different people, it’s just a piece of cake to pick up another language for some of them as they naturally and intuitively understand the most difficult material of the language, but some of them struggle a lot even with a tutor because they just can’t memorise all those difficult grammar rules, constructions, etc.

English is certainly easier, but Japanese seems to be relatively easy for me. Of course it’s very difficult to deal with the strange symbols and hieroglyphs at first, as we are used to reading letters, but Japanese still has some clear logic (at least for me), and it looks quite easy in comparison to Arabic or Chinese (which I would find really hard to learn without a good tutor). Moreover, thanks to WaniKani, Bunpro and some other Japanese-related sites, there’s a clear course from “N6” to N1, and we don’t have to search for different random info on the Internet :slight_smile:


Yes, but you will need to put greater emphasis on finding native speakers to practice speaking with since that’s the part that’s easiest to neglect with self-study. I haven’t really taken classes and the one time I tried to get a tutor earlier in the year, she said she had nothing left to teach me. Reading and grammar-wise, I’m at roughly a N2 level (based on my general ability to comprehend N2-focused learning material written/spoken in Japanese) but my speaking is still quite basic from getting so little practice with it. A focus on native material is also really important so that you’re getting natural-sounding input. Good luck!


Anything is possible. Believe in yourself (Probably not the answer you’re looking for).


Even if I’m a low level I can totally assure you it’s possible.


The JLPT doesn’t test speaking or writing so I definitely think it’s possible haha


I personally studied for 6 months to get fundamentals of hiragana, katakana, and basic grammar before I took Japanese classes for 3 years. I think that was the best choice as there is a lot that you just have to memorize that a tutor can’t help you with.

As for your question, yes you can get to N1 without a tutor because the JLPT does not have a speaking or writing section. You might progress slightly slower because you can’t ask questions but it generally takes people several years to pass N1 regardless, unless they have previous experience in a language that has similarities to Japanese (Korean or Chinese). You will, however, most likely be disappointed in your speaking skills if you do not have a chance to speak with native speakers

Just to give you full clarity, out of the very few westerners that I know that have passed the N1 I would say that it took them an average of ~6 years with good work ethic. All of these people only knew 1 or 2 languages (English or English and German for example) beforehand though so maybe it might be slightly better for you but I can’t be sure about that.

I’ve studied for about 5 years now and I’m not sure if I’ll make that 6 year average but I think I’m getting close. I’m not worried about it though, I just enjoy learning :slight_smile:


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
As I don’t have any pressure to learn it fast, I’m trying to deal with the learning process as an enjoyable challenge.

That’s exactly my concern: to end up with poor speaking skills.
Yet, I think your advice is really helpful and I’ll try to find ways to compensate it with contact with native speakers.


I think it’s always good to count on positive wishes! Thanks :slightly_smiling_face:

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Low level here too, but my initial impression is that it can be managed, at least in what concerns grammar, listening and reading (my main goal).

Yes, you’re right. Actually, I think I haven’t formulated my question precisely. What I really wanted to mean with “N1” was “an advanced level”.


You said something that can be a good method: to start by myself and then improve with a tutor after some time of self-study.
I’m really enjoying learning and, as I’m doing it just for pleasure, I’ll try to relax!


Not yet at N1 level but I am on the same boat as you. I think the important thing is to do what you can in your current situation and then make a change once you hit the maximum. I certainly think it is doable but it depends on one’s own motivation, diligence, and interest in seeing your plans through. You seem to be that type of person so I think you can do it.

I think you should go ahead and get your feet wet and see what it takes you. I think we can all get there! And I will be glad to give you a mighty “Parabéns!” when you do pass N1!

I really like this quote : “Quem não arrisca não petisca.” I did some Portuguese before but placed it on hold because of Japanese. I hope it applies to our current situation.

:nerd_face:inspectatoro :steam_locomotive:

Your English is very good! Congratulations! I tried to pick up Russian but then again did it through DuoLingo. I couldn’t get past the Cyrillic! Maybe I will try later in the future. If I can learn the Japanese systems I am sure I can learn Cyrillic too right? All the best on your Japanese studies!

:nerd_face:inspectatoro :steam_locomotive:


I got to Proficiency in English (N1 equivalent) by reading and exposing myself to English, then doing some self-study books like Advanced Grammar in Use. And learning material for Japanese is a lot better IMO.


You’ve really moved me with your message. Thank you very much for making me look things from a distinct angle and reassuring me the possibility of reaching my goals.
I do hope you can resume your Portuguese studies in the future.
Muito obrigado! Você é incrível! (Thanks! You’re awesome!) :blush:


ofc wanikani alone is useless, you have to learn grammar, practice, listen, speak and so on it’s hard work


OH yes actually that makes sense, I was probably reading it too literally.

I’m guessing others have said it too (I haven’t read all replies yet), but there seems to be a big gap between actually being advanced in Japanese and passing the N1. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone who passed N1, but theoretically it’s possible to pass without any speaking skills right?

So considering that, I think getting to N1 level is possible, but actually becoming advanced at speaking and writing will take a lot of practice. I think if you don’t have anyone to practice with it will be difficult to get corrections. As a result, getting to an advanced speaking/writing level may be very difficult on your own.

All other skills may be fine? I don’t know though! I guess it also depends on the person and how much time you actually spend studying, how you study, etc.

Edited to add: to respond to people saying they’ve learned how to get to English ‘N1’ level without a tutor: generally it will be a lot more difficult and take way more time to achieve this in Japanese, because the language is so different from most other languages. So I’m not sure the comparison is valid. I mean, I learned English mostly by myself, now I’m learning Japanese mostly by myself, but there’s a world of difference between the rate I’m improving in sadly :sob: It’s still not impossible, but if you’ve already learned English, please don’t expect Japanese to improve as fast as English. That might be demotivating.


Like others have said it’s possible, but if you want to want to work on speaking skills you will need to find someone to speak Japanese with. It doesn’t have to be a tutor, but tutors can definitely be more helpful if you find the right one.

For me taking classes helped me stay more on track with Japanese. For others taking classes helps them learn easier.

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I have that they are getting ready to add a speaking part eventually, especially for those wanting to work in Japan. Has anyone else heard that?

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