My Complete Journey, Reflection, and Advice for Achieving a High Reading Level in Japanese

Not a neuroscientist myself, but I’d be very surprised if our understanding of the brain was even advanced enough to answer that question with any confidence. This is probably also taking it too far into the abstract, looking into research on language acquisition seems like the more straightforward approach. But I’m sure if a bunch of linguists researching this for a living can’t figure it out, we probably can’t either :b

Personally I can just look at myself and others I know. Having a couple friends that are so good at comprehension they can watch shows like Game of Thrones in English and if I pause to ask them what a particularly difficult line meant they can paraphrase in another language just fine, but are so bad at production they almost failed Highschool level English classes, I’m not having much confidence in comprehension and production being very strongly interconnected. (And I’m much the same with Japanese, being okay’ish at listening and reading but utter trash at speaking :rofl: )


To stress that outputting doesn’t occur in isolation. There would be response, i.e. input; then, output as the next response to input. That is, communication.

Also to say that output that expecting response should be respondable.

I also think that there should be a lot on receiving end; but speaking exercises have their value. As for listening and reading, each of their own are unique, but there are a lot of cross-over skills. I would focus on input, no matter which means. (So I generally choose reading?)

I don’t have much feel on translation, but language should be able to pile atop itself, and perhaps also accept there would be some unconscious process. Literal translation doesn’t work that well. Also some part of the input probably doesn’t encode into words in another language.

There is at least one instance of learning a language to consume only – learning a dead language. So that is doable, but indeed it feels unnatural and difficult to do.


Right. Just imagine trying to teach a child the word ‘mama’ before it had even mastered the letters ‘m’ or ‘a’.

(sarcasm off)

The alphabet is an abstraction which appeared relatively recently in the history of human language as a means of encoding spoken language (i.e., within the past 4,000 years).

Words are easier to learn than letters. That’s why it’s normal for children to be taught the alphabet at school, in formal lessons, after they have already learned thousands of words naturally at home.


Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be the most obvious abstraction either. Writing got invented independently perhaps three times (China, Egypt, South America) and none of those writing systems were alphabetic.


I would heart this multiple times if it were possible.


Perhaps there will come a day when I can post this meme and the science supports it:


It’s obvious that it’s in the context of a person studying a second (or more) language through reading. I’m sure that the person already know what a mother is, he/she just wants to know how is that word written in the target language.

Next time please avoid quoting sentences out of context, it’s just common sense.

And that’s if the question is even answerable at all.

Are you bilingual by any chance? I only ask because I see a disconnect in the experiences of people who are monolingual and who don’t run into the problem of getting rusty in one language or the other and this usually only happens with output.


I wouldn’t really say that. I have an interesting, almost autobiography worthy background that has given me exposure to Spanish, Tagalog, and French, but nothing beyond simple greetings/introductions. I think I may agree with you though that being anti-output may be a hallmark of the monolingual who aren’t juggling languages.


@s1212z I see you typing a reply, and it’s been bugging me for awhile, but is your current profile pic the cover of Japanese the Spoken Language? Seems to remind me of that pattern.

Edit No, it’s not the same, it just reminds me a lot of it.


:joy: I think the same thing every time I see one of their posts.


If you are interested, I posted a Kitsun mining extension for Chrome here. I think there is another for Firefox as well someone made if preferred. Just thought I’d mention since it would save some steps from an anki import. I’ve mined 1000s of cards from various sources this way. I can say I use the Kitsun reader as well, it has the added advantage adding the sentence from the source you are reading from automatically into your card. The yomichan ext has some really nice features like pitch accent graphs or mono-dict plus other feature integrations so perhaps the export is worth it on your side.

@Vanilla I watched this video in segments a while back and lost track of time to comment but was a great source of commentary and wisdom on a language journey, everyone has a story so thank you for sharing. Great to see your success, it helps to everyone to see what is possible especially on this level. I forgot some of the details but I remember all the soda someone just mentioned, lol. The assessment on WK were spot on too. One thing that stuck was commentary on ‘tolerance’ because this is something that crossed my mind quite a bit and everyone’s is different. I see alot of mention on the boards to jump into difficult reading as soon as possible, learn your grammar on the go and use books a motivator to move forward. There was mentioned ‘organic grammar’ learning above but maybe aimed toward more intermediate and above. I guess my question would be how others are confirming their comprehension in this context. Media, if it’s above your level, you may be able to piece it together with some nuance lost but what is the tolerance of the nuance, this is a bit grey for me…sometimes the gap is very large or slight difference could entirely spin the interpretation. With JLPT material, it’s built to trick so there is direct accountability whether the comprehension is adequate or not but at least measured though limited within a multiple answer context. With output or conversation, you can try to fake it but won’t go far and may have some real consequences, haha.

Also curious what people do to get get balanced content because I tend to go towards media I actually enjoy and use my study time what I think is practical for language learning. Slice of life stuff repeats quite a bit and repetitive…a confidence booster but it may not get alot of growth if too easy. Another example, reading through Kakegurui I’ve learned more about gambling terms than I’ll ever need (unless maybe other yakuza material) but otherwise very useless for other content though I enjoyed it. Then comparing this to non-fiction content, you may get a frequency base that can be quite a bit different and again, highly topic dependent which may or may not be in someone’s wheelhouse (and also not the most ‘fun’ read either). I guess another credit to JLPT material, like reading business email samples or someone’s research essay; something I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy but has a practicality. Since you crunched ton of novels, did it all balance out? It appears the answer is yes from what I’ve followed and all the ground covered.

Haha, no it’s not from that or anything Japanese related. I won’t give it away but I’m a drummer at heart so it comes from that world :wink:


I have a feeling that eventually it will all be balanced out for him. I don’t think he’s specifically said, but I think from all of his posts I’ve read, his goal is the be the very best Pokemon master of Japanese and catch them all. At least, that’s the impression I have gotten. He’ll probably do it too, and become more native than most natives.


My approach to this kind of thing is to prefer materials where fine nuances of meaning or the use of stylistic or poetic language are not a key part of the enjoyment of it. As a concrete example, I like reading detective stories in Japanese, because a lot of the enjoyment of reading the average detective novel is plot-based – watching the process of the mystery being unravelled and figuring out whodunnit. If my understanding of the text is good enough to identify what is happening plot-wise I have got a solid amount of the available entertainment out of it, even if I perhaps missed some of the finer detail.


So is your advice to keep doing Wanikani to level 40? Or should I switch over to Core 2.1K anki deck?

Why Not Both GIFs | Tenor

If you’re enjoying WK and finding it helpful, continue using it. It gives structure which a lot of people desperately need.

The core decks are the bee’s knees and you’re going to see very quick turnaround on returns engaging with native content.


Curious @Vanilla what your vocabulary level is at these days? I assume you have broken the 20K mark and are working up to 30k now?

Yeah it’s a weird feeling being able to perfectly understand something but having trouble saying anything unless you start talking it again.

I think it’s kind of the same phenomenon with accents where you subconsciously emulate them when you’re in an area even when it’s within the same language.


Quantity. The reality is, you’re going to misinterpret stuff from anything you read. No matter what you pick up, there will be sentences you think you understand that you dont. I have yet to see a viable way to get around this for self learners.

The key is that context has a decent chance of creating some sort of contradiction or inconsistency with your interpretation to show you were wrong. Sometimes it outright makes the correct interpretation very clear. With enough time and effort, this should iron out virtually all of your issues since it did for me and other people I have heard from.

Yes, I think so. I took the jlpt n1 a few weeks ago and there wasn’t a single word I haven’t seen multiple times on the reading and language knowledge section. Now, rather or not I was accurately able to answer every single question, I don’t know, but there was no grammar or words I hadn’t come across on more than one occasion. I think you’re fine to just consume what you want.


Well, I broke the 20k card mark last year iirc. My actual vocabulary is probably much bigger than that because there’s a lot of stuff I don’t have cards for I think. I haven’t been adding a whole lot of words since I haven’t really been reading all that much since moving to Japan (focusing on listening), so my vocabulary hasn’t grown as much as normal in the past 10 months. I guess you could say my vocabulary has not grown but gotten deeper since I now have to think about which words to use in certain situations a lot more.