N1 to Native

I was just wondering, after one passes the N1 exam, is the only gap between native level and N1 level the vocabulary or is there more grammar? This is assuming one knows how to speak, write, etc. till N1 level in Japanese.
Sorry if this has already been covered somewhere else :grin:


I don’t think it’s right to think about “Native” as being a level above N1. We are not natives, so we will never be natives. Being a native comes with a lifetime of cultural experience and intuition with the language that is basically not achievable for a non-native. Just think about if you had exactly the same language skills you have in your native language, but none of the culture you had absorbed in that time. You’d be missing out on a lot of nuances.

Additionally, a lot of N1 content is not used in everyday life by natives. A lot of it is stiff or literary language. Natives can understand it, but demonstrating use of it would not be a checkbox for “native”.

So they’re not really on the same continuum.

A 5 year old can be a native speaker, but probably knows fewer words than someone who passed N1.

But I get the sense that you basically want to know what one would aim for in their studies after N1, and just used “native” as the stand in for that. There are tests aimed at native speakers that cover more content than N1 covers. Things like the Kanji Kentei and the Nihongo Kentei go way beyond N1.

So there’s more to learn for sure.


The difference is lots and lots of exposure, practice and experience.

N1 just means you’re capable of comprehending enough to continue learning the rest of the language in the language on your own.

Although I guess it is true that you won’t ever encounter any incomprehensible grammar after N1. You know all the foundational patterns and it’s just encountering new phrases, learning what’s more natural where, etc. So, all the hard stuff.


You will never be a “native” but your langauge ability could go above and beyond what “native” have.

Unless you are a FBI or USSR agents that go through a program to be native-like for their missions. :laughing:


Yes, “native” is more like the default language settings of your brain, which you cannot change. It’s not about a specific proficiency level, because that varies wildly.


Ahh okay that makes sense. Yeah I didn’t know what else to use I did mean it in the way of studies :joy:Thanks for the reply!


Hahaha I wish!

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Never say never. :stuck_out_tongue:

This is possible, just time-consuming. Of course, you won’t be better than ‘everyone’ – that includes people like famous authors and language history experts, after all – but you can be more proficient than the average native (e.g. making fewer grammatical errors, knowing more expressions and kanji, having a better understanding of Classical Japanese, choosing more precise words for a given topic etc.). All this stuff is achievable with time and effort. It’s just a question of whether or not you’re willing to work for it, and of course, it depends on what the proficiency level of the ‘average’ native is. However, I think this stuff is always going to be domain-specific: you might know more literary expressions and technical terms related to your areas of interest than the average native, but they’ll probably know more slang or be better at describing physical objects or talking about everyday life in Japan because these are things you probably won’t find very easily online or in books.

Depends on what you call grammar. The basic structure of the language? Nope, that’ll have long been done. Specific structures with a special meaning, like the so-called ‘grammar points’ in so many textbooks? Yeah, there are still a few of those beyond the N1 level, or at least, that rarely come up in N1 guides. You can find them on monolingual JLPT sites, usually listed under something like ‘N0 文法’. However, if you take a look at the Nihongo Kentei, which is designed for Japanese people, I guess the main difference in testing style is that it seems to evaluate a deeper, more general, more intuitive understanding of the language. For example, if you look at sample questions for the highest level of the Nihongo Kentei, you’ll see questions about identifying the odd kanji compound out in a set of four, because a particular kanji will have a different meaning in one of the words. The JLPT N1 would just require you to be able to read kanji compounds and know what they mean individually, so what’s expected of natives in these tests is definitely more demanding at the higher levels.


Hmm native basically is intuition. It’s kinda sad how we can’t actually understand the entire depth of a language but that’s the fun of it I guess haha. I’m just going to keep trying anyway. I’m planning to write my N3 this December so a little excited for that and curious about the next few steps after that. Thanks a lot for the reply!


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