People who have passed (or are around the skill of) N1, N2 or N3, how comfortable are you with Japanese? Do you really never stop learning?

IIRC it was two 1.5 hour lessons a week. He had a lesson plan and we followed Minna no Nihongo, but we often got sidetracked with random chit chat. After that one year we started prepping specifically for the JLPT, starting with N3, but at that point I was already pretty uninhibited about just chatting in Japanese, it’s also about when I started reading manga.


Considering that I’m almost 35 and I still learn new words and concepts in English on a fairly consistent basis (this is as a non-native English speaker who has attained a level of English that is above the level of an average native-speaker), the statement “Language learning is a life long endeavor” is fairly self-evident to me.

Also I would not consider N3,N2 or even N1 (all examinations that are multiple choice and lack any kind of speaking or writing component unlike a similar English test like the IELTS), as a benchmark for having a “high level of Japanese”.


Being around N3, I feel that listening is by far my strongest skill. Given that I haven’t really spoken Japanese since I am self learning and not in Japan, I don’t rate my speaking to be grammatically correct but I know I would be able to get the message across in most normal settings. As for reading, its getting better and better day by day, while I lookup new words found in books and learn them. I am also using FloFlo to learn vocab for books I own and want to learn before reading.


This happened to me too! I grew up with both Tagalog and English and my family moved to Ireland when I was 8 years old. I wrote poems and stories using extremely deep words in Tagalog for my age (we also have videos and the poems from then to prove it). But after moving to Ireland, to assimilate, my parents just spoke English to me even in the house. But I’d still hear their Tagalog conversations with each other and their friends so I never lost the ability to understand. However, I can only respond in English. I can try and speak back in Tagalog, but to natives it comes off very stiff and unnatural. I had Filipino friends as a child, but they were on the same boat. We all just spoke English to each other. Pretty sure I speak more Japanese than I do Tagalog now.


@LastStand yeah, I studied in school a bit and then when I went on exchange in Japan, but my major was Business Administration. So, really when I got shipped out to the sticks on JET, I was basically beginner and thrown in the deep end some very very basic conversation. Luckily I was surrounded by a 100% Japanese environment so I learnt quick (sink or swim). Also my pred left me volumes and volumes (literally a small library) of texts from N5 to N1 and the JET books back then used to have CDs with audio shadowing practice (I miss those books). I had so much free time to study, I burned through kanji and the lower level books like MinanoNihongo and then did a stint at Japanese language school in Osaka. I 100% am a believer that some formal study will help you lift off, my the language course I did at my exchange university in Tokyo also got me a huge head start on the road to self-study. I know countless (tens and tens) of JETs who never learnt in their 3-5 years and seemed to be often people who were complete beginners without any knowledge at all. I not saying its not possible, but starting from zero alone can be daunting. In my opinion, having some formal teaching to begin with is invaluable (at least until you can power on with self-study later).


Thanks for sharing. I think almost any learner will deem it worthwhile to get over the “pretty uninhibited about just chatting in Japanese” hump towards fluency, which is essentially speaking.

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N1 is far from fluent. (I sat for N1 in December, and passed.) For one thing, it doesn’t require you to produce any Japanese at all. That is, you don’t have to be able to speak or to write to pass it.

Since I don’t live in Japan, and only get to speak Japanese for one hour a week, it is very clear to me how far behind my productive abilities are compared to my passive abilities.

And even in terms of passive ability, when I read ordinary Japanese literature, there are still tons of words that I need to look up (although in general I can understand enough of the text to guess at the meaning of unfamiliar words, particularly because I am likely to know some of the kanji).

And when I listen to video without subtitles, there are passages that I cannot grasp, even if I replay them.

So I still find myself filled with ambition to improve, and it is much more enjoyable now, because it is so much easier to consume ordinary Japanese materials, and to discuss them in Japanese.


Yeah, I wanted to say this too. It’s a nice thing to have to brag, or it might be useful for a job, but it doesn’t mean you’re fluent. I myself got N1 (barely passing mark) when I had like level 40something in WaniKani, I definitely didn’t know half of the joyo kanji back then and I definitely couldn’t read a newspaper or serious literature.


I’ve been studying seriously for about 6 years and yes, you will always be learning. I’m around N1 and I don’t feel fluent at all. I can understand around 80% of what I hear in daily life (I live in japan), but my speaking skills are still elementary. My reading ability is steadily increasing (WK is super helpful), but I still can’t read things above a high school level without looking up words. Maybe you can improve faster if you spend an amount of time doing focused, intensive, guided language study. I’m studying on my own now (had about 4 years of university level classes in the past) and my progress feels very slow compared to what I imagine a graduate program would feel like. And unless you learned proper pronunciation as a child, it is unlikely that you will ever develop a native-level accent, even if you eventually develop fluent speaking skills.

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The less-scary rephrasing of “language-learning is a lifelong endeavor” is that there will always be more to learn, should you so choose. When your Japanese is one wall free, it will be effortless like it undoubtedly is for you in English and certainly in German :wink:

I am sorry I can’t really answer, but I do want to add something. I find it a little frustrating the way this question is phrased, because as a beginner in Japanese I can sympathize with the insecurity. But how this question is framed is a little cringy.

Yes, there is always going to be something to learn for everyone in any language, regardless of level. No, you cannot study your way into becoming fluent in a language. This is why JLPT is irrelevant here. I do not practice or really use my “third” language at all; I haven’t lived in a country that speaks it in about 10 years; but yes I am still fluent, only because I spent a key part of my young adult life speaking this language and forgetting would be like forgetting that part of my life. It is the experience that keeps it alive.

I started living in Japan recently, and my personal insecurity with Japanese relates to uncertainty about what kind of connections, associations, or longevity I will have with the culture and people, given that this is my fourth language and I am not as young. If that type of situation is in the cards, then there is no question that I will be as strong in Japanese as I am in my other “fluent” languages. Luckily, I enjoy the learning experience so the daunting question “will I ever” is not such a big concern.

B2 level in English is actually not enough to say you are done with it. I am not trying to say that you are not good at English, but B2 is not enough to understand most of the articles. I am currently at C2 level and going to get IELTS this year, and I do struggle at academic articles. Also IELTS is mandatory to be accepted to any International University, so B2 is clearly nowhere near the N1 JLPT. I learned English at 3 years, so I can say that learning a language does not take 8-9 years. I am sure that it can be learned around 1-2 years if it is studied correctly.

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English ≠ Japanese


To add to what @Kumirei said, it’s just that the testing is much more lax for Japanese. From experience, you can get a passing grade on the N1 at the B2 level. Barely, I’ll give you that, but a pass is a pass. And I also agree that B2 is nowhere near the end of the road. Still, it has proven enough to enjoy most Japanese media I have come across, so whether you want to get better than that will depend on personal goals.
(And also reaching B2 can indeed take ~8 years; that was literally my experience)


I can’t say I agree here…I am a certified C1 in English and I’ve worked as a scientific translator without any difficulties…I also read only books written in English and really I don’t feel like I have any difficulties in understanding whatever I read.
My speaking abilities are lower (B2). I took the IELTS a couple of years ago.
As for Japanese, I’m around N2 and I think it’s not sufficient for reading and understanding japanese news and movies without a heavy supplement of help in terms of dictionaries or grammar (while I can do that in English without major problems).


Do you mean in?

I don’t really know much about the certifications but looking at the requirements I don’t think a C2 should have any trouble reading scientific articles (unless its some obscure specific jargon).

Also the existence of kanji make direct comparisons between English and Japanese quite difficult.


For me, I’ve passed N3 and will take N2 in July, but I don’t think my speaking is up to par because JLPT doesn’t include that aspect. So I keep studying independently to become conversationally fluent.

I still take the JLPT because I want to be able to read novels and the newspaper in Japanese eventually, and studying for the test is a good guidance. Even with N3 nearing N2, I still can’t read a Japanese newspaper. I’ll be able to read a few sentences here and there, but the kanji especially is such a roadblock to reading native materials.


thought they meant when they were three years old

but then the next sentence- nvm


I am currently studying N2 material and am pretty comfortable with the use of N3 content. I still struggle in various conversations, usually due to not knowing a certain word. Usually I can figure out what it means fast enough that who I am talking to doesn’t even realize I didn’t know it, and other times I have to stop and ask what it means. I have been studying the language for 3 years now and I have improved tremendously, but the better I get the more I realize just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

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Passed N1 with the July test last year. Still learning. Every time I write in Japanese, I find myself questioning the naturalness of my phrases, checking references, etc.

No way through it but more exposure, study and practice. I still regularly acquire new vocab and phrases through reading and listening. N1 is not the end-all, but it is a signal that you can probably comprehend most details of any everyday conversation or piece of writing, and continue learning through the target language itself.

I can enjoy most media in Japanese, but the crushing truth/joy of language learning is that it hardly feels significant by the time you can do it.