Study question from a returning learner!

Hello WaniKani community!

I am a returning Japanese learner. I took 2 years of college classes back in the early 90s. Like many I initially was much better at reading and writing than speaking, but kind of fell out of practice with reading to be honest.

At my high point I probably knew anywhere from 500-750 individual kanji, and lots of vocab. I actually do speak Japanese on a daily basis, I am able to watch Japanese TV without subtitles and can generally understand what is being said. That being said I lack confidence in my vocabulary. Everyday speech is a no brainer, but when I get into a political discussion, or a technical discussion, I find myself lacking the vocabulary to really express myself at a high level.

I decided to try my hand at studying Japanese again and found WaniKani. I am thinking of pairing WaniKani with some other study material and see if I can eventually take the JLPT N1 at some point. I looked into some sites that offer sample questions and the listening doesn’t seem like it will be an issue, I did find that almost all of the grammar at N3 and some at N2 was familiar, but there were gaps. I think mainly Kanji and some other supplementary material might get me over the hump.

I am looking for recommendations for readers and vocabulary(unless WaniKani is sufficient by itself) and look to try the N3 in December. Based on my background, what can some of you advanced folks recommend as far as material and study path?

Thank you!



You’re more advanced than me.
Here to wish you luck!!!

I long for the day I can understand the TV


Given that your listening and speaking are at a decent level, I would stick to Wanikani and reading.

I would go more with LN rather than manga as well. Denser material and probably better for picking up vocab.


Thank you for the reply. Is there any particular material that you can recommend that is kanji level appropriate? When I studied before there was no Internet for quick lookups and I always had to go to my dictionary, or if I didn’t know what a kanji was in the first place, kanji jisho first, then to the dictionary and I remember it was a very long and tedious process to get through just a few pages of a standard book. I don’t mind doing some lookup for sure, but if I need to look up every other word right off the bat I might lose motivation. I think my kanji is probably somewhere between N4-N3 at the moment, so something that is suitable to read that would allow me to process without being a technical journal with a million technical words would be great.

Back in the day I would try and read the free Japanese newspapers they would have at the Japanese market. Although with quite some effort I could read them, it wasn’t pleasant. I also used to try and read Japanese readers for jr. high students in Japan. Sometimes the writing style was difficult to understand, and usually the subject material was quite dry.

Maybe I’ll get through the first 20 or so WaniKani levels and then try and find something. I remember reading on the forum I want to shoot for level 35 to have a solid chance at N3 kanji section for the test.

Thank you again for the suggestion.


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Honestly, if you’re at a conversational level of spoken Japanese, then you shouldn’t have to do too many lookups per page.

That’s kind of the hard part. No matter what you start with, there’s going to be a bunch of vocabulary that’s specific to that genre, or a specific social group that’s part of the story, and so on.

Haha, yeah, that’s my problem with most of the graded readers or easier to read manga. It’s just kind of boring.

I think you should find something interesting first and then see if there are things you can read that are attached to that.

The other thing to try is reading along to an audio book. I did this with Harry Potter around level 35 or so and it wasn’t too bad.

Anything thing I like to do is browse the sample chapters for books on

For example, Konosuba is a decent story and has furigana so that may be a good one to try:


I would recommend the following:

  • Anki sets grouped by theme to practice kanji and vocab. Every new and potentially useful word should go into a set.
  • For kanji you find tricky to remember, try looking up a couple of words in which it appears on
  • Try using new words in day to day conversations even if it feels a little forced at first :smiley: .
  • WaniKani to make your kanji reading skills more fluent. It really does work :slight_smile: .
  • Lots and lots of reading. If you’re into manga, pick a genre that you might be interested in and we can provide you with plenty of recommendations in the Manga thread or you can check out the recommendations thread. If it’s articles, also start with a topic/theme you’re most interested in and then move from there.

And good luck on your journey! :slight_smile:


The moment I was able to understand spoken French in a kid’s cartoon was when I knew that I’m never going back to books and similar stuff. For French that is. I don’t see a reason to use boring things for learning when you can learn by doing something fun. Unless you’re planning to become a pro interpreter or something, which I guess you’re not. Nothing wrong with knowledge gaps if they don’t prevent you from using a language.


I have been working as a network engineer(CCIE) for the last 25 years or so, and have worked for several Japanese companies. I usually end up being the go between for technical items between Japan and the US for conference calls, or on e-mail threads. With the help of the Internet and some google translate for words I don’t know I was able to understand all of the e-mails in Japanese, and since I speak Japanese I can respond in kind using IME and the Kanji selector. I won’t say I never make a mistake.

When I was 19 I passed the N2, but after that had to focus on a career and Japanese study kind of faded away as far as book reading, new kanji writing etc, but I was lucky enough to be able to speak it daily for the last 30 years or so. I would say normal TV I understand probably 99% of the content(certain legal, scientific, or extremely technical topics are the exception), although not every word I can usually understand what is going on based on context. Like any language listening and understanding is different from vocabulary recall. I speak without thinking at all at this point for the most part, but sometimes I find myself at a loss for a concise way of putting something and am forced to explain what I am trying to say in a more drawn out fashion than having that ideal word on tap.

I am not sure if I will ever use it, but I kind of feel I gave up by not finishing the N1. Given when I passed the N2 the listening section was quite difficult, where as now the N1 samples I listen to seem very trivial by comparison. Reading used to be my strong point when I studied as I really wasn’t very good at speaking at the time, where as now I am self conscious about my lack of kanji recognition. If I ever decide to go work in Japan I am sure the N1 won’t hurt.

I think using WaniKani is going to help with my kanji self confidence along with dedicating a bit more time reading. I found a lot of the old kokugo books I used to study in a box and will give those a read again at some point. It is very different learning Japanese now in the age of the Internet. Online reading, video, learning tools that I never imagined 30 years ago. I am sure it will be a fun and rewarding experience. :slight_smile: