The easy, comprehensive and complete 42 steps guide to native- level Japanese

(Acknowledged by a single Japanese mother whose all four children graduated from 東京大学)

  1. First learn Katakana and Hiragana (In this level you start loosing some of your friends because you persistently keep writing their names in Katakana for them)

  2. Sign up for Wanikani early on (you will spend more time on the forum than actually learning anything because finally you found others who share your passion)

  3. Move to Japan and start learning basic Japanese with Minna no Nihongo (at that stage you think you want to finish it as soon as possible because you feel offended by their stereotypical foreigners using a wapuro)

  4. Working up steadily through the JLPT levels (In this stage you stop intentionally calling yourself -san. You delete all your SNS accounts because you can’t change the name anymore and build up your social network again from scratch)

  5. Spend all your free time on studying for JLPT N1 (at this stage you get angry with staff in convenience stores who hand you a spoon instead of chopsticks and answer your Japanese in English)

  6. Passing JLPT N1 (at this stage you don’t think of yourself as a foreigner anymore. You think westerners are acting strange and you try to avoid being mistaken for one)

  7. You start to think JLPT is not difficult enough and aim for passing Kanken 1

  8. People from home start to say your English sounds a bit strange. (Don’t believe them, they are just jealous about your language skills and try to push you away from your divine goal)

  9. You learn to eat holding chopsticks in your left hand because not only does this show your level of commitment but also helps the left and right side of your brain to work together better.
    (You do this after talking to the single Japanese mother whose all four children graduated from 東京大学. Unfortunately you did not have swimming and piano classes as a kid.
    But don’t worry, it is never too late to connect your brain parts if you are really serious about it. You need to have fully integrated brain halves in order to pass level 40, so better start training early!)

  10. You find yourself standing in front of the mirror and try to say your name in the way it is supposed to be said. This is the most difficult part of learning Japanese!
    You are now in the so called intermediate plateau but don’t worry, the memory of how you are actually called will come back slowly if you don’t give up now.
    This is your first identity crisis on the path to enlightenment, there are two more to handle before you are finally on native- level so just put yourself together for now.

  11. You get married to a Japanese (Congrats! From now on you are entitled to explain ANY other foreigner trying to learn Japanese how things really work.
    At this stage you secretly start studying the chart: “A helpful guide to Who looks down on Whom in the Japan Foreigners Community”

  12. You have children and no time to study Japanese anymore for the next couple of years. At this stage you give up the idea that you will ever reach native level. This is called the surrender stage.
    It is also the time when you don’t differentiate anymore between good and bad TV programs but just watch what other family members like to see.
    This stage is extremely painful but necessary because it expands your horizon like no other stage can. You will be exposed to horrendous scenes that will be engraved in your fragile soul forever, but you will become a stronger person.
    正解 is your constant and reliable friend during this stage. Thank you Wanikani.

  13. You sign up for line because of social pressure hesitatingly because it is made by a Korean company (unfortunately you will not be able to use this tool to its full potential until you reach level 41)

  14. You subscribe to a yearly plan on free access to all line stickers without looking at the price.

  15. You start to learn talking with a pre- schooler

  16. As your kids grow up and start going to school you realize that your Japanese automatically upgraded by 17 levels without any active studying so you skip them altogether.


  1. You write your first email in Japanese because you realized that you can skip the seasonal part entirely as well.
    (at this stage you happily accept the spoon in the convenience store because after all it is easier to eat tomato soup with it)

  2. You start to enjoy watching an English native Japanese Youtuber making poetry in Engrish and get touched by it more than hearing the anthem of your home country.

  3. Once you accept the spoon you suddenly realize that the staff in the convenient stores and supermarkets did not try to talk to you in English and also stopped making rectangular gestures for shopping bag (large) or point card (small).
    (Congratulations, this is the stage of advanced Japanese. It never had anything to do with your level of fluency or pronunciation or appearance.
    You found access to this rarely achieved level accidentally because the zipper of your wallet gets stuck sometimes recently and because you have to concentrate on your wallet you can’t look people into their eyes directly while talking.)

  4. You pass Kanken 1 kyuu (at this stage you shave your hair and get a tattoo with your achieved scores on your head in order to still be able to go to an Onsen two months later)

  5. You have your second identity crisis because someone with a better app got better scores than you on the Kanken 1 kyuu half your age, someone from a country you haven’t even heard of!
    (at this stage you are a mature advanced Japanese student. You meditate for three weeks without food sitting on a stone and readjust your goals to concentrate on what really matters in life)

  6. From now on in order to really stand out from the crowd you decide to write Haikus about modern life in Japan.
    (suddenly you realize someone is doing that already, skip that part and go directly to the next step)

  7. You buy a Saijiki, memorize the whole content and start to incorporate the appropriate Kigo naturally in your daily conversations.
    (at this stage you finally master to wear clothes appropriate to season, weather, TPO and your place in society and start to be overlooked by Japanese on the streets)

  8. You easily master the switching of Sonkeigo and Kenjogo in a meeting with your boss and clients and simultaneously make plans for the weekend in your mother tongue in your head because after all it is a boring meeting that does not require too much concentration.
    You take notes in English rather than Japanese to create a pleasant and stylish atmosphere for your business partners.
    (at this stage you did not only master Japanese to a degree NO western foreigner ever managed but you realize that suddenly you can “read the air”. Unfortunately it is something you can not describe in words but it is like Telepathy, you actually are now able to read others thoughts!)

  9. On the final level you realize that you cannot explain the difference between ha an ga and have the last and most devastating identity crisis before you reach the enlightenment stage
    (at this stage you take a long trip to a bookstore into an area no one knows you and buy Minna no Nihongo 1 again to polish up on the difference between ha and ga. Reading that fantastic textbook again you suddenly realize how charismatic John Smith really is)

  10. Now after you are able to explain the difference of ha and ga in a sentence with less than 43 words you are on the highest level of Japanese. It is also called Satori.
    You suddenly feel a deep love and connectedness to all living things around you. You live in the present and start binge-watching Atsugiri Jason’s Kanji videos. Life has never been sweeter, finally it all makes sense.



I’m starting to see a pattern XD
Very informative though, thank you :blush:


Don’t think I didn’t notice you skipping a few steps in the middle, there. :stuck_out_tongue:

That said, I can summarise this list to one step required for native-level Japanese:

  1. Be born in Japan. Preferably to Japanese parents.

My university lecturer was left-handed, and was forced as a child to write with her right, though she could still use chopsticks with her left. This did mean, however, she was the only person in the staff room who could mark assignments over lunch.


Yeah, achieving native-level language comprehension is a bit difficult for non-natives. I’m perfectly fine with just getting really good = being able to use Japanese for the stuff I wanna do (reading, gaming, listening to drama CDs etc). ^^ I guess, my ambitions might change if I wanted to get a job in Japan.

I do get the feeling that the lack of listening practice that I got from this list, might have been some of the stuff omitted in the middle. :wink:


you know, my dad who is naturally left handed, growing in the 70s US, was forced to learn everything right handed. kind of weird to think it wasn’t that long ago that we still tried to instill forced systems like that.


Can’t say my name properly

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And that’s why all the student assignments and the laptop are covered in tomato soup


If you’re eating tomato soup with chopsticks, you’re doing it wrong. :stuck_out_tongue:


That comment just shows you are an elitist 60 leveler :joy:


I need to learn how to do this. My cutlery storage needs will be instantly reduced to almost nothing. :joy:


I can sense the “smell” of Asian born privilege here! In your face! You will always be better at Kanji than “we” but…

…still thinking…

Hahaha. Yeah, I acknowledge that I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to learn Chinese when I was growing up. It really helps a lot with Japanese. Seriously though, I’ve never seen someone try to use chopsticks for soup. I’d just drink directly from the bowl if it’s not considered impolite where I’m eating.

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But there are these small particles in soups and in order to NOT look foreign you would use chopsticks to…

You know, you are an Asian elitist :sweat_smile:

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Nah, I’m just an ignorant non-Japanese Asian. Perhaps I’m entirely wrong about how Japanese people use chopsticks. From what I’ve read though…

I can’t remember why exactly I did it, but after reading some guide, when I went to Tokyo, I think I stopped stirring my miso soup up with chopsticks, and instead dipped them directly into the soup in order to grab bits of seaweed or tofu. However, the soup itself was to be drunk, and I think the ideal was to avoid appearing to stir the soup, so drinking the miso particles in the soup while ‘accidentally’ stirring them up as I picked up the seaweed ended up being the approach I chose. I did my best not to pick at the small particles unless there were things left over after I had finished.

I haven’t actually done much research into Japanese etiquette yet though, so take what I’m saying with a pinch of salt (or a whole bottle of soya sauce, if you prefer :stuck_out_tongue:).

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But that’s exactly why the tomato soup is on the laptop


You apparently don’t watch enough infomercials…


You know, I’m tempted to tag the mods so they can give you an “Asian elitist” custom badge :rofl: but I’m not sure if that’s really a thing people do. Still, I unironically admire your contributions to this forum recently, keep it up :blush:


Asian Durtlitist


All I know about eating soup with chopsticks is from “How to eat ramen like a Japanese native” videos on YouTube. I’m sure there’s one of the 42 steps that involves this somehow.


I just realized that you are a man so I think you don’t need to think too much about eating Etiquette.

Colleagues comments like “Why are foreigners always drinking from a large bottle?” or " You are eating like you didn’t had food for one week" made me realize that there are some things to consider if you are female though.