The landscape of learning Japanese (help me with research)

Hello everyone. I’m working for a company that is making an online tool for learning Japanese. I won’t share any names or links, because I don’t want to make this post look like an ad :sweat_smile:

I’m trying to understand people who learn Japanese better. The question I’m interested in now is “How Japanese knowledge levels correlate to the importance of different aspects of the language?” For example, what’s more important during ~JLPT N3 level — grammar, kanji or vocabulary? I hope this community can help me find the answer.

I would be super grateful if you could spare 3 minutes of your time to complete a short survey:

Take a survey and be awesome →

For those who like interesting insights: at the end of the survey, you can choose if you want to get the results once the research is complete.

I’m looking forward to your replies!


Done! Hope it helps

1 Like

Thank you so much! :star_struck:

1 Like

Was a pretty nice questionaire. I answered with Anki for Vocab tool. It’s hard to break it down to one tool though since the content in Anki ultimately comes from reading. And the definition used in the Ank card comes from a J-J dictionary.
So ultimately what is my “one tool” to learn vocabulary?
Same problem applied a bit for grammar (Textbook but also use websites and DOBJG series) and Kanji too.


Just done it. Hope it helps.

1 Like

Good luck :blush:

1 Like

Hopefully you can share a bit more about this tool you are making in the future :slight_smile:

1 Like

Done…all the best

1 Like

As somebody who has zero interest in JLPT, this means nothing to me.


Yeah, I had the same problem, especially since Yomichan is a pretty essential part of Anki for me, but I tried to keep my answer short, so I didn’t mention it at all.

And with sources for my reading, I truthfully have way, way too many things to even list, because half of my twitter feed is in Japanese, and I spend hours each week translating tweets, interviews, and match recaps for pro wrestling shows :sweat_smile:. And in addition to that, I have a bunch of free manga I picked up from BookWalker, a few book club manga I paid for from there, other manga and comics I’m reading on twitter and pixiv, some picture books I bought, and that’s not even counting the reading practice I get from my textbook, Minna no Nihongo.

For the OP, I’m not sure how well this survey will help you answer the question of what’s more important during each JLPT level, because people’s answers will depend pretty heavily on what they perceive as their own weakness at the time. Asking this question on WK, you’ll probably get people who feel very confident about kanji, but less so about grammar and other aspects of the language. At least, that tends to be how people talk about their experience with the actual JLPT test in threads here. WK users can easily have N3 level kanji and barely N5 grammar.

Is this survey intended to identify a need for reading material (with kanji/grammar/vocab support) at certain JLPT levels? If so, I’m not sure how helpful my answer is, haha, because I read lots of stuff that is far above my level.

My grammar knowledge is currently between N5 and N4, but for the stuff that I’m reading, which is written by and for adult native speakers, my relatively high level of kanji knowledge is heavily beneficial, and it really helps me learn vocab that is far past N5 level, which in turn makes it a lot easier for me to read things that are above my level. So labeling my skill as N5 is a bit deceptive, because I’ve spent a lot of time improving my vocab and kanji far beyond that level, yet I don’t think I could pass the N4 at this point if I tried to take it (or if I did, I would pass with a low score). I don’t think the way I’m doing it is the best or the most common way to do it, but it is what has worked for me, since learning vocab and kanji is a painful long grind that I will have to keep chipping away at for years, but grammar doesn’t have to be like that.

I guess I’m just not sure that you’ll really get the kinds of information you’re hoping for with this, because I think it leaves out too much context for how people have chosen to balance their studies. Purely talking in terms of passing the JLPT test, you need some amount of grammar, kanji, and vocab. They’re all important.

But different people will make different decisions about how to balance those, and that then affects how comfortable they are with reading, and what sources of reading are accessible to them. If your kanji skill is high, furigana-less reading material becomes more accessible, but if you’re reading digital text, you can look up unknown kanji much more easily, so that’s less of a barrier. Two people can be technically N4 but have such a vastly different balance of skills that one of them could read furigana-less manga without it being too painful, and the other person could be very comfortable with the grammar, but be unable to read that same manga due to not knowing enough kanji. But then the second person could be way quicker than the first at reading digital text with the help of a tool like Yomichan, if kanji and/or vocab is their main weakness.

I guess I just don’t think JLPT levels tell you much, objectively, about the kinds of things that a person can or can’t read (except for the high levels). There are too many other factors, like reading a media format where you can use Yomichan or do digital lookups, the presence or absence of furigana, or even having access to support from people with more experience with the language, like the book club threads here, which make reading native media possible to someone even with below N5 grammar, kanji, and vocab knowledge.

Mostly it just comes down to your ease with being able to look up whatever you don’t know, and depending on the format and type of media, having a particular balance of skills can make that more or less easier. The way this survey is formatted, a lot of that context won’t be conveyed.


I did not realize but I got an email from them asking for a short survey. It all makes sense now.

I like I use it from time to time. The thing that makes me not use more is

  • a lot of UI bugs (admittedly I have a rare device which might be part of the reason)

  • there is not a lot of easy/medium content. By the time you want to read the texts available on their site, you don’t really need them anymore.

I’d still recommend to give it a try !

EDIT : @jdavydko if you want an idea for a new feature, I’d be really happy to read sets of article that have 95+% words in common no matter how recent they are. That way I could learn a few new words and read them in multiple contexts to make sure I do not forget them.


Omg, I started answering the questionnaire and about 10 questions in I was like “Wow, this sounds really familiar…Like I saw this a few days ago familiar…But where…?”
Alas, I received the email and already responded to it not long after getting it. Whoops!
Excited for a new (or improved? :eyes: ) resource! :partying_face:


I answered although the whole questionnaire assumes the respondent is studying Japanese. I actually gave up studying Japanese about 20 years ago. :sweat_smile: But since I use it every day I recently thought it would be really helpful if I could read better, hence the reason I started Wanikani. Even though all the online translation aids make it easy to look stuff up, it’s still annoying when I don’t recognize words that I should know.

1 Like

How important is it for you to find specific content to practice reading?

What is meant by “specific content” ? The survey doesn’t let me complete it without answering that question and I’d rather not give you bad data by giving a random answer.


I agree with everyone else about tools being difficult to answer – this seems to be very much structured on the assumption that people are using apps and the like to drill individual elements of the language, but anyone far enough along transitions to trying to use the language and supplementing that with whatever memorization method/tool they prefer on the side. While trying to do that I have to know EVERYTHING… so importance in my mind at this stage mostly gets conflated with “how much is there I still have to do,” which means vocab blows everything else out of the water.

When you couple motivation as both positive feelings and frequency… sometimes I hate my experience but still study frequently :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s probably self-evident but it’s worth mentioning moreso than “what is most important to study at each level,” what you’re really getting at are each level’s perceptions on what’s most important. Which, especially at the low levels, are kind of well known for commonly being wrong.


Answered the survey. I think the way the questions are phrased is very biased. For instance, the "tool’ I use to search for stuff to read is called the Internet :stuck_out_tongue: . And it kind of feels like many other questions could be answered alike, because there is a strong focus on “that one tool”.

The JLPT level vs focus study area might also end up being only a soft correlation, because people who have more experience with studying languages will know what they usually lack and what to focus on regardless of their overall proficiency in Japanese.


I think the question highlights a more fundamental issue - the JLPT itself. I don’t believe JLPT aligns with natural language acquisition. I understand that some metric for progress needed to be quantified, but JLPT seems so arbitrary and distanced from actual ability to output or function in Japanese society.

If you’re just building another “PASS THE JLPT EXAM!” tool, it’s a glutted market that is distinctly separate from actually acquiring the language.


I think heavy focus on text interpreting is a huge tool while learning a language, and I wish there were online tools with this for japanese.

1 Like

Honestly OP I think from the disparity of the types of questions you are asking and the types of answers you are getting, it should be clear that you are not asking the right questions, and instead have formulated your own “ideal method” of Japanese instruction that is separate from in the wild feedback. You are asking for feedback to fine-tune your system in the context of parameters you have already established without feedback.