The Magic Switch

Hi. Reahz again here just to let some thoughts out.

I’m a long slow Japanese learner with around 8 years now of JP experience ranging from traditional classroom, self study, living in Japan, and having Japanese friends. I can’t say I’ve been studying the entire 8 years throughout, but I would be lying to say that those years of slow passive growth didn’t count.

For the longest time, I struggled with reading Japanese. WK would give me some confidence seeing some recently learned kanji in the wild. I could pick up a decent amount from slice of life anime and basic news articles, but my soul was immediately crushed when I keep realizing how far I am from fluency.

I’ve been trying to read my favorite anime in light novel form for so long now. Every once in a while, sometimes every year, I would pick up and dust off an old LN I bought to attempt to read it again, and it is usually too hard.

It’s not enjoyable to read a book while looking up 1-2 words per sentence. Even if I put that into Anki, I just can’t follow the story and its not fun. So I give up time and time again. I usually end up reading the same page over and over and over until I get it and then burn out.

For whatever reason, I am nearing lv30 now, I picked up my copy of ハルヒ涼宮の憂鬱 and I read the same pages I’ve struggled to read…but this time, it magically made sense. I knew so much more kanji to the point where I didn’t know a word maybe every page.

It got to the point where I could understand words I didn’t know, if I understood one of the compound kanji and using my kindle, I could look up the monolingual definition and understand the definition written in Japanese (at least enough to make out the meaning).

I’ve been trying to do this for years and dreamed of this day to come, the day where I could pick up a book and read for fun instead of studying. I didn’t do anything different besides my daily WK, but one day it felt like a magic switch was pressed, and everything became clear.

I’m not sure what broke the camel’s back, but I’m finally developing some confidence again and it’s really rewarding. I know I still have a long way to go, but its actually rewarding now that I’m nearing the halfway point of WK and am able to understand this much now…I can only imagine what it would be like to know double what I do now.

Does anyone have similar experience to a magic switch? Please share!


At level 13, I definitely haven’t yet, but I’m really thankful for you sharing your story because it makes me hopeful that such a switch will come :smiley:


That must be a wonderful feeling :grin:

I also picked up a light novel of a favourite anime a few months ago and was able to read it relatively easily, although I still had to look up a few dozen words per chapter. That was my first time actually reading a book in Japanese. Before that I would open a preview of a book and give up. I basically went through manga and games first to build up my confidence in reading and then reading an actual book appeared much easier than I expected.

Another thing is I got a plast model kit a few years ago (before starting WK) and couldn’t understand anything it said on the box. Recently I found that box and read everything there. All the product details and warnings. I was glad to be able to read the kanji for choking which I learned a few days before that.

I am so hyped for the 30s, according to some charts that’s where you get to the point of knowing >90% of the kanji you see. It’s a little disheartening to see strings of Kanji I don’t know (like that title you posted :stuck_out_tongue:) but I think that’ll go away surprisingly quick… 15 levels is “only” like 4 months away at my current pace, that’s nothing in the grand scheme.


Maybe not quite 90%, but the more kanji you know the easier it is to learn more, as random squiggles become recognizable and relatable to one another. One can begin to infer meaning much like an English word you don’t know in context.

Japanese is just a cycle of confidence and a nice slap in the face of humble pie. I’m just going to keep riding the high while it lasts, stay on course, and one day the slap in the face won’t come (as hard).



I use Duolingo (and others apps) to study. Most of the time I just memorize the answer they want but don’t truly know what the words mean…until now. Because of the kanji I’m learning here I can read and recognize the words so the sentences make sense. Now, If only there was a magic grammar bullet. Oh, I’m only at level 4.

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I think for me it was the early 30s although I haven’t been doing this nearly as long, only 2-3 years for me.

I think it really hit home for me when I signed up on the BookWalker Japanese store and had no problem navigating the website.

And I can feel my listening practice is nearing the inflection point but I’ll probably have to spend some time on vocab later on.

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I’ve done some stats on this, very minimal, but here’s what I’ve found as the WaniKani level that needs to be completed to have 90% kanji recognition:

Title Medium Number Level
魔女の宅急便 novel book 1 24
となりのトトロ cinemanga 28
魔女の宅急便 cinemanga 29
ポケモンー aS video game 30
レンタルおにいちゃん manga volume 1 32
セーラームーン anime (subtitles) 200 episodes 32
ごちうさ manga volume 1 31
もののけ姫 cinemanga 37

(Note: This is based on total kanji usage count, not unique kanji.)

Well, now I’m excited at the thought of reaching level 30!

I feel the same. Six levels is only about ten to 12 months away at my current pace. That’s within a year! =D


Note that the number people typically recommend based on research for how many words before a text is fully enjoyable is 98%. I imagine this extends to Kanji as well


I’ve been reading novels that I have already seen the anime for, that way even though I’m not quite at 98% I can fill in the gaps with my previous knowledge. I think that’s a good bridge until I learn more.


Yeah, I can definitely see that as being the case. Sometimes when I read older English novels (late 1800’s, early 1900’s), it’s a pain just having to look up three words on the same page!

Since I mostly read material with furigana, I’m always looking forward to being able to recognize more kanji in that kind of environment.

The WaniKani level to complete for 98% recognition is a lot further away for me…

Title Medium Number Level
となりのトトロ cinemanga 44
魔女の宅急便 novel book 1 46
魔女の宅急便 cinemanga 46
ポケモンー aS video game 46
ごちうさ manga volume 1 46
セーラームーン anime (subtitles) 200 episodes 50
レンタルおにいちゃん manga volume 1 51
もののけ姫 cinemanga 57

Once I reach and complete level 30, I shall pine for level 46.


Also, out of curiosity, where did you get those stats? I would love to do it for things I want to read.

It’s from a Google Docs spreadsheet I put together.

It requires a bit of setup. I need to:
  1. If it’s an e-book, remove DRM and strip out the HTML to get the text.
  2. Or if it’s a manga, type up all the dialogue by hand, and hope for no typos. (Or OCR + correct mistakes.)
  3. Strip out non-kanji characters. (Regex makes this easy.)
  4. Paste into spreadsheet, and use countif to get the number of occurrences of each kanji. Convert that formula to its text value, then remove duplicates.
  5. Vlookup the WK level for the kanji. Convert that formula to its text value, just to ensure Google Docs doesn’t unnecessarily re-evaluate (although that means I need to redo it if WK adds new kanji).
  6. On the sheet labeled “Generic”, I type in the yellow box the name of the tab with the kanji I want stats for.

Feel free to make a copy and play with it:

Kanji in Manga by WaniKani Level - Google Sheets


That’s such a good idea! You should create a topic and call for people to do that for their favorite reading material and compile it in an open database for anyone to consult. I wish I could do it, but I have the feeling that I’ll just mess it up :smiley:

I had a similar experience using bunpro for grammar. At some point this wild nonsense became just natural: SOV order, gathering of the words by particles instead of order (you can reorder ANY other part if you end each part with the right particle), yet not the omission of subject tough.
I don’t think about it anymore and it’s satisfyingly encouraging :slightly_smiling_face:

Your experience seems way above average. You’ll have your cake without any doubts :slight_smile:

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I actually have noticed a fairly vast difference from like level 15 to 23. Idk what it is, but it definitely made things easier. And I don’t do any grammar studying whatsoever right now.

It’s ironic that learning the vocab accelerates everything for obvious reason, but I have like 0 motivation to grind out my vocab lessons. Lol. I just slowly do them solely 'cause I know they’ll pile up if I don’t.

I wouldn’t say I’ve hit a switch yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to feel it at some point if I add another resource into my study routine. Right now I just got a beginner’s short stories book that is relatively easy to understand, so that’s ideal.

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You should really start some grammar studying! You’ll be surprised by how much you can read at this level if you have some grammar down. I’m personally a big fan of the Genki textbooks, but I know Minna no Nihongo is also popular. WK is pretty fun so it’s tempting to just do WK and put aside the boring real studying for now, but you’re gonna feel bad if you’re level 60 and you can’t actually understand much Japanese because you neglected grammar.

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I should’ve stated I’m doing no further grammar studying at the moment. Lol.
I’ve read the entirety of Genki 1 and a chapter or two in Genki 2, but not much else. A little overlap with some other resources at some point.

But at the current moment I’m not progressing passed that for no good reason. :smiley:

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Oooh okay that’s much better! I thought you were just putting off grammar entirely lol.

One thing I found that helped was to just read through the grammar stuff without worrying about studying or remembering it.

A few months ago I just went through all the Bunpro lessons up to N3 in a day or two and it helped immensely. Not because I remembered much of it, but because it became easier to recognize when not to read something literally. And the grammar points are rattling around inside my head somewhere since I can often get a general idea of what’s happening through context.