WaniKani users at higher levels -- have you acheived reading fluency?

I guess my question to the higher level members is: how fluent would you say you are in terms of reading comprehension (only - I’m not concerned with speaking, listening or even creating sentences). In a book or magazine, for example, could you pretty much understand everything you read? Was there a point, perhaps a level here that you passed, where you realized you could basically survive in Japan with little or no help (again, for the sake of argument, I’m thinking only in terms of reading comprehension)? Or was all the work done here only a tip of the iceberg? Was it maybe as early as level 40 - or even at level 60, do people still struggle with comprehension? I’m making the assumption that Kanji meanings are all generally retained, not forgotten.

Obviously there’s all the grammar, but I’m assuming that the journey of levels 1-60 would inform a lot of that.

I ask because my background is that I’ve learned about 600 kanji (prior to joining here) and done a lot of research on the grammar to the point where although I am far from any kind of fluency, but I have a good idea about a lot of what’s going on. I reached a point where I feel that I really need to lock down the Kanji; that’s what’s preventing me from fully comprehending what I’d like to.

Anyway, just curious.

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If you get to or near level 60 in WaniKani and also have achieved a high level of knowledge in grammar, you could very well still struggle to read smoothly. That’s because you need to learn many thousands of words to be able to read smoothly.

So if “reading fluency” to you means being able to read a book at a relatively quick pace (let’s say near your native reading speed) without looking up words or grammar points as you go and understanding almost everything, it takes a lot to get there. I’ve completed all 60 levels of WaniKani, learned all N5-N3 grammar and many N2 and N1 grammar points, learned at least a few thousand words outside of WaniKani, and read a few dozen novels/LNs, and I’m nowhere near “reading fluency”.


There’s a category for level 60 posts worth checking out, but it was a relatively recent addition so I don’t know if it has all of the threads. There was a compilation post prior to that.

I will say WK level is largely meaningless and the people who are still around to answer at level 60 are the group of dedicated learners which might skew your responses a bit.


Basically what @seanblue said. So I’m currently 41 and I read manga (mainly slice of life), some children’s books and I’m currently reading my first LN. WK is helping me a lot with my reading. Every new level I get to have several words that I see almost immediately while reading. Not to mention all the words (and kanji) I’ve already learned in the previous 40 levels.

Outside WK, I have a solid grounding in grammar (N5-4 are solid, N3 I’m kinda somewhere in the middle of). (WK doesn’t teach grammar at all.) And then there are vocabulary I’ve learnt outside WK, for example: kana only words (those that have no kanji).

I still look up a lot. Depending on media, I look up more or less. For slice of life manga, which tends to be on the easier side (depending on setting), I still have to look up words, but a pretty manageable amount. But whenever I enter a new genre or media (with its own common vocabulary) I’m in for a lot of look ups. (I just started reading my first visual novel and there is so many words I don’t know.)

A bit of that will be reduced by the remaining 20 levels of WK, but probably not a lot.

WK will aid your reading tremendously. From what it teach, especially with a focus towards the readings of kanji that make it so much easier to look them up (so much quicker to write the reading of a word to find the meaning, than drawing each kanji in the word). But WK can’t get you to reading fluency because it is missing both grammar and vocabulary. (Plus depending on what you want to read, the vocabulary that you need to learn changes.)


The only way to achieve reading fluency is by doing a lot of reading. WaniKani is just a useful starting point for the kanji/vocab part.


Right now it’s not really kanji holding me back, but vocab. Would gauge my vocab to be about 11k, grammar about N2. I can read satorireader really comfortably (without furigana), need to check like two or three words per chapter though. Started learning Japanese almost 1.5y ago.


Becoming level 60 on WK has enabled me to look up almost any vocab I come across while reading, but I still need to do exactly that - look up vocab. I also think grammar is almost as important if you want to read smoothly and understand what you’re reading, and grammar is entirely outside the realm of WK.


The feedback you get from higher level users is going to be strongly varied: Some of them have reached level 60 barely doing anything else for the language, thus weren’t able to capitalize on what they’ve learnt and ended up forgetting all of it. On the other hand you have users that have studied the language meticulously throughout the entire journey. The former cannot read at all despite reaching level 60, the latter will have achieved reading fluency.

Can you read Norwegian fluently? If not, then it’s probably not the alphabet that’s causing you trouble, it’s the language. My point is that Wanikani is really just contributing to a part of reading fluency. It only takes kanji out of the equation. I’m still nowhere near a high level in Wanikani. I ba__sically read te___ l_ke th__ (closest analogy I can think off for English).

To make it really simple: Can you read a text with furigana fluently? Being able to do that + Kanji = reading fluency. Wanikani gives you one of the two components of that equation.


My experience just not long after that point was that, I can read mostly anything short, but I still have to look up a lot. I can guess sound (just enough to look up in a dictionary, from hearing as well) and meaning, but piecing things together is yet another skill. I didn’t have energy (and probably skills) to read anything long.

My idea to reading fluency is, sentence breaking down, and noticing connectors, which are often in Kana. Reading speed might come long after those practicing.

But even vocabulary-wise, there are both more Kanji and more vocabularies than in WaniKani. My guess is I might need around solid 3000 alongside more associated vocabularies. But then, Kanji are often not necessary, and in many media, Kanji will be needed far below that (perhaps around 1500?)


Fluency comes with being familiar with a particular topic. If I read a whole bunch of technical documents in one area then I would become fluent in reading those kinds of documents. WaniKani doesn’t really help with this.

In my experience, WaniKani has helped me to distinguish different kanji from each other to the point where I can sometimes see a new one and keep it in mind for a while as I look it up. It also means that I have to piece together characters from separate components much less because I (or my IME) can guess it from common on’yomi or I butcher pieces of other words together to get there.

Oh, and it taught me 里心.


Just a quick add: as far as I know, all threads linked in my thread have been moved to the correct category :slight_smile:


I don’t know if I’m “higher level,” but I do some reading every day. I’d say depending on what I’m reading I understand 50-90% . Most of that ability has come from practicing reading, and maybe 10% of the credit goes to WaniKani? I’d say during your first year of reading grammar will be your biggest hurdle, then after that vocab will become the hurdle you will always be trying to cross, and probably never truly cross.

Recently I checked out jpdb, and really like that I can study vocab for a specific book I want to read. I’m still getting it to know all the words I already know (since I only just started using it), but it’s already making reading a little easier as I study the words in advance and then solidify them a little better by reading. I’d say if you wanna tackle a book, check out jpdb :slight_smile:

That said, every now and then I get a moment of remarkable reading fluency. The other night I read three issues of Naruto in a row and was startled that I knew every word, and understood every speech bubble. I thought, “Have I arrived?” only to follow up with an issue where there were numerous words I didn’t know that I quickly got to the point of, “I’m not gonna bother to look all those up,” and kept moving.


I still haven’t reached the level of fluency you described, but it was about a year after Wanikani that I realized I could pick up anything in Japanese and make my way through it as long as I had an internet connection for lookups.

That year was spent in lots of stops and starts with reading but never stopping altogether.

Yeah this is a tough one especially if you can read really fast in English. I’d honestly settle for just a couple dozen lookups per book. :joy:

I wouldn’t say it’s meaningless but there’s definitely survivor bias in there. But finishing WK does mean that:

1.) You managed to continue your studies for a period of years and are more likely to continue
2.) You have learned how to study and juggle a persistent workload over the long term
3.) I don’t have to bother adding furigana when I post a response to you :wink:

That’s actually a really good point. Being able to use the 部首 lookups in something like Jisho really helps with vocab lookups, and more than that, when only one of the kanji is unfamiliar in a 熟語.


I never understood this mechanism in Jisho but everyone seems to like it. I can draw an unknown kanji much faster on the app. To each their own I guess.

I asked this question on another thread recently but I’d like to ask again. How is everyone holding themselves accountable for their reading comprehension and accuracy?


I can read. But not very fast. If the text is chalk-full of kanji my reading speed drops to 1/3 of my reading speed in English. If there is less kanji then I would say it’s at 3/4 of my reading speed in English.

But I am not high level :pensive:

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For me it on the kanji. For anything less than about 9 or 10 strokes I can usually get it with only 2 or 3 radicalism. More than that and I’ll just write it.

Lately though, I’m more likely to use the * search since I’ll know a word with one of the kanji already.

Depends how much ambiguity you’re willing to tolerate. I’ve found that most inconsistencies in understanding usually clear themselves up after reading through successive passages.

When I first started, I would use the English translation to refer back to whenever I was really lost. I found that was a good way self correct, but there is the danger in using it as a crutch for too long.


For whatever reason I can never get the kanji draw thing on jisho to work well. I’m not fond of the radical lookup, but it makes for a relatively foolproof last resort. Also, I think it was hugely beneficial as a complete beginner when I wasn’t used to seeing kanji broken down.

That’s fair. I meant in terms of overall fluency where WK mostly gives relatively common readings/meanings for kanji and supporting vocab. It’s helpful, but not the entirety of what people need to read Japanese comfortably. On one hand learning the 8k (?) items on WK is beneficial, but I’ve read enough posts from people who only did WK, cheated, or decided for a second round that “60” doesn’t mean much more than time and effort to me. It’s a milestone, just not one that comes with a solid guarantee like say someone passing JLPT exams.


Definitely, I agree completely. And that’s a good point that there can be the misconception that getting level 60 means you can now read.

Actually yeah, that always gave me fits too but for some reason it works better for me the more strokes it has. I guess that’s why I only fall back to it if it’s a high stroke count kanji.

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If helpful, I’ve been using this one for kanji look ups, the native desktop version is terrible imo but this 3rd party one has been solid for me for kanji search writing. It’s got a few other cool features, like auto loading copied text and offline usage. I used it several times while flying recently w/o WiFi. Nice little grammar page too for extra study and examples.


I read really slowly in English. But it’s still the case that I can finish a 300 page book in English in 2-3 days at a relaxed pace, but it would take 1.5-3 weeks in Japanese.