What level before you can hold a conversation?

I am one of those people that don’t retain information unless I use it regularly, and I learn much better through ‘natural’ means. Most of the words in English I learned through reading books. I figured the best way for me to learn Japanese would also be to read books, or to hold conversation with Japanese speakers. However, I doubt I could hold much of a conversation with how much I currently know. They’d probably have an easier time chatting with a 3 year old. Around what level in WaniKani will I be able to mostly hold a basic conversation?

Anyone have any tips for getting to a level where I can learn through these methods?


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WaniKani isn’t a conversation resource, so while there’s probably a moderate correlation with level and active vocab, it’s not like being level 60 means you are a conversation expert. It just means you can read a lot of kanji.

The only real way to get better at conversation is to converse a lot. Fail and talk, and fail and talk, and keep failing and keep talking.


Along with what Leebo said, it’s hard to hold a conversation on vocabulary alone. Without a basic understanding of a language’s grammatical structure, its just as hard to hold a conversation. If you aren’t already doing so, I’d suggest getting a basic grasp on grammar in tandem with WaniKani. Grab a pen and some paper and work through some grammar workbooks is what I’d do, but to be honest, I kinda learned Japanese unconventionally to most foreign students so I don’t know what kind of resources there are…

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NishiWhat, a good resource would be to study from a textbook app and get practice using something like duolingo (or any basic translator-based learning app). I would not recommend using just a textbook, or just an interactive app, because learning a language is about both syntax/grammar for reading/writing and the reference material for learning after failure.

Also, along with everyone else’s comments, a good way to practice your spoken vocabulary is to find a discord with other foreign language students. I’m sure there are others wishing to practice their spoken Japanese, and something like discord is a good way for everyone to practice communicating the spoken language with each other.

Like… halfway through Genki II, and with planning and the right vocabulary, you can probably navigate Japan with help from strangers with just Genki I. You need to know verbs and a few conjugations, use basic prepositions, use particles, etc.

If I remember correctly, in conjunction with the Genki books, I was getting very basic conversational skills and vocabulary between level ten and twenty on Wanikani. Sort of. I can say that because maybe a quarter to half the Wanikani vocabulary at that stage was also in Genki.

If Genki isn’t your jam, I suggest you try Japanese: the Spoken Language. It’s a little dated, but I got a lot of mileage out of its pronunciation advice in the beginning of the first volume, and it seems to be written more along the lines of how you want to study.

I admire your determination, but Japanese is reaaaaally different from English. It will help a lot if you study the basics enough to understand the basic structure of a sentence and some starting common verb conjugations. I know because I started learning Japanese through anime. I absorbed some common polite phrases at the very beginning, but it took grammar to understand where one word started and ended and what order the words were in and why, and what words had the same root even when the conjugation was different. A little grammar helped me absorb a whole lot way faster than I could without any of that help—it jumpstarted me to being able to benefit from unscripted listening/speaking practice. Otherwise…I could listen and listen and listen, but I wouldn’t have the tools to deduct and decode what’s being said or what part of speech a word belongs in.

Also, remember, Japanese people usually hesitate to correct you. If you use casual form instead of polite, or use the wrong particle, they might not point out the difference if they figured out what you were trying to say. Then again, they may be able to tell you what’s wrong, but they might not be able to explain why, which is the part you actually need to know to remember.

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I can speak fluently…I grew up as a heritage speaker, but I was a super bratty kid who couldn’t sit down for more than a few minutes so my grandfolks could never teach me how to read or write, soooo here I am at WaniKani as an adult regretting everything


Leebo? Why are you level 8?

He leveled up from level 7


As mentioned by others, Wanikani is unrelated to a conversational level.
Wanikani will help you with reading Kanji but it won’t teach you grammar, and even with vocab you’ll be missing a lot of basic vocab which doesn’t hinge on Kanji usage.

You could be at level 60 and not be able to hold a conversation if you’re not studying from other resources in addition to WaniKani.

He guru’d 90% of the kanji on level 7.


The guy is pretty popular on the WK forums. Everytime I saw him, he had that nice and shiny golden lv60 badge.

I’d also like to point out, “Hold a conversation” is pretty vague.

If you want to go:

You: 寒いですね

Them: ですね

Then that’s probably a bit easier than if you want to talk about how the Uyoku should just should up and Article 9 is not a big deal.


I know, I was just being an ass :stuck_out_tongue:
If you want to know the full story, read this thread


Well, holy shit. Right as I though @Leebo couldn’t be any more of a legend, he goes out of his way and pulls this off. I’m frankly impressed.

Level 0 because you don’t read kanji while you talk


Hold a conversation in 日本語? I can barely converse in 英語, and i was born into that one!


if you’re just starting out and want to learn some basic conversation I recommend:

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Given that learning kanji is relevant to reading, and that you want to know how soon you can start doing something that will help to reinforce what you’re learning here, I think the more relevant question is “how soon will I be able to start reading stuff?”

…And unfortunately that will also depend on your grammar studies outside of WK. You could have a look around the threads of those participating in the beginners’ reading club. They read Yotsuba initially, and there are probably some discussions there already from people wondering what level they need to be at to participate.

You’ll probably find it easier to start off with graded readers like these: http://www.ask-books.com/tadoku/en/?page_id=2488
They have level descriptors which give you a vague idea of the grammar and vocabulary you’ll need to know, so you can see where you’ll need to be before picking up Level 0.

I’m not too concerned about grammar, because grammar is essentially just more vocab. Particles and whatnot. Otherwise, the structure seems like a mix between English and Spanish. The only thing I’m worried about is vocab, because without vocab I can’t even begin to attempt to form a sentence in Japanese.

If Wanikani doesn’t teach you enough (or the write kind) of words to hold a conversation, what would you guys recommend I use to supplement it? Most of my time studying is at work, where I don’t have access to a lot of websites (I’m thrilled I can access Wanikani at work) and I’m not allowed to have my phone, so books would be nice, but I may be able to use some online resources. I currently have a bunch of Dragon Ball books in Japanese if you think learning to read those would help with my conversational Japanese. I have a Japanese to English dictionary and access to Jisho.org.

Thank you guys for all the help!

Well, it’s true that, if you imagine the extremes, someone who only knows vocab can have a caveman-esque conversation, while someone who only knows grammar can’t have a conversation at all.

But I’m not sure grammar is as easy as you make it sound… proper usage of the particles is notoriously one of the most difficult things to learn.

Also… I’m not sure what “the structure seems like a mix between English and Japanese” means, heh. Surely, Japanese structure is… Japanese.

There are loads of books that focus on vocab commonly used in conversation, if you search on Amazon.