What level on WaniKani to have basic conversations?

I am talking assuming you have a good-ish understanding of Japanese grammer. What level of WaniKani has the bare bone vocab words, enough to get by in a basic conversation.

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This is a kanji reading site and if your primary aim is to produce spoken Japanese, you don’t need to be able to read any kanji.
By level 15 you should know all the kanji on the JLPT N4, which I would use as a standard for really basic conversation, but won’t know 60% of the vocabulary you need to actually pass the test.
So, it’s definitely best to supplement your vocabulary from elsewhere.

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I would argue that you probably shouldn’t be learning vocabulary solely from WaniKani, because you either learn the really simple stuff much latter on, like 猫・ねこ・「Cat」 being taught on WaniKani at level 15, it doesn’t teach you 子供・こども・「Child」 until level 24, it doesn’t teach you 眼鏡・めがね・「Glasses」 until level 34, and it doesn’t teach you 風邪・かぜ・「common cold」 until level 50.

Though you’ll probably be able to learn a good deal of common words by the end of WaniKani, at the beginning, it isn’t so great because basic vocabulary is introduced far later on because they require Kanji with more strokes. Ideally, what you should be doing is building a good vocabulary base by learning the most common words as soon as possible and before diving into native material. Core 2K has been good for me so far and I personally recommend their website over the free Anki deck (which was released under a creative commons license, by the way) because it has so much more versatility. Plus the interface is way more interesting.

Otherwise, if you’re studying grammar, you’ll pick up more words anyway because grammar guides will integrate and reuse words; so you’ll pick up vocabulary as a side effect because you don’t want to keep having to scroll up to the vocab list to see what a conglomeration of Kanji is supposed to represent. WaniKani is slow-going, so I wouldn’t base the pace of your hollistic studies around it. Study grammar as early and as much as possible, because you can always look up words when you get stuck, but it is much harder to look up and learn grammar every 2 lines of text of a light novel.

Once you’ve completed Core 2k or a few beginner textbooks, you’ll probably have enough of a base to start reading stuff like NHK News Easy, but you’ll still be looking up words. That’s good. You’ll find you know the majority of the words, but you don’t know the important words in the sentence, and because of that, you’ll have to look it up, which means you’ll end up learning more useful vocabulary for reading the news (for kids), and the more news (for kids) you read, the easier it will get, because the vocabulary used will repeat itself.

Move onto harder material when you feel like you’re getting diminishing returns from NHK Easy or manga, or whatever it is you started with.

The advice that sunk in best when I started Japanese was:

“2. Read a lot, every day, and have fun.”

The only way you’re ever going to get better at reading is by reading. The same goes for conversations. Get a language partner on Skype; plenty of Japanese people want to learn English, so you can help them out while helping yourself out as well.

Or, you can talk to yourself. You probably won’t know when you’re making mistakes, though.


As you may have picked up from the replies to this thread, one’s level on WaniKani is not correlated with anything outside of being able to read kanji presented by this site. There are people who’ve studied Japanese for years prior to discovering WaniKani and, on the other hand, there are pure beginners who also supplement WaniKani to their study regimen. So everyone’s experiences will be different.

As you may already know, one’s ability to have basic conversation hinges on the knowledge of basic grammar, vocabulary, and the ability to understand what’s being said in the conversation. So in order to improve one’s conversation skills, one needs improve those aforementioned areas in addition to practice having conversations. A good piece of advice is to not settle with just having one person to speak with, but try to have several people that can have a language exchange with you. This will help with getting used to listening to different people’s ways of phrasing things as well as getting used to hearing a wider variety of how people pronounce the same sounds.

That listening is a skill in of itself, I’ve been going at it for over three years and have dozens of hours in listening material and I still suck

If to speak and listen, vocab is more correlating. I suggest you try iKnow.jp

For WaniKani, that would be Anki deck – core 10k breakdown.

Conversations at including listening well? At least up to N4-N3 vocabs. WaniKani level 27. (But WaniKani does not teach enough vocab for each respective Kanji, either.) At least, you’ll have to be able to listen to Jukugo words well, too.

I feel you there. I find that listening to a recording without visual contextual clues (e.g., speaker’s gestures or facial expressions) is far more difficult to follow than being in an actual conversation. It’s amazing how the brain makes up for the parts we don’t understand using information we get from the actual setting of a conversation.

The best I can do is pick out words and even then I rely on English subtitles for my brain to make all the connections

Have you tried Japanese subtitles. I am sure Lv21’ers can try.

animelon and supernative.tv for days

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Based on what you’ve said, the wall you’ve referred to sounds like it’s related to acquisition. I mean that at a subconscious level the brain has yet to make the connections needed​ to begin to deal with what it’s being given, so it becomes overwhelmed with input it cannot possibly process. In order to deal with this, listening practice must be more structured so that the brain learn to handle what it’s being given. Although watching videos with subtitles may seem to be the most accessible option, I believe trying to structure this approach effectively is a painstaking process. For example, watching​ something many times over until they are able to parse through what’s being heard. This can be done until one has eventually consumed a vast variety of content, but I find this approach difficult to execute leading to quick burnout.

What I’ve done instead is voice shadowing that uses shorter segments and engage in intensive listening practice 10 minutes a day every day. This intensive practice includes mimicking every aspect of the passage until I’m able to repeat it back myself. This in turn has improved my listening as well as speaking skills drastically. I highly recommend trying out voice shadowing to see if it’ll help alongside with your grammar and vocabulary studies.

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Definitely an important factor. The auditory system requires practice just like any other part of the brain. For a structured approach, you need to be good (i.e. no hesitation) at recognizing individual spoken words before you can understand sentences at natural spoken speed. If you think you need individual-word audio training, maybe find a Core deck with audio. I’m working on a tool that does structured training for listening, but it’s still a long way from being done.

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Is there a website / web application for this?

Understanding what is said to you is hard, even if it’s spoken at your level, even if it’s spoken slowly. Japanesepod 101 is pretty good, the audio that comes with genki is also good. I work through the exercises in genki with a tutor online. I’m hoping to be able to have basic conversations after about 2 years, by which time I should be around level 25 on WaniKani and have finished Genki 1 & 2. This is about the start of intermediate level I guess, roughly N4 I believe.

After two years?? That seems like along time to just have basic conversations with others. I can already have basic conversations in Japanese after around 4 months of study now.

Depends what you mean by basic. Or maybe you learn quicker than me, or do more work. I was thinking that after 2 years I’ll have studied Genki 1 and 2, and about half of Wanikani. I’ve done the first 9 chapter of Genki, but I can’t say I’m fluent at what I’ve covered. I’m thinking about N4 level.

Yeah, as @SemilunarLiri has mentioned, using WK as a tool to enrich your vocabularies even for the sake of basic conversations is at best a hit or miss.

As @polv has mentioned, the Core vocabularies are what you want to down ASAP as far as vocabularies are concerned.

But speaking wise, personally, Pimsleur is bar none the fastest way to kick-boost someone’s speaking ability from 0 to something. In 4 months’ time, 1 hour a day, and you are more or less in JLPT N4+ JLPT N3- speaking wise (compared this to people who take 1 yr plus to finish the two Genkis without the speaking skills necessarily).

What you’ll need to fill in sooner or later would be very basic vocabularies that you use every day universally: narrow, thin, fat, thick, cold, warm, angry, sad, lonely, days of the week, numbers, how many times, etc.

Also topic-based vocabularies, which, I’ll suggest to start with your own world: how many siblings you have, father, mother, little brother, older brother, etc. what they do for a living, where are they, what they do for a living, where you were raised, what hobbies do you have, etc. and then work your way towards catching other people’s hobbies, etc.

One of the quicker ways of nailing these vocabularies down would be to try and write them down in sites like lang8.com. Whenever you stumble upon a way on how to say things, you figure that out, whenever you stumble upon vocabularies, you figure that out, as well as pay attention to the corrections.

From that point on, practice speaking to many people and you’ll down very common topics in no time. You’ll slowly acquire active vocabularies the more you experience: damn, I learned this before… how to say it? And then you repeat what you learned probably in less than a week and with these repeated cycles you’ll pick things up, surely.

But the quickest way to improve speaking is by speaking o.O so passive vocabulary/kanji enrichment like in WK… rather than figuring out how precisely it can contribute, just know that it’s not the main source of study to nail basic conversations down.

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ありがとうございます for these great resources!! it’ll also be useful for my japanese friends who are learning English :smiley:

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