today i realised that after just two weeks of learning kanji i can already recognise many kanji that are in the background of the game persona 5. so i was just wondering what level i should be at before i can read shonen manga and play games while recognising 30-40% of the kanji as the feeling of seeing the kanji outside of wanikani and recognising it is so satisfying. thanks!
Personally I think as soon as possible, but that depends on how much grammar you know. Learning kanji through manga/games isn’t going to be super meaningful, not to mention incredibly frustrating, if you don’t know what’s being said. There are some other threads on the forum to get started with grammar if you don’t know where to begin, though the common recommendation is to start perusing through Tae Kim or pick up genki 1.
Maa, it depends a lot more on mental resilience I guess. Most manga isn’t all that easy for beginners and it can be frustrating trying to read through it. Realistically, you could start basically any time and get great results so long as you have the patience and maybe have skimmed through a grammar guide. If not, then you can also wait until you get level 60 and know a lot more grammar.
In general, the earlier you start with native material and input, the better.
You’ll want to start learning common Japanese vocabulary (even if you don’t know the kanji, just associating the reading and meaning is enough to start).
You also will want to learn basic grammar.
I also recommend watching some material in Japanese (anime, jdrama, game shows, news, whatever) so you know how the language sounds (which helps even if you’ll just be reading). If you’ve already done this, then great =D
Once you complete these, you’re ready to dive into reading material that has furigana. Keep an eye on the book clubs, especially the Absolute Beginner Book Club:
Note that you can actually start reading manga today, but knowing some grammar and vocabulary makes it a little bit easier. Regardless of how much you learn in advance, the first thing you read is going to be very difficult, and you’re going to spend a whole lot of time on it. That’s why the book clubs are great: they make it easier to ask questions on material and get targeted responses to help ease you into getting used to the grammar.
Edit: Oops, I missed addressing the primary question!
Once you are comfortable reading is the best time to consider learning kanji from what you read. You want that strong connection with the meaning of the word in context, which you get only after you read a lot and get to really internalize the meaning of what’s being said. In the meantime, letting WaniKani guide you on learning kanji is a very good start.
Everyone says this, but it’s completely true and so bears repeating once again. No matter what level of WK you’re at or how much grammar you’ve studied, the first time (or ten) that you attempt to read native material, it’s going to be a terrible struggle. There are a lot of reasons for this (role language and extremely casual/slurred speech in manga; an abundance of unique vocabulary in novels; technical words in news, etc.), but the truth is that it’s inevitable and you need to prepare yourself for the fact that you’re going to feel like you’re drowning when you first start.
That probably sounds scary, but there is a wonderful light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep it up and read a little bit everyday, and I promise it gets better and more natural with time no matter how painful it feels in the beginning.
All that being said, if you want to avoid being overwhelmed to the point of complete mental anguish, it’s probably not a bad idea to be at least familiar with the core of N5 and N4 grammar before you dive in. Native material gives zero regard to JLPT levels, of course, but the grammar you learn in those levels is so foundational that you’ll have a hard time reading much of anything without it.
A lot of it will depend on your tolerance for dictionary diving and imperfect comprehension. I started reading native material VERY early on (probably level 10-12 on WK and a very slippery grasp of N5 grammar), and honestly I don’t regret it. I’m the type of person who needs to jump right in the deep end and then let things sort themselves out - but if you know you’re someone who gets discouraged easily, then it’s probably best to hold out a bit until you have some core knowledge.
I also second @ChristopherFritz ‘s suggestion of checking out the WK book clubs. They’re FANTASTIC and a perfect place to ask as many questions as you need to as you struggle with other learners through material that is much more fun (and challenging) than a typical textbook.
I won’t say much, because basically everything has been said in the posts above and I second it 100%. I’d just like to add that if WaniKani is your main learning source for kanji, you can check out your progress on WKStats by sharing your API (don’t worry, it’s safe). There, you can sort kanji by JLPT levels, WaniKani levels, frequency, etc. You can see how much, more or less, you should understand after reaching a specific level. All in all, it gives you a good overview of where you’re at with your kanji knowledge. It’s a great tool and many ppl here use it.
Wish you good luck, persistence and lots of joy with Japanese!
I’m going to go against the trend and offer a completely different viewpoint: from level 1. Obviously to get to a goal of understanding 30-40% would take way higher, but /recognising/ is a way different matter.
To give my own experience, I decided to go full-dive and buy the entire sets of two of my favorite manga (Cardcaptor Sakura and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles) before I’d even started wanikani. My reasoning was that I’m already very familiar with the english translation, so having the original Japanese side-by-side allows me to learn both vocabulary and kanji way quicker because I have enough of an idea of what it says to begin with. Like you, even after literally the first few levels I could already begin to recognise some of the kanji, and with each level I get a thrill every time I can understand a new kanji, and as you say, it’s a hell of a motivator.
Vocabulary is obviously important, but honestly from my (very limited) experience, recognising kanji on its own really helps because you can figure out the vocab by working out the context. I’m kind of in a weird position in that I’ve been watching anime for close to a decade, so I’m kind of surprising myself with just how much I’ve picked up inadvertently. So depending on how much background knowledge you have, don’t be surprised if you pick up both vocab and kanji quicker than you expected.
TL:DR: depending on your background knowledge and general familiarity, 30-40% would be pretty high levelled, but you’ll surprise yourself with how quickly you start to recognise and understand enough to get the general gist, and that feeling of having a kanji “click” in context will (hopefully) never stop being amazing.
I read through all of TRC alongside xxxHolic a few years back. I was mostly interested in TRC and was only reading Holic for the interesting crossover stuff, but by the time I reached the end of both series, Holic instantly became one of my favorite manga series of all time.
I loved the first 75% of TRC, but the end got way too convoluted for my tastes. Gorgeous artwork though - I still shuffle in some of the really nice chapter title pages as wallpaper on my phone/iPad from time to time!
Reading native content is incredibly frustrating for beginners. Therefore, you will need good material that doesn’t frustrate you to start with and minimize lookup to enjoy the material.
Here’s what I did successfully.
Try small wins, reading graded readers instead. Around level 5, try reading N5 materials, learning grammar, and building vocabulary simultaneously. Your top priority should be building vocabulary outside WK, as it would be easier for you to read, and you will have an easier life doing the reviews in WK. Get core 6k and SRS them daily. Concentrate on remembering the hiragana sound instead of kanji reading. Don’t worry if you can’t read the kanji; you will get them eventually when your WK level matches up.
Once you get N3 grammar (around level 20), you can start enjoying reading some manga and reading some news. Topics around daily life are easier than fantasy, so I suggest you dominate that domain first before venturing into fantasy or even sci-fi.
Thank you! It seems us CLAMP fans are a rare breed nowadays, so it’s brilliant brilliant see that I’m not the only one! Holic is definitely easier to understand than TRC, and I still don’t understand the full plot by the end. Part of the reason I decided to buy the full set was that the omnibus translations I have include pretty solid translation notes at the end of each volume detailing things that either didn’t quite translate and they had to change, or giving a little cultural insight into an aspect of Japanese culture, and, later on, apologies for differences in the way things got translated because they were doing it on a volume-by-volume basis, which meant that some things turned out to have been translated wrongly as the plot progressed further.
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, and I have a massive folder on my phone purely of chapter titles and official artwork (including Code Geass, because that counts!). My profile picture is also Kobato, which is one of the only series I don’t actually have.
From my experience, CLAMP seems to be pretty easy to understand on the whole, so if you’re a fan, I’d definitely recommend trying it out. CCS in particular should be pretty much understandable at level 10, since thats what wanikani gives as near enough 100% of elementary school level.
Happy learning and reading with whatever you decide to go with!
Indeed! Cardcaptor Sakura, X, and Magic Knight Rayearth were among the first manga series I successfully read from start to finish in Japanese! They do love to throw in a good helping of Kansai-ben though to keep it interesting even for beginners.
I have all the volumes of Clear Card up to the most current as well but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet, though I did read the first 4 in English a few years back. I should really read through them soon as I think my Japanese reading has gotten decent enough that I can read them quickly.
even at level 1 (i reset back to 1 recently as i’d neglected studies due to health issues), I made it a practice to try to parse through an NHK easy news article each day for at least the minimum of adding new vocab to Anki. I use rikaichan (now known as 10ten) to supplement me as i try to get through the article. when reviews are slower in numbers, i go through tae kim’s guide plus genki to work on grammar points. it’s one of those things where consistency and stubbornness will get you a long way.
I’m sticking with slowly getting through CCS at the moment, but I have the first few volumes of clear card. Where I live (Scotland) its actually pretty difficult difficult find English manga since bookstores vary rarely stock anything, so it’s actually easier to buy the original, especially on ebay. I remember seeing an article a while back that MKR is getting hardcover reprints as part of CLAMP’s 20th anniversary, but for truly hellish prices. Next on my list would be Tokyo Babylon, though I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. Unfortunately in the UK there’s no option to buy digital Japanese copies that I know of, so I’m limited in terms of bookshelf space. If anyone knows more ways to access books and content in general, I’d love to know. So far I haven’t had much luck with trying to figure out how the graded reader thing works.
can you use bookwalker in UK? they do have the japanese version of many of the clamp series on there on the japanese store and there is a faq on the english store of how to go through buying things from the JP side.