WK level, JLPT level and book club level

I know that this will be individual and that there are no hard and fast rules. A dedicated beginner armed with a dictionary can read anything.

But as a rule of thumb, what JLPT level do the different book clubs correspond to? And what WK level should you aim for before expecting to be able to comfortably read the books in the different book clubs? Something like this?

Book club WK level JLPT level
Absolute beginner 10 4-5
Beginner 20 3-4
Intermediate 40 2-3
Advanced 60+ 1-2
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Your estimates are reasonable, except Advanced is really just Intermediate at a much higher pace. So I imagine (haven’t done one yet) that it would have the same level recommendations as Intermediate, just with more actual reading practice/experience being necessary. Though of course, knowing more grammar/kanji should speed up your reading pace too, so maybe the higher levels would matter. (In theory the Advanced group may also read older classics at a slower pace, so maybe N1 grammar would be more relevant there, not sure.)

I would just add that even at the levels specified, you shouldn’t expect to read these books comfortably. I would say it’s that you could potentially read these books without suffering. I’m level 60 (and have been for over a year), formally studied grammar to N3-ish (and picked up a bunch more from reading), and have read a handful of books, but given how many words I still have to look up I wouldn’t describe my experience as “reading comfortably”.

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Adding to @seanblue’s good comment about “reading comfortably”:

Even at level 60 and with N2 grammar the biggest hurdle is still the vocab. Finishing WK you have probably 6000 thousand words somewhat in your vocab (probably more than the average N2 taker), but I feel like you need at least double that until reading starts becoming smoother. My friends shared similar experiences, where some of them keep count with Anki. Estimating from floflo that’s probably what I’m nearing, but will probably recognize a lot of those words only in context. I still have to look up so many words… Now I’m just trying to “drink from the fire hose” with vocab through Anki and hope it sticks :stuck_out_tongue:

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I was under the impression N2-takers knew about 7000-8000 :sweat_smile:.

Even after N1, vocab is still sometimes a problem :relieved:

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You’re probably right. On second thought, even though WK completers know more kanji than the average N2 taker, their vocab is likely a bit smaller on average (and missing some domain specific vocab that is expected).

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Agreed! I passed N2 as well and vocab is definitely what is holding me back at the moment

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I’m level 34 and I can still barely read anything. Sadly, knowing the kanji isn’t everything. Even NHK News Easy is a challenge.

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I was reading some analysis on language levels a long time ago and it said that average native speakers only use around a thousand words on an average basis, but know around 10,000. I would assume N1 is probably close to that since it’s supposed to be roughly equivalent to native skill.
So I’d say that knowing the 1,000 most common words should be good for most day to day speaking situations, but much more for reading anything outside of elementary school level stuff.

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N1 isn’t really supposed to be anywhere close to native level. Also, I’ve heard the average English speaker has an active vocabulary of around 20,000. For example:

According to lexicographer and dictionary expert Susie Dent, “the average active vocabulary of an adult English speaker is around 20,000 words, while his passive vocabulary is around 40,000 words.”

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For the vocabulary problems, I do WK and go through the JLPT vocabulary on Kamesame. They also have the 10K deck, which I highly recommend doing. (Though the one on Kitsun is better, I’ve heard)
I’m addition, I do a lot of sentence mining of native material, which helps a lot. Depending on, say, an anime, I can learn anywhere from 20 - 100 words per episode. I’ve only just finished episode 3 of Log Horizon, and I’ve already learned 200+ new words.
Once you have a fair amount of vocabulary under your belt (3000+), learning new words in context (and adding them to your SRS yourself) really speeds up the process. It won’t be comfortable, no, but learning all the words of an episode/chapter and then rewatching/rereading it can be really fun!

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Except for actually creating cards. That’s still a complete nightmare and takes way too long.

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Are you using Anki? That’s probably the issue. I just copy and paste the words to text document, then copy the entire document and paste it in Kamesame. It takes a couple of seconds, and boom, 200 WK-style cards created in under a minute.

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I didn’t know this, but still, is it not possible to learn vocab by looking them up everytime along the way? I’m intimated by doing more srs alongside WK. And as @seanblue said the idea of making cards makes it even worse.

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Sure, but I personally don’t find that the words stick if I just look them up every time I see them, versus seeing it once, adding it to an SRS, then not having to worry about it again. (Provided I do my reviews).

In that case, finishing WK before you do any additional SRSes might be best.

Again, with the right tools, this shouldn’t take longer than a couple of seconds. And if you’re determined to use Anki, than there are plenty of guides and tools to speed up that process.

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I’m using Kitsun, but regardless I don’t understand your process. You say boom 200 cards in under a minute, but where did you get the text from? It must have taken you some time to cultivate the list. You say you are learning in context, but do the cards include sentences from the context you saw the words in or include audio? Unless you keep the context, I don’t see how finding the words in context matters.

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Sorry If I was unclear: I meant that the process of actually turning the words into cards ready to be reviewed happens in a couple of seconds. As for where I get the text from: Anywhere, really. In my example, I used anime episodes. All I do is click the word in the JP subtitles (I’m using the Voracious player), hit control+c, control+v it into a text document, and once I finish an episode, I paste the entire text document into Kamesame. That’s it. I do this after I watch the episode, so going through it again and just clicking on words I don’t know doesn’t take long at all. In Voracious, you can press the right arrow key to instantly proceed to the next subtitle, so the process goes even faster. If I was reading a book or manga, I would use an OCR on the words I don’t know. It doesn’t take that long.

I don’t need to keep the context, because I remember it. For example, I encountered the word 初対面 when a character was first introducing themselves, or 反映 when a character was talking about a online game being updated. I remember the context I found the words in. It doesn’t matter if I forget the context down the line: I’ll remember the word due to the SRS system by then. The context part is really only relevant while your still learning the word (for example, while it’s in the Apprentice stage). Same goes for WKs mnemonics: I forget them over time, but it doesn’t matter, because I know the word already. I’m not going to need to recall the mnemonic for the kanji 日 every time I see it, because I’ve reviewed it so many times that I no longer need the mnemonic.

Also, you can use Anki + AnkiConnect to turn the word into a card and keep the sentence which you found the word. if you need the additional context. If you’re going to use Voracious, then turning words into cards is even quicker with Anki, because you just configure how you want each card to be generated in the settings, and after that, you can just click a word you don’t know, press E, and generate an Anki card with as little or as much context as you want. The only reason why I don’t use this method, is because I want all the new words I learn in one place. I’m already using Kamesame, so I don’t want to have a separate Anki deck.

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There’s a lot of set up and compromise in that process.

  1. Acquiring subtitles in both English and Japanese and making sure they are reasonably well synced to the audio/video. This in itself can be incredibly time consuming.
  2. Watching all anime on a computer, which for me rules out this option completely.

For people willing and able to set up something like this efficiently it sounds really convenient. But I tend to not have the patience for this kind of thing. It’s why I liked my kanji being spoon fed to me by WaniKani.


I was going to respond to more specific things you mentioned, but honestly I’m too tired to formulate a coherent response. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter, I just have trouble seeing how these types of processes would work well for me personally. Hopefully your suggestions will benefit OP or others.

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Finding the subtitles on Kitsunekko is easy, and syncing them doesn’t take long. You just look at the time you first hear the sentence in the audio (I.G. 00:08 seconds in), and subtract that with the time the sentence appears in the audio. (I.G. 00:50 seconds in), and 8 - 50 is -42, so the subtitles have to be shifted by -4200 milliseconds. This is done very easily on https://subtitletools.com/subtitle-sync-shifter.

That one site where you can watch anime with JP subs not saying the name as to not summon the mods can be used in nearly the exact same way, just have the site on one tab and Kamesame or Kitsun on the other.

Ah, I’m sorry that I couldn’t be of any help to you. :frowning: I hope you at least learned something new, in any case. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Since you’re using Kitsun, have you been using the auto-generation from dictionary? Assuming you’re already looking words up as you read, adding them to SRS with a couple of clicks via Kitsun is the simplest method I’ve found so far. It’s true that it’s a little extra work if you want to add the context sentences to the card, though.

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Yeah, I’ve been using the dictionary feature. It’s adding the sentence and audio that takes longer. It only takes like a minute per card, but it adds up. But I feel like having the sentence helps me when I forget a word at the later SRS stages, so I’m reluctant to skip that part.