Now what? Needing of N3 Reading Advice

Recently I felt my improvement decrease quite harshly (already considering the normal flattening of the learning curve). Normally a change of approach gets me back in a more effective loop, but at this point, I don’t know what I could do, or if I should just continue doing what I’m doing. So I’m asking the opinions of those who already passed through these issues.

With few exceptions, I have done all N3 points on Bunpro until Seasoned level, and I have 4k non-redundant known vocab on JPDB (total 5.5k cards), with kanji disabled. I’m confident I could pass N4, but probably would fail N3, with ~60% of the required points to pass, but take this with a grain of salt.

My current objetive is only reading. I can also engage listening and writing if it means I can improve reading as well. Kanji is not an issue to me. I normally read manga (N3-N2 level), with OCRs, Yomitan, translators. If it’s on my niche, I can read without any tools, up to a certain point, ignoring unintelligible stuff. I have read between 1000 to 2000 manga pages, probably closer to 1400.

My biggest problem right now is composed grammar/vocabulary.

I find a ton of N3 “grammar” with と言う、こと、わけ、もの、ところ、程、に◯◯て、して and their endless ramifications and fusions with だ、は、が、も、では、ない and they are ridiculously common. So I’m reading and I’m hit with わけがない and I have to ponder for several seconds if it means “It’s SO not ‘that’” or “it’s not necessary ‘that’” or something else I didn’t think of. Sometimes the actual meaning is basically the sum of it’s parts, literally or with a few liberties. But sometimes this liberty goes too far and I can’t derive it on my own, so I have to search it up. On their own, they’re not that hard, so searching individual explanations don’t help much, it’s the fact that there’s dozens of them that’s really the issue, I think.

Another issue of mine is “too common” words (mostly verbs). Sometimes, the material I pick to read have a surprisingly low amount of unique words. It normally would mean it’s easier, but it actually means that the same words are used again and again, each time with a considerably different meaning compared to the last time. Words used frequently have a wider range of potential meanings, which means that they’re more vague and harder to understand than if they had used more specific and unique vocabulary instead. These words often appear without kanji as well, making it even harder.

“Just” reading stuff is not helping much with these (although I feel some improvements each few days), so I’m encouraged to try something else, but I don’t know what. 先輩達, what could I do?


Are you in any of the book reading clubs? If not, I would encourage you to join at least one, if not all, since they’ll surely have discussions about grammar usage in various scenarios, as well as other commonalities of the language that might be outside of BunPro’s scope.

It would be a great opportunity for you to ask about a problematic phrase or grammar point. Might also help with motivation.


(I will give you the comment I wish someone had given me when I was in the same position)

I hate to say it but 80% of the solution is to just read and listen more, like a lot more. I struggled with exactly the things you are mentioning at around the same level and just getting more input helped but it takes a lot of time. The gap between N3 to N2 is probably about the same as going from zero to N3. The other 20% of the solution is to just keep a mental note of which patterns or words bother you and then if it comes up a few times and you still can’t grasp it then spend 5-10 minutes reading about it or watch some explanation video or something. It won’t magically make you have perfect understanding but it will help with the quality of your attention the next time it comes up.

One other thing to consider is the idea of order of acquisition. Basically some things are acquired after others and that remains roughly true for most people. The things you are describing are things that I think all people around that level struggle with and some of them come more easily than others. I would suggest taking comfort in the fact that basically everyone has been through the same thing. You are already a step ahead by being self-aware enough to know you have a problem so just keep pushing and leverage that awareness to your advantage.

Also, to analyse the actual problem you are facing, I would say there are two issues.

One: You finally understand enough to realise you understand nothing. N4-N3 seems to have a massive dunning-kruger bump and gives a false sense of understanding for a lot of people (happened to me as well, I think) and, even without that misplaced confidence, there comes a point where you realise you really understand nothing. The good news is you are improving despite feeling that way. The bad news is you may have this feeling in cycles of 2-6 months perpetually. You can’t study away that feeling but you can just emotionally manage it (complain on this forum, talk to your friends, go back to your favourite easy material, take a bath, whatever) and just trust that if you keep going you will get better.

Two: Related to point one, you are realising how tenuous a grasp you have on things that are “known” in SRS. SRS feels very powerful at the start, and probably is, but once you hit a certain level past the complete beginner stage the SRS is demoted to a secondary or tertiary position and should be considered an optional boost and not something to rely on. The actual learning of grammar and words happens when getting input or having conversations (from the extremely context rich input you get in conversations). I think you know this and most people who are serious about learning know this but it is a classic case of theory vs practice.

Keep pushing, be patient and don’t give up and you’ll make it. Good luck!


I came here to basically say this. I remember when I first started actually reading books and articles, even if they were “easy”, struggling to grasp how things I thought I already knew were used. However, after keeping at it for a few months I finally reached a point where things started to click and I was able to start intuiting word/grammar through repeated exposure.

Another thing I did was watch a ton of comparison videos. Like you mentioned, there are so many similar sounding grammar constructs that it can be tricky to understand which one is being used or how its nuance may change depending on the situation. If I’m being totally honest, I think there are still many times where if you just show me one of those endless もの point by itself, I may not 100% know how to conjugate it or what its exact meaning is, but despite that I’m still able to understand what it means if it comes up in reading or conversation, and to me that’s more important than knowing grammar rules 100% and not being able to use them!


To add to this, I’m not sure if you’ve seen this thread, but I think it’s a really good example of what people here have been talking about. Just stick with it! And good luck!

That’s what I feared the most… Well, this time would come eventually, I still hoped it would come a little later. Japanese really is that brutal of a language. I’ll work my ass even more then.

I’m wondering if I should go ahead and learn the N2 and N1 points on Bunpro already or not. Preferably, I would like to not increase SRS time anymore, considering how much immersion I need, but I need to learn them at some point anyway. Also, if my acquisition of the N3 points is already that bad, I can only imagine it will continue, or get worse. Some people say to add them as I find them in the wild, but I don’t know how I would identify them if I didn’t knew them previously.

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Would something like Shinkansen Master Dokkai N3 help? The readings are short but they have questions about the text afterwards which I find helps really drill into the nuances and exact meanings. I would say that it has way too much furigana and the first half of the book includes short things like flyers and notes that I think are too simple but the second half is articles and essays and there’s a mix of topics which I would not necessarily pick out to read myself. It mimics the JLPT style too if you are interested in that.
I think unfortunately keep doing what your doing and it’ll get easier is probably your best bet though.

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I will tell you truth as from your comments here you seem to be serious about learning and aren’t just dabbling as a hobby. 2000 pages of manga is really not that much, especially if you have been reading easier manga which are often recommended to beginners. I would personally recommended starting on novels or some other form of more focused and longer discourse, assuming you are interested in something like that. Manga is obviously fine as well but it has its disadvantages (and its advantages, of course). You will have to read millions and millions and millions of characters of Japanese across a very large variety of contexts to learn how to read easily. Currently you may have read about 100k characters, which may be a generous estimate depending on the manga you’ve read and the studying you’ve done. Of people I know who mostly learnt by reading and tracked characters and passed N1, the range is about 5 million to 15 million characters read. What you read and how you read it has a massive influence, obviously, but just keep those kind of numbers in mind for reference. (I am saying this so hopefully you take it as motivation but feel free to tell me off of it has had the opposite effect.)

As for learning N2 and N1 grammar points, honestly I think it is up to the individual how they approach that kind of thing. It won’t magically make you be able to read regardless of the approach you take though.

The main thing is to just keep going.


Abusing my tools and with some manual labor, I got some more concrete numbers. These numbers don’t include stuff I read by half, or stuff I’m not sure about, and any other stuff I read outside of manga. These manga are at minimum N4 level.

The numbers
  • Pages: 1306
  • Lines: 10421
  • Characters: 189512

This is a little dirty still, as there’s a lot of SFX and other irrelevant stuff mixed in. So compressing sequences of characters (ーーー) and removing punctuation and most non-japanese characters, it came to this:

  • Lines: 10293
  • Characters: 166044

If I remove lines smaller than 6 characters:

  • Lines: 5370
  • Characters: 149562

Yeah, you aren’t too far off. It’s good to have these numbers to put myself into perspective. My ~150k characters are a drop in the bucket, and to reach 5~15 million, everything I read until now, I need read again, only 30 to 100 times. :partying_face:

Also, I didn’t think it at first, but maybe novels are a pretty good idea. The fact that there’s no art to infer information, will force me to pay a lot more attention to the text. I’ll try to find some I have interest in reading, hopefully in the scope of my ability.


it seem manga are really only ideal for beginners and lower intermediate. I’ve switched from manga to novels quite a while ago, and I’m able to quite confidently understand the novels. I’m doing that thing where if I understand 80% of the words on a page, i continue. If I see a word repeatedly in the span of 2-3 pages, I look up that word and add it to a list. It seems to be working and I am starting to not feel quite so stupid. (Don’t get me wrong. the librarian told me “this light novel is great for grade schoolers”) so it’s not like I’m learning applied physics in classical japanese or anything.


Don’t forget your reading speed will increase as you go on so hitting those numbers isn’t quite as daunting as it may sound at first. You can also learn a lot just from listening so total chatacters read is really a metric that is useful for people who mostly read (those people who seem to be obsessed with VNs, for example). More “bad” news though - if your goal is to read anything you like without a dictionary then N1 isn’t really close to that level either. Here is a post I really like where a guy who already had N1 read 200 books. You can see it takes that much (plus the daily listening he did) to reach the point of being able to read with relative ease and no dictionary. Assuming the average book he read was 100k characters, which is on the light side, so that is gonna be at least 20 million characters on top of what ever he had already done to hit N1. My working theory for myself is that I should expect to have to read the equivalent of 250 books to get to a comfortable level from zero. That is ignoring listening, speaking, writing, handwriting kanji, etc.

The good news (actual good news) part is that learning and reading is generally quite a positive and enjoyable experience, if you like that sort of thing.


That’s why I mentioned the Book Clubs in my first post. Seriously, you should join them, even if you prefer reading other materials. Not only will you have more material to read, but also the support from the BunPro staff and the community in case you have any questions.

Of course, you don’t have to, but I think it will be a good way to tackle the issue you mentioned in your OP. Food for thought.