How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese? - Travel-Lingual (2023)

It may come as no surprise that Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn. While it’s not completely unconquerable, one thing that anybody wanting to learn Japanese will need is a great amount of patience. But just how long does it take to learn Japanese?

There are a few factors that will determine the amount of time it will take to get you through the basic phrases into an advanced level of learning. Like many languages, the speed at which you progress will depend entirely on you, your habits, your learning style, and the language resources you use.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail below.

Learning Goals

The first thing you need to think about is what you actually mean when you say you want to learn Japanese. Do you have an upcoming trip planned? Perhaps you want to be able to find your way around the streets of Tokyo or order at restaurants confidently? Or, are you looking to master every aspect of the language?

Working this out will be one of the biggest determining factors in how long it takes you to learn Japanese. Obviously, picking up a few conversational phrases will take a lot less time than learning to read and write kanji.

What’s kanji? – I hear you ask. Kanji is a Japanese script comprising multiple relatively complex characters used in Japanese writing. As such, they are one of the hardest elements to learn. Learning Kanji will require a great deal of memorization and practice.

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Certain elements of the Japanese writing system, such as Hiragana, are easier to understand as they are considered to be ‘entry-level letters’. Learning to write kanji is even more time consuming. However, if this is the language-learning road you want to take then you’ll definitely end up with a more rounded level of fluency.

Put simply, there are four main skills to learning any language and Japanese is no exception. These are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. If you want to master all four elements, then learning Japanese will take much longer than simply learning two of them.

Study Time

The amount of time you have available to practice Japanese will also play a vital role in how long it takes you to learn the language. It may seem obvious, but it’s entirely true – the more you practice, the faster you will learn.

If you’ve only got a couple of hours spare each week, then it will take a lot longer for you to learn Japanese. This isn’t only because you’ll learn new words and phrases at a slower pace, but also you’ll be more susceptible to forgetting what you’ve already learned.

Conversely, if you can dedicate a couple of hours each day to learning Japanese, you’ll be introduced to new words and phrases at a faster rate. Your memory will also work harder and it will be easier to retain the information you’ve already picked up.

However, it’s still worth remembering that Japanese is an incredibly hard language to learn. On average, dedicating a couple of hours each day will bring you to an advanced level of speaking in about 3 years.

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This is advanced speaking, though, and you’ll still be able to communicate effectively in Japanese using some basic phrases in six months to a year.

Your Native Language

Languages evolve over time. This is why there are so many similarities between English and French, for example. If you are a native English speaker, languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese will be a lot easier for you to learn than Japanese. The intricacies of a language like Japanese will feel very unfamiliar and, as such, this is a hurdle that will add to the amount of time it takes to learn Japanese.

It’s not only speaking that will be unfamiliar to you, either. The Japanese writing system, grammar, and sentence structures are all very different from European languages. This makes it harder to follow reading and writing exercises when you start a Japanese language course.

If you’ve studied an Eastern Asian language before, you’ll find it easier to understand the linguistics and pronunciation, which means it will take a shorter amount of time to begin understanding Japanese.

Formal Pronouns

As with all languages, there are formal and informal pronouns to learn. In Japanese, formal pronouns are always preferred, and this is what makes Japanese such a famously polite language.

Formal pronouns are known as ‘keigo’ in Japanese, and it’s very important to master them if you’re going to be speaking Japanese in business meetings or conversing with people who rank higher than you (such as government officials).

To put things into simpler terms, keigo basically takes a word that you’ve already learned and completely changes it, depending on who you’re speaking to. For example:

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  • The standard formal word for “eat” is “taberu”
  • The keigo word for “eat” is “meshi agaru”

They each have the same meaning, but they are entirely different words when keigo is used.

Keigo also has two forms, which means it takes even longer to learn. One form of keigo is used to praise and speak highly of other people, while the other form is used to speak humbly about yourself.

Both of these forms are used at the same time, so you also have to make sure you don’t accidentally switch them so that you’re speaking highly of yourself and humbly of somebody else!

With this in mind, if you need to learn how to use keigo because you’re going to be speaking to some high-ranking people, then learning Japanese will take almost twice as long. Essentially, you’ll have almost twice as many words to learn!

How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese?

How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese? - Travel-Lingual (1)
Considering the number of things you need to think about when learning Japanese, including basically learning two languages at once when using keigo, it’s fair to say that it’s going to take quite a while to master even the most basic phrases.

However, to give you a rough estimate of how long it takes to learn Japanese, we’ve broken down the specific reasons why you want to learn this wonderful language:

  • If your aim is to talk to a Japanese-speaking friend and hold a basic conversation in Japanese, you can expect to learn basic phrases in 3-6 months.
  • If you’d like to be able to read fictional books of manga comics that are written in Japanese, a year’s worth of studying will be required.
  • In order to watch Japanese movies, TV shows, or read native-level fiction material then you’re looking at around 3-5 years of learning time.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that the time it will take depends on the amount of effort and spare time you’re able to put into it.

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Learning Japanese: How To Speed Up The Learning Process

So, now we know that it can take anywhere up to five years to fully master the Japanese language. And, to get it done in this time, the average learner will need to allocate about 10 hours per week to studying.

In a world where we’re all becoming increasingly busier, however, putting this much time aside each week can be a real issue. But there are a few ways you can put in the study time without taking any extra time out of your schedule!

Here are a couple of tips that will help to speed up the learning process:

  • Download a Japanese-learning podcast that you can listen to on your daily commute, while you’re at work, or simply while you get on with some household chores.
  • Follow the Japanese news using a website such as NHK News Easy. This is a great website for beginners as you can listen to narrated audio while reading. You can also pair it with a translator extension, such as Rikaikun, which allows you to hover over certain Japanese words and translate them into English.
  • Take a free trial with Japanese language resources such as FluentU
  • Find a Japanese tutor with sites such as italki

How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese? - Travel-Lingual (2)Conclusion

As you can see from what we’ve outlined above, there isn’t a definitive answer to how long it takes to learn Japanese. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not quick, but if you can dedicate enough time to it you can expect to be at a confident, conversational level within a year.

If you want to learn all of the intricacies of keigo and learn how to read and write kanji, you should expect to spend up to five years studying.

However, while it may seem like a time-consuming process, there is no denying that being able to speak, read, and write in Japanese is an undoubtedly impressive skill. It’s also a lot of fun, and you’re guaranteed to learn some really exciting things in the process.

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FAQs

How long does it take to learn enough Japanese to travel? ›

How Hard is it to Learn Japanese? According to the US Department of State, Japanese is one of the hardest languages for English natives to learn. It doesn't have many similarities in structure to English. They estimate it takes 88 weeks of learning, or 2200 hours, to reach fluency.

Is 1 hour a day enough to learn Japanese? ›

However, if you study only one hour per day and don't do anything else to learn Japanese, it can take you up to twenty years to learn the language! So if you don't want to be speaking Japanese only in 2039, keep reading to see how you can shorten this time frame.

How long does it take to finish the Japanese course on duolingo? ›

In fact, if you don't get messed up by some of the grammatical issues present in Duolingo you can easily complete the entire course in one day.

How many hours should I study Japanese a day? ›

Study Japanese every day

Grab a few recommended textbooks and knuckle down for at least twenty minutes a day (ideally an hour or two, but twenty minutes is better than nothing). This will give you the basics and the “correct” forms of grammar, situationally appropriate language, clear examples and practice exercises.

Can I learn Japanese in 6 months? ›

In 6 months you may come upto a basic level of communication, but fluency and profiency requires very systematic reading for any language. Japanese is a very proficient and grammar oriented language. So if you want to become fluent with proficiency you need to focus on: Vocabulary.

Can I learn Japanese in 2 years? ›

The average length of time to learn advanced Japanese is 2-3 years. At the intermediate level, you can understand most of what your teacher says, and you can follow along with TV programs. When it comes to using the language with other Japanese speakers, however, you still have some limitations.

How many hours a week should I learn Japanese? ›

How many hours a day should I study japanese? A typical student would study about two hours per day (or about fourteen hours a week X 52 weeks = 728 hours) for an entire year.

Is it possible to learn Japanese in a year? ›

Depending how much you study, this could be do-able in a little over a year. Aiming to read native-level material or watch TV shows in Japanese? That's a more long-term goal, and you're probably looking at around three to five years of learning.

How many words do you need to be fluent in Japanese? ›

Generally speaking, you need to know about 3,000 – 5,000 Japanese words to be fluent in the language. But it can't just be any words, as you could simply learn the names of people, places, and Pokémon to hit one or two thousand.

How much Duolingo should I do a day? ›

You don't need to spend hours on Duolingo each day. However, you must put a reasonable amount of time into learning. If you log in to complete one lesson and sign out as soon as you've reached 10XP, you won't get very far. To optimize your learning, aim to spend between 15 and 30 minutes on the app each day.

Can you become fluent in Japanese with Duolingo? ›

Whilst you cannot get fluent in Japanese using Duolingo, you can master the two alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana.

What Jlpt level is Duolingo? ›

You can start as a complete beginner, or take a placement test. The full Duolingo Japanese course goes up to around JLPT level 5.

How can I become fluent in Japanese FAST? ›

11 Simple Steps to Learn Japanese Fast
  1. Learn the Japanese alphabet. The best way to learn Japanese is to start with the basics: learning the alphabet. ...
  2. Practice grammar. ...
  3. Learn some key phrases. ...
  4. Set up a schedule. ...
  5. Use apps to get started. ...
  6. Pay attention to flashcards. ...
  7. Chat online with native speakers or other learners. ...
  8. Read manga.
11 Oct 2022

Is 1 hour a day enough to learn a language? ›

With a busy work life, finding the time to commit to a new language can be a challenge in itself. But experts agree that it's more than possible to make meaningful progress in just one hour a day. Not only that, the skills gained from practicing a new language can feel like superpowers in the workplace and beyond.

Can I learn Japanese in a month? ›

Let's get one thing clear: You won't become fluent in a month. (Unless you're some foreign language genius.) But you can absolutely learn what you need to get by with a month of studying. It's all about finding what resources are best for you.

Why is learning Japanese so hard? ›

The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.

Which language is hardest to learn? ›

15 of the hardest languages to learn, for English speakers -...
  • Russian.
  • Hindi.
  • Vietnamese.
  • Thai.
  • Korean.
  • 13. Japanese.
  • Mandarin Chinese.
  • Arabic.
7 Nov 2021

Can you self teach Japanese? ›

Learning Japanese by yourself? Yes, it's possible to do that – millions of people are doing it all over the world. It takes a bit of work but you can truly make Japanese progress alone.

How many kanjis does an average Japanese person know? ›

The other one is defined by Japan Industrial Standard (JIS) and contains 10,050 Kanji. An average Japanese person perhaps uses more than 2,000 Kanji, but far less than 10,000.

Is it easier to learn Japanese or Chinese? ›

Japanese is slightly easier to learn. But, Chinese is much more widely spoken. Both languages have their pros and cons.

Is learning Japanese worth it? ›

There are lots of social benefits of learning Japanese. Being able to communicate with more people means you are able to meet and get to know more people. If you know how to speak Japanese, you'll find it much easier to make Japanese friends than someone who doesn't speak Japanese.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

Can you learn Japanese without kanji? ›

The short answer is: yes, you can speak fluent Japanese and understand Japanese people without ever studying a single kanji. In fact, if you focus your studies on hearing comprehension, it's likely that you will achieve fluency of speech much faster than somebody who chooses to focus on kanji.

How much Japanese can I learn in 1 year? ›

You can become fluent in a year. As in, incredibly fluent. But the majority of people simply do not have the time, let alone mental ability (as in, they'd burn out from over study) and funds to do this. Basic conversations are easy and 18 months is a long time.

How much Japanese can you learn in 3 months? ›

There is no language you can become fluent in in just 3 months. Even 3 years of studying Japanese is usually not enough time. And that's just spoken language, proficiency in reading and writing takes even longer.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Japan? ›

In more rural areas you can certainly find such apartments, but in any city you should expect to pay 50,000 yen or more. The average rent for a studio apartment in Tokyo is about 90,000 yen!
...
Cost of Living Expenses.
Food¥38,257
Other expenses¥6,576
Excess entertainment expenses​¥12,934
Total expenditures¥148,351
13 more rows
8 Mar 2021

How many kanji do you need to know to be fluent? ›

To be considered fluent in Japanese, people often say that you need to learn around 2000 kanji. There are, for example, 2136 government-mandated joyo kanji that Japanese people are expected to know. Similarly, the N1 level of the JLPT exam wants you to know 2000 kanji.

How many kanji should I learn a day? ›

1. How many kanji will I learn each day? Some simple math will show that you need to learn at least 23 kanji every day to complete your mission on schedule (2,042 kanji ÷ 90 days = 22.7).

What is the easiest way to memorize Japanese vocabulary? ›

Hey Japanese learner!
  1. Use repetition: reading, writing and speaking words over and over again.
  2. Associate words with drawings, pictures and funny scenes.
  3. Try to use the language routinely in the context of daily life.
  4. Reading as much as possible, especially the newspaper, helps you to remember words.
28 Apr 2016

Has anyone become fluent from Duolingo? ›

Duolingo can aid in your journey to become fluent, but if you aren't actively practicing the language with a native speaker or practicing your comprehension skills by listening to native conversations (like using movies, podcasts, Youtube, etc), then you will not become fluent.

How fast can you finish Duolingo? ›

(You can test out of levels to speed things along, but we're keeping things simple for this thought experiment!) To finish a language tree on Duolingo in 6 months, you will need to spend a minimum of 130 minutes per day on Duolingo, for a full 180 days. That's 2 hours and ten minutes.

What happens if you miss a day on Duolingo? ›

Get a streak freeze to make sure you don't lose your streak when you forget to practice for a day. A streak freeze must be purchased in advance of a day of a missed lesson to protect the streak. You can equip up to 2 streak freezes at a time. You can purchase a streak freeze via the app and web shop.

Which app is best for learning Japanese? ›

What Is the Best App for Learning Japanese?
  • Pimsleur Japanese. ...
  • JA Sensei. ...
  • Human Japanese. ...
  • HelloTalk. ...
  • Duolingo. ...
  • Honorable Mention for Kanji Study: WaniKani.
19 Apr 2021

Is Japanese easier than Korean? ›

This makes learning Korean much easier than Japanese. Japanese has 46 letters in its alphabet. Meanwhile, Korean only has 24. If you're looking for which is easier to learn between Korean or Japanese, Korean wins this round too.

What are the disadvantages of Duolingo? ›

The biggest disadvantage of Duolingo are the repetitive lessons that focus on translation. Because they use direct translations, some of the words and phrases don't feel very natural. It's content is focused on beginners, so might not be that helpful for intermediate/advanced learners.

Can you learn Japanese while sleeping? ›

yes you can. Listening to a language while asleep can help supercharge your vocabulary. With the Learn Japanese While Sleeping Audiobook, you'll absorb over 430 Japanese words and phrases effortlessly. And of course — learn words passively — in your sleep.

Is Rosetta Stone worth it for Japanese? ›

Provided you already know the basics of the writing system, Rosetta Stone could be a great help for reading and learning the Kanji because you can test yourself by switched between the two writing systems. We love how easily you can toggle between the Japanese scripts.

Is Japanese the fastest language? ›

1. Japanese:

Japanese is the fastest recorded language. It has a rate of 7.84 syllables per second.

What Jlpt level is fluent? ›

Fluent can be construed as N1 level, while business-level could be translated as N2 level, he explains.

Why is Japanese so fast? ›

Because the consonants above are pronounced in the same place, this is what allows native Japanese speakers to speak so fast. The front part of the tongue barely has to move between these consonants compared to English words which have far more consonants and places of pronunciation (AKA places of articulation).

How many hours a day should I practice a language? ›

The short answer is as much as possible.

Realistically, however, at least 20 minutes per day should be dedicated to learning a new language. The ideal amount of time to spend on daily study, if you can find the time, is an hour, but you don't need to cram it all in at once.

How long does it take to become fluent in Japanese? ›

According to the US Department of State, Japanese is one of the hardest languages for English natives to learn. It doesn't have many similarities in structure to English. They estimate it takes 88 weeks of learning, or 2200 hours, to reach fluency.

How fast can you learn Japanese? ›

Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for English natives to master. This is because it does not have a lot of likeness in structure to English. Approximately it will take 88 weeks, or 2200 hours of studying, to become fluent. But this article shows tips and tools to expedite and make the process easier.

How many hours a day should I study Japanese? ›

Study Japanese every day

Grab a few recommended textbooks and knuckle down for at least twenty minutes a day (ideally an hour or two, but twenty minutes is better than nothing). This will give you the basics and the “correct” forms of grammar, situationally appropriate language, clear examples and practice exercises.

How can I learn Japanese in a short time? ›

  1. Identify your goal – and FOCUS. Take a few minutes to think about why you're actually learning Japanese. ...
  2. Learn the most common words first. ...
  3. Make use of Japanese words you already know. ...
  4. Listen, listen, listen. ...
  5. Use dead time. ...
  6. Swap out your everyday habits with Japanese ones. ...
  7. Know your language learning style. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.
2 Nov 2018

Is it possible to learn Japanese in a year? ›

You can become fluent in a year. As in, incredibly fluent. But the majority of people simply do not have the time, let alone mental ability (as in, they'd burn out from over study) and funds to do this. Basic conversations are easy and 18 months is a long time.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Japan? ›

In more rural areas you can certainly find such apartments, but in any city you should expect to pay 50,000 yen or more. The average rent for a studio apartment in Tokyo is about 90,000 yen!
...
Cost of Living Expenses.
Food¥38,257
Other expenses¥6,576
Excess entertainment expenses​¥12,934
Total expenditures¥148,351
13 more rows
8 Mar 2021

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

How long does it take to get to N2 Japanese? ›

N2 with kanji knowledge took between 1,150-1,800 hours, while those with no prior kanji knowledge took between 1,600-2,800 hours. N1 with kanji knowledge took between 1,700-2,600 hours, while those with no prior kanji knowledge took between 3,000-4,800 hours.

How much Japanese can you learn in 3 months? ›

There is no language you can become fluent in in just 3 months. Even 3 years of studying Japanese is usually not enough time. And that's just spoken language, proficiency in reading and writing takes even longer.

How many words do you need to be fluent in Japanese? ›

Generally speaking, you need to know about 3,000 – 5,000 Japanese words to be fluent in the language. But it can't just be any words, as you could simply learn the names of people, places, and Pokémon to hit one or two thousand.

Is it cheaper to live in America or Japan? ›

The average cost of living in Japan ($1171) is 45% less expensive than in the United States ($2112). Japan ranked 43rd vs 6th for the United States in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.

What is the cheapest place to live in Japan? ›

Kyoto and Kawasaki are among the cheapest places to rent in Japan, and Tsushima city and Fukuoka boast some of the lowest living costs for utilities, groceries, and eating out.

Where do most foreigners live in Japan? ›

Approximately 32% of all expat residents live in just three areas: Tokyo, Nagoya prefecture, and Osaka. Many foreign workers come to Japan to work for one of the biggest companies in Japan, such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Honda.

What is the number 1 language in the world? ›

1. English (1,132 million speakers) Like Latin or Greek at the time, English is the universal language of today. It is the default language in international business, tourism, technology, and much more.

Is Korean or Japanese easier? ›

Unlike other East-Asian languages, Korean isn't a tonal language. This means, that the meaning of the word doesn't change, regardless of what your accent is like. This makes learning Korean much easier than Japanese.

What is the world's easiest language? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

Can you pass JLPT N2 6 months? ›

This is by far the most important strategy for passing the JLPT N2. Give yourself LOTS of time. This is common sense, but very few people do this. If you give yourself 6 months to study, that is more than enough time to pass the test with flying colors.

Is N3 Japanese Good? ›

N3 is the middle ground that serves as a good indicator that you have enough Japanese skills to survive in Japan on a day-to-day basis. For job-hunting purposes, you will have to aim for at least N2 or N1.

How can I pass JLPT N1 in 6 months? ›

Here are six simple steps that will push you from an N2 level to the N1 level:
  1. Review what you know.
  2. Expand your vocabulary.
  3. Listen to N1 level podcasts and videos.
  4. Immerse yourself in Japanese as much as possible.
  5. Use a study book.
  6. Take all the practice tests you can find.

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