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How Long Does It Take to Learn N3 Japanese?

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

How Long Does It Take to Learn N3 Japanese?

Japanese is one of the popular languages for people to learn due to its fascinating history, traditions, and modern-day influences like anime, manga, and games. Just like any other language, Japanese also has its own evaluation system to measure proficiency level and one of them is called a N3 level. But what exactly does this level mean and how long does it take to reach this level? Understanding the time commitment can help set expectations and create a study plan. So, let's explore this topic and provide a perspective for those who are eager to take up this challenge.

What is the N3?

Before we delve into the question, it's important to understand what N3 Japanese refers to. The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 日本語能力試験 serves as a standard for evaluating one's proficiency in the language. It ranges from N5 (beginner) to N1 (advanced), with N3 being considered an intermediate level. Achieving an N3 certification demonstrates your ability to comprehend everyday conversations and read written materials in a variety of situations.

The Structure of the N3 Test

Before we dive into how to ace the JLPT N3, let's break down the different parts of the exam:

Scores needed to Pass N3 Test

1. Vocabulary (語彙 "goi"):

This section evaluates your knowledge of everyday Japanese words and phrases.

Focus on expanding your word bank through study materials and flashcards.

Pay attention to word usage in real-life contexts.

2. Grammar (文法 "bun-pō"):

Here, you'll be tested on sentence structure and grammar rules.

Study different grammar patterns and sentence structures found in everyday conversations and written materials.

Understand how grammar affects the meaning of sentences.

Together with Vocabulary, They make up the Language Knowledge section which you need to score a minimum of 19 out of 60 to pass.

3. Reading Comprehension (読解 "dokkai"):

This part assesses your ability to understand written passages from newspapers, magazines, and other sources.

Practice reading diverse texts to improve comprehension and focus on identifying main ideas, details, and passage structures.

This section also has a minimum passing grade which is 19 out of 60.

4. Listening Comprehension (聴解 "chō-kai"):

The listening comprehension section evaluates your understanding of spoken Japanese in various contexts.

Listen to different audio materials like conversations, news reports, and dialogues.

Try to grasp the main points, details, and nuances in what you hear.

Finally, the Listening section also comes with a minimum passing score of 19 out of 60.

Altogether, you need to score at least 95 out of 180 in order to pass the N3 level.

Factors That Determine How Long It Takes

1. Previous Experience: If you have exposure to the language or a basic understanding of N4 or N5, progressing to N3 proficiency may take less time compared to someone starting from scratch.

2. Study Time: It's not about the duration in days or years but the hours of active and focused study. The more time you dedicate each day, the quicker your progress is likely to be.

3. Effective Study Methods: Quality outweighs quantity. Engaging in methods such as conversing with speakers or immersing yourself in the language can expedite learning compared to solely relying on textbooks.

4. Individual Language Aptitude: Some individuals naturally grasp languages at a faster pace than others. However, this doesn't mean that achieving proficiency is impossible; it might simply require a bit of time and effort for individuals.

Estimated Timelines Based on Different Scenarios

Casual Learner (3-4 hours per week): If you are studying Japanese as a hobby or dedicating a few hours per week, it could take 2 to 3 years to reach N3 proficiency.

Dedicated Learner (10-15 hours per week): With a substantial commitment of weekly study time, you could potentially attain N3 proficiency within around 1 to 1.5 years.

Intensive Learner (30+ hours per week): If you fully immerse yourself in the language by living in Japan or taking a course, reaching N3 proficiency within 6 months to 1 year is possible.

Keep in mind that these timeframes are approximate as everyone's language-learning journey is unique.

Advantages of Passing the JLPT N3

Now that you have a good understanding of the timeline, let's highlight the advantages of passing this intermediate-level exam.

1. Expanded Career Opportunities: Passing the N3 demonstrates your ability to work in Japanese-speaking environments, potentially opening doors to job opportunities in Japan or Japanese companies abroad.

2. Enhanced Study Abroad Opportunities: If you're considering studying in Japan, having an N3 certification can be beneficial. Some universities in Japan require a certain JLPT level for admission, and even if it's not mandatory, it can strengthen your application.

3. Personal Achievement: Passing the JLPT N3 is a significant achievement that demonstrates your commitment to learning a challenging language. It can boost your confidence and motivate you to continue your language studies.

4. Pathway to Higher Levels: The JLPT is divided into different levels, and passing the N3 serves as a stepping stone to more advanced levels like N2 and N1. So passing the N3 can inspire you to set higher language proficiency goals.

Key Areas of Study to Prioritize

To make the most of your study time and prepare for the N3 level, focus on these areas;

1. Kanji: At the N3 level, you should aim to familiarize yourself with 650 Kanji characters. Consistent practice and usage will help solidify them in your memory.

2. Vocabulary: It is essential to acquire around 3,750 words for the N3 level. Utilizing apps, flashcards, or engaging in reading can significantly enhance your skills.

3. Grammar: Develop an understanding of grammar points. Books specifically designed for JLPT N3 preparation can be resources.

4. Listening: The N3 exam also assesses listening comprehension skills. Regularly exposing yourself to podcast shows or radio broadcasts will train your ears. Improve your listening abilities.

5. Speaking: Although speaking is not directly assessed in the JLPT exam, engaging in conversations will reinforce what you learn and make the language more practical for use.

Resources to Pass N3


1. しんにほんごのきそ "Shin Nihongo no Kiso" series: This series is often recommended for those preparing for the N3 level.

2. 日本語総まとめ "Nihongo So-matome" series: They offer comprehensive study materials for each JLPT level, including N3.

Online Courses and Tutors:

1. Websites like iTalki, Preply, or Verbling can connect you with Japanese language tutors for personalized instruction.

2. Platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and edX offer online Japanese courses, some of which are tailored to JLPT preparation.

Practice Books:

1. JLPT Official Practice Workbook N3: This book includes sample questions and answers to help you familiarize yourself with the test format. Often, the exam questions are very similar to these sample questions, so make sure you check them out before the exam!

In Summary

"How long does it typically take to reach the N3 level, in Japanese?" is a question that doesn't have one answer. The journey toward N3 proficiency varies from person to person and is influenced by various factors. The key lies in maintaining consistency by utilizing study methods and immersing oneself in the language as much as possible.

It's important to remember that learning a language goes beyond passing an exam; it's about connecting with a culture, grasping its intricacies, and unlocking new experiences. Each hour you dedicate to learning brings you closer to fluency and the sheer delight of comprehending a world.

Whether you approach Japanese as a learner, a student, or someone fully engaged in immersion, take time to celebrate your achievements along the way, savor the learning process itself, and may luck be on your side as they say in Japanese, がんばれ!Ganbare!

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