How many kanji should I learn a day?

Learning kanji can seem like an intimidating task for students of the Japanese language. With over 2,000 daily use kanji characters, plus thousands more less common ones, it’s natural to wonder how many kanji you should be learning each day. While there is no single right answer, setting a sustainable daily kanji study goal is important for making steady progress.

How Many Kanji Are There?

The total number of kanji characters is massive – over 50,000 in total. However, only a small percentage of these are in common use today. The most important to focus on are:

  • 2,136 jōyō kanji – the officially designated “general use” kanji that Japanese students learn through high school
  • 980 jinmeiyō kanji – unofficial supplementary kanji designated for personal names
  • About 3,000-4,000 common use kanji – those frequently used in Japanese media, literature, newspapers, etc.

Together, these add up to around 5,000-6,000 kanji regarded as essential for literacy and everyday life by most Japanese language learners. The jōyō and jinmeiyō lists provide a good foundation to build from.

How Many Kanji Per Day?

A common question asked by beginner and intermediate language learners alike is “How many new kanji should I be learning each day?” Here are some general guidelines:

  • Absolute beginners – 5-10 new kanji per day
  • Early intermediates – 10-15 new kanji per day
  • Intermediates – 15-25 new kanji per day
  • Advanced learners – 25-35+ new kanji per day

These ranges account for differing abilities and prior experience. A brand new learner should start small, while someone who already knows 500+ kanji can ramp up faster. The most important thing is choosing a daily goal you can realistically achieve.

Focus on Kanji Recognition First

It’s important to note these guidelines are for kanji recognition, not writing. When starting out, recognition should be the priority. Once you know 2,000+ kanji visually, you can go back and practice writing them and cement that knowledge.

Trying to master both recognition and writing for too many new kanji daily will quickly lead to burnout. Initially focus on recognizing meanings, readings, and vocab using SRS flashcards or apps like Anki.

Tips for Setting Your Kanji Study Pace

Here are some tips for arriving at a sustainable daily kanji learning goal:

  • Assess your current ability. If totally new, start with 5-10. If you already know hundreds, ramp up faster.
  • Make recognition the priority over writing at first.
  • Use SRS flashcards/apps like Anki to drill kanji meanings and readings.
  • Study kanji in context – learn vocabulary using that kanji each day.
  • Focus on high-frequency kanji first before obscure ones.
  • Review previously learned kanji often to prevent forgetting.
  • Monitor your retention rate. If forgetting many kanji, reduce the daily goal.
  • Take occasional breaks to avoid burnout.

Finding the right pace for you depends on consistency. It’s better to learn 10 kanji per day religiously than aim for 30 inconsistently. Reviewing past kanji is also critical – don’t just continuously add new ones.

Order of Kanji to Learn

To maximize efficiency, prioritize learning kanji in frequency order. Focus first on the most common kanji used in Japanese writing and speech. Good frequency ordered kanji lists include:

  • Most common jōyō kanji
  • Newspaper kanji frequency lists
  • JLPT level kanji
  • Japanese school grade kanji lists

You can find pre-made Anki decks and kanji study guides ordered by frequency. Native Japanese textbooks also introduce kanji in order of everyday usage.

Learning kanji that appear often will let you recognize more vocabulary and content faster. Mix in writing practice for previously learned high-use kanji to reinforce them.

Learn Kanji in Context

Rather than studying kanji in isolation, learn them together with vocabulary using that kanji. Native Japanese methods focus on kanji usage in words and sentences.

For each new kanji, aim to learn 5-10 vocabulary words containing it. Seeing kanji used in context is key for understanding the associated meanings and readings.

Useful context examples include:

  • Common words and phrases
  • Example sentences
  • Idioms and sayings
  • Names of people and places

Prioritize vocabulary for the current kanji that’s practical and frequently used. Avoid obscure or outdated examples.

Stick to a Consistent Study Schedule

Consistency is one of the most important factors for kanji learning success. Decide what daily goal works for you, then stick to it as much as possible.

Schedule time every day for kanji study. 10-30 minutes daily can enable major progress over months and years.

Tips for staying consistent include:

  • Study at the same time each day
  • Connect kanji study to existing habits like commuting or breakfast
  • Use phone app reminders and alerts
  • Make quick reviews part of your routine
  • Track progress in a journal
  • Join an online community for motivation

It’s natural to occasionally skip a day – just get back on track as soon as you can. Avoid long multi-week breaks which can cause you to forget kanji.

Adjust Your Pace Over Time

Your optimal kanji learning pace will evolve based on your growing knowledge and skills. Avoid sticking to one rigid daily goal forever.

Initially, choose a comfortable pace for a beginner. As your abilities improve after studying for weeks or months, gradually increase the number of new kanji per day.

Also periodically evaluate your retention rate. If you are forgetting kanji often or struggling, reduce your pace. It’s not a race – sustainable, enjoyable progress is the aim.

Advanced students can eventually learn 25+ new kanji daily by focusing on recognition and prioritizing high-use kanji. Writing can be practiced separately for already learned kanji.

Mnemonics Help When Struggling

Use memory aids and mnemonic tricks when you find certain kanji particularly challenging. Association techniques that link kanji shapes to memorable meanings, like:

  • Radicals – break down kanji into component parts
  • Stories – create an imaginative story from the kanji parts
  • Visualization – imagine vivid imagery that fits the meaning

These help anchor tricky kanji in your mind by strengthening neural connections. Mnemonics provide a backstop when standard methods like flashcards fail.

Review, Review, Review

Continual review of past kanji is absolutely vital for long-term retention. Spaced repetition using SRS flashcards reinforces kanji knowledge through practice over time.

Set aside dedicated time each study session to review old material. Common methods include:

  • SRS flashcard drilling with Anki, WaniKani, etc
  • Self-quizzing on past kanji meanings and readings
  • Periodic practice writing a random sampling of older kanji
  • Reading Japanese text containing learned kanji

Review hundreds of past kanji every week, not just the new ones you’re learning. Kanji knowledge must be continually reinforced or it will slip away.

Track Your Progress

Seeing tangible results provides motivation to keep studying kanji. Try tracking metrics like:

  • Total number of kanji learned
  • Number of new kanji learned per day/week
  • Scores on practice quizzes or tests
  • Number of vocabulary words learned using kanji

Seeing your knowledge grow will encourage you to stick with it. Apps, journals, and kanji learning logs can all help.

Besides statistics, notice when previously unfamiliar Japanese looks more readable due to learning more kanji.


Learning kanji takes consistent practice over time, but is very achievable. Stick with a daily study pace you can sustain, prioritize high-frequency kanji, and continually reinforce your knowledge.

With smart goal-setting and habits, mastering hundreds or even thousands of kanji characters for reading and vocabulary usage is within reach.

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