Took longer than I was initially hoping for back in October '18, but here we are. 60.
If you’re reading this there’s no reason you can’t make it all the way as well, and I hope you do. So, I’ll jot down a few thoughts that might help keep you on track. I can at least say that they worked for me.
Have A Goal
“Well - my goal is to learn Japanese.”
I view language as a means to an end - so what’s the end goal? Maybe it’s speaking with Japanese family members. It might be consuming your favorite manga or anime in Japanese, or watching an old Kurosawa film without subtitles. One way or another, it’s something specific to set your sights on.
It’s conceivable that some might reach a high level of proficiency learning a language just for the hell of it. If so, great! But I suspect this is not the typical experience.
At some point along the way this is going to get hard or life will get in the way or whatever. I found that when I had a specific end in mind (e.g. a trip to Japan) I was far more motivated and likely to stay on course. What’s the next clear and tangible milestone on your journey?
Don’t Be Afraid To Make Adjustments
At some point your studies will be challenging, but smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.
Accept this while you’re still in a smooth sailing phase. That way when it does get tough it’s more a feeling of, “Well I knew this was coming, now what do I want to do about it” rather than feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
Know when to make changes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the number of reviews you have, stop taking lessons for a bit, or only a handful every day. Whatever the situation, it’s fine to change your game plan when something isn’t working out.
This is something I should have done better early on. The initial pace I was on here worked great for about half a year, but then was unsustainable. Instead of adjusting I burned out and was away from my studies for months.
Don’t; or at least I’m glad I didn’t.
I’ve taken two ~6 months breaks and come back to ~3000 reviews both times. In this situation I really think it’s best to just get through them, for a few reasons.
First, it’s not as bad as you might think. Just plan to get it down 50-100 per day and you’ll be back on track in no time; it’s far less intimidating this way.
Second, I suspect resetting will invariably cost you more time in the long run. The cards you’re getting wrong are already “resetting” themselves anyway, so why throw away the progress on the stuff you do know? In my case, even at 33% accuracy - many of those being burn reviews - that’s as many as 1000 cards each time that would have been set back months.
Third, once you prove to yourself that you can do it, you’ll be even more resilient the next time you find yourself challenged. Or if you wake up to find 200-300 reviews awaiting your attention it’s like, “Well I’ve tackled worse than this before, piece of cake.”
If there’s an area where I think WaniKani can continue to improve it’s expansion of synonyms. In the meantime I highly recommend adding user synonyms to many of your cards.
There are just so many valid ways you might think to answer some of these, especially after not having seen them in months. It’s frustrating getting to a Burn review and getting it wrong because you answered “receiving humbly” versus “humbly receiving.” Or you put in an answer that WK doesn’t accept, but yet it’s listed on Jisho or Weblio as perfectly fine.
So for every new card I started thinking, “Is there another way I might phrase this answer 5 months from now?” Double check it against a Japanese-English dictionary to make sure you’re not stretching the meaning too far. But something along these lines will save a lot of frustration down the road.
Where To From Here?
It’s quite humbling picking up a book of short stories or flipping on the news for a few minutes and finding just how much vocabulary is out there that I still have to learn. With that said I feel like after getting this far on WaniKani you can guess at word readings and meanings with a fair degree of accuracy even if you’re seeing it for the first time. It’s really pretty remarkable.
I’ll finish out my lessons and continue to drill content for some months here, but I’m definitely going to transition more towards consumption of native content, listening practice, and using the language.
I found a video a while back with an encouraging message on perseverance from a (now retired) Japanese athlete. Looks like this may have even originally been recorded on VHS years ago but has been transferred to digital and put on YouTube for posterity. It’s short and entirely in Japanese but this version has English subtitles.
Perhaps this will give you an extra boost of motivation to get through your reviews today, so I leave you with: