3 years and counting

Hi all,

First, this post is going to be very long so…

TLDR: 3 years of WKing later: I absolutely love the Japanese language, and Wanikani has helped me turn my life around

I just wanted to make a quick post to reflect on the last few years since I started WK - this wall of disorganized text is mostly for myself but may be helpful to anyone else who has faced some of the same challenges

I went to Japan for one month in August 2017 equipped with about 20 lessons worth of Pimsleur Japanese 1 and despite the lack of communication skills I had the best time of my life. Upon returning, I spent about 3 days doing nothing but research about how I could start to learn the language, which led me here.
The beginning of my WK journey started exactly 3 years ago yesterday.

Like a lot of people, I assumed I would kick ass and finish in about a year and somehow be able to watch anime with no subs and hold a fluent conversation. Sadly it took me a long time to figure out that kanji was only one part of the language and would only get me so far.

At the time I was working as an electrician and the job site I was working at had a long commute of about 1.5 each way every day for 3 months. I spent every minute possible hiding out where I could to blast out my reviews, and it helped me push through this rough time. However, the next year I became complacent and started to lose track of my goals and really didn’t make that much progress. I studied off and on, had my wedding in July 2018 and was way behind on my reviews.

My wife and I started planning our honeymoon to Japan which gave me a boost in motivation, and I was able to get to around level 12-15 (I don’t remember exactly) before the trip.

My whole life I was a horrible student who was mostly interested in playing games, and I also never thought I would be able to go to university. Being able to memorize hundreds of kanji gave me a serious confidence boost and I started to realize I could probably do something different with my life if I wanted to. On my second trip to Japan I hadn’t studied any grammar, but all the kanji I knew were popping up everywhere and I was able to function much more effectively than the first trip. This completely empowered me and during the trip my wife and I started talking about me going back to school.

Shortly after I returned, I took some placement tests at a local college and was accepted for an arts program. I also reset my WK down to level 6 because I had let things get out of hand before and during my trip.

From this point on, I had quite a few long breaks but for the most part I was doing about 2 weeks per level while taking a full course load. Luckily, I was able to take Japanese for both semesters at the college and finished up Genki 1 and 2. Thanks to my GPA I was able to transfer into one of the top two schools in my province (BC/Canada). With the pandemic getting out of control, I didn’t enroll in classes for the summer which enabled me to get into a groove of about 7 days per level from March to August.
This is when I changed my approach and started working through more native materials and listening to a lot of JP audio. Until this point my listening skills were completely horrible and I had trouble even figuring out what was going on in the Genki CDs. I sort of adopted a WK friendly and less extreme version of the mass immersion approach which helped me bridge the gap into natural Japanese.

At the same time, I worked through Genki 2 by myself and used italki tutors 1/2 times per week, and I’ve now started working through Tobira.

Tbh, my speaking is probably barely N4 as my output is still not great, but reading and listening are both N4+ (I think)
From this point, I’m hoping to move through Tobira, continue with italki, listen to JP podcasts throughout the day, and watch anime with JP subs while still taking a full coarse load. I’ve taken a 2 week break on WK to do reviews only before I start my next semester, but I hope to get to 60 in January/February. After the pandemic is over I would really love to go back to Japan and put my skills to use

I honestly never thought I would be working through WK still after 3 years, but I have begun to realize that language is going to be a lifelong journey and the speed isn’t as important as consistency.
Curedolly says that you measure language learning in hours, not years. I completely agree, because the first two years for me I really didn’t put in that much effort. If I think of having spent 3 years to get to N4 it seems like a long time, but it’s really only been one year that I made it a part of my life and really studied hard.

Reflecting on my journey so far, a few thoughts/personal advice…

My pace - All the “be fluent in a year” stuff out there is a good motivator, but definitely unrealistic for most people. I think the most important thing is to try to fit your learning into your life and stay consistent.

Have fun - Learning can be stressful, but it is also hugely rewarding. When you start doing things in Japanese for fun, it becomes a part of your life instead of just a subject to study

SRS pitfall - Honestly srs programs are fantastic and enable us to remember so much that we would have forgotten. The problem is when we take on too much. I had one point where I was juggling 4 srs programs and I spent little time doing any other study. Right now I’m only doing anki sentences from the anime I watch and WK. After I will probably get back in bunpro, but right now its too much to maintain

Grammar - I have never seen such huge leaps in comprehension as when I learn new grammar. Sometimes things I have noticed in passing many times and not thought twice about will pop up in a grammar lesson, and my entire understanding changes instantly. I neglected grammar for almost 2 whole years. WK can be so comfortable and you know you are learning, but forget to study other parts of the language. Grammar study has really been the key for me to be able to level up my Japanese. All those vocab I learned don’t seem that useful if I can’t form them into a sentence!

Laugh at your mistakes - I have made some stupid mistakes that were really embarrassing, but reflecting on them makes me laugh and realize how far I have come. I have called myself senpai to a hotel concierge, and replied with just “夏休み” to a grocery store clerk when she asked if I have lived in Japan. I also thought there was someone really popular named Taku-san that everyone kept talking about… Being afraid to make mistakes in language learning can really hamper your ability to progress - nobody will be able to study enough to magically become a fluent speaker one day

Native content & listening - I severely underestimated the importance of just listening for study. Over the last 6 months I have been listening to japanese audio whether its podcasts (shout out to nihongoconteppei) or audio from the anime I watch. This has significantly improved my ability to hear the language, and really didn’t cost me any extra time. Any time I go for a walk, clean, cook, or drive I’m always listening. These little moments throughout the day add up and in just 6 months I can say my listening has become much more comfortable and better than my speaking skills. I can understand about 70-90% of nihongoconteppei now from about 30-50% before. I used to listen to pimsleur, but I really think native audio at native speed is much more beneficial in the long run.

Wanikani - This program is honestly fantastic and I really appreciate the hard work the team has put in to make this an awesome experience. I’m excited to work through the last quarter of it and join the 60s club in the beginning of the new year. I can honestly say without WK I would probably still be slogging around a construction site getting electrocuted instead of starting my second year of university and having a blast learning Japanese.

For anyone who actually read any of this stuff, thanks for taking the time! The community here has been really supportive and is an integral part of the WK experience. Shout out also to @jprspereira for some really good advice he gave me last year that helped me keep on track


This was an enjoyable read. Thank you for sharing your journey so far.
now maybe I really need to open that Genki book to learn grammar… :sweat:
While you are aiming for that golden 60, I am shooting for 42 by end of year. Hopefully finish Genki I by then as well.

All the best in uni as well as your language studies! I am rooting for you Jerricent- 先輩!


That’s a pretty long TLDR. So, where’s the very long post?


Lol this made my day actually haha

Thanks for sharing your story and all the progress you’ve made! Good luck with your language learning journey and I can’t wait to see that level 60 post from you. :slight_smile:


This is one of the most interesting personal journeys I have read about here. With respect grammar, I took a different route but I agree with you. Only now I’m going thru Genki 2. Even grammar topics that at first glance do not seem important (i.e., かもしれません) expand one’s knowledge so much.


Huge congratulations with the progress man, keep up the great work!


A wonderful story - thanks for sharing. What programme are you doing at uni?


This makes me feel better about doing WK for two years and only being on level 26. I always see these amazing people who finished WK in a year and it makes me feel like maybe I wasn’t serious enough.

Hope to meet you at level 60 someday!


Thank you very much for sharing your story. I am almost a year in studying japanese. And tbh the thought of “maybe it is my fault not starting X when i could” and i totally agree with fun with language learning. I probably wouldn’t be here if i was forcing my way through.


haha thanks that really made me laugh
I’m sure you will make your goals - good luck!

tbh I’m not sure yet - I just took whatever was interesting so far to get transfer credit. I’m taking Calculus now and some science courses and will probably transition into an applied sciences program next year. My school has big departments for comp sci and also mechatronics - something like this would be interesting and (hopefully) offer me a chance to work in Japan later on

You are doing just fine really! At the 2 year mark I was still sitting around lv 15-16. 少しずつ … you will get there

Yeah for sure 頑張りましょうね

chatty chatty with the Jerricent-先輩

Well everyone with a higher level than me is always a 先輩. :stuck_out_tongue: Same goes for those who have reached 60 before me.

Also, did not realize you are just across the border! I’m a PNW resident now. Did you know that Tojo’s is on my bucket list, 先輩? The JapaDog also is something I must partake of when I do have the chance to visit your city.


A very nice read!
And always glad to see others like myself.
3 1/5 years since I started my WaniKani journey :wink:

I am on a longer “work through leaches” break, doing only reviews until I’m ready to continue.
I was planing on maybe continue again slowly next week, but I can see so many reviews coming back still so probably best to wait a lill longer (also games coming, so less time =P AND we are finally getting Disney+ on Tuesday! I’ve heard the Mandalorian can be viewed in Japanese! So I will TRY do some studying with it :wink: )

I’m behind on grammar too. I think I want to spend more time on grammar and less on endless reviews =P
So maybe continue the last few levels next year! =P
Slow and steady is better than fast and crash and burn with a burnout! XD (Only happened 3 times, when will I learn :roll_eyes: )

I’ve done a lot of reading, but little to no listening. I bought Harry Potter audiobook so I can read it first and then listen. Even after reading first I could only catch a few words! On half speed I got a whole lot more though, better than nothing I guess! :rofl:


I actually started reading this last week too - it’s a bit out of my league right now but still interesting to work through. I think the audiobook is a good idea I may try that out also

Those damn leaches haha - I’ve had quite a few times where I had to stop for a while before I get overwhelmed. The nice thing is when you starting seeing them in context and they just disappear

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Audible lets you listen for free, but not download it so I bought it instead. They only seem to have book one though, probably because of the “freebee” that they have it at all.
I hope they get the others later.

I still have to read it along side the English version. But I catch more than I used to on other reads <3


Haha that’s awesome we are pretty lucky with the JP population here. There are some really good spots - I used to go to Japadog all the time before the pandemic. Are you near Seattle? I love going to Kinokuniya every once in a while to get new manga.

If you get the chance to come up here after the COVID is gone let me know. I’ve actually still never been to Tojos - it’s sitting on my list of places to go to once things are back to normal

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Ah that’s cool I will definitely check it out. I’m sure they will have it all eventually as its still pretty popular. I think audio is super important for learning the pronunciation properly. Also I need to fill up on those fantasy vocab - my italki sensei said 竜(りゅう/dragon) to me the other day in a lesson and I had no idea what he was talking about. Funny enough that is a level 44 kanji I just haven’t done the lesson for yet… but I felt pretty stupid considering we were talking about how I’m playing Dragon Quest XI in JP right now lol

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more chatty with 先輩

I wish I could afford to be a Seattleite. :stuck_out_tongue: But I am close enough that I can ferry in to Seattle whenever. I have been saving money so I can go to Kinokuniya :laughing: not sure how much damage I would do to my wallet so I have been avoiding going there. Ha!

Wow, this must be a nice treat. I saw a tv episode on it and it just made me want to drive over. :laughing:

This is good to know. I will definitely let you know. Their omakase sounds pretty good right about now :sushi: I will put this on my Vancouver itinerary so I won’t forget to let you know.

Okay virus time to go away. Me and Jerricent-先輩 need to meet the creator of the inside-out roll stat!

Btw, just say your most recent comment. Who do you use in italki? I have been thinking of utilizing the service and would welcome a recommendation.


Congrats on…

Going to Japan
Getting Married
Going Back to School
Getting to WK Level 42

Stick with it. I’ve been trying, poorly, to learn Japanese for about 20 years now and while I can understand TON of spoken Japanese, never actually speaking it means I don’t think in Japanese and can only barely form the basic of sentences when I do. Last 2 times I was in Japan though, my coworkers were all really surprised when I seemed to understand what they were saying and encouraged me to just keep learning. So here I am!

My WK goal for the year is hopefully level 15 with a goal of 60 by end of 2021. Or more realistically, 60 by mid 2022 assuming I can keep up on actually learning the other parts of the language!

chit chat with my 友達

Just figured out how to use that triangle hiding thing…

Haha I agree - the sooner the better

This really depends on what you want to use italki for! Right now I’ve been using 4 different teachers, but it will change depending on what I want to work on

If you listen to nihongoconteppei, Teppei is actually an italki tutor (albeit an expensive one) and he is a lot of fun to talk to. He has a lot of knowledge and I’m used to the way he talks because I’ve listened to about 500 of his podcasts. I was talking with him for a few months, but I couldn’t afford to keep using him once a week so now I talk to him about once every 4-6 weeks

Right now I’m using these three alternating
Kota - Learn Japanese with Kota - Your Japanese tutor from italki
Lee - Learn Japanese with Risei - Your Japanese tutor from italki
Ryusei - Learn Japanese with Ryusei - Your Japanese tutor from italki

Kota and Lee we just free talk about whatever and they correct me when I say unnatural stuff and type out the sentences for me to look at. Their lessons are both reasonably priced and they are nice guys. Lee is in Montreal so his availability is more convenient for me

Ryusei is a bit more expensive but he has more experience teaching. He asks a lot of tough questions to get you thinking in Japanese more, and he also specializes in intonation/pitch accent which I will use him for a lot in the future probably

My advice for italki is to figure out what type of learning you respond to and what you want to get out of it, then find a teacher that will work for you. I have seen and tried teachers that offer different things such as

  • If you want a more structured classroom style teacher to figure out your level and work through grammar
  • if you want to just chat and practice listening/speaking
  • if you want help writing in Japanese
  • if you want pitch accent lessons
  • if you want help learning how to text with Japanese people on Line etc
  • if you want to prep for JLPT
  • if you want to learn different dialects

For me I was having trouble outputting naturally and I didn’t want to keep pace with a textbook or powerpoints so I just use it for chatting about stuff right now. My mother in law (Taiwanese about N2-N3 level) uses it in a structured course style to learn grammar nuances.
Both of us have noticed a huge improvement in our skills over the last 6 months or so

One really cool thing is italki has trial lessons that are much cheaper than normal - you can book up to 3 of them to try out some different teachers and see who you like. If you want a quick trial and are looking for mostly speaking practice, maybe give Lee or Kota a try

Haha sorry this turned into another wall of text. Let me know if you have any other questions!


Well hello there! I’m from the province of Québec! I went to Japan in 2017 to visit my brother. I stayed there for 3 weeks and started WaniKani during my trips. Prior to WK, I knew roughly 250 kanjis so the first 10-15 level were not a challenge at all for me. Since then if I take my 4 longest times per level, I think they account for a bit more than 365 days. I’ve been studying Japanese on & off for 15 years. Kanjis were a major pain and felt impossible before WK. Now I can see that Kanjis definitely doable but speaking and listening still feel really hard. Realistically speaking with books and apps, I hope to greatly improve my grammar to ace a N4 test. Listening as well, I hope that watching Japanese youtubers and the Genki CDs and NHK news will help reach a comfortable N4 maybe N3ish. For speaking, it’s too much effort for me: with work and kids, there’s no time.

Your pace is pretty impressive considering what you said. I’m trying to be in the range of 15-25 days to manage my guru/master/enlightened stacks. I’m curious: how many burn items do you have?

Good luck with your goals and wish you many more trips to Japan. I know I wish I cloud go there every year and not maybe each 5 years.