500 days in the life of a serial restarter

Hello everyone! I’m usually a lurker — this is only my second post here. However, during my Wanikani journey, I read several Level 60 celebration posts that inspired me and kept me going, so even if I don’t have anything new to add, I hope this post is useful to someone else!

My history with Japanese

To put the rest of the post in context, I’m a Portuguese 30-something year-old woman, no children, but 2 dogs and a demanding full time job. I guess I don’t really remember when or why I decided to learn Japanese. I’ve always liked videogames, and I loved anime (who else remembers the TV channel Locomotion?) and especially manga in my teenage years. I must’ve read hundreds of volumes of manga (in English — I was a broke teenager and I sailed the high seas…), and I even dipped my toes in cosplaying. Still, I didn’t (and still don’t) know a single person in real life who was studying the language. My only reference from that time is a Kanji Koohii registration dated 2008, so I must have tried RTK around that time. I remember obsessively reading the now gone Kanji Koohii forums, but not much more. I registered for Wanikani in 2015 — I still have the closed beta e-mail — but I have no idea if I even tried it then. The only thing I clearly remember from those failed attempts at learning Japanese is that I completed recognition RTK (I think while I was a university student), and I also know that I made a Bunpro account in 2019.
In January 2020, I went to France in what was supposed to be a 6 month internship (but COVID-19 happened and I had to fly back to Portugal in March). I started (restarted?) Wanikani at that time, which in hindsight was not my smartest idea, since I had to juggle learning Japanese and French (my French needed improvement, so I was listening/reading to French content daily, studying French grammar and trying to speak/write in French at work). In my experience, studying two languages simultaneously, even if one of them is not from scratch, does not work well. Still, I continued Wanikani until October, and decided to take a break at Level 20. What happened was that I completely lost steam and abandoned Wanikani. I fell into the trap of trying to optimize my Japanese learning, and to my eyes Wanikani was not “optimal”. I also fell into the trap of trying and subsequently abandoning multiple resources, always starting back at the beginning. These included Genki I, JALUP, NativShark, the Core 6000 Anki deck, Tango N5 (which I completed), Satori Reader, Watanoc, Tae Kim, Cure Dolly, Japanese the Manga Way, Pimsleur, and JapanesePod101 (completed JLPT N5 e N4 Recommended Courses). These are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. The important part is, until 2022, I had never even touched native content.

The 500 days of Wanikani

In January 2022, I started my present attempt at studying Japanese. I don’t know specifically what made me start learning again, but i’ve always like language learning as a hobby. I reviewed Genki I in tandem with Bunpro, and also completed the Outlier Kanji Masterclass at this time (which I highly recommend). I restarted Wanikani back at level 1 in July 2022. At first I had no fixed schedule for doing lessons, and tried to follow the guideline of having approximately 100 Apprentice items. I slowed down after Level 9 because at that time I also did a certification related to my job, for which I had to seriously study. In November, at Level 11, I attempted to read manga for the first time! It was チーズスイートホーム, but still, it felt like a breakthrough. I read the first volume while reading through the Book Club Thread, and I found it quite easy. At Level 19, I was starting to become impatient and experimented with reordering (always completing vocabulary lessons) and picked up the pace. I did a few 7-8 day levels before deciding to stop reordering because it made related vocabulary appear too far from the time that the respective kanji hit guru. After that, when I was Level 30, I went back to the standard lesson order, and proceeded to add an average of 20 new cards/day while aiming for 8 day levels. Why 8 days? Because it it the lowest number of days per level that allows for a fixed schedule — I did the bulk of my reviews in the morning (during my commute, and later on when it wasn’t enough time I started to wake up a little earlier to do more reviews before work), added new cards in the afternoon, and did the Apprentice II reviews in the evening. The other important change I did around this time was switching to doing most of my reviews on a laptop and without distractions, which made them go much faster. I also started following some study logs to maintain motivation, and when I noticed that I was on track to end more or less at the same time that MissDagger did (except 1 year later), I started to “race” her log. In the later levels, apparently I was also learning English, because there were words which I don’t even know in my native language (Sedge? Fiefdom? I also learned that graveyard and cemetery aren’t the same thing — they’re the same word in Portuguese). 500 days later, I finally hit level 60! Here are my stats:


Scripts

Thank you, thank you, script authors who make Wanikani usable. My essential scripts were back-to-back (reading first), Reorder Omega and Double-Check. Flaming and later Smouldering Durtles were absolutely essential for reviewing on the train. How much did I use Double-Check? Quite a lot, especially closer to the end. At first I only corrected typos, and always corrected Radical and Kanji reviews before they hit Guru. Later I started being more liberal with the meanings (less so with the readings), and usually gave myself two attempts before I failed an item (especially when going fast, I made stupid mistakes which would never happen in context). I also stopped failing Radicals and Kanji (but I always review the isolated Kanji when I fail a Vocabulary review).

What was different this time around?

  • Routine, routine, routine;
  • Controlled my perfectionist tendencies — stopped thinking about the “optimal” learning method, drastically reduced the number of resources I was using, started being more lenient with correcting reviews when I felt that it was either that or burning out;
  • Paused other hobbies — I have a lot of interests, and in previous attempts I always had other hobbies going at the same time. This time I dedicated most of my free time to Japanese, which made a huge difference (but my piano is feeling very neglected…)

A small Wanikani review

Wanikani does a few things very well: the system of gradually introducing vocabulary with previously learned Kanji is incredible, and I found the (mostly consistent) mnemonics for the On readings immensely useful. Yes, l felt like learning readings in isolation gave a huge boost to my reading ability, and the Outlier Masterclass I mentioned above also has this perspective (and has credentials to back it up). I don’t really see the point in learning Kun readings in isolation, however. I’s also prefer if Wanikani was more consistent in introducing Kanji from simpler to more complex, to avoid mnemonics with 3-4 “Radicals” just to learn a few levels later that it’s just a different Kanji with an extra Radical. And why does Wanikani feel the need to reintroduce previously learned Kanji as “Radicals”? It doesn’t make any sense. The main negative point for me, however, is that Wanikani took up most of my time available for Japanese. Could I have gone slower and read more? I could, but I’m not sure whether I’d have been able to sustain a slower pace — most likely I’d have lost motivation, and since the time I have available is limited, I feel like focusing in one aspect of Japanese at a time was helpful. In the end, I probably really needed the structure of Wanikani, since it was only recently, after years and years of failed attempts, that I finally started reading native material. Would I recommend Wanikani to someone else? Probably yes, but only if it’s someone who has failed to learn Kanji in the context of learning words. As an aside, I’m completely ignoring kana-only vocabulary in this post, because it’s best if I don’t even remember that those 60 words existed.

What else did I do in these 500 days?

Grammar

  • Completed Bunpro N5 and N4, then put it in Vacation Mode (it was getting tough to maintain more than 1 SRS)
  • Completer Genki II (without doing any exercises)

Vocabulary

  • Completed Tango N5, first in Anki and then I imported it into jpdb.io
  • Started Tango N4, gave up in the middle
  • Used jpdb.io for a few months, but the workload of multiple SRS was too much, and I found that, for me, pre-learning words results in tons of leeches

Listening

  • Listened to hundreds of podcast episodes for learners, mainly Nihongo con Teppei for Beginners (of which I listened to 940 episodes — I’ll listen to 60 more so I can stop at a nice round number)

Reading

  • Completed the Ask Japanese Graded Readers Levels 1-3
  • Completed two sets of Clay and Yumi Graded Readers: Learn Japanese through Dialogues Volumes 1-10 and Learn Japanese with Stories Volumes 1-10
  • Read 5 volumes of manga: チーズスイートホーム (1), よつばと! (2), からかい上手の高木さん (1), and ありす19th (1)

Writing/Speaking

  • Nothing at all! Since my priorities are reading > listening > speaking > writing I want to reach a higher level of comprehension before focusing on output.
What are my plans for the future?

Read more.

And besides reading more?
  • When my SRS load decreases, I’m thinking of going back to Bunpro to try out the new reading mode, and start studying N3 grammar
  • I might use the Shin Kanzen Master Grammar books to check for holes in my knowledge (but I’m still thinking about it)
  • I want to experiment with vocabulary cards mined from my immersion, which will hopefully lead to fewer leeches and be more fun to review
  • I need to find a slightly harder podcast to listen to
Was there cake?

Not really, but today I found out that my local supermarket sold Pocky! I bought one of each flavor to try. They also had the exact brand of Cup Noodles I had just read about in the Level 3 Volume 3 Graded Reader, so I couldn’t resist and brought one home:

Thank you again to the script writers and to the developers of Flaming/Smouldering Durtles. Thank you to all the authors of the study logs that inspired me to continue — which will surely be surprised to be named here, since I’ve never interacted with them in the logs! —, especially @MissDagger, @fallynleaf, @Akashelia (Final Fantasy X is my favorite game of all time!), @javerend (I always want to play piano after reading your log), and @Midnightblue (you were always a little bit ahead of me, it was very motivating to try [and fail] to catch up!). Finally, thanks to @Vanilla, for being an example of the level you can achieve when you put in the work, and for all the highly informative posts you’ve left in this community. Maybe it’s now that I’ll start interacting with the community? Participate in some book clubs? We’ll see. But first, there are still some Level 60 lessons to complete!

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Congrats!! This is an awesome achievement, and it sounds like you’re on a great track with the reading and such!

I’m so glad that my log was able to help in any way! I hope you do decide to stick around the community; I’ve found the book clubs and challenge threads really helpful for finding structure and routine in the post-level-60 life! :blush:

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Now this is someone who has their priorities straight.

Thanks for the shout out! I was pretty surprised but glad I can be a positive example. Congrats on getting to where you’ve gotten and cheers to the journey to come. Hope to see you around

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Congrats!! I hope you stick around, I’m sure the book clubs would be happy to have you!

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Glad to see you’ve made it! Big congrats! :tada::tada::tada:

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Congrats! Love seeing people making it to level 60 and reading celebration posts, and completely honored to be named in it :bowing_woman:

Yeah!!! Counting the days (I mean, the years), until I can play it in Japanese. Even saw an article one day saying that they will make a remake of it? To be continued!

And finally, “welcome” :grin: yeah join us for a book club! The BBC started one week ago, the ABBC starts in one week, timing couldn’t be better!

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Congrats on hitting level 60! :tada: :tada: :tada:

Loved reading your story, and I’m glad my study log provided any sort of motivation :laughing: Hope to see you around on the forums as you start reading more :grin:

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Congratulations!! :tada:
Your perseverance is inspiring and your progress – especially since your present studying attempt from early 2022 onwards – is remarkable! :smiley:

I’m also glad and honoured that I was able to contribute to your motivation of making it to level 60.

Should you not want to read on your own, so to say, I second @Akashelia 's and @fallynleaf 's suggestion: feel free to join a book club if the current picks are of interest to you or the Read Every Day Challenge. Despite there not being a thread for the winter challenge yet (the next thread will probably be posted in the next 1-2 weeks), you can make posts in the current challenge until the next thread is up. :slight_smile:

I wish you all the best for your studies and hope to see you around!

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Now that we talked FFX, I just burned 用心棒 today! Was so happy when I learned the reading of this kanji and suddenly understood Yojimbo’s name :grin:

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Congratulations! :crabigator: :cake:

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Boas, parabéns em chegares ao nível 60! :grin:

500 days, that’s probably better than you’d think. Less than 2 years and you finished Wanikani! You’re already winning over a big majority of people who try to learn Japanese! :grin: You also did amazing with grammar, so it seems you got everything under control! Keep trusting the progress, and you’ll be able to reach the level you so desire! :heart:

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Well done on getting to 60! :tada:

I’m honored you raced along with my log. I never would have imagined it could help motivate anyone. So I’m glad it was of help.

Also, I applaud you for sticking to to 7 day levels for most of the 50s. If I did it over again (which I never ever would, WK is great, but I’m happy to be done :smiley:), I would have done them slower if my circumstances would have allowed it. But racing breathlessly to the finish was what my mental state needed, so I did it.

One benefit with getting it done, is that I’ve been getting into piano about a year later, so if you find a way to keep at Japanese until perhaps you get comfortable reading (easy) manga/books (whatever you prefer), it definitely then easily opens up to releasing some time from studying to put into another hobby if it feels good. And almost a year after finishing, I feel comfortable once again dipping some toes into more formal studying of Japanese.

Basically, don’t be afraid to back away from intense Japanese study if it feel right for you. Try to find something easy to read that requires as few look ups as possible, so it feels less like studying and more like fun, but you’ll likely still need to look up grammar sometimes, and vocabulary for a loooooong time. But having that solid base of kanji helps a lot with reading, so it is possible after getting about N3 grammar under your belt, to release some time to another hobby if you want to.

Or you can do like several others, like @fallynleaf, and keep the focused study up. Whatever works for you. :smiley:

Good luck in the future, and the forum is here, our logs are here, if you want to interact some more. :smiley:


I can really recommend the reading mode. I found BP hard to do after N4 because too many grammar points are similar, and N3 just piles on more and more of it. But with reading mode it is more about understand, and since you’re also more interested in consuming Japanese first, then production of grammar really isn’t that important, understanding it is.

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Thank you all for the encouraging words. I must say you were very effective, since I just bought the current BBC pick :grin:

It was very helpful! Your consistency is incredible, and your enthusiasm for wrestling is contagious — even though I don’t get wrestling at all :sweat_smile:

Yey, I got Nodame cake :grin:
And you’re almost at Level 60 for the second time, that’s incredible!

The Steam version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster has full audio and subtitles in Japanese! I’ve only played it in English, but looking at Japanese let’s play videos it doesn’t seem so bad :thinking:
And I had exactly the same thought with 用心棒!

And my progress before 2022 is a warning to all those who try to juggle 100 different resources in order to optimize their learning and end up spending most of their time studying about Japanese :sweat_smile:

After the 40’s I just wanted to be done with Wanikani, and 500 days sounded nice. The 7 day levels were not too bad since I was able to get into a routine where I learned the Kanji during the weekend, and spread out the vocab throughout the week, but the 5-6 day levels (which were the result of my calculations to hit my artificial deadline of 500 days) were tough. Near the end I had backlogs of >800 reviews at least twice, where I just continued to add new lessons according to plan and aimed to reduce the pile by 100 every day. Doing the fast levels somewhat fast was intense, but I don’t regret it — I want to use my Wanikani time for other stuff!

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I won’t pretend that we know each other from these forums, because sadly we haven’t crossed paths to my knowledge. Still, I very much approve of your avatar as Nodame Cantabile remains one of my all time favorite shows (top 3) and defo Nodame an all time favorite character! ^>^

It was the first Live Action series I watched unsubbed. And I loved it. Also, very difficult back then! :eyes: I like it, but not as much as I love the anime. I cry for both of them in the first season of the anime (same length of the live action).

The manga is to die for. It’s brilliant! ^>^ :notes:

I really liked the following actions and follow up story archs, but they make best as a manga series then I feel. I love that the made the anime for it, but yeah, its is much more of a simple adaption of the manga at that point. Not so much, an independent thing you just enjoy as is. :slight_smile:

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Hehe nice :smiley:

Yeah but that’s the thing, if I see 用心棒 I know that it’s Yojimbo, but if I see in the game ようじんぼう, as he’s called there (found the list of names on Wikipedia ファイナルファンタジーX - Wikipedia) then I wouldn’t be able to tell that it is 用心棒 , you see what I mean? So I want to wait that my Japanese is better before I play, to be able to get more of the references!

Though maybe those two videos could teach me this kind of stuff, I have bookmarked them but haven’t watched them yet

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All the kanji passed!
The number of Guru is still too high for comfort, though.

And no more lessons! :confetti_ball:
I finished everything two days ago, but I still had a small backlog of reviews to deal with. Now I’m finally back to 0/0. According to the timeline, there will be some days in the next few months when I will pay for my inconsistent schedule…

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