I did it.
After 361 days of speedrunning like an absolute madman, bashing into the keyboard 214 words in two languages a day, I’m finally there. THE CAKE. And you know what, the cake was more than the friends made along the way after all!
it was a pizza in my case ;-;
As of today, according to WaniKani stats I’ve learned 8841 items in total, 6304 words, 2054 kanji and 483 radicals.
I thought I’d use this rare spotlight that I’m having right now to share a few thoughts that I’ve got on WaniKani over the year, feel free to ask me anything, I don’t know how long will I remain here in the community, but I’ll try my best to address your questions too
Why did I start studying Japanese?
On December 31, 2016, just before midnight I stood there under a shower, contemplating about the state of things. My university was very stressful and I spent the rest of my day doomscrolling politics and not doing anything productive with my life. Earlier that day I watched Tsukimonogatari, a show I remember absolutely nothing from, other than a selfish desire to understand the context of the jokes I didn’t get in the translation.
I came up with an incredibly asinine idea.
On February 28, 2017, I learned how to say よろしくお願いします and learned how to write “あ” in hiragana. I don’t regret having made the decision to sign up for the course. Without any exaggeration I could say that it did change my life.
Why did I get started with WaniKani?
I was doing a summer internship in Ireland at a software development company in the summer of 2019, which was some of the best memories I’ve ever had. The office I worked at was everything that I ever wanted in terms of work - and more! I felt so creatively empowered that I decided to take my Japanese studies to a next level and looking for a substitute Japanese course in Ireland, I found this website called wanikani.com, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this one, it’s not very popu-
Either way, I made an account there, found out that I do know some of those kanji and not wanting to go through the initial 200-something kanji I already knew, I decided not to level it up.
Until February 2020, having graduated from a University and returned back home, I couldn’t keep up with my Japanese classes anymore. On a trip to France I downloaded an app on my phone that communicated with WaniKani servers. I decided to give it a shot. 361 days later, here I am!
What do I think of WaniKani?
An insanely useful tool that I might return to one day. So convenient I decided to go for a lifetime subscription, despite having seen how expensive it was.
The items from levels between 1 and 20 are something I see literally every day, so I’m very grateful for those. Can’t really be as positive about the ones in the last few levels, I realize that Japanese high school students have to go through these to graduate too, but I had to learn so much English in order to learn those Japanese words that I don’t even know if it was worth it to keep going past level 50 xd
But I did it, and I’m insanely happy this happened.
The best thing about WaniKani is that it teaches you more than just kanji - it teaches you punctuality, discipline, a ton of hiragana, it improves your reading speeds, it teaches you how to look up specific words, it’s not just the kanji that matters!
What English words did I learn when I studied WaniKani?
As you can probably tell by my terrible grammar in this post, English is not my mother tongue. I found out while I was doing WaniKani that there were quite a few words that I didn’t know the meaning of in English, and the English word was given to me as a definition of a specific kanji. I had to educate myself quite a bit!
Some of the examples involve:
Sedge. Auspicious. Cornea. Lacquer. Fiefdom. Frugal. Vagrancy. You know, there’s been quite a few xd
But seeing those words on WaniKani made me realize how omnipresent those words are, too. I might have not picked them up at first, but they all exist in English language and I was willingly ignorant of them for a while.
Stats and misc thoughts:
There were days when study and review sessions were insanely difficult. Depending on a timezone that you consider, my max session was either on January 7, 2021 with 725 items or on January 14, 2021 with 797. When I was doing reviews on January 14, 2021 however, I was in a timezone where I only did 677 reviews that day - the remaining 120 were done at 11pm on January 13th.
I studied and studied and studied and studied and studied and… I just arrived here, neat.
In total, over the last 361 days, I did 1269 review sessions within the app itself, adding up to 77398 reviews. The latter half of the course definitely involved more reviews than the former one though!
There were a few review sessions that I’m gonna remember for a looong time.
The one that I had when I was in Howth, at 8pm when it was dark outside and I cycled all the way there with a bike. My head was clear, my blood was pumping and my reviews were flowing naturally.
The one that I did when the lockdown initially started and everyone was freaking out about what is going to be and I just kept writing word after word. Funny to think that back then I thought 150 reviews was an impenetrable wall.
The one that I did at 5am one day, when I just woke up and the first thing I did was rush to WaniKani to do reviews.
The one somewhere in January where I started and I kept going until the sun went up, I went outside and saw the sunrise out there in the yonder. Oh boy, such an experience.
That being said, please, do not speedrun WaniKani. Don’t do the same thing I did. No matter how strong you feel in those first levels, I described some of my thoughts in this post:
Oh, and one more thing. Thank you for those automated level up emails. I adored them, I kept reading them each time I got a new one
In order to speedrun WaniKani you need a lot of strength of will. This course might have been one of the most intense things I’ve done in my life, requiring me to devote something like a few hours every single day on average in order to actually get through the walls of reviews waiting for me. A lot of the studying had to be done off-platform through either self-study or just looking up words that I found interesting roaming across the internet. Some might consider this to be “cheating”, but I consider it “LITERALLY TRYING OUT ANYTHING IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO SUSTAIN LEVEL UPS” xd
In terms of what I’d call actual cheating, I did use a few cheats at hand. Here’s a list of what I did use and how it helped me on my journey.
- WaniKani Reorder script. I was holding out for very long before using this, I only started when I got a day of 651 reviews around level 45 or something. You can read all about my mental breakdown on this post around here:
I used it in the later levels to make kanji be first in a review session, pass or fail them, then pause, study all the new words over the next two hours, return back to the reviews and be done with them just as an Apprentice 1 → Apprentice 2 level up showed up for radicals and kanji items.
- Always passing new items all the way to Guru, no matter if I remembered them or not. I found that the words often stick to me even if I didn’t see them for the next 48 hours, so I decided to roll with that in order not to slug myself with reviews that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with. On an Apprentice 4 → Guru 1 promotion, if I didn’t remember a kanji, I’d pass it regardless because I wanted to get to lessons as soon as possible (and those helped me with the retention of the kanji as well), but if I didn’t remember a word, I’d fail myself and let it go back to Apprentice 3. If a word was in Guru previously, I’d let it fly around Apprentice 2 to Apprentice 4 until I finally remembered it and only then I’d allow myself to get it out to Guru again. Because of that, my amount of Apprentice items was lower than for some other people, but a lot of the items would return to Apprentice 3 anyway as soon as I couldn’t remember them in Guru. Even now there’s quite a few words I’m really drawing an absolute blank on, but the fast levels didn’t let me properly get to them and study them as much as I’d like.
- WaniKani Double Check. Oh my Lord, thank you for this one. I cheated a ton with this one, even if not all of the intent was malicious.
Example, you see 凸 and 凹 in a word and you type in ”おうとつ”. Oops, you realize straight away that it wasn’t this one and it was ”でこぼこ” but your answer is red already. Quick backspace, the correct spelling, whew, problem solved.
“Negligence”, that’s what this kanji means. Wait, what do you mean it’s red, ah, the word is “negligence”, the kanji is to “neglect”!
Or a different one, this word is 炊飯器, easy it’s spelled “suihanki”, lemme write this down, “すいがんき”. Wait, why is it red? And what’s that “が” doing there? I used the wrong key on the keyboard, aaa! It was just next to it! Backspace, すいはんき, the day is saved.
The kanji for plow and the kanji for make, 耕作, that should be easy. “Plowing”! Wait, no, it’s red, it’s not plowing, it’s “cultivation”. Whew, crisis averted.
Another example would involve Confusion Guesser extension too, you see 陳腐 and your first idea is “oh, so the second character is read like ふ, I think the first one would be something like はん。はんふ, it sounds off, I think I need to rendaku i- oh, it’s red? Okay, backspace, はんぷ, that’s more like it.
Or 召し上がる, I think that it’s “to eat” but honorably, wait, to eat is red. “To honorably eat” is red again! What was it, hmmm, ahh, it’s “to respectfully eat”, got it this time!
Those three helped me out a ton.
I’ve been using quite a few scripts while doing WaniKani, I’m of the mind that they really improve the experience and regardless of if you want to cheat your way through or not, you’d get a lot of added benefit by using some of those.
Here’s the list of scripts I’ve only been using with WaniKani over the last year:
Yep, that’s a lot
Some of the most notable ones include:
- WaniKani Heatmap. It’s the ultimate dashboard of my study and I don’t get how it is possible that it’s not within the standard feature set of the application. That’s one of the very few things that kept me going when I burned out long, long ago. I just kept going on the Heatmap induced fumes for the last 200 days xd
- WaniKani Rendaku Information. I learned instinctively what’s the deal with rendaku thanks to this script and at the end of a course each time I saw a kanji that would end with “ん” followed by a kanji that would start with “は”, I just knew that this would immediately switch to “んぱ”, so good!
- WaniKani Keisei Phonetic-Semantic Composition, this one is another one that should be a part of the standard feature set. It showed me what’s the family relations between kanji that looked similar and at the end of the course when I saw a kanji that with one other radical would be read “ほ”, I wouldn’t even think twice, I’d know that the on’yomi for this kanji would be “ほ”, and I was right 95% of the time. It also helps you to remember some of the older kanji and helps you to associate a specific radical with a specific meaning when put with similar structure to the right or at the top.
- WaniKani Dashboard Leech List. Helps with retention immensely, you have to face your leeches each time you open up WaniKani and it helps you to form connections between characters, their meanings and readings.
WaniKani Review Countdown Timer. Okay, this one is controversial and I don’t even know if I liked it that much, but I’m inclined to say that it was a game changer in terms of my reviews. No longer would I allow myself to go “hmm, this one is しょう and せい and, it isn’t じょう, is it?”, it was either you recall something within 10 seconds or you fail. Ooor you assume that you would’ve got it on a good day and you forgot something that should’ve been obvious to you under any other circumstance than having 5 hours of sleep and you decide to let one はんしょう instead of はんせい pass, because the reading of this second kanji is しょう, just not in this context xd
I’m aware that I might have simplified myself my life too much because of that and I probably shouldn’t be doing that, but you should’ve seen my face when はんしょう turns red on 反省 and you’re instantly like “I know that its はんせい just let me pass it’s freaking 6.20 in the morninggg xd
Thanks WaniKani Double Check.
- WaniKani Self-Study Quiz. Okay, honestly, without this one, I would’ve needed much, MUCH more than 77k reviews to reach the cake. It was a no-brainer on the lower levels, you finish 70 lessons, you test out self-study and you keep doing it until you have a 100% accuracy in a review session. Of course, it would drop off around Apprentice 4 → Guru 1 and you’d only remember like 90% at this stage, but a 90% is much, much better than the 60% accuracy you start off with. At higher levels, when the lesson amount started hitting 150 I was less tempted to use it as I was burned at this stage anyway, but I’d still recommend Self-Study Quiz for, pretty much everything. Need to get items out of Apprentice? Self-study quiz. Guru 2 went down to Apprentice 4? Self-study quiz. I keep going back and forth with those words! Self-study quiz.
- WaniKani Level Up Celebrator! I saw the level up message for the last time today, I’ll probably miss it out a lot. Please, get it, you need to celebrate your level ups somehow and this is one way that doesn’t involve feeding yourself another 500 calories from a donut
Other studying methods
WaniKani wasn’t the only method I studied Japanese over the last year, far from it actually! The fast levels robbed me of interest in using some of those, but I still used a few, even when I was feeling down in the dumps.
Here’s a bunch of my recommendations:
- Bunpro, really helps with grammar! Unfortunately, it doesn’t feed you just the right amount of lessons a day, so I binged the whole N4 and a lot of N3 grammar and then a few review sessions later I realized I just can’t keep up. I still recommend it, but be mindful in choosing what do you want to learn xd
- Memrise, it’s like WaniKani, but the SRS sucks. A little more flexible, the mobile app is absolute garbage, do not even approach it without an “all-typing script” and you’d better find a few decks out there that you want to use! I was lucky enough that the language school I started my Japanese adventure at had its own Memrise decks, so I went a few times over those - I believe I should still be a top1 person on some of those decks if you toggle to “All-time”! Haven’t looked it up lately though. You can do your own Anki-alike decks in it too, but the process is slightly tedious and you can’t do them with…
- …Yomichan! Holy carp. People keep mentioning Rikaikun as a good alternative for this, but Yomichan, oh man. My Japanese reached unparalleled heights the moment I started using it. It’s as simple as highlighting the word and pressing “shift”, the translation comes right up! I wish my next language that I want to study, which would be German, would have a similar tool to it. Thanks to Yomichan I was finally able to start reading websites in Japanese without too much hassle. I’m playing a mobile game called Fire Emblem Heroes, you summon heroes in it. What was summon in Japanese, it was 召喚, but how do you read that??? Press shift, now you know. I can’t recommend Yomichan enough, it’s amazing. And you can make Anki decks with that! Though, I don’t like Anki as a studying method all that much really.
- Kanji Study. An Android app that gives you a ton, an actual metric ton of content, 80 kanji are handed out in a free version, but as soon as I started using that I just knew I’d buy all the in-app purchases for it. There’s etymology, sentence examples, very niche words, names, stroke orders, drawing quizzes, it’s such a joy to use.
- Kanji Tree. This one is only good if you have spare 10 hours and you want to run a top 5000 deck straight away. It’s an app where you by yourself have to mark words as either known or not known, you don’t write anything, you don’t draw anything, you just see 巨大 and if the first thing that came to your mind is “oh this is from shingeki no kyojin” then you need to grab a 24cm frying pan and bash yourself on the head by yourself cause the app won’t do it for you. It’s amazing for grinding sessions though!
- A Nintendo Switch! You can set the language to Japanese and work your way from that point on. Not too many games have furigana though, so sometimes you can feel very stuck attempting to read something, but if you do, this feels insanely rewarding, because it gives you an indication that you know words that people actually use in real contexts.
- Flaming Durtles! Cool app, it connects to a database of a certain lesser known Japanese SRS engine called WaniKani, I bet you haven’t hea-
- Japanese Dictionary Takoboto. Has much less content than Kanji Study, but the biggest pro is that you can write a word with declensions in it and it’ll tell you what’s the basic form of the word, what grammar was used and some example sentences using it too. Cool stuff!
Torii. I was meaning to get to this one for a while, I even started with a few words, but the simplest explanation would be… imagine if WaniKani were free DDDD:::
Of course, there’s way less content in this one, but some of the words used are katakana or hiragana only and they don’t have any kanji, something WaniKani won’t do for you. If you feel low on funds and don’t want to pay for WaniKani this month, give Torii a shot!
- Tobira! As in, the textbook. It starts off pretty gentle, but ramps up pretty fast. If you know a few kanji from WaniKani and know how to use Anki decks, you’ll fly through it really fast. Of course, I think you shouldn’t be flying through a textbook and instead try to get as much in-depth into it as you can, because the point of a textbook is to maximize your experience, not just make you feel like you’re a god, but Tobira has been pretty solid for me and I’ll probably try to get deeper into it later as well.
Where is my current Japanese?
I played through Paper Mario The Origami King start to finish in Japanese without looking up any strategy guides in English! I played a few dozen hours of Animal Crossing New Horizons, managed to beat Pokemon Shield, Pikmin 3 Deluxe, played through Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne quite a bit (i still havent finished it yet tho ;_; ) and my Nintendo Switch is set to Japanese right now, so any game that I start, be it Mario Kart, Smash Bros or the likes of it, I do so in Japanese too. I might revert to English one day though, cause attempting to play Civilization Vi in Japanese is suffering xd
I understand quite a bit of anime too! I watched a few episodes of Horimiya lately and I didn’t even need subs to understand most of it. Same for Oregairu, but Attack on Titan makes me lose track of what is going on within seconds xd
I dont know, a rest probably. I haven’t had a rest in a year now. I’ve been studying so intensively I’m so burned out for a while. They say that beauty comes from exertion and I hope I was able to arrive at something beautiful by doing this WakiKani course right here!
I’m not going to burn all of the items, at least not now. My goals in terms of Japanese remain the same - play 月姫, play 大逆転裁判２, play モンスターハンターライズ, maybe watch a bit of anime. Unfortunately, over the last year I’ve realized that I don’t like Japanese as much as I initially thought, some things I thought were uncharted grounds at a given point in time turned out to be disappointments and now, having possessed the ability to read in Japanese, I find myself less interested in reading that stuff than I initially thought I’d be. I’m not going to rest on laurels though, I intend to pave my way in somehow and find if there’s anything about Japanese language that would rekindle my unhealthy obsession with the language I had back in 2017
All right, time to wrap up the post xd
I’d like to thank a few people for inspiring me on the journey and, some of those, inspiring me on a daily basis to keep grinding and keep going, no matter how burned out I was at a given point in time.
- Hiroko Fujii. Probably the person that influenced my Japanese studies the most - I studied a year on A2 level under her, going as far as to get an A+ grade at the end of the year. I remember she told me once something along the lines of: “約束してよ 何があっても日本語の勉強をやめないってね”. I hope I kept my promise, at least for now. I swear, even though I’ll take a rest right now, this is not it for me yet, I’m destined for greater things than doing 60 levels of WaniKani, I’ll try my best to hone my resolve!
- Gericom. A Nintendo hacker that fell into being a weeb a little bit too much. He started doing Anki at a rapid pace and even though I was taking Japanese classes at a language school, I felt like he was leaving me in the dust. He was a big reason why I started doing WaniKani in the first place. Almost 9000 items later, I think I managed to at least catch up with him xd
- Moczan, a person whom I owe every creative endeavor I have done in the last… 5 years? Maybe even longer? Every time I’m feeling down in the dumps and I start complaining, he comes right up to lift me up and makes me realize how stupid the thing I complained about even was in the first place. Thank you Moczan. Please keep being my friend ;-; xd
- Nitro, that weeb who constantly reminds me about the anime games that I still need to play. Now that I’m done with WaniKani… I will. I hope. Maybe even in Japanese. That being said, Nitro started his own WaniKani journey a while back, hi @bastiaaan!
- Glenn Murphy, for being there on my journey too! Involuntary, as I just kept spamming screenshots at him, but being a part of the journey nonetheless xd
- Julie Caba. I haven’t been to my Japanese classes in a month and a half now because of how EXHAUSTED I was from WaniKani and I might not be rejoining them at all from now on, but she’s another one of the radicalizers who pushed me to hail the mighty Crabigator! I’m sure we’ll get to talk again one day. I’ll get to it. Eventually.
- Little Chmura, she’s slowly studying Japanese and one day she’ll get there too. Eventually. xd
@tls, @l_l and @Saida, for being regulars in my study log I’ve been doing in January <3
The final month of lessons - a certain Bidoof’s study log! - WaniKani - WaniKani Community
- @Kumirei, for all the userscripts you’ve made and all the community input that you’ve had, I feel like you’re omnipresent here on forum, I’ve had a lot of fun reading your posts, so thanks for those!
And with that, I’m off for now! See you all around! Or as soon as you ask any questions