About to enter the painful levels... searching for advice on how to handle the pain

Those two scripts of yours are amazing! I’d heard that many kanji do have phonetic components, but since not all kanji utilize them and some have exceptions I never knew how take advantage of that knowledge. I’ve had your phonetic script for only a day and I’ve already seen patterns I hadn’t picked up on:

剣, 検, 険, 倹, 験 are all ケン!

粗, 組, 租, 祖, 阻, 狙 are all ソ!

訪, 紡, 肪, 放, 防, 妨, 坊 are all ホウ or ボウ!

And every time I mistake one kanji for another, being able to glance down the page at your other script and pull up a list of all conceivably similar kanji is a godsend for hammering out the detail that threw me off. Thanks for these!


Thanks! The longer I use WK the more I feel that sticks to the “everything is a story of radicals” idea too much. It also muddies the waters by “arbitrarily” showing On and Kun readings in the character grids, making it harder to see the regularities.

Introducing “Ken the squid” once is definitely more effective than trying to remember in ten different stories if it was Ken from Streetfighter, Ryuu from Streetfighter, or Zangief from Streetfighter who did some weird stuff.

It is more work to remember it in the beginning, but I can really feel that it pays off. Even stuff like 者, which is quite messy.

If you are looking for a “companion book” for WK I can highly recommend the Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Course, it keeps similar kanji closer together, points out similar kanji that will cause trouble down the line, and mixes styles of explanations. Just seeing 拾 (pick up) and 捨 (throw away) together instantly locked those two kanji down for me :slight_smile:


Glad to see you around here mate!

Likewise. I wish the site allowed PM. You’d have heard from me earlier if they did :sweat_smile:. But since there’s no way to engage instantly, my drive for instant gratification is suppressed :tongue:.

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You’re late in the news :stuck_out_tongue: We can send PMs now!

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:scream: now you know how long I’ve been away!


off topic, i just want to say you are one of the people around here i look up to. It’ll be amazing if i can get to your level at your speed rate, you’re awesome


I’ve been doing learning sessions and reviews on a daily basis (in the morning and at night), but with few items each time. This way you get naturally used to the routine of studying Japanese and don’t necessarily get overwhelmed by the amount of items. Also, you get really really fast at answering stuff.

And yes, do use the power of mnemonics. It’s been countless times I found myself looking at a kanji and only knowing its meaning and reading because of mnemonics. Most of the time I make my own instead of using the website’s.

And at least for me the most important thing is: don’t ignore the power of radicals. I realised I can read and write more complex and similar kanji because I can remember which radicals each of them has. At the beginning I kind of tried to remember the whole thing by itself, but now I can easily learn some 20~30 vocabulary items in a row and already guess most of their meanings and readings just because I’m comfortable with the kanji.

Last thing is: try not to learn kanji and vocabulary in a mechanical way. Try studying them within sentences and daily-life stuff. If you blindly repeat the strokes of different kanji dozens of times you probably won’t even memorize their meaning.

Oh, almost forgot. There’s this thesis that explains it can get much easier to learn kanji by this “phonetic component” many kanji share, something like the phonetic script above offers. It’s a short and nice read.


Welcome to pain, kouhai! My main piece of advice? No rush! If you’re changing levels at least once a month, than you’re still learning kanji three times as fast as the average japanese schoolkid, so don’t sweat 12 days vs. 14. We’re learning the kanji for the sake of the language, not the other way around.

That being the case, my main piece of advice is to learn grammar if you haven’t already, and to do so in the same methodical manner that you are doing WK, if not more religiously. If you are using a beginner textbook like Genki or Minna no Nihongo, your level 10 WK knowledge should be enough that you already can read ALL the kanji in the first book, so take a half hour before you “start” the book and block all the furigana on all the readings with a higlighter or masking tape (there’s typically one per chapter, so it’s not too laborious); this way you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work thus far, while simultaneously practicing the kind of reading you’ll do for native texts, and improving your grammar, which will be the no. 1 stumbling block when you actually start trying to read manga or other native text.

The other thing I can say is that at the upper levels, the vocab become ways to remember kanji, and it becomes more and more difficult to remember kanji readings or meanings without hooking them onto one or more words you’ve actually used. If you’re looking for a way to nail down a kanji, place it in verb or compound noun (ie: a word), and use that word in a complete, meaningful sentence that you either have personally written or said. Ideally, try to write/speak a sentence you could actually imagine using in your daily life.

Good luck!


Aww don’t be like that :heart:

I still have a long way to go. My Japanese is still terrible after all. But I’m extremely glad that I’m able to help and motivate you to push forward :slight_smile: Hope to see you on level 60 one day!

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For me, level 15-20 were the most difficult to get through because the kanji and vocabulary seemed to become more specialized to outside of everyday use. I noticed that each level had kanji and vocabulary related to a general theme (e.g. judgements, trials, persecution etc. for one level). This could help you find articles or books related to those topics for added reinforcement.

The only thing I can tell you is do not get discouraged because surpassing the difficulties of these levels make the higher levels more manageable. And definitely use mnemonics! Good luck!


This is the time when you get a lot of master reviews coming up from previous levels. This is my second time through WK, trust me on this. Just do the reviews then spread out the lessons. Most importantly talk to Japanese people. That is the best way to learn. Getting them to correct you is hard as all get out though…


My two biggest pieces of advice are:

  1. Keep your apprentice queue as close to 100 items as possible. (So either hold off on or plow through lessons as necessary.)
  1. Add synonyms liberally. If you’re familiar with a word’s usage and would define it slightly differently than Wanikani, add your meaning. If you get synonyms or kanji that are given different WK definitions from their stand-alone vocab versions (but are very close in meaning), add synonyms to each. Site not listing more natural wordings for transitive/intransitive situations? As long as you undertand the difference, add those suckers. (Like 産む not having “to birth” by default; come on now.) Don’t use this as a cheat, but remember that you’re training yourself to naturally understand the meanings and not to play a granular memorization game with WK’s exact default definitions. The site is made by people too.

My third piece of advice isn’t related to the site itself, but it’s to make sure you have grammar and vocabulary resources outside of Wanikani. Remember that the site is only heavily focused on kanji, with related vocab as a bonus. Studying one part of the language will inevitably lead to insights into the others.

This is actually something I wish WK stressed a little harder, much as I love it. I mean, like, it’s there for you to pick up on, but I can see how it would be easy to miss with all the specific mnemonics too.

If you see a new kanji, pick the most prominent radical, and you’ve got at least a 50/50 shot of being able to guess the onyomi on the first try.

At least at the intermediate level (where I am), it doesn’t feel like something you need to drill yourself on, but it’s good passive knowledge to have.

So I guess that’d be a piece of advice for the OP as well.


Sorry, off topic, but OMG I love your sect name! :timer_clock:

Thanks! I appreciate it

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completely agree with you, not for nothing radicals are called the construction blocks (or something like that) of kanji. This is exactly what i am most afraid of since the incoming painful kanjis deliver some confusion blows.

Thank you so much for sharing the thesis, i’ll be reading it these days.
And thank you for your answer

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Alright, thank you for your insight. Yes, you are right on the fact that somehow (at least on my case) you lose some of the focus trying to compete with yourself and rushing so much you lose your gait and fall down,

I haven’t started to learn grammar, i downloaded a copy of Tae Kim’s book and have some books on my shelf of “the japanese for busy people” but i don’t have the complete series so its no use i believe. I guess i’ll be buying the minna no nihongo. here in my country no one knows about Genki but you can buy Minna no Nihongo even at convinis, let’s see how it goes. Thank you so much for your input

Yes, this is the main point, and this community is marvelous

This is a marvelous advice, actually i believe the second book of remembering the kanji focuses on this fact.

Thank you for your insight

As someone currently progressing through the painful levels, my biggest piece of advice is to keep up on your leeches!

Leeches being those pieces of vocab that just won’t go away. They’ll start really adding up once the burns hit. Don’t be afraid to stop progressing for a bit to focus on the leeches if they get to be to much. Use a second SRS (like Anki), or just standard flash cards, whatever you need to do to knock them out.

Don’t worry if you fail a burn… or two. Or twenty. As long as you’re burning more than you are failing, you are moving forward. The ratio I shoot for is to burn 4/5 items up for burning… but I regularly fail to hit that, so it’s all good, lol. If you’re regularly failing half your burns I’d start to worry, otherwise it’s just part of the system! :smiley:

Around levels 13-14 there ends up being a lot of vague meanings for kanji, like “concept”, “feeling”, “topic”, and even with mnemonics these are tough to keep straight. This is something I’m struggling with right now. My only piece of advice is to connect those words to something concrete. Native reading helps with that, because you’ll come in contact with a lot of words being used in context, often by characters you can then associate with those words. It helps for me, at least.

I’d say more than that, even be grateful that you failed a burn! It means the system caught a kanji you don’t know fluently yet and didn’t let it go through.

That’s what you want. Remember that Wanikani isn’t a video-game you’re trying to beat. It’s a language-learning tool. Letting it take an item out of your study before you really know it should be a bigger fear than not boosting your numbers on the site. At the end of the day, those numbers don’t matter: being able to fluently read kanji does.

(Obviously this is still assuming you’re passing more burns than failing. If you’re not, it’s probably time to reexamine your study.)