Advice for hitting a wall

Hello everyone,

I know I am early on in my WaniKani journey (technically level 6 but still working on level 5 vocabulary), but I seem to have hit a mental wall with having lesson 5 stuff stick with my memory.

I was good with trying to do reviews twice a day up until this past week and I have been trying to take the advice of other people of sticking to under 100 apprentice items as I went along and only doing 10 new lessons a day when the space is available.

But the past week I seem to be stalling. I seem to make a lot of mistakes and it has dampened my motivation for the past couple of days. There are many reasons why stuff isn’t sticking but I think the biggest factor for me is that I am constantly making mistakes where I forget to either add a “u” to kanji (I.e. Kyou) or I add the u when it is not supposed to be at the end.

Are there any tips for:

  1. helping to remember when there is an extra u or not?
  2. building confidence when in a rut?

I have gone the past 4 days without adding any reviews to help me lower my apprentice level (currently at 78) but because I haven’t added any new works it has also lowered my motivation because I feel stuck.

I know this will happen often when learning a new language so any advice will be welcomed so I can use it in the future on this journey.

Thank you in advance

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I don’t think there’s an explanation of when to add う or お. I still sometimes do りょう instead of りょ or よ instead of よう.

とう when it’s supposed to be とお (this one pisses me off the most you freaking otoosan). There are many more but as you keep going you’ll eventually get them all right and occasionally will mess up.

I doubt there is some actual grammar rule that explains when to use which but if there is someone will chime in.

Edit: see? I did it again Lol. Otoosan is with う. The one that I recently got wrong is 十日. I answered とうか instead of とおか. Honestly, とお shouldn’t even be a thing. It reads so wrong in my head.

For motivation, maybe switch up the study routine. Listen to upbeat music or, if you prefer, play a show in the background. Getting distracted and studying slow is better than not studying at all because of burnout, and audio/video can break the tedium up, even if you’re not paying close attention to it.

Also try splitting up your sessions more. Set the countdown immediately after starting (clock icon) and set out to do those 10. Then at the end, ask yourself if you feel up to just 10 more, and ask yourself again at the end of those 10. I found this helped a lot when I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of reviews, because mentally building myself up to do 10 was a lot easier than motivating myself to do 200.

For a while I was mentally reminding myself “That’s okay, this is learning!” when failing reviews. Similarly, was getting pretty defeatist about it, but making mistakes is just as important for the learning process and sometimes, even if we know that on a conscious level, we need to remind ourselves to stay on track.

From what I remember reading, they used to be とを or something else and converted into とお

I believe it is usually actually おほ that became おお, at least with 大きい 頬 多い

The “extra u” isn’t random, it’s there to lengthen the sound. For vocabulary, you can listen to the audio files and train yourself to recognize lengthened sounds. For kanji, where there is no audio, you can say the sound in your head (or out loud), exaggerating the sound lengthening. The mnemonics for short and long vowels are also supposed to be different, so that should help too.

It’s only a handful of words that have this combination, so I just learned them as exceptions. I’d be interested to learn more about the etymology behind it.


To address the initial topic, I agree with omk3 that listening practice seems to be the solution to your problem. Spend more time listening to the words that are giving you trouble so that it sounds awkward or wrong when you hear the word without the lengthened vowel etc.

For the words with u and without, I actually use part of the mnemonic that wanikani uses. They usually provide a specific word for words with u and without (shogun always = shyou, show always = shyo). I tend to use the word that they give, but add my own pictures in my head. If you are making your own, you could try to use a consistent mnemonic for certain sounds. I will make my own though if I don’t feel that wanikani’s is something that I can imagine clearly in my head.

I also say each word as I am doing them and have the voice come on when i input the Japanese to help reinforce things.

Have you tried a sledgehammer? That’s usually best to break bricks, though not sure if it’s out of that or woo… Oh, not that kind of wall

for me before level 10 I barely knew anything, just stick to memorizing as much as possible

then lvl 11 came and wk recommended nhk easy news, since then I read every article they publish.

from lvl 11 to 15 I used study quiz a lot, then I stopped and since then I just do reviews regurlarly. I always try to change my pace if I hit a wall (it becomes boring in some way) and I have to change that.

Now I am into watching anime with japanese subtitles, I consider myself someone with some vocab to be able to understand dialogues in a situation and anime is quite helpful at this moment.

P.S: I dont like reading books, so from me I would not recommend reading books in this case :slight_smile:

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It takes time. So my advice is to give yourself that time.

Also making a note of it like you did will help ventilate the stress and actually make you remember it easier.

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I appreciate finding this thread. I also find myself filled with self-doubt at times. Recently, I started really working on the new practice areas, both new vocabulary and recent mistakes, and that seems to help my reviews and confidence. I appreciate being able to “fail” in the practice session without having that impact my reviews.

I have a couple of other comments:

  • One thing that drives me crazy is how often the very same hiragana is used for wildly different words. Like “ki” for tree and for energy. There are many more examples. I assume that native speakers hear (and say) everything in context so they don’t even notice it.
  • I wonder why WaniKani doesn’t have a way to verbalize Kanji words like they do with Vocabulary. I mean, why??? Sure, I can and do pronounce them myself but this difference must be intentional.
  • Yes, there are many (way too many) homophones. Context is everything. And that’s also why all-hiragana text is very hard to read - kanji, once you’re comfortable enough with them, convey the correct meaning at a glance.
  • Kanji are not words per se. I suppose that’s why Wanikani made the deliberate choice to not record sound for their readings. We get to hear their readings in vocabulary anyway, in words that native speakers would actually say.

Thanks very much! That really helps, but leads to another question: I have very good, prescription reading glasses. But the font size of kanji and kana in Japanese books is so tiny. I suspect that for native Japanese they quickly (and unconsciously) perceive sufficient visual cues to read without a magnifying glass. Does that make sense?

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Yeah, I think it’s like reading tiny/blurry/partly obscured text in English. It’s often not hard because you can make out enough of the shapes of the words and where they fall in the sentences that your brain just “knows”. But if you were still at a low level of English reading where you were often needing to sound out the words (side note: lol, as if English phonics makes any sense) then that kind of text would be really hard.

I’m still far from being a fluent Japanese reader, but if I see tiny, low-res renderings of super common things like 今日, no problem—even though in another context, a low-res 今 might be confusing to me.

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Thats exactly right. Once the shapes become familiar, and you have enough language knowedge to anticipate things from context, its like your eyes can see more clearly all of a sudden. I used to need a magnifying glass most of the time, but only use it occasionally now, and I’m sure it’s not because my eyesight is getting better :sweat_smile:

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I’m not the first person to say it but for when to include u’s and o’s I got entirely by mnemonics. For ‘to’ I remember a toe and for ‘tou’ I remember Tokyo for example. As soon as you start relying on your ability to remember kana without a mnemonic (sometimes you just will have to though) you are going to start feeling like your memory is at capacity.
I hit a wall recently and it took me about a month to level up having averaged 12 days before that. I’ve just had to decide that I’m going to slow down for a few months and then reassess my pace later. Its better to be adding words slowly and steadily than have a huge glut to work through and make lots of mistakes. Its a real motivation killer.

You could maybe try reading? Like really, really easy stuff. Not NHK easy, but baby stories that has pictures to help you. That way you get to familiarise yourself with easy kanji and vocab in a different setting from wanikani, whilst gaining satisfaction if you were able to understand what is being said.
I’m saying this to myself as well because I lack motivation too haha

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I remember reading on the forums that you need discipline, not motivation. Make it a routine to do reviews whether you want to or not! :wink: