Age doesn't matter

I finally reached level 60 after about 2 ½ years! It wasn’t easy. For one thing, I’m a 70 year old man, and although I think my brain is still functioning okay, memorizing thousands of kanji can be a little taxing.

When I was 55. I knew one language – English. I decided to teach myself another language. I picked Spanish, since it’s a good one to know if you live in the US. I completed numerous courses that I bought, or did online. I started watching telenovelas. I read the Harry Potter series in Spanish (book 1 took a year, book 7 only a month). After about 5 years, I was finally reasonably fluent. So I decided to learn other languages. Portuguese, Italian, French and German were learned much more quickly than Spanish, because they’re so similar (German is actually somewhat similar to English). I also tried other languages, with less success. I gave up on Russian, Hindi and Arabic (part of the problem was the new alphabets).

But when I retired at the age of 67, I decided to go all in, and learn Japanese, which has different “alphabets”, plus is very different from English in its grammar. Hindi was a little like Japanese in that the verb goes at the end, but that didn’t really help much.

So why am I studying Japanese? For the intellectual challenge! Yes, I might want to go to Japan someday, and yes, I sort of like anime, but the main reason was to exercise my brain. And you can see from my stats, it got a lot of exercise.

Current Status

Level: 60
Typical Level-up: 15 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes
Time on Level: 1 day , 2 hours, 11 minutes
Level-up In: 14 days, 20 hours, 8 minutes
Start Date: 2019-04-04 (929 days ago)
Items Learned (Guru+): 484部首 2013漢字 6165単語


Reading Meaning Total
Total Reviews: 222360 227366 449726
Correct: 194629 201295 395924
Incorrect: 27731 26071 53802
Accuracy: 87.53% 88.53% 88.04%
Radicals: 86.63% 86.63%
Kanji: 87.28% 88.94% 88.10%
Vocabulary: 87.59% 88.52% 88.05%

I couldn’t figure out how to copy the heatmap, but I can tell you that I’ve had 2,378 sessions, 201,781 reviews and I’ve spent 1,780 hours on WK. Wow!

I’m way slower than the phenoms who do WK in a year. I really have no idea how they do it, probably do more review sessions than I do each day. My daily routine is reviews after breakfast, followed by 10 lessons, and reviews after dinner. As I’ve progressed through the levels, the number of reviews just keeps creeping up. Early on, I had about 100 reviews each morning and evening, but now it’s often 150 or more, which is really hard. I know two ways to cut down on the reviews. First, do less lessons per day. Yes, but then it takes forever to get through each level! Second, get more things right. I have noticed that while I used to routinely get about 60-65% right, I’m often in the mid 70’s now. I don’t fully understand the stats I printed out above, since they have higher percentages. I guess they track my total correct answers, whereas during the review sessions, I have to get both the meaning and the reading right to be credited with success.

When I started Japanese, I was doing 10 different programs or courses each day, but that grew too burdensome. These days, in addition to WK, I do Duolingo, Fluent U and Memrise (sometimes Lingodeer). I really haven’t been able to do much reading. I also watch Terrace House on TV, but with English subtitles.

I use a few scripts, my favorite being Visually Similar Kanji, which is really helpful. I sometimes use Reorder to do kanjis before vocab, especially when I only have five kanjis left on a level. And then there’s the Override script, which I can’t help using a few times each session, mainly for typos, occasionally when I got the reading right, but the meaning is a tiny bit off, or the other way around. I make sure not to use Override if I didn’t really know the answer. Early on, I used it a lot, and ended up not learning many kanji. It seems as if I have to get a kanji or vocab wrong 5 or 6 times before I really learn it. Often if I get it right from the start, I forget it later. But as for the ones I get wrong over and over, I eventually learn them the best.

I often use my own mnemonics, and I have several that relate to people I know, such as Meg, Maya, Nora and others, or famous people like Kiri (an opera singer). I also use mnemonics from Spanish words that remind me of the kanji’s reading, such as casa.

What’s in the future? My goal has been the same for each language: 1) to be able to read books in the language, and 2) to be able to watch TV shows without subtitles. I can do this in all my previous languages, but I’m still far from this goal in Japanese. I have a number of books, and various shows dubbed in Japanese (or originally in Japanese) on bluray, so that’s what I’ll be concentrating on now.

When I started Japanese in January, 2019 (didn’t know about WK until April of that year), I told myself it would be a five year plan. I’m almost finished year 3, but I’m still just an advanced beginner. Hopefully, in 2 more years I’ll reach my goal.

Thanks to Wanikani for being a great program, and also I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from posts in the WK community, although I’m not much of a poster myself.


Congratulations and well done!!!

I think I’m also on the two year WK track and my goals are the same (watch tv and read in Japanese). It’s a long road but a rewarding one and definitely good mental exercise.


Wow, that’s very impressive! I also studied a bunch of languages, but I forgot most of it already, and I can only read books in German (my mother tongue), English, Japanese, and (I hope I still can do it) French…

Anyways, if you want to start reading together with other Japanese learners, I’d like to invite you to the book clubs! There are clubs of different levels depending on your grammar abilities. You can also read previous book picks and check out the discussion threads (and even still ask questions if you’d like - there are still people around who will answer, I’m sure).

The Beginner Book Club is currently voting on their next pick, so dive right in if you like :slight_smile:


Queen Elizabeth II, who is 95 years old, this week turned down the “Oldie of the Year” award, claiming she’s too young to meet the requirements. “You are only as old as you feel”, she was quoted as saying.


Congratulations! Your pursuit of learning multiple languages is amazing!

Do you still practice other languages (other than Japanese)?


Grats on making it through. Never too late on learning new things. I’m amazed at how many new languages you taught yourself.

I like the term advanced beginner. It speaks to me.


Congratulations! This makes me feel encouraged even if I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum age wise! I hope you reach all your goals; you’ve proved it’s never too late to learn!




Thanks! I tried a Beginner Book Club on WK about a year ago, but it was too hard then. Maybe I’ll try again.


I watch a Brazilian telenovela (in Portuguese) every day. I’m hooked, have been watching them for about 5 years. I also love opera, and if possible, I watch with the subtitles of the language they’re singing in (Italian, German or French), which gives me deeper meaning to their words than if I just watched with English subtitles. I don’t often get to use Spanish, though when I was still working, I had a number of Latino clients, and we’d always talk in Spanish.


First off, congratulations! Second, your post made me feel a whole lot better…I’m 49, on the verge of completing L60, and am probably somewhat older than the typical demographic of WK.

You’re definitely never too old to do something new! :grinning:


So inspiring, congratulations! I just turned 18 last week and am so excited to learn every day, I’m level 13 now. It pleases me to know that age does not necessarily inhibit intellect nor ambition. Again, well done! I wish you all the best in your future studies <3


That is why I started learning Japanese. My memory was getting pretty bad, and as there is so much dementia in my family, I got nervous. So I started with Japanese and what a difference it has made! I no longer have the awful memory problems, and it only took six months for the improvement.

So good for you, and I love that there are other people my age learning so much and so well!


i’m about 30yrs your junior and born disabled. i was here when wanikani started (and early with tofugu as well which intro’d me to wanikani) and bought a lifetime on sale back in 2013. unfortunately when i was around mid level 20s, my health took a hit and I had to move (thankfully to an accessible home for the first time in my life as we bought a small house for me and adapted it to my needs ourselves). the past year i’ve finally felt strong enough to get back into studying japanese.

It’s very impressive, i wish my parents who are just a few years younger than you, would pursue this sort of thing as well, but they are a bit stuck in their ways unfortunately.

Had you considered doing new language acquisition post spanish in the spanish language? i’m very curious because i’ve heard that chaining languages that way can reinforce the previous language’s skills as you pick up a new one. part of me is thinking if i get reasonably fluent in Japanese, i might try to pick arabic but from japanese resources to see how that works.

Keep up the studies and know that you aren’t alone in pursuing these things post-20s :wink:


Great post! Thank you for sharing your story. I am 51, and am also learning Japanese partly
for the mental challenge, though I would like to go there again someday.


Wow that’s awesome! Congratulations! This will definitely give people motivation to get to the top.


“Had you considered doing new language acquisition post spanish in the spanish language? i’m very curious because i’ve heard that chaining languages that way can reinforce the previous language’s skills as you pick up a new one. part of me is thinking if i get reasonably fluent in Japanese, i might try to pick arabic but from japanese resources to see how that works.”

jhgoforth, thanks for the post, and that’s a great idea. I never really thought about learning a new language with Spanish resources (maybe because there are SO many resources in English). But it sounds like a great way to do two languages at once, especially since my Spanish is already good.


from articles i read on research it seems it helps reinforce the 2nd acquired language while gaining the next and so on down the line. not sure i have the dedication for it just yet lol. it does make me wish i’d grown up with two languages like some of my friends from various places in the world.


In theory, this is a good idea. But there probably are not that many good Japanese textbook in Spanish.


It really is helpful! I’m doing this right now to learn Korean through Japanese. It’s great because they languages are so grammatically similar, so new grammar concepts click quickly since it’s almost word for word translation, word-order-wise.