Anyone have experience learning Japanese with chronic illness? (Looking for advice)

Sorry if this is posted in the wrong category, it’s been a good while since I’ve been on Wanikani.
Anyway on to my very specific situation/question.

I have chronic illness and struggle with exhaustion and lack of concentration/memory/motivation.
I was never high level in Japanese, but I did have a teacher in Japan. Now I’m not able to afford a teacher and don’t live in Japan anymore, so any small amount of motivation I gained from my teacher to study through my illness has pretty much gone. I haven’t studied much at all in a good while. When I try to I just CANNOT concentrate.

So, I was wondering if anyone here has gone through anything similar? Does anyone have any learning plans that have helped them with severe memory/concentration problems?
I really want a well-rounded routine, that will work with/around my illness. I know this is a pretty unique situation but if anyone has any tips/advice at all I would appreciate it immensely! Thanks


I have extreme difficulties concentrating.
For wanikani, when doing the reviews I hit the timer button and it motivates me to do at least 10 reviews before I do something else.


While my ‘condition’ turned out to not be chronic, I was severely impacted by high levels of anxiety that made it difficult to concentrate and frequently left me feeling inexplicably tired for most of the last 5 years (i.e. almost the whole time I’ve been using WK).

The best thing for me was to start reading - everything I had been learning coalesced into something greater than all those separately-studied components, and previously-studied segments of the language became meaningful. The low level graded readers is where I got started - they may be available in a library near you, but if not, there are some freely available ones online: Free books – にほんごたどく

(Edit: Wow! There are so many more free books available than when I last looked :grinning:)

Routine has also been very important for me, including making my study time into a bit of self-care me time by always making myself a lovely warm beverage or two to sit down with. As for the routine(s), you can scroll through my study log here, or look at what others are doing in the Master List of Study Logs.


I’ve always struggled quite a bit with motivational issues/concentration (started WaniKani back in 2013, only now really getting kinda close to finishing), but here’s my two cents.

For me, the best thing has just been including as much passive learning as possible. Things like watching/listening to native youtube channels, trying to read manga/news/twitter comments/etc. Basically anything that isn’t really “studying” as it is just getting used to the language via immersion as it doesn’t take much effort (this method gets better the more you already know).

I’ve also found that when doing my WK reviews in particular, I like to have some of my favorite music playing and I try to completely zone out, relying mostly on what my instinctual guess for any given answer is. It does lead to a little bit of a lower accuracy rate, but at least for me I’m able to go much quicker and usually not as burnt out afterwards.

Not sure if any of this will be applicable to you, but I wish you the best of luck. :+1:


Welcome back to WK! ^^

Under a details tag for length

What works for me personally:

  • routine routine routine - whether I do all the studying I meant to that day, or just one review. My routine is sacred. I must be flexible, because my condition is notoriously hard to predict and to manage, but Japanese has to remain a daily thing at all times.

  • as with so many things when chronically ill: acceptance. Yes, my Burn success rates were pretty terrible. Yes, I did reviews for much longer than most level 60 users because my accuracy can be low, and my leech counts were often high. Other people are other people, and I’m me.

I had to let go of the thought of learning everything “perfectly” before moving on to the next thing, and instead tried to just blunder on to a point where native reading and watching could start enforcing and expanding on what I know. I still have to actively study, of course, but at least my routine is no longer just boring SRS, dry grammar study, and listening practice where I catch only a few words per sentence.

While my illness and all the effects really get in the way, Japanese also became an escape. Something that I can control. Something that makes me feel incredibly accomplished. When I managed to push on to the point of seeing the hard work pay off, it yielded a lot of determination, since I discovered it worked and the huge amount of effort still felt worth it.

It’s strange to say, but I think that in a way, my condition also made going hard on Japanese study easier than for some people. With a far-reaching physical condition that also causes chronic sleep problems and other cognitive fall-out, there is one things I do basically every moment of every day: tough it out. Push through when things are hard and not fun.

Was doing 200 reviews a day still fun after nine months? Nope. Not at all. But so what? In our situations, we’re constantly having to accept that things are not fun, and then keep going anyway. But much more than with my illness, gritting my teeth and persevering with Japanese leads to happiness, and enjoyment, and fulfilment!

I can’t tell you what routine will work for you, since everyone’s situation is different, but: I established mine by first doing only WK. When I tried to learn Japanese in the past, I put way too much on my plate right out of the gate, and I couldn’t sustain it. Not expecting myself to start off well-rounded meant I could build my routine. Being 2-3 months (I think?) into daily WK work, I started with flexible experimentation of diversification.

My study routine was like a work-out routine. You can’t start off going from being a couch potato to body-building. But as you stick with it every day, you can handle more and more. First I could only do WK every day. Then WK and grammar. Then WK, grammar, and listening. And so on, and so forth. But like with body-building, I can’t expect to do all that if I don’t keep exercising every day. That quote of “the brain is like a muscle: use it or lose it,” also works in the sense that the brain can be taught to handle more and more, as it is trained over time.

Very best of luck, both with Japanese and with other things! I hope you’ll be able to find your groove! :muscle:


Chronicaly ill person here - ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrom). Way worse than it sounds. Always on the brink of collapsing with super immense fatigue (not just the “uh, had a long day” fatigue, but the “I don’t know if I can manage to get to the bathroom while I have the flu” fatigue level), I can’t remember a day without pain. I don’t even remember what it is like to not have a headache. On bad days my memory is so bad, I can barely hold a conversation because I mix up words. Most of the days in bed wondering if death would really be so bad, because fuck this body.

I study Japanese to keep my sanity - as ridiculous as it sounds (and even though some kanji make me mad). It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, because morning means I have to do my reviews.

So whenever I lie in bed, wondering if the pain is worth it to turn over and turn on my notebook - yup. Reviews waiting. Can’t miss them.

There are good days and bad days. Today is a bad day. It took me over 1 1/2 hours to go through 70 reviews, because from time to time I just couldn’t think or type. Take breaks then. It is totally fine to let 30 minutes pass when your body is just fighting to exist. I used to beat me through it, just type in something random and just be done. Wrong way. Your body is sick, it needs the energy for a lot more than just stupid kanji. Give it the time. Be persistent, but also patient. As long as you do your reviews daily, you are good. But go through them. Even on bad days.

So when you go for it, go for it slow. I know most people deal with 100 apprentice items. I can’t. I noticed I have to stick with 50, because on bad days I just can’t deal with 200-300 reviews. I think about how many reviews I can do on bad days and that is my personal limit. On good days - because even chronically ill people sometimes are allowed to be blessed by it - I have anki to study some extra vocabulary and go through N5 level again to also keep those burned items fresh in my mind.
I never do extra lessons on Wanikani on good days, because on bad days it will bite my ass. Always know what the minimum is that you can do and have that one covered - and have some extra study resources on good days. And use them.

Also I tend to listen to drama CDs or anime when I feel too sick to move. I think only listening to it just also gives me a good feeling of the language. Even when I close my eyes and just let the dialogue wash over me. I usually choose something I am familiar with - so that I am not totally clueless. I am improving a lot. Even though much slower than anyone else, but as long as you feed your brain daily with Japanese, your skills will improve.

Again. Be persistent, but patient. I think this is the only key to get through WaniKani. And life.


I’ll make my story as short as possible, but it has been going on for years…

I couldn’t speak, which is a disaster for someone who has been teaching English abroad since the mid-90’s! Finally, three years ago, the pain was so bad that I had to quit teaching.

I then got a manual job. Of course in my mind I was still still 23, but my body had other ideas. And though I lost 6kgs in 6 months, I also developed osteo-arthritis in both feet, and can only walk now with special shoes.

So there I was - no voice, and no feet.

I’ve had loads of cameras down my throat, and an mri, and all sorts, and the closest I can get to a diagnosis is MTD - muscular tension dysphonia.

I actually put it down to some awful, and unnecessary, dental work I had done when I first arrived in Japan almost ten years ago. That started me clenching and grinding, and if that doesn’t cause muscular tension, what does?

Anyway, I’m now teaching again, but just part-time, and I have to be very careful. So, yes, all speaking is difficult for me, and is probably one of the reasons I avoid speaking Japanese so much!

My illness has been very isolating (it’s difficult to build relationships when you can’t talk to people) and has seen my income go down to almost nothing, and that doesn’t help either. I know that depression lurks over the horizon, but thankfully I have managed to keep that at bay so far (thanks to the amazing support of my wife and thanks to my religious faith too).

My inability at Japanese has also compounded my worries in all this, and not a day goes by that I don’t want to pack it all in and quit. I have no idea what keeps me going - stubbornness perhaps, and the community here I guess. But yes, I have to accept I’ll never be the world’s best Japanese speaker and my goals in the language get more and more modest all the time.

Like others have said; acceptance and patience are the keys!

Good wishes to all.


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