Back and forth between Apprentice and Guru

I only just started WaniKani, but I’ve noticed that I keep dropping items down from Guru to Apprentice possibly for more than half of all Guru reviews. Is this common? Or does it mean I just need to spend longer on them? Thanks y’all!

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Each wrong answer lowers corresponding item’s level.

I’m amazing at dropping things back to apprentice. Hell, I’m pretty good at dropping things from Enlightened to Apprentice.


Same here, you just have to spend longer on them

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The way I see it is there are two different ways of using WaniKani:

  1. Use WaniKani AND another study method. A lot of people use Anki or another learning method to double up on what they learn here at WK. Some people may just take some extra time to physically write out what they learned. This group uses WK as a method of learning but accompanies it with other types of studying.

  2. Utilize the SRS to the max. By this I mean, trust in the SRS to know when you need items to go down to Apprentice and when they can move up. This is what I do. I just use the SRS and if it goes down, then I know that I need to keep studying that kanji more. I don’t use Anki or write out new kanji, I use WK as my main source of learning.

So, if you are more like the second type, Guru items will most likely drop more often. Also, everyone learns and studies differently so it may just take some time for you to get used to everything.

Side Note: If you’re having trouble with all the counters and how they keep changing, thats normal. 人 and 日 will become your top enemies. Just know that it’s a problem for all of us. :slightly_smiling_face:


KaniWani is good for some additional upkeep on your vocab. I have mine set to show only words I have gurued (keep down the massive amount of daily reviews)

After starting this supplemental vocab work I was able to notice the words I had the most trouble with. For instance the days of the month and traditional japanese counters.

I then opened a word document and using Google IME began to type them out in sequence. Just like a kid writing a word over and over again they are learning in elementary school. It worked.

Also if you use the SRS leech breakdown plugin you can easily see where you have a problem at. If you notice you have a large volume of leeches, you need to stop learning new vocab and iron out the current content before moving on. Slow and steady wins the race.


Yeah, I definitely lean towards the second method, I love the idea of not having to think haha. Also 日 and 人 are mean lol. I’m guessing that’s why they’re taught so early?

Well also because they are very simple kanji stroke wise.

  1. Utilize the SRS to the max AND use another study method.

I get that you mean as your main source for learning kanji, but I think it’s worth clarifying (to other people) that Wanikani should not be your main source for learning Japanese.

Wanikani is really for kanji alone, there are a lot of other areas of the language you’ll need to study. I know this is said constantly throughout these forms, but so many complaints about the program still come from not understanding this fact.


Yep. WaniKani isn’t even enough just for reading. Even knowing how to read every single kanji in existence isn’t gonna cut it if you don’t know grammar constructs.

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My two cents: make sure you are doing your reviews soon enough after actually learning the kanji. Also, do reviews twice a day, e.g. morning and night and do them every day. If you miss days, the spacing might be too big and you’ll end up forgetting.

Second point is that you may not be really learning the kanji well in the first place. Don’t just read the lessons. Be sure to actually take the time to truly visualize the mnemonics. If those don’t stick in your mind, make your own and add them to the notes. The SRS will help your memory last, but the memory has to be in there in the first place and that’s where a good mnemonic that is vivid in your mind is key.


Or you could just not bother with those. Thats a method too. I do that.
I cant deal with having to memorize entire sentences that are supposed to contain all the knowledge i need for each kanji. No matter how stupid that sentence is. Much easier and faster to learn the readings brute-force. The meanings arent the issue.

You actually aren’t supposed to memorize the sentences. That’s defeating the purpose of using mnemonics.


My enemy is 月 god damn it


What really helped me at the beginning was Kaniwani and later Kamesame.
The reverse process, finding the writing or the kanjis for an english word, helps the memory process a lot.

I know.
I just dont understand what, why and how they are supposed to help.

I think you’re supposed to visualize the mnemonic, which is good for some visual learners, but as I am not that sort of person at all, i’ll usually just remember one key word for the on-yomi and brute force the rest.

This is probably going to be a much longer answer than you were looking for; if so, my apologies, just sincerely trying to provide some helpful insight. Also, I’m passionate about learning how to learn, so this topic is super interesting to me.

So, obviously, in the past humans had to remember a lot more than we do now, since they didn’t have technology to rely on to augment their memories. In fact, even “books” (i.e. scrolls) were rare even just several hundred years ago. As a result, people had to memorize much of the information that today we take for granted today. It’s not known for sure, but it seems that the use of mnemonic devices invented perhaps in the times of the ancient Greeks. A famous type of mnemonic device (a.k.a. memory hack) that you may have heard of is the so-called “memory palace” which takes advantage of the fact that the human brain has a far better spatial memory than most other types of memory.

Not only does the brain have a better spatial memory, but it also has a better memory for pictures. We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth 1000 words.” Here’s a simple example of this: If I asked you to memorize the following random words - bear, truck, milk, clock, space, volcano and gun - you could surely do it by just repeating it over and over. However, if I asked you to recall this same list tomorrow, most likely you couldn’t do it. You’d need to repeat it over and over tomorrow too. And probably every day after that you needed to still be remembering it.

However, if I said, make a story out of it, you could likely remember it perfectly instantly…and still remember it tomorrow with great ease. It’s best to make your own, but as an example, play a little movie in your mind of a huge bear driving a tiny little truck. Actually think to yourself how weird it is that the bear could even fit in there. Why is he in the truck? See the truck actually pull up to your favorite grocery store and head straight to the milk isle, smash the cooler open, and start chugging two milk cartons at once. Then, see the panic on his face as he drops the milk cartons because he hears an alarm clock - the kind with the hammer - go off in his pocket. He rushes out of the story in a hurry because he realizes he’s late for the shuttle that’s supposed to launch him into space! It’s crazy, but as you follow him out to the parking lot, the shuttle is right there in the middle of the lot and he jumps in and literally launches into space. Turns out he was in such a hurry because there was a volcano in the store that was about to erupt. You see the lava spewing out and almost hit the space shuttle as it’s launching. The bear is so mad that he pulls out a gun, leans out of the space shuttle and sprays bullets putting holes all over the volcano. See little lava bursts coming out of each of the bullet holes.

Whew. That seemed like a lot of work, but honestly that only took you a few seconds to read and you can visualize the entire scene in seconds as well. I pretty much guarantee you that if you paid attention, you could recite the entire list right now without having practiced it by brute force.

Techniques like this are how world memory champions - with average memories, mind you - are able to memorize the order of a deck of cards in just 30 seconds, or memorize hundreds of random digits in just minutes. It takes some getting used to, but once learned, these techniques are super powerful and incredible time savers.

Sure, you could just by rote memorize that 太 has the reading たい, but when you visualize a guy so grotesquely fat that he can’t even put on tie you remember it instantly and it becomes practically unforgettable. Later, even if your memory is hazy on it as your staring at your reviews you’ll likely go, “oh right, the guy so fat he can’t tie his tie.”

This is especially helpful since so many kanji have the same readings. After you’ve heard たい、ちょう、and じ often enough, it can get really confusing. But when you associate the visual to the kanji, it makes it so much easier.

I’ve found this helps too with vocab when a kanji can have multiple readings. 何人 has the potential to be a nightmare. Is the 人 in this case にん、じん、or is this a weird case where for some reason it’s actually ひと, or worse yet, びと? No problem: when I learned the word, I imagined I needed to know how many ninjas there were. Any time I’m unsure, within 0.5 seconds my brain reminds me, “How many ninjas?” and I remember, “oh yes, it’s にん.”

The beauty is, that thanks to the SRS, you won’t need the story for ever. It’s just “scaffolding” so to speak. Eventually, through recalling it a few times in reviews, you don’t need the story anymore, you just remember straight away. But it was so much quicker and much less painful to use the story as your training wheels.

This was a huge concern of mine too because I’m really not a visual learner either. I’m terrible with directions, I actually forget both names _and_faces, and I confess, visualizing isn’t super easy for me. I’m more of a words person. That is my talent. So for me, I’ve found that how I word the mnemonic and keeping it short and easy to roll off the tongue, helps a lot. That’s why I have really benefited from making my own mnemonics. However, we all remember pictures whether we are visual learners or not. I surmise that someone who’s not a visual learner doesn’t rely on visualizing things and therefore struggles to do it…at first. With practice, you get better and better at this. Especially once you start seeing the magic of it working. This is a technique that I’ve rejected for years, but finally embraced when I went through the TextFugu course because I was so impressed with how Koichi designed the program that I just surrendered and did things as he suggested. And I found it really works.

If you’re still reading this, I’m amazed and will conclude with just adding the obligatory yes I know we all learn differently so do whatever works for you blah blah blah. But, honestly, this method is worth investing time and effort into. It’s been around for thousands of years and has been used by millions if not more humans before us. Because it works. Give it a shot and there’s a good chance you’ll learn things more quickly, with less effort, and better recall. Hope my mini-novel gave you some helpful insight if you managed to get through it all. Happy learning!


Well this is a quality forum post. Thank you! I remember when I was first learning the hiragana, I was shocked at how quickly I could learn them, especially since I’ve always sucked at traditional language learning (AKA, my Spanish GCSE).

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Your long novel is appreciated, but the thing is that i knew most of this already.
I did my research on the whole Mnemonics thing a while ago, to see if i could use them.
So far it never worked out.
Why exactly i cant tell you.

What i can try to tell you are a few things.

  1. Im not good at making up random stuff on demand.
    The time spend on creating some purposely shitty image is better spend doing some repetition.

  2. I dont like the idea of using one language for learning words in another.
    Its totaly fine learning about grammar and other rules that way, thats the advantage of already knowing a language compared to children.
    But for words and vocabulary its more difficult in the long run; always having to fall back on the crutch of the old language. The sooner you can understand stuff in the new language on its own the better.
    As long as you need to rely on translating in your head you dont know the new language.

  3. During reviews i dont have time to search my memory for some convoluted sentence with some fat guy in it.
    5 seconds is what i give myself for each item. If i dont remember it just by looking at it i mark it as wrong, even if i remember afterwards. Im here to learn parts of a language, not to get a high percentage.
    Im also really bad at recalling things actively. If i dont recognize something instantly, chances are, looking at it for longer isnt going to help.

  4. English isnt my first language. Thats not a negative for using WK, not anymore.
    By now ive notice that having learned one before and by using my second language to learn the third it reduced the amount of expectation on how a (new) language is supposed to work.

  5. 11/15 Readings and 14/15 meanings is what i could recall the next day from the new batch of Kanji i unlocked recently. Went through the lesson and looked at them 30 minutes later, right before going to bed.
    WK is being too restrictive and too handholdy, almost like its insisting that its implementation of SRS is a One-size-fits-all solution.
    I also cheat vigorously with unlocking a new level. It makes not sense to delay the next level for several days just because one made a mistake in 3/35 Kanji. Consistency is more important.
    “Slow and steady wins the race” applies to few things more strongly than to learning a language.
This is what i used for my initial japanese learning beginnings.