Burning out after starting to burn?

I know this is a common topic already and the advice is always to slow down, but I felt like posting about this anyway.

I had a really good pace going and I was so delighted to finally burn my first items. But now that I am getting so many items coming back up to burn, I’m starting to get overwhelmed.

I basically completely stopped doing my lessons and I feel like I still have a zillion reviews to do all the time. It doesn’t help that I haven’t been able to go at my usual pace doing reviews several times a day, but still. I just had a 66% review session and although I burned 50 items in it, I still feel pretty bummed and honestly like there’s no way I can take more lessons right now.

Anyway, support or advice is welcome.


It’s okay to get things wrong. The next time those reviews come around, ideally you’ll know the words even better because you’ve taken a closer look at them and had more time to study them. At the end of the day, if I have a crappy review session I try to tell myself that it’s all part of the learning process. Because when you’re learning something as new and vast as a language, sometimes you have to get things wrong a hundred times before you finally understand them and get them right.

I wouldn’t worry about hurrying through your lessons until you feel comfortable with your daily workload in terms of reviews. Of course, I realize you don’t want to take forever leveling up, but there’s no point in forcing yourself through the material if you’re not actually learning anything. So don’t feel bad if you stop your lessons temporarily. It may take a few weeks for the workload to drop, but it will, and it’ll make things seem more manageable.

One of the things I find that helps me the most is daily reading. Have you studied grammar at all? When you read you see such a variety of words along the way, and it aids greatly in your memory since reading provides additional context for you to associate with those words. Allowing yourself to read and soak up words that way is far more enjoyable in my opinion, and I typically see a decent number of WK words in my reading, so it’s beneficial for reinforcing both kanji and vocab. Also, you tend to feel good about yourself when you can apply what you’ve learned and see the progress you’ve made.


WaniKani has never been about getting high scores, or racing each other.
As long as you’re learning, keep at it. The endgame is being able to read Japanese, not a 100% review rate.

If you feel like you’ve too much on your plate right now, focus on reviews to lower the pipe. To me, it really helps to use de Wrap Up function. (Clock far to the left) It helps pace yourself. It’s waaaay more efective to do 3 sessions of 30 reviews than doing a single massive 90 review.

Keep at it, remind yourself why you want to learn Japanese, and don’t give up. Go for it!


Whats that, youre starting to get burned out around level 17? You and me both, sister.

I wont claim to know everything about your situation, but I’ve probably been in a pretty similar spot to where you are at right now. The studying becomes more of a chore than it was before and your motivation cant keep up? I have a few opinions on this kind of thing, so I’ll give my two cents and you can take from it what you will.

Firstly, pace is something personal. There is no correct pace for learning japanese. The only correctness about anything when it comes to learning japanese is that you are making an active effort. Your pace is increasing due to burn reviews, regardless of whether you wanted it to or not. You made the right choice in stopping lessons if the workload increased and you have less time to do reviews. With that being said, its extremely important that you not stop. Do not stop doing something related to learning japanese, no matter how small. The hardest part of learning a language, imo, is starting. By stopping, you will need to get over that wall of starting again one day.

How do I know you will start again, you may ask? You made it to level 18, nearly a third of the way through WK, which shows me you took this all seriously. Furthermore you are making this post, which tells me you really don’t want to quit. That kind of drive doesn’t disappear.

So if your drive persists, why do you lack the motivation you once had? I have a theory for this. When we first start out learning this language, we are not thinking of the work…we are thinking about our end goal. We are thinking about the force within us that pushed us hard enough to get over that initial “starting barrier”. As time carries on and we do review after review, lesson after lesson…we lose that. We lose sight of our end goal, and instead set our sights on the next review. We stop reminding ourselves of the long term, which is fatal with language learning. The short term is really nothing but work, which we then associate with our studies, rather than our original goal.

So if that’s the case, how do you fix it? Remind yourself. I believe on one of tofugu’s other websites, I forget which, it recommended making a list of why you started. Do that. Reassociate japanese with the reason why you started learning it in the first place, and instead recognize the work you have put in as proof of your movement towards that. One day, if you do quit, the work done will leave your mind, but the spark that ignited your studies wont. When that happens you WILL have the urge to come back, followed by regret that you didn’t stay. I speak from experience. Save yourself the trouble and do all you can to remind yourself NOW so that it wont come to that.

Should you persist, things only get better. Your review count will begin to even out now that burns are here, so you can set a pace that you can stick with until level 60 (be careful not to double speed 48-60). You are getting to the level where you can actually read children’s manga in japanese (a huge motivator for some). Lastly, the more you study, the more of a habit this all will become. Maybe its just the timing, but ~your level was tough for me too. Its likely just a hump, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…right?

Again, I cant speak for you, but this is my experience. I am only 18, so I haven’t lived much, but I genuinely believe my biggest regret is giving up on learning japanese awhile back. I rambled quite a bit, but its because you seem to feel the same way I did. Hope this helps. If you ever need help with something, PM me!

EDIT: Others have commented about the 66% thing, and I agree with them. Reviews have ups and downs, and Im currently in a down myself. Don’t worry, it will get better. SRS makes sure that you will know it eventually, Trust the system and dont mind correct%


Thanks everyone so far! I definitely don’t want to give up!

Lately work and life in general have been keeping me busier than usual. I was studying grammar but haven’t done it in awhile. I have been kind of neglecting WK too, but have been trying to keep up with my reviews at least to try not to let them get too out of control. The 66% review I did today was something like 320 items.

I definitely know it’s not a race against anyone. I think the main thing is that the very fast pace I started with is coming back to bite me now that the items are all coming back up to burn at the same pace. Especially when leechy items come up for burning, they go back in my guru pile.

It’s really good to know I’m not the only one in this place. Along with the items around this level starting to become much more abstract I’m feeling overwhelmed at the very old stuff coming back. I don’t think I want to reset, though. Sounds like I just need to take a steady pace and continue not to do lessons for a little bit until I feel like things are under control again.

p.s. I think starting to read could be interesting, but children’s manga doesn’t have much kanji in it yet, does it? My vocab is only so-so right now :frowning:

1 Like

18 levels in 7 months is a pretty decent rate of speed. As you continue to do lessons your workload will increase until the burn rate equals the number of lessons you do. As items come up for burning for the first time you will notice a bump in workload because items that have been dormant for several months are re-appearing! I think the best thing to do is to not stop doing lessons altogether, but slow the rate down until the workload becomes more comfortable. Don’t feel bad about making small adjustments in strategy or re-adjusting things. Watch in time for leeches that come up for burning multiple times - those will sneak up on you in time if you aren’t careful - this has been the biggest factor in slowing my own rate of progress from about level 40 on.

1 Like

Burn reviews are always the hardest. I’ve failed 1000s of them. It sucks a lot at first but after nearly 7400 burns it’s just become part of the process. Reviews will level out over time although if it feels overwhelming you can always go at a slower pace instead.


I wouldn’t suggest avoiding manga because it has kanji/kanji that you’re not familiar with. Find a manga that interests you, and try it out, it never hurts to try. Personally I actually have a harder time reading without kanji because I can more easily tell that something is a word and not a particle/grammar point because it’s in kanji. Don’t forget actually find something interesting to you, if you just read a manga because it’s easy, you may not enjoy it and end up quitting shortly after you started.


@lsh3rd and others in this thread, what’s your strategy for dealing with leeches? I’ve read a few in the leech threads that come up every so often but I could use more ideas. I want to try and nip the failed burn reviews in the bud before they come up again. The only thing that seems to have helped a LOT is complaining at length about specific items (like 外れ / 外れる), lol.

I think I might look into joining the beginner’s reading club as well.


I personally use


Hmm, well there are a few ways around that. There is software out there for recognizing vocab in manga, similar to rikaikun. You can use that, or you can use the method I started out with: read through chapters first in english before japanese. It seems like a cheap way out, but I feel it served to be pretty useful in my case. You will have an idea of what words should be thrown around during what scenes, consequently making it easier to parse and comprehend sentences. Sentence comprehension is its own reward, imo. Being able to fully understand something always brings a smile to my face, even if I needed help.

The kanji will be lacking compared to what you may be used to, but it’s nothing you can’t work your way around. Reading can be a struggle but, unlike regular studying, it provides instant gratification. To someone feeling less motivated, this can be a whole different experience. The important thing is that you find something related to japanese that you can enjoy/get yourself to do.


i used to get high percents pretty often but as i’ve increased levels they’re gotten a lot lower… i’m just like shiiiieeett and move on, trying to do better next time.

Just keep your chin up. Ease off the lessons if you have to. Try to keep your apprentice levels around 60-80 to keep from being overwhelmed. If you do do lessons, time them carefully so you don’t end up with a 120+ review pile the next day

Though most importantly - Never. Stop. Doing. Reviews. Push through the burn! You will get through the burnt out feeling someday!


That would have been my first guess.

I don’t have any advice that wasn’t already given but I’m in the same situation right now, maybe hearing from a fellow sufferer helps too :wink:

I just went to Japan for 4 weeks but still kept working at night in my usual timezone so I was pretty busy and always tired. Just before I left for Japan, I had picked up my level pace from around 12 days per level to 7 because you seem to see everyone here doing it and I was impatient and wanted to finish everything soon. And I wasn’t willing on giving that up just because I was going to Japan. Moreover, I was too stubborn to enable vacation mode (I did enable it twice after I was already drowning in reviews but always disabled it shortly after, thinking that I’m just wasting time; haha, what a great idea that was).

Now I’m sitting here with a hundred lessons and 450 reviews and I’m getting pretty much everything wrong. And every day I fight my way down to 350 and I think “tomorrow I’ll be down to 250!” and then I come back the next day and am back at 450.

Yesterday, I almost reset down to a lower level. If it wasn’t for the confirmation email that I received. If it wasn’t for the carbigators friendly words:

Most people reset their accounts because they’re feeling overwhelmed. It is possible to chip away at your review queue and let SRS balance everything out if you’re having doubts about this reset.

I would have gone through with it but I stopped. And now I’m back here, doing 50 reviews at a time and no lessons. And I would lie if I said that it was fun. It is not, I don’t like it at all, it feels like a burden. But I’m sure that if I slow down and give it some time, it will be OK again eventually. I once had a slow level that took me 52 levels because I was just drowning in work and barely sleeping and I also got back on the horse after a while. And I can make it this time too. And so will you, you already made it so far!

I think I was focusing on WaniKani a bit too much. It does a very good job at keeping you motivated and coming back. Which is nice and all but grammar, other vocab and reading & listening are important too and I feel like I’m neglecting them a bit. I think after I’m back on track I will aim for a relaxed 14 day level up time (if I can beat my unhealthy desire to race it as fat as I can) and try to focus more on other resources too. It doesn’t help being able to read all the N5 kanji if I still struggle with other basics.

Sorry for the wall of text. I obviously also needed a bit of an outlet for my burn out-life got in the way and I was being stupid and biting off more than I could chew-pain. We can do this! :slight_smile: :muscle:


Lots of self pity and crying!

At one point I considered a full reset, but I was already over level 50. I decided to keep pushing forward. Once I finish all my lessons, we’re going to focus on developing a better strategy and try to identify stuff that I keep confusing or getting wrong for whatever reason. I would have been much better to focus on this early on, but here I am. If I had reset, I probably would have focused extra hard on identifying the leeches. It’s why I put out the warning about not letting things get out of control. I’ve probably got unburned cards that have been making their celebrity guest appearance for years now.

I think WK could do better at managing this - for example, suspending leeches and allowing them to be selectively re-introduced. It’s probably something that Anki does better.

I think a way as a user to link certain cards together would also be helpful - for example, if I keep confusing 心持 and 心得, let’s have them linked. I swear, these two have gone to enlightened and back to guru about a dozen times now - its a miracle my lack of knowledge hasn’t caused me the feeling to toss my iPhone against a wall.


I agree. I’m currently using the Item Marker script as a workaround. I mark the items that I confuses me and then the second and they show up side by side on my dashboard all the time. I do however worry that I could lose that information at some point since it is not a core feature. And of course it is not an option on mobile. (oh if only I had already found a way to install scripts on mobile!)


I am definitely going to install the Item Marker script!

For awhile there, I was manually entering vocab I had trouble with into an Anki deck. I haven’t done it since that first batch because it was pretty labour intensive.

Another thing I realized is that if I knew a vocab without its kanji already it helped when the component kanji didn’t relate enough to the meaning of the word for me to have it stick. e.g. 自然 and 安全. I learned the vocab mainly from TextFugu. But then I ran out of TextFugu vocab. Basically I would like to have a way to pre-learn vocab with weird kanji without their kanji first. Like 弁当 was no problem because I totally know what bento is already. Maybe there’s a list out there somewhere…

Essentially there are three large areas that I struggle with that aren’t necessarily all kanji problems, but definitely come up in my WK reviews:

  1. Words with kanji that don’t really (or only really marginally) relate to the definition of the word (obviously we are talking English definitions here), especially the ones with a handful of Japanese versions for an English word: 支度 / 用意

  2. Words with kanji that mean two different things, and you have to pick one of the two (50/50 chance you’ll get it right!) to get the right meaning of a word. There are so many of these. e.g. 疑問 and 命令. These are absolutely killing me.

  3. Transitive/intransitive verbs which are u/eru or eru/u pairs. I’m good with eru/aru and su/ru actually. So this is probably my smallest pain point. But it still is a pain point.

1 Like

For awhile there, I was manually entering vocab I had trouble with into an Anki deck. I haven’t done it since that first batch because it was pretty labour intensive.

Yeah, sounds very familiar. I gave that up too. When I ever get caught up on my reviews, I’m planning on using the leech training script again. I have only used it once so far but it seems very useful and saves some effort.

Your description sounds all very familiar to me. I struggle with all the points that you mentioned and in addition, I have:
4. kanji that have different readings seemingly randomly (にん or じん? just pick one already!)
5. rendaku usage where I can’t see a pattern (てんごくbut ぜんこく, ok, sure )
6. Visually similar kanji that I can get right when I focus but as soon as I relax a bit and think “ok, I got this”, I get them wrong again (知&和, 長&良, 曲&申&由, 教&数 and the list goes on… and I don’t even want to know what that list will look like when I ever reach level 60 :smiley: )

And it is so much easier to learn a reading when you already know the vocab. I didn’t have to bother with that weird “B.O.” mnemonic for “sick” because it is just “びょう” as in “びょういん” and so on. I guess that the people who are speeding through the levels and never burn out are often the ones who already know a lot of vocab and are continuously consuming different kind of content (probably even living in Japan). Their experience must be very different that for example mine: I just started Japanese from 0 in June and there is not a lot of vocab that I can use as a basis. I’m also slow at consuming content since I have to look up so many words so I don’t have that many opportunities to reinforce the kanji I’m learning here. In the end it all comes down to: I have to slow down with WK and focus more on other aspects of learning Japanese. But WaniKani is just so addictive :wink:

@irrelephant Your experiences sounds almost identical to mine! I only started learning Japanese from 0 in about April or so this year, and I started WK with no Japanese knowledge at all. Your points 4-6 are actually things I struggle with too, I just didn’t think of them off the top of my head. Apparently it helps to learn to write the kanji by hand for point #6, but who honestly has time for that? Not me, anyhow, unless I were to stop all WK progress until I learned them by hand.

I missed the Leech Training Script at first. I should try that out as well. Already I have flagged a bunch of stuff using Item Marker. I plan to go over the items there when I get some time this weekend. I’m not going to bother trying with Anki again, it’s just too much work.

As far as learning other aspects of Japanese goes… I may try that BunPro site. I think it’s cool that it lets you choose a level you want to start at. It sucks because I just ordered the Genki textbook and workbook, but clearly I’m not getting very far with them (only on like chapter 3 or 4). Genki doesn’t punish you with a huge list of reviews when you haven’t touched it in awhile. Apparently the stick is good motivation for me. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

1 Like

@zzzlurg That really sounds just like me. I’m also always planning on using BunPro more regularly but I never get around to it. And there’s also Satori Reader which I would like to use more… and all my Anki decks (a core deck, subs2srs cards, genki cards, notes from my skype lessons, travel related vocab…)… listening to Japanese Pod 101… there are just too many things I would like to do, too little time and none of them make you as obsessed as WaniKani does.

I’m working through Genki but I could never do it on my own. If you, like me, do need some good old shame and embarrassment combined with nice encouraging words as a motivator, I recommend finding a teacher. I have a weekly lesson via Skype with my italki teacher and we work through the chapters, practice the new grammar points and she gives me homework that we review together. I’m sure I would still be stuck at chapter 2 without her. Instead, I’m about to start chapter 9. Not a very fast progress but still much better than nothing. But just yesterday she gave me a surprise test and I didn’t do very well. There were so many basics that I should have known already but I didn’t practice them enough yet. I feel like I should be a bit further along given to the hours that I put in already, so I guess I’ll have to change my strategy a bit.

I keep going back and forth about writing practice but since I’m not planning on ever living in Japan, it doesn’t seem worth the time for me. But I did at least write the top 50 or so kanji that I keep mixing up down and put them on the wall next to my desk. I haven’t looked at them since but maybe I will subconsciously soak them up over time. Otherwise, they will just be there and work as decoration. :wink:

1 Like

if a burn was failed, then that means you were able to kick it up to enlightened once. There is no reason you can’t do it again.

1 Like

I am slowly starting to feel a bit more in control, and even did lessons the other day (only 10 items but it’s a start)! Maybe I’ll get back into grammar when I have some time over the holidays.