Caught in a bit of downward spiral

Hi folks, first time poster and in need of a bit of advice.

I have just opened up Level 15 & seem to have spent the last few days in a bit of a downward spiral of making errors or completely forgetting older vocab & kanji. I usually like to keep my apprentice around 100 to manage reviews but I would definitely say I am a slow learner and need to be exposed to things multiple times before my brain will take it on board.

As of late I get my apprentice count down to around 75 and then a bunch of errors creep in and its back up towards 100. I haven’t taken on any lessons for a few days as I want to work on getting on top of things before introducing more new words into the mix but needless to say my frustration levels are growing and I am not enjoying the way I previously was able to as I am caught in this loop.

The mnemonics don’t work very well for me so I brute force by repetition and perhaps this is where I could be going wrong? Any other suggestions that may be of use? In terms of level I have read through Japanese From Zero 1 to 5, read a lot of Satori Reader/NHK News but am suddenly struggling with SRS.

Apologies as I am sure this kind of post has been done a million times but I am doing my best not to smash my laptop up!

Thanks in advance


I wouldn’t recommend brute force, mainly because there are just better methods and brute force is probably why you feel like you need to see a word multiple times for it to stick. Instead you can try to create your own mnemonics. WK’s are great, but if you can come up with something that sticks better for you specifically, that will be a huge plus. Also, depending on if you consume any content on the side, you can try incorporating sentences you’ve seen the word used in. Alternatively there’s the Anime Context Sentences script, that you can try. Also also, you can try learning how to write kanji, and then jot down the words/kanji you are currently studying, as that is also known to have helped quite a few people.
Brute force or rote memorization is probably the least efficient way you can go about it if you don’t yet have the neural pathways to make that easy.


Thankyou for taking the time to reply. Your comment about it being the least efficient way to memorize things rings true for my experience at the moment.

I will take your advice and try to write some of my own mnemonics and also writing down the words that are not sticking, I know that has helped me a lot when working through textbooks previously & have no idea why it has never occurred to me.

Thanks for the advice :grinning:


Well, least effective for memorization, but quite efficient when it comes to time spent doing it. There’s a kind of balance I find - how much time to put on lessons, making mnemonics of my own, taking notes, some people write down the kanji for extra training - there are many, many things you can do to help with memorization and all of that is good.

The less effective method is to just keep doing your reviews and eventually items will stick. it’s a bit weird how you can do WK for a while and everything is fine, until items simply aren’t as easy anymore and you start failing them in guru which pops them down to apprentice again.

I find that to be perfectly normal, if you’re going for SRS-only - eventually you’ll learn - approach. It just needs more repetitions. And some levels are just harder than others.

What I wanted to say in this roundabout way, is that I don’t think you have to think of yourself as a slow learner at all - just a normal learner. Failing reviews is part of the process of memorization. And after more difficult levels comes easier again. :slight_smile:

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I would argue against that. Brute force is most effective when the time intervals are short, leading to a situation, where you fail the longer srs intervals, costing you a ton of time.


well, I don’t think giving a batch of kanji 2 more SRS repetitions (after failing them) to be a ton of time. But, maybe I’m just a fast reviewer? :thinking:

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I’m calculating the time it takes for it to come back into the total. So for me, failing for example an enlightened item is ~5 months of time


But, that’s surely not what’s being discussed here, but rather the immediate review session after you’ve guru’d an item. That is the main timing when you’ll fail items you haven’t quite grasped. :eyes: It’s certainly been true for me that blunt-forced myself to lv 60 once before, with minimal time on lessons.

A very clear picture emerged: items I had a bit more hard time with would fail 1-2 times during the apprentice stage, most likely failing to get to Apprentice 2 or failing to become guru’d. But, the bigger issue is to keep items in guru, moving them up to guru 2. That’s the next time I’d fail a lot of items. Maybe around 1/4 of all items would do this zig-zag before moving on up to guru2, master and then it was fine really. They didn’t come back to haunt me more than any other random item I learnt. :woman_shrugging:

What I meant by little time, was actual time spent doing the learning activity. For 50 items, that’s 10 minutes reviewing, at most. If you fail all of those, that’s 20 minutes extra total to get them back to where they were, without doing anything else.

I think this is just a matter of taste and preference really.


Been there, I think you have the right idea of trying to lower your apprentice load. But you need to give that some time to settle. Apprentice and Guru items are the ones that come on the stack the earliest. Try to reduce both of them to a comfortable level that works for you. Often times seen people mention 100 apprentice and 250 guru items and that was like the base level. I went a step above that and lowered it to 50 apprentice and 100-150 guru items.

This is slower, but your pace is not set in stone. Adjust when necessary. Good luck and take care.


I am so so with mnemonics, They help me, but my brain will not hold on to them much past guru1 or guru2, and so I need the vocab asap to reinforce them. If I start seeing them in nature soon(which happens often) then I am golden.

When I get mentally exhausted, I stop lessons and work on trying to cement what I have. I increase reading and listening as much as I can.

SRS is brute force in a way, language itself is brute force. You just have to see words multiple times. Think of how many times you have seen the words I am typing now. Hundreds or thousands of times each, no doubt.

Hang in there. I think you are probably a normal learner. Stay positive. Tell your mind you’re awesome at learning languages, it will probably listen.


To be honest, I don’t think it should. Constantly having to recall mnemonics just so you can read something sounds dreadful. At some point you will have to rely on your brains pattern recognition system to recall the vocab and kanji.