Completed 3 novels, but my Japanese is getting worse... from WK, pressure, or is this normal?

I’ve been using Japanese for around 10 years. I got a WK subscription so I could fill in the gaps of my kanji knowledge. I’m on level 14 of WK and so far I already knew all the kanji during these levels, except I had to learn some of WK’s unique radical names and a handful of vocab. My actual goal is to get to the level 40+ kanji because that’s where my unknown kanji/vocab seems to be.

For reading in Japanese, I used to mainly read manga along with articles or tutorials. Recently, I got into Japanese novels so I can build up my stamina for JLPT N1 (I took/passed N2 in 2021). I can finish a novel in about 2 weeks. After finishing my 2nd novel, I started to read multiple books at once, so I have more than one vying to be my 4th completed read. Compared to anything I’ve read before, it really feels like the way sentences are formed + the information they reveal is completely different to tutorials, manga dialogue, or articles. It’s incredible and I wish I could’ve enjoyed reading sooner!

But lately it seems like my brain is getting completely mixed up about kanji. I’m not sure if I should be worried or if this is a typical experience of someone doing WK + reading novels?

While doing WK, I found myself mixing up kanji that I never mixed up ever before (ex: 部屋 vs 部室, 数字 vs 数学). I don’t normally do flashcards with just one word on it, so being forced to see these vocab in isolation made me realize I must be relying too much on the context a sentence provides in order to know which reading it is.

To try to compensate, I tried to spend more time examining the kanji before answering (especially the 2nd kanji in a word), but I found myself reading kanji backwards! :scream: I would type the answer reversed in my haste to type as fast as humanly possible (ex: 部室 becomes shitsubu).

While reading novels, everything was going just fine/I was learning a lot until halfway through my 3rd novel. I realized I was growing unsure of myself and getting confused about reading kanji. It felt like blinders were taken off of me in a bad way. I felt extremely paranoid if I was actually reading vocab correctly and I kept double-checking words I’ve known for years to make sure I was actually reading them correctly.

But now it’s grown into me actually forgetting the readings I’ve known for years. It feels like I can’t recognize the kanji at all anymore. When I check a word, I realize “Oh, I know that word. Haha, wow, silly me…” then it pops up again a few pages later but I have the same confused reaction. I don’t know if I’m just getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new words that pop up during one novel ON TOP of the volume of words I review in WK? I was trying to only learn the words that pop up the most often as I go through mnemonics as opposed to stopping to learn every single new word + write them down, since that would make reading take an eternity. But now I’m wondering if it’s becoming too much even though reading and WK are fun? Please help by giving me advice!


I’ve experienced (and still experience from time to time) everything you describe. The reading kanji words backwards, the doubting of previously secure knowledge, the looking up of basic words, everything. I believe most of it is that WK is training your brain to look at kanji a different way than before, and therefore categorize it differently. As with every house move or wardrobe reorganizing, for example, it takes time for everything to find its new place, and until then, it’s chaos. Soon your brain will have reorganized the new knowledge (or the new way of looking at existing knowledge) and everything will be tidy and easily accessible again. Expect this reorganizing to take place several times in the future too. At least it does for me, and I go through periods where I think my brain has just stopped processing Japanese, then after a while it’s back, and I realize I’ve actually made progress. :slight_smile:


I don’t know if it applies to you at all, but for me I’ve really noticed that when my job gets stressful and starts impacting my concentration and sleep, I start making a tonne of mistakes in my Japanese - including stuff I have known for years - and my ability drastically declines.

I’ve always known that when people are tired and stressed they make more mistakes and can’t think as well, but in other areas of my life it isn’t nearly as obvious. As far as I can tell, I still mostly function at work and home during periods of stress and exhaustion. But my Japanese very obviously tanks. Maybe it just reveals how precarious my Japanese knowledge is, but it has actually been a bit of a wake-up call for me to manage my career differently to avoid these cognitive side effects.

I guess the tenuous link connecting my experience to yours is that I’ve found that pressure and having too much on my plate really do make my Japanese worse. But … I don’t know if there are any practical lessons in here. Just a bit of solidarity. We’re in it together. :slight_smile:


While I don’t have previous Japanese experience like you do, I often forget kanji and vocabulary I should know and it makes me feel terrible to the point where I think I’m no different than someone who knows just kana.

I’d say it’s normal, sometimes my brain turns on again and I feel like I can read so much more than I was just the other day. It’s hard for me too as it’s something I still experience, but in this case all I can do is just trust the process. Sometimes your brain needs a short break.

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I forget or confuse the readings for many kanji, specially those from early levels. Since I am not living everyday with the language, I think it is normal this situation.

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Honestly, what you’re describing sounds pretty normal to me.

When a similar thing happens to me with kanji I already know (ie a simple mix-up), I just remind myself that language IS contextual. Knowing a word out of context is more difficult than knowing it in its proper context. (same with recognition vs recall) The ability to know a word without any context is great, but most of the time when you’re using and interacting with a language, it will be in context. (In a conversation, in a book, on a billboard, etc.)

If I were to offer any advice, it would just to be kind to yourself and forgiving of your mistakes. (and maybe use the WK double check script for typos during reviews). You’ve already put in a tremendous amount of work to pass the N2; don’t discount that! If you’re still feeling unsure of your ability, there’s nothing wrong with going back to simpler material/ something you’ve already read to get your confidence back up.



The imaginations of my brain are an enigma.

I feel you. This is me every time i reach about the 75% mark of a book in Japanese. xD