Creating a Consistent 日本語 Routine (WK and Beyond)

Hi, WK family!

I’ve been off and on with WK (and Japanese, frankly) for many years now. I studied hard in university, graduated, panicked because I wasn’t fluent, then ran face-first into the infamous “intermediate plateau”, only to slide back down the scale. I’ve gone through a ton of those “Heck, this just isn’t for me; I’m not going to study anymore” moments, but also those “I miss Japanese so much!” moments. So I do want to continue my study- and maybe someday pass the terrifying JLPT N1. But so far I haven’t been able to build a routine for studying that works for me.

When COVID-19 first started spreading, I found myself with a little bit more time stuck at home, so I dove into WK full-throttle. However, I think I burned too hot too fast because my practice lasted for probably two months before I fell off the proverbial wagon…

So my question to all of you lovely language learners is: what does your routine look like for Japanese study? If you’ve reached Level 60 Enlightenment, what tips or tricks do you have for appeasing the Crabigator? What resources and habits have helped y’all get through that dreaded intermediate plateau?

Thank you for the help! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and digging through their piles of Reviews effectively (definitely not me; I have HUNDREDS backed up now bahaha).

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  • WK 3 times a day
  • Anime
  • Manga
  • Youtube
  • Podcast while doing anything else (not always though)
  • Also I’m addicted to Japanese music lately
    (I recognize new things after listening a lot so it kinda helps)
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I’ve mentioned it before around the forums, and I understand it won’t be beneficial for everyone, but a very important thing for me was to always forewarn myself that there would be times that I would hate studying.

Ups and downs are normal - it’s impossible to always enjoy something you do every day. Even eating your favourite food every day would make it a chore to eat. I warned myself frequently that I would have to push through when that time came.

During the (frankly pathetic) previous attempts at learning Japanese, I always quit at the very first slump. I’m not saying that’s what you do, it’s just what I did over a span of… 12 years, I guess (four or five attempts at Japanese self-study in that time).

When I started Japanese in earnest, I had seen the benefits of merciless routine in other things. It has nothing to do with wanting to do it, or feeling motivated to do it, it’s simply something I must do. I allow myself to slow down, or have days where I only zero out my reviews, but I never allow myself to break the rhythm of “Do something every day.” Even if I curse and huff and groan at every single review or lesson.

I had days that I lowered the bar to only doing 1 review that day. But somehow it still helped me, as I never fully broke the studying habit. For me, getting (re)started is sometimes the hardest part, and never feeling like I actually stopped made things easier for me.

Having discipline drag me through my first major slump in motivation (especially with grammar being a bit of a nightmare for me) meant the next slump was easier. It became a pattern I am familiar with, and I now know that I will fall in love with Japanese all over again, and the progress, however slow-going at times, has always made the bad periods worth it for me.

As I got further along, I could look back at the progress I made, knowing I wouldn’t have made it to that exact point if I had quit or taken any extended breaks. So I could tell myself that not giving in to the slump now would mean that, six months from now, I will again be happy and grateful that I didn’t quite or take an extended break.

Okay, it has taken me far too many words to say:

  • I keep my eye on the ultimate goal, knowing I have to think about things long-term
  • I remind myself that slumps are inevitable, and I know by now that I can make it through them
  • I try to celebrate and remind myself of the progress I’ve made, to realise the benefits of sticking with it when study times are tough

I hope you can find a method that works for you, so you can keep pursuing your love for Japanese! :muscle:

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Something that’s been very helpful for me is the idea of streaks. If you do something consistently for long enough, you’ll actually get to the point where it’s harder to not do it than it is to motivate yourself to do it. I use an Android app called Loop to keep track of things I want to accomplish every day. As your streak grows, you essentially want to keep it unbroken so you can see that score go up.

So one thing I did was always make sure I brought my WaniKani reviews down to zero at least once per day. This means that if I woke up and only had 10 reviews to do, I could technically count that – but of course, the next day I would have a ton of leftovers, so it actually helped motivate me to review multiple times per day so I didn’t get swamped later. The WaniKani heatmap script gives a nice way to see how you’ve been doing with your daily activity by tracking review and lesson counts in addition to your streak.

The 0/0 streak challenge motivates people to stay on top of both their lessons and reviews by making a goal out of bringing both values down to zero at least once between levels. It’s a super supportive thread so I highly suggest getting involved.

Another daily streak I stay on top of is simply getting exposure to native Japanese. This could be anything from watching anime to reading manga or novels to playing videogames with a lot of text. My streak goal is a minimum of 30 minutes per day. On top of that, a JP-study Discord server I’m part of has a special role you can get by writing weekly reports on what you’ve read during the week, and I actually just turned one in for a 71st week in a row. If I let that streak lapse I know I’d be incredibly disappointed (not to mention lose my cool color) so the pressure is on.

Basically just make sure you’re doing something every day. Your goals don’t have to be the same as mine, just find something that you know you can achieve and stick with it. Aiming too high can lead to burnout so shoot low until you find a pace that works, and don’t forget that you can easily ramp up as you find your goals are getting easier.

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I’m not lvl 60 yet, but I have ramped up my studies since the lockdown started, and am going strong. I was on and off for many years as well.

First off, Wanikani is not “studying Japanese” in and of itself. It is useful facts about Japanese, but is really just like ammunition or fuel. You need to do so much more to get anywhere. I’d recommend a native teacher for reasons of guidance and accountability. But don’t let them talk you out of doing WK. Japanese people don’t know how to teach westerners kanji - they want you to just write them over and over for nine years and voila…

If you find it is hard not to drift away from Japanese (like I have many times), then I recommend two things: first, examine your reasons for learning and decide if it is worth the enormous amount of time and energy required long term. Second, as I mentioned above, is accountability - don’t study alone. iTalki is the single best resource for learning Japanese on the internet, provided you shop around for the right teacher. You will have to get your work done every week. I’m doing four lessons a week now, and it keeps me focused.

Also, read like crazy. Between lessons and keeping up with the ridiculous time demands of WK, there seems to be little time left, but squeeze in some news or Satori Reader (nice! it’s like graded readers for adults).

Specifically to WK, it helps to develop a strategy, and in my opinion, get through the levels in the minimum time. Many people on the forum think it is a virtue to take your time, swirl the glass around, and breathe in all the delicate tones of WK, but I think it is an annoying prerequisite to reading that should be blasted through at maximum speed. Definitely prioritize radicals and kanji, and save the vocab until you have time to sit down and plow through it. For me that’s usually at night. Be careful not get a lesson pile-up, though. I’ve been hitting seven day levels pretty consistently since February and only have about 50 outstanding vocab lessons right now.

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What I do is not sticking with the language… but enjoying all the japanese culture.

I’m currently not only studying japanese language, but also discovering everyday more interesting stuff on Japan. Reading art books, myths and legends, studying Japan’s story and more on japanese culture also.
Like that I’m motivated with 日本語 because their language is strongly chained to their really ancient culture.

Unlike many, the thing that interests me less about Japan are the manga, anime and probably also the music (I’m talking about pop).
I’m strongly linked to the study of history and traditions that fascinate me tremendously every day.

You also need to fall in love with study itself… that’s important imho.

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Thank you for this! It’s good to get some “non-traditional” ways to learn too, to break up the monotony. What sort of Japanese podcasts do you like to listen to, and can you access them via normal podcast apps?

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Thanks so much! :slight_smile: I really appreciate the thorough reply and hearing about your story and your methods. It’s really inspiring. Planning a tangible ultimate goal will be very important for me, as well as making sure that I’m able to power through slumps.

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Thanks for your response! I’ve used streaks off and on for other hobbies in my life, but not really with Japanese, so maybe I’ll look into a system to encourage that.

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I really appreciate your honesty! I feel like sometimes we can get caught up in the Sunk Costs Fallacy and put too much effort into something that is no longer a priority for us. I’ve had that conversation with myself many times, and have definitely tried to talk myself out of the language. Somehow I keep drifting back.
I’ve heard before that reading is often the single best way to improve your skills outside of speaking with a native language partner, so thanks for the Satori Reader recommendation! I’ll make note of that and look into it.
Good luck in your own journey, and thanks for all the help!

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Thanks for your input! I agree; Japan’s history is incredibly beautiful and intriguing. I think that’s an amazing reason to study a language. Also, if you study a language, you kind of have to learn about the culture and history a little bit, right? It’s all wrapped up together.

I think that’s amazing. I need to find my love for the culture as a whole again, instead of just focusing on the nitty gritty of grammar and kanji and vocab all the time. It’s easy to lose steam that way. Thanks for the reminder!

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Anyone has any ideas how to go beyond WK&reading practice?

My routine consists mainly of wk, satori reader for reading and listening, nhk easy news, jlpt kanzen series and the 500 mon book for N3. But I feel like it leaves me with a really spotty knowledge?

Do you use textbooks? How on earth do I stay motivated doing one, mostly talking to myself etc.? I’m looking at chuukyuu kara manabu and similar level books. I used to have a tutor, but now that’s not really an option unless they’re really cheap… also most of the natives on italki don’t sound very helpful for what I would need (really accuracy targeted lessons with a textbook) and the professional teachers are very expensive (rip everyone outside of US/eurozone paying for italki or preply…)

I don’t like studying things seperately (except kanji, thanks to the addictive nature of WaniKani), after learning fundamental grammar I’m learning the rest along the way.

It’s the only podcast I listen to but you can find a lot of other recommendations by searching the forum.

Try searching italki with the title of your preferred textbook and see what comes up. I found a great teacher that uses Tobira that way. Speaking of, maybe Tobira might be worth a look for you. It’s more integrated than separate JLPT prep books, and has audio/video parts as well.

You can also scroll through the Master List of Study Logs for ideas of people’s goals and routines

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I used to post pictures of the Genki workbook pages on HelloTalk and would ask for a conversation partner, would almost always find one

Personally I’d recommend to attend any actual Japanese course / online teaching on your own level for the best learning along with keeping up with WK / other Japanese related hobbies. But when attending classes isn’t possible (which is the case for me at the moment), this is how my daily studying routine looks like:

  • Do ~30 mins of WK in the morning
  • Complete half a chapter from a textbook called “Kanji in Context” by writing everything on paper; the kanji, their pronunciation with hiragana and their translations (1h - 1.5h)
  • Read a few chapters of manga depending on my level of tiredness, usually I spend from 30mins to 1.5h reading (the target is always to read at least 1 chapter).
  • Do ~30 mins of WK before going to bed

I do have to say that this schedule feels really intensive and tiring at the moment with full time work (luckily working from home), but I’m trying to keep this boosting period up until fall when I’m supposed to be starting a student exchange period in Japan (let’s see what COVID-19 has to say to this though :confused: ). The plan would be to increase my reading / writing related skills as much as I can now, and then start improving my speaking skills again when going to exchange.

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