I’d like to share the schedule I’m using for WaniKani: 14 days per level and about 10 lessons per day. This still takes a considerable amount of time every day, but I’ve found this pace delivers the optimal balance of consistency and challenge.
Before level 30 I was averaging 9 days per level but found that while I was proud of reaching level 30 in the middle of August 2020 after starting in early December 2019, that pace was no longer sustainable for me. I thought about my goal, develop the ability to read in Japanese for enjoyment, and decided it was more important to space out the time I spent studying across the whole WaniKani program so I would stick with it and retain a higher percentage as I learn.
Fortunately, there is research showing that greater time between study sessions leads to a higher learning rate. Check out this study of training British postal workers to type. The finding was that the group that was the most spaced out had the best performance and their improvements lasted the longest. Interestingly, that same group reported that they felt like they were making the least progress. A true tortoise and the hare situation.
This is the 14 day per level schedule that I devised after reaching level 30. The basic idea is to do 10 lesson per day at 5pm and then the first set of reviews at 9pm. This shifts all the remaining reviews to the morning which is most convenient for me. And as a bonus, there are way fewer reviews in the evening, clearing the way for either grammar study, reading practice, or just relaxing a bit.
The standard template for each day (shift according to your daily sleep cycle):
- Morning: Reviews until the bulk are completed
- Late Afternoon: Lessons 10
- Evening: Reviews for the 10 items learned in the late afternoon.
I should state here that I don’t use any reorder scripts. The way that standard WaniKani levels work is that you must finish the vocabulary for the previous level before the radicals for the current level appear in the lessons. Once you reach the radicals for the current level, this could be considered the real level start. You must reach Guru for the radicals before the second set of kanji unlock. Conveniently, when the second set of kanji unlock, they appear first in the next lesson session. Hooray! Then it’s just a matter of reaching Guru for the remaining kanji until you reach the level up threshold (number of kanji in the level minus 3). There are exceptions to this pattern in the later levels (AKA “short levels”) but I’m not worried about that for now.
The full 14 day schedule for leveling up looks like this. (The standard template always applies. I’m just calling out when the critical path items appear.)
- Fri -
- Late Afternoon: Lessons Radicals @ Apprentice 1 (Start Level. Learn all the radicals.)
- Evening: Review Radicals @ Apprentice 2
- Sat -
- Morning: Review Radicals @ Apprentice 3
- Sun -
- Morning: Review Radicals @ Apprentice 4
- Mon - Standard
- Tue -
- Morning: Review Radicals @ Guru 1
- Late Afternoon: Lessons Kanji Group 2 @ Apprentice 1 (Learn all the kanji in the unlocked set.)
- Evening: : Review Kanji Group 2 @ Apprentice 2
- Wed -
- Morning: Lessons Kanji Group 2 @ Apprentice 3
- Thu -
- Morning: Lessons Kanji Group 2 @ Apprentice 4
- Fri - Standard
- Sat - Morning: Lessons Kanji Group 2 @ Guru 1 (Finish Level. This is the level up. You did it! Go look at the funny gif in email notice.)
- Sun - Standard
- Checkpoint: Getting lessons below 100 by the end of this Sunday should usually make it possible to start the new level’s radicals by Friday with 10 lessons per day during the week. Use this checkpoint as a guide for doing a extra lessons as needed so you can start the radicals for the new level on Friday.
- Mon - Standard
- Tue - Standard
- Wed - Standard
- Thu - Standard
- After you start the second set of kanji, you can usually miss 3 and still stay on this schedule. Because of the length of this schedule, if you want to catch up, you can do so by doing some extra lessons for a few days. But you could also easily take extra time, just don’t do the lessons for the radicals for the new level until you’re ready to start the cycle again.
- Any level that has more than 140 items will require that some extra lessons are added to keep the 14 day schedule on track. I find it is most convenient to add these extra lessons starting on the Saturday that reach the level up. But you can spread these out across any days you prefer.
- One more thing that I should have mentioned in the original post. Some of the early levels have a lot more items, too many in fact to learn 10 lessons per day and still level up every 2 weeks. My advice would be to feel it out and go at a pace that works for you. It’s reasonable in my opinion to stay at 10 lessons a day and take longer on the earlier levels so that 1) you don’t burn out and 2) you don’t have a huge bunch of reviews whenever they come due. But if you feel like you can go faster in the beginning, go for it. Just remember that you can slow down the number of lessons per day later to keep the number of reviews per day manageable.
Why does this work for me? Firstly, I want to keep a consistent schedule. By creating a daily habit with specific timing, I can get past the resistance that I feel to start the work. As a bonus, I don’t have any stress about lessons or reviews building up because I know where I am in the cycle and it’s totally okay to see 130 lessons in the queue. Secondly, I want to keep a challenging pace. Fourteen days per level is the right amount of difficulty for me. Some days are a real struggle but occasionally some days are a breeze.
Finally, here’s a bonus science term backing up the need for challenge in learning: “desirable difficulties”. This is the idea that when we are learning, we should take on tasks that are hard and continuously get harder. Find out more about it here. Learning enough kanji to read Japanese is certainly both desirable because it opens up access to everything written in Japanese and difficult because it requires a big commitment over long period of time. Plus, “desirable difficulty” just sounds cool.
Let me know if you have any questions about the above. And if you try out the schedule, let me know how it works for you.