Difficulty starting to ramp up

I studying reading and writing Japanese in the early 90s for about 2 years in Jr College. I probably learned about 1000 or so Kanji, but didn’t really master them too well. Although I could read some local Japanese papers put in front of Japanese supermarkets and get the general idea of a lot that was written, I really struggled with reading aloud. After putting Japanese down for 30 years I am surprised I retained I retained as much as I did. I’m almost level 22 and the new Kanji are really starting to get to me.

I had planned on taking N3 in December, but since it was cancelled I’m going to see how I do on N2. I am averaging about a level every 8 days and change at this point and had calculated being about level 32 or 33 when the test rolls around, but with my recent troubles with so many new kanji I am not sure I can keep up this pace and would probably be lucky to hit 30 by December.

Previously in the teen levels there were only like 5-10 out of the 35 or so kanji per level that I really didn’t remember, now there might be only a handful that I know with the majority being new.

Anyone else going through this level 20 blues? I might struggle being at around 50% or so of the N2 kanji by test time which is having me second guess my efforts :frowning: .

Can some of you vets lead me to salvation? :slight_smile:


The great thing about SRS is that it’s a self-sufficient algorithm; no matter how bad you feel your memory is, eventually you’ll be able to graduate the items. I don’t know about your specific situation (I’ve never taken the JLPT before), but I’ve been through the phase where you slowly get more and more unknown kanji (albeit at a much lower level than you) :wink:

I think one of the easiest strategies to implement (unless you’re considering a JLPT anki deck, which, well…) is to get the double-check and reorder scripts and abuse them a tiny little bit. The thing is, because your leveling time is pretty much strictly predicated upon how quickly you can Guru the radicals and then the second-wave kanji, you can expedite your progress on WK by forcing the kanji up to Guru as soon as possible, and then doing the vocabulary immediately to reinforce the kanji in your memory. I did this for pretty much the whole program, and it worked (to some extent). Of course, this is only if you want to only use WK, which will not be able to teach you all the necessary kanji by the time the test rolls around (for that, you’ll need something like anki.)

you’re actually already going at almost full speed, anyway. The theoretical min is 6d20h.


Thanks for the reply. I know my correct percentage has taken a hit. I used to be around 98%, lately it has fallen all the way to 93%. I tend to miss the English translations more than the kanji reading. I’ll look into anki maybe. I tried it early on but I liked wanikani better.

1 Like

quite a substantial fraction of users are at 85 or 90%, so you’re still up there! :slight_smile:

Yeah, it’s just really ugly and really confusing to customize. It’s a shame — a powerful free open-source program with a clunky interface.

1 Like

I have no particular date that I need to be ready for, so I can go as fast or as slow as I want. Even with my relatively slow pace, I did eventually realize the importance of maintaining a comfortable workload, though.

For me that means:

  1. Aiming for around 150 items in my review queue each day, and finishing my reviews within about an hour or so.
  2. Keeping around 100 total items in the Apprentice bucket (not just today’s review queue).
  3. Only missing about 10-15% of the questions posed during a review session.

If I violate any of those three conditions, I’ve found it starts to feel like a slog so I slow down on doing lessons.

Everybody will have different comfort levels. The above is just what works for me. I do think, however, that it’s just a matter of throttling your lessons and managing your daily review queue for whatever you find comfortable

Like you, I also suffered from the “terrible twenties”. I finally learned the importance of slowing down on lessons after level 26 (the horrible black bar below). Some kind soul gave me the sage advice to keep my number of Apprentice items down to around 100 or so.

After adopting the rules above, I’ve made steady progress without resorting to any reordering scripts or the like. My number of days-per-level crept up to about 3 weeks during the “terrible twenties” but I started to feel like I had it more under control before exiting level 29. I knew I didn’t want to repeat level 26!

I’m very happy with my overall progress:

(I’ve got more items than usual in Apprentice because I leveled-up recently and found most of the vocabulary items from the end of the prior level fairly easy.)

Note my wording in item 3 above: I like to miss no more than 10% to 15% of the individual questions posed (the number next to the thumbs-up icon on each individual review screen). That’s very different than the number of items I answer correctly the first time: if I miss either the meaning or reading question for an item, the entire item gets marked wrong in the stats database, as reported in this graph from the wonderful workload graph userscript:

That graph tells me that, up to today, I’ve struggled the most with the items in levels 21 and 25. It also shows that I’ve burned at least one item in every level through 28.

The actual workload graph shows me I’m achieving my desired average of around 150 reviews per day (on a one week rolling average).

Anyway, none of this is intended to brag (I’ve still got a long, long way to go). It’s just that I also struggled a bit in the 20’s and have finally learned how to interpret all of these stats, charts, and graphs! I found it useful and hoped that you might as well.

1 Like

I feel like my accuracy tends to tank when I’m going on autopilot through lessons (not really spending as much time to really break down and practice the items a bit) and being too lazy to run a self study quiz (script) one newly learned items right after lessons as well as on recently failed items after a review. Every time I get lazy it’s like 10% or so off of my stats.

1 Like

Thank you for the detailed post. In light of the fact that I don’t have to cram for N2 in December I’m going to shoot for a slower pace that I have been. Currently I get around 200-300 reviews most days. I’ll aim to cut that down a bit. I should start getting some burn items in the coming weeks so that will act like a tsunami of items coming back too.

I tend to go into glassy eye mode when doing review sometimes and my accuracy tends to suffer. Now that I have another year I should be able to finish going through wanikani before I tackle N2 December 2022.

1 Like

Oh yeah… I remember the 20’s. Mainly because you’ve amassed enough material in your “mastered” & “enlightened” piles to cause daily dumps of Reviews in the 100s in only a few hours time if you dare take a break.

And I’m talking about maintaining a 90%-98% accuracy. It’s not like you’re a slacker. I remember it being pretty awful. I remember passing Levels at like 3 or 4 in the morning and actually crying I was so happy it was over.

I’m going to be honest… it’s not harder material, but if you’ve just relying on what you already knew instead of creating those strong foundations you admited not doing back in junior college, it will FEEL harder.

I’m guilty of that as well. I’ve studied Japanese for several years, off & on, and I have a pretty good working photographic memory so instead of putting in the work in the beginnig from Level 1-25, I just went “click click burn” instead. Level 25-30 I maintained a steady denial of this growing problem and then finally did something about it.

I’ve kept up the pace of 7-8 days per Level till Level 50 (realizing I’m months early on my goal of finishing the program by Jan 1st 2022, exactly 2 years from the start) I have my friend Yan Jaa to thank for that.

If you want to keep that pace and not get bogged down then I suggest reading my post on Mentalists & Memory Palaces.

I want to take the N1 or even the N2 July 2022 depending on how my grammar and listening training goes over the next 8 months.


1 Like

You’re welcome.

All three factors are interrelated in complex ways, and all three are important. 200-300 reviews/day is easier if your accuracy rate is extremely high, but might feel horrific if you’re missing every other question. Ignoring radicals, 200 items equates to a minimum of 400 questions, more if you miss any — it can take quite some time to work through a pile like that.

As the old expression says: if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging! The most important thing is to stop doing lessons for a while. It may take quite a while for the number if items in your review queue to taper down, but you should be most concerned about seeing “only a handful that I know with the majority being new.”

Burns will definitely reduce the number of items you need to review (you’ll never have to review those items again).

Thank you for the reply! Yeah my reviews lately have been like 50-60 per hour sometimes, and if I’m up at 7am having slept at 11pm I am greeted with like 150+ in the queue when I log in. You seem to be making great progress. I am lucky in that I speak pretty fluent Japanese for daily conversations since I learned in college. I have since learned many thousands of words through listening and long since stopped trying to write down and look up things I didn’t know. I would simply have someone explain to me the part that I was missing, sometimes multiple times lol. It is through that emersion that I have “my” idea of what the translation of a particular word means, which isn’t always matching up with wanikani’s. I am also lucky in that most people are learning a new word, associated English meaning, and Kanji all at once. In most cases, at least up until this point it was, “oh that is how you write that word” Only really having to remember the Kanji as I know the meaning and reading already. As the easy words dried up I’m getting more and more new words and am struggling a little bit to keep up. I wish you luck on N1 if you are able to take it. How is your listening and grammar? I find going through the books thinking to myself, “oh that is a grammar point” lol. A lot of things that I take for granted luckily are grammar points. So my grammar study has kind of gone like my Kanji study. I was able to review N5-N3 in about 2 months without issue. N2 there are more polite and grammar points used in written language that I’m not 100% comfortable with yet.

Maybe I’ll give it another try at some point. I know people rave about it but it just left a kind of bad taste in my mouth comparing it to wanikani.

LOL. So you’re paying attention aren’t you? You sly devil! I’ve had to drop my WaniKani leveling up up at this point because the next half a year must be devoted to applying what I’ve learned to listening & grammar, primarily. It’s been a struggle to find the best methods honestly, that are engaging and organic neurologically speaking, but I have some ideas. The kind of speed you went through N5-N3 is probably what I should have done months ago, but since I was learning three things at once with WaniKani back when I was in the 30’s & 40’s, experimenting with the process and learning the most efficient way to learn this target language, it’s been slow going. To learn the best ways to learn this target language is as much as my goal as taking the N1 itself. I see the N1 as proof of method as I’ve had zero contact with Japanese speaking people the entire time…intentionally. And yet I dream in Japanese now. Didn’t see that coming.

I’ve been watching a lot of Japanese t.v. shows to learn organic dialogue and conversation, but I don’t think it may be the most efficient use of my time to cement concepts. It’s engaging, but you really have to pay attention to catch the “repeat action” of target grammar points, but it has given me some ideas.

My field is computational linguistics, but my husband works in Neural Networks and chess game theory. There’s more crossover than I anticipated and I’ve played more chess these months than I ever wanted to. lol.

Any advice to improve grammar is welcomed.

How much are you reading? Most people are probably sick of hearing it by now, but I’m pretty big on the idea of just learning grammar through repeated exposure and lookups when you come across something. Then you go back and fill in any gaps pre test with like a N1 prep book.

I got from basically n5 to where I am today with that. A friend of mine did that and went from like 0 to passing N1 in like 450 days I think. He even got a perfect score on the reading portion. Since you talk about being interested in the best way to learn, that’s definitely the method that has FAR outperformed everything else I’ve seen in terms of getting better. Textbook study has its place, but I think your core understanding should be done through native content.


Wow, you have a very interesting story!

There is a huge difference between spoken Japanese and written Japanese. Honestly, most of what grammar points you are going to learn are going to pertain to more formal written Japanese. If you plan on becoming a diplomat, or have reason to speak extremely formally than some of the keigo grammar points would be needed for speaking in certain settings.

As I am sure you have heard by now, Japanese grammar is extremely flexible and in most cases the order of the sentence in spoken Japanese doesn’t matter as much. If your goal is to be able to speak daily conversation you will be able to get by being extremely informal. If you intend to speak in a business context you will need more a more structured way of talking. What are your eventual end goals?

I work in the IT space and have a CCIE credential through Cisco. If I were to move to Japan again more than likely I would work in this field. Most of my communication would probably be written so more formal, but luckily most of the time we have the “gaijin” pass and most Japanese just assume from the start that your Japanese is going to be horrible. Both a blessing and a curse this is :smiley: .

I wish you luck in your N1 journey, I’m not sure yet if I want to go that far as N2 will probably suit my needs. I haven’t studied Japanese formally in forever and I have to say it was a fun change of pace from technical study.

1 Like

I guess “0-N1” is a thing. Ha! Yes! I am at the point where I need to just sit and read and read. Hearing Japanese and typing it out from t.v. shows as it plays along has helped, but I need to take this more seriously and cover much more ground. Are there any online ebooks that you recommend for someone at my Level in WaniKani but limited experience with reading text other than short conversations? I noticed that the more Kanji used the easier it is for me to understand. Is there such thing as “learning text” where the furigana only comes up if you hover over the text? I find it terribly distracting and I can’t help but cheat. (happens to me alot with Bunpro which I’ve made very limited progress. It’s just not very addictive like wanikani with its reviews).

thanks for replying to my cries of hellp!

Wanikani level is much less of an indicator of how much difficulty you’ll have with books than you would think, so it’s hard to say just based off that. Vocab is usually the big killer when it comes to novels, so your passive vocabulary is really going to be the biggest tell for what’s appropriate. In general though, コンビニ人間 is a very popular choice for an easy to read novel that’s also actually good. Very straightforward writing style, and I thought it was pretty easy to follow. I read it years ago, but iirc there’s also a digital version and translation. If you want, you could also get the translation to check understanding.

If you get the digital version, you can use calibre to remove all of the furigana. I personally remove the furigana and just look up stuff that I don’t know with like yomichan. If you wanna do this, I can give you a more detailed walkthrough.

I personally recommend that though because that way you can copy paste. There will be a lot that you want to look up/copy paste into chrome when you’re just starting out and the Kindle copy paste/dictionary can be pretty lackluster at times. For the most part, novels are pretty good about using plenty of kanji and being readable for beginners who have used wk primarily. I know that feel of being confused by all the kana.

hold my hand as I cross the street please. lol.

Yeah, np. I’ll be heading home from work here in a half hour and can do it when I get home. Video of me doing it or forum post, which do you prefer?

I was curious when I saw you mention this somewhere else - does this process affect like, artistic furigana too? Like where an unusual or discordant reading is intentionally used in the furigana so the kanji can clarify what’s meant, I mean.

I could see wanting to turn off like, additional furigana added to a work for learners, but I usually think of furigana otherwise as an intentional part of the text, that’s generally either invisible if I know the word well or mildly helpful if not, so wanting to actively turn it off surprised me. (Not knocking anyone else’s system though! Just curious)

1 Like