Even though I reached level 60, I do not want a cake

No one even promised me a cake. I’ve heard some rumors. But I don’t want it. A year ago, when I started — yea, I would consider the idea of promising myself to make a level 60 cake would be kind of nice. But I didn’t. And I won’t make one.

If you didn’t guess, it might not be the most upbeat lvl60 post. Just a heads up. If you are here for the tips, there is a section below. Otherwise, I’m just going to tell a story, like I wanted when I was starting.

The story

Quite a while ago… might be six to eight years ago… I kind of had this idea to learn Japanese. Just because it was difficult. And someone showed me what anime is. But that failed! As it usually goes, I haven’t had the best idea over how to do it. So… quite embarrassing… hiragana was where i stopped. There was also university that got in the way, but still. That is quite early. What I think though, it is much better to reflect on your goals rather than to follow after something that might not really work (or might not be worth the effort).

My language learning journey didn’t end, of course. I had to go through classes in English (as you might have guessed, I am far from sounding even close to native). Then — 3.5 years ago — I went after relearning/refreshing my German, which I improved quite a lot — but only enough to understand, maybe sometimes communicate. Has to be two years and some three months when I decided it’s enough.

My life was also going in no particular direction, being unsure what to do after my bachelor degree. With similar reasoning to finish what I once started. With also similar additional motivation, that i shant uncover. A bit wiser. With a few more experiences. Went on to learn Japanese. Has to be some August of 2021.

I even tried enrolling some of my friends into the experience, but they either refused, or didn’t last through the alphabets.

First of all, I used Real Kana and Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese. Hiragana and katakana only took about two weeks. Whilst reading Tae Kim, I researched some more resources, like Imabi. And of course WaniKani on 16 September.

So the first encounter was rather nice! I didn’t subscribe at first. So I was leisurely learning the first three during the first year. I have learnt every single day since then. (Actually I have studied every single day since I started learning on 22 August.)

Really, nothing hot about the first three levels. Especially when going so slow. But I did read the whole Tea Kim and first 50 lessons on Imabi, which took quite some time.

So a year passed. And then a disaster happened. Not one that I will elaborate on. A quite tragic happening. I refuse sharing what happened, and I won’t answer questions about that. It is a considerable part of the story. Just know that it happened.

So. The tragic event. After which I failed my bachelor exam! Which is… the bachelor exam was so easy compared to the classes and their exams. An order of magnitude easier. So the fact that I failed was… embarrassing. Which didn’t help my already shattered self confidence. The happening might be the direct reason for my failure, or it might not be the case — I am known for doing my exams with rather random results, despite my efforts, or lack thereof. I managed to pass a reassessment without much problem, despite being in a miserable condition. I was searching for a job, to try something out, and make things easier to decide over the next step. That went also nowhere despite almost half a year of trying.

What happened later? Well, the event left me deteriorating. My condition was worsening, and I could not do much productive work of any sorts — but rather because of my mood, motivation and self confidence. Then, with a bit of help from a friend deciding, I committed to the Carbigator.

I just noticed, it suddenly became an overture to a villain story. Well, it is kind of fitting.

My idea was simple. I had too much time on my hand. Not doing anything would make me only worse. So the plan was to study every single day. Do lessons until it is impeding things in my life or just the reviews. For starters I was doing one level in a week.

You might expect some stories of how it went through. And… I do not have much… Last year was pretty… bad. Atrocious. Disgusting. Awful. Like if I lost the ability to be happy. Well… It went nothing special. I was just… unhappy. And struggled through everything like I always do, just with even more sadness. Level after level. Having small ups and downs. Maybe some bad decisions.

Is there something more to be said? I worked for almost every single hour when I was awake. It’s all it took. And I was doing some additional reviews like stuff in the evenings, and sometimes mornings. Surely the recent addition of recent mistakes is great, making it so much easier. Also going through lessons, I was doing small reviews glancing over them visually, which seemed to help with retention. Usually 3 every half an hour after a lesson.

Also, I was reviewing on my phone, laptop and pc. In the car, driving a train, between classes. Was that an overkill? Might have been.

I do not know what else to even tell about my experience. The blood disaster that happened overrides everything with unhappiness. There is no more room for enjoyment sadly.

That also means that nothing was going much in the way of my studying. No parties, no holidays, no plans, no goals. I was never a party person, but now… any form of enjoyment is pointless. Might work for my future instead — for when I… am not totally broken and lifeless? Some future, any future? Maybe?

Recently I started my masters degree, out of no better ideas. It did impede progress, but that was fine. I just had to work harder. Nothing else to do anyway. Worked out somehow. And… here we are. Reached level 60.

Summary

If we compensate for the inconveniences made by the disaster, it was pretty nice. I mean… everything is so much more tragic, and less happy… but I guess things more or less kept relative proportions of enjoyment… maybe? And I was not bored doing the classes. For sure it helped me not waste so much time last year.

One thing I noticed is that I learned quite some English words. Like “superfluous” I haven’t known before, now it’s in my daily vocabulary.

Mnemonics were nice. I made a few of my own. Never made a synonym, it seemed like cheating — who am i to know better? No scripts apart from statistics. I did sometimes allow myself to repeat a review — for when I had a typo. I tried to be super deliberate not to overuse it. So basically only typos.

One thing I kind of intuitively decided on, was to check both reading and meaning after only one mistake (the button unlocks, but it seems it only forces you to check the mnemonic and answer if you get it wrong twice). So… I am not sure. That is what I did. Is it optimal? I do not know. Could be more strict and… it could go either way really. Maybe it would make my comprehension so much better? Maybe it would discourage me, and hinder my progress?

Surely I sometimes overdid the amount of lessons during. Even reviews, being too diligent to do them in the middle of the night sometimes.

I haven’t yet checked the difference between what I could read before and after. I guess I should do something like that.

Oh! I also did a Python script that takes in a Spotify playlist, and returns the same playlist reordered by the fraction of kanji that is in your vocabulary (telling you also that ratio). Was kind of cool to see it work.

The whole site seems to be extremely well made. I wonder what algorithm is used for correcting typos in answers. I assume it only calculates a specific distance function, plus a few exceptions? Either way, for my limited knowledge and experience, the whole application is top quality I would say.

Tips for the new people

So. Whether you skipped the sad story or not, you are here for some tips! The first one, is not to believe in what I say. Or more like… have your own idea. And I that is just my experience. Yours might differ.

Do things regularly. If you think you can do reviews every single hour, try. Worked for me. But do not overdo it. Waking up in the middle of the night for a week to save yourself one day is not worth it.

Always reflect on your goals. Maybe it is not what you want? Is it worth the effort? Are you too lazy on the other hand? Do you want more from life than the effort you are sacrificing? Is your reasoning wrong in some way? Are your reasons for what you do a bit low, or wrong? There is a continuum of questions you can ask. I won’t do that for you. But in general, I think that is how you make good decisions. Just reflect. Develop. Be something more than you were before.

Give yourself a set of rules. Objective ones work the best. So that you can’t cheat (even subconsciously). Or that at least it is super hard. Otherwise you won’t escape it — and cheating is going to hinder you in the long run.

My opinion is that additional reviewing makes things easier. What I like to do is to refresh myself on every single mistake from the last 24 hours, repeat meaning and reading (and mnemonic maybe). Daily. Maybe twice a day even. If you fail at any, read the page again.

I also liked to go back to my lessons a couple times after I finished them. But only over first two hours so it couldn’t affect my reviews too much.

Grammar is a good idea. The conundrum is, you will have a lot of time when you start, but the later you do your grammar, going through it will be easier. A rule of thumb might be to leave the grammar aside for a while when you think that it is becoming a slugfest with all the vocabulary.

Good resources: Real Kana, Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese, Imabi (this one is very technical and difficult, compared to others), and of course Genki.

Having a nice keyboard is great. I was switching for some time between my awful membrane keyboard, and a very decent laptop mechanical keyboard. Difference is huge. But it is only a quality of life upgrade. And writing on the phone I made considerably more mistakes, and it usually took twice the time. I sometimes wonder if using it was worth it.

Similar idea with the fast typing ability. It saved me quite some time. But to be honest… It is a skill worth making effort to develop only if you either like it, or if you will gain a little bit more out of it. Let’s make quick math to show how much you can save. I spent roughly 1000 hours here, according to Pomofocus. Let’s say half of that was writing (maybe that is a stretch, but not by much). If you made your writing 10% faster, which isn’t difficult, you’d save 50 hours over a year. Quite decent amount. Still not sure if it is worth it, if that is your only goal.

Use it as an opportunity to learn more than just kanji. Learn how to learn. Learn to notice when your focus is low, and how to make it better. Learn a good pattern of rest-work. Or whatever. In my opinion, it might be of more value than the Japanese itself.

Learning things in this manner — when you try to memorize, but it isn’t really using the skills — I found that it is hard to go above 50-80% comprehension. You’re going to forget things easily. Like when learning hiragana. After you had your tables, maybe some srs system, it is still tricky to nail every word. Only after you start using it (for example to comprehend readings on WaniKani) does it become a part of you. Just an observation, but I think it’s an important one. So do not aim for perfection — it’s suboptimal.

Be honest with yourself. (That is a short one — deliberately.)

And one best tip. Likely more than half of the above are just a pile of worthless rambling. Maybe even lies. Beware, I am only a human. And rather an imperfect one.

Stats

As you might have noticed, the fact that the whole thing took me a year is just a tiny, tiny stretch. True: It was really really close to a year of being subscribed. Well. Knowing that, there is the first buch of statistics:


I have no clue if that is good or not. I guess decent? Does it matter? Okay, it does at least a tiny bit. It is probably better to accept it as it is.


Here you can clearly see that I primed the first three levels.


Sadly, I do not have full data on that. I haven’t had the script on other devices. And I lost some when I disabled the script in March. Oh well. It is still readable I guess? I promise I studied every day.


The lessons are complete though.


I also used Pomofocus. I usually did record the time I was studying. I didn’t only sometimes when I was traveling, and alike. I really like this graph. And I use Pomofocus a lot. It’s a decent app. It also counts other means of learning Japanese. Total since 20 November when I started is 1042 hours and 15 minutes now.

Future

I… well… if there is any future… Maybe I’ll go to japan. I actually never really went on any fun trip. I am not looking forward to do things like that now. So… maybe one day. I’ll try going for more grammar and translating things. I hope to be able to get to the level where I can actually enjoy some content in Japanese. Some streamers maybe? Sure I would have to find one I would like, which might not be easy.

Please think twice before trying to coach me about my situation. Also… I do not think I can appreciate any cheerups or compliments if there are any. Just keep that in mind, I probably won’t respond or say “thank you”. But in the end… do whatever you want.

The post is far from perfect. I do believe it is due to my condition. But also I am conscious that every time I say that, it might be just an excuse for not doing good enough. Who knows.

I really wanted to make this post a bit more… but it didn’t work out… something like a drawing at least! It could use some nice drawing! Maybe I’ll do one. I still can make decent drawings during better (less awful) days.

And that’s how it goes. I am sorry if it wasn’t really something one would like to hear from someone that spent ~1000 hours of learning. Don’t get me wrong. The app is great. It allowed me to make something productive during a… questionable time. It is a shame I could not enjoy it more. Things happened I guess.

Now assume that I am awkwardly weaving good-bye. Like if I wasn’t sure if I should say さようなら, good bye, or see you again soon, or just leave. An awkward weave.

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Levenshtein Distance, plus exceptions (blacklist, whitelist, and shake/warn).

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fair enough. I won’t made a cake post for you then. ^^;

Congrats still.

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No cake, but do you accept internet hugs from strangers?
Congrats for level 60, and thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading and feeling close to you, and I agree with all your tip! When I was new I was reading all the level 60 posts, so I’m sure those will be read too, so thanks for writing them too!
If you are continuing with your Japanese journey but not sure where to go, consider joining a book club here on Wanikani :slight_smile: might make you discover things you will really enjoy! There are also threads about streamers and others in Japanese, maybe someone can give you recommendations that match your interests.
See you around!

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Agree about the mechanical keyboard, very satisfying when the correct answers are flowing. Using mobile has definitely set me back at times, but the trade off is the convenience to do reviews anywhere. I find I tend to get more accurate results on my iPhone and iPad with a single-finger approach.

In terms of finding content that appeals to you, here are a few random things I like:

  • Retro Vending Machine in Japan
    This guy drives around Japan visiting retro vending machine locations. The fact that they had ramen vending machines back in the 60s and 70s is super interesting to me, as is the notion that people are preserving this little piece of Japanese history.

  • Japanese Noodles Udon Soba Hokuriku
    There are tons of YouTube channels that shoot “day in the life” videos of small local restaurants. I could watch these all day.

  • Kineko Video
    This is a channel dedicated to film preservation, they scan in old 16/35mm anime trailers, PSAs and other retro content.

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Ok somebody REALLY needs a cake here. Well done and enjoy the small things in life.
Like having a piece of cake. Go buy one. Now.
You deserved it.

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Very sorry you had to go through those unspoken hardships. No need for specifics, but just know that many other folks have experienced similar, so you are not alone, and we all feel for you! :pleading_face:

Several things you wrote about in your post, and the above quote in particular, give me a ‘hunch’ or ‘feeling’ that you may be dealing with some things which even you may not be aware of.

Speaking from my own experience, for example, I had constant struggles through my life that didn’t really make sense until I was eventually diagnosed with ADHD at around age 30-ish. If I had known earlier (going back to like age 5 or 6! But anytime in between would have been good also), then my life may have turned out quite quite different.

So, I’m not going to speculate on what may be going on – it’s not my place or purpose to do so – but I will direct your attention to two threads on these forums which may be of interest for you.

The first one, which helped me in particular, is The ADHD Thread (unfortunately, seems to be ‘locked’ now, since last post over 1 year ago; but still may be worth a skim or a read).

The next is one that is more general, Improving our mental health together :two_hearts: (also seems locked, but also may be worth a skim or a read)

Even though they seem to be locked due to inactivity, if any of this stuff rings an internal bell for you, and you would like to talk about it on these forums, I’m certain that there would be plenty of people who would be open to such conversation, discussion, exploration, etc.

Congrats on level 60, regardless! No cake necessary to celebrate our ‘little victories’! :partying_face: Cheers and best wishes for your future! :hugs:

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