Feel like I'm getting "worse" the higher level I go?

I bought a full year subscription for Wanikani about a month ago and I’ve been so happy with the results so far. I’m recognizing more kanji that I see, learning all sorts of new vocab, and feel like I’m finally starting to “demystify” new Japanese words. But recently, I’ve started to notice some other consequences…

As I’ve been climbing to the end of the first 10 levels, I feel like my brain is starting to get overloaded with all the new information. Some terms constantly flip back between Apprentice and Guru in my reviews, I’m commonly mixing up kanji and vocab I used to easily distinguish, and I sometimes can’t recognize kanji that I’ve known since before I even started Wanikani (possibly due to learning similar ones / identifying the radicals). I try to keep my Apprentice items around 100, but with so many in Guru and Master as well, it feels so hard to keep them all in my brain.

Has anyone else experienced this pseudo “losing knowledge” effect? Is it due to so much new info in such little time? Am I just becoming aware of how much I don’t actually know vs what I think I know? Any tips for not getting discouraged while trying to keep an ample pace?

Thanks in advance for any advice, and I’m passing on encouragement to anyone else who might be struggling with similar stuff!


hmm…you might be foregoing something i had been going through a while ago.

i think it’s best not to focus too much on what you’re getting wrong. sure, it’s good to be aware of what you’re getting wrong, but i think you should just trust the spaced repetition system, and eventually it’ll sink in. and if not, i’m sure there are a few scripts out there that will be able to help with your leech training.

also, don’t worry too much about the similar looking kanji thing. sooner or later i’m sure they’ll click, and you’ll be more aware of the differences. or not.

don’t worry. it may feel like you’re getting no where, but trust me, in a while, you’ll feel like you’re pushing forward with even more momentum than you had before.


Also, when I get two kanji confused, I write them down next to each other and find the differences. Then, I remember them.

And, like MasuRei said, leave it to the system. You’ll get them. Just hang in there.


Well my accuracy started decreasing a bit the further I went in, but I wouldn’t call it losing knowledge. For the first 10 levels or so, the kanji are relatively simple, not just in meaning, but in appearance too. They’re all unique enough that for most of them it’s relatively easy to tell them apart from any of the others you know.

After that, the kanji get more complicated and they start looking alike a lot more. You start confusing them with each other, which causes your accuracy to drop. You’re not really “forgetting” anything, it’s more that you don’t breeze through the new items as quickly as you used to since you need some time to learn to tell them apart. After a few repetitions they will eventually stick, so don’t be discouraged by the drop in accuracy, it’s just part of the learning process.


I had the same problem at around level 10! It felt like suddenly I was forgetting everything I had learned and my review accuracy plummeted. A few things helped me: I spent a lot more time on each mnemonic with each new item, I slowed down my pace even more (50-75 items in Apprentice rather than 100), and I put more time into learning grammar and reading so that I would come across kanji more often in the wild. Ultimately you just have to play around with your process of learning and eventually you’ll figure something out! It took me a few weeks at level 10 but I reevaluated my process of doing lessons, pacing, and using the mnemonics and it helped me out a lot.


Start practicing writing the kanji and vocabulary–at least the ones you get wrong. I started doing this around level 25 and I wish I had done it sooner. A small amount of writing practice goes a long way in improving your recognition.


how many lessons are you doing at a time? You might be doing too many at once


Yes! But I’ve just reconciled myself to the fact that some kanji like to churn between apprentice and master for a while before they settle down for some enlightened burning. That’s just the way it’s gonna be.

I think it’s normal. If it isn’t normal, then I’m abnormal, and this year has been hard enough already without putting that on myself. So that’s what I say.


This is probably the biggest reason for the difficulty ramp up. And it holds true all the way to the end.

For example, I learned 優 at level 23. But at at level 55 I just learned 憂. Only one small difference and very easy to mix up during a review. Also, the readings are the same.


This is where you want to be! It may feel bad right now, but it’s an indication that you’re learning is getting better. Our brains are tricky. They learn things in stages and build models of what we’ve learned. Sometimes those models are good, sometimes not so much. When a model is not quite good enough, our brains will tear it apart and rebuild a new, more complex model which works better.

This is very common in language learning. When children learn to talk, they will learn every verb form by rote. They have no problem with irregular forms because everything is its own thing. So they may use, for example, “go” and “went” properly. But at some point they realized that adding -ed to a verb makes it past tense. Suddenly, they’re saying “go-ed” and so on. It’s only after they’ve learned a bit more that they can put the irregular verbs in proper context.

This happens in other learning environments as well. Back when I was studying jujutsu, we had a term for this. It was “green belt disease”, though it happened at various ranks. Basically, all the student’s techniques would suddenly fall apart. Nothing would work. Totally disheartening.

This could last for days or weeks, but inevitably and as if by magic, one day their technique would all come back, better than ever. It would be shockingly different from one class to the next. Their brains had just learned a better way to do what they’d already been doing.

So a lot of people have been giving you advice and a lot of it is good. Figuring out how to feed our brains most effectively is part of this process. But in addition to all that, it helps to relax, take a breath and realize that maybe, just maybe, you’re just on the cusp of an epiphany.


One thing that can be disheartening about spaced repetition is that the algorithm is going to show you everything you have a hard time learning again and again. On one hand, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. On the other hand, it also means that our easy wins float unceremoniously into the infrequent review pile. So keep in mind that this feeling is very normal.

Also, and this may relate to what sporadic was saying about “green belt disease,” I often find when I’m learning languages that the worst struggle periods come before big breakthroughs.


I second this! I write them all down when I do lessons, and also any I miss during reviews, as well as the ones I struggled to remember, but ultimately got right. (Side note- if you don’t know the stroke order for writing a kanji, look that up too). As someone else mentioned above, ones that I get mixed up I write next to each other and make sure to sort out what distinguishes them. I find the WK lists of “similar kanji” are very incomplete, at least for the way my brain works.


This is the magic of SRS. Personally, an advise I give myself is don’t ever be afraid of having things stuck between between Apprentice and Guru (it will hurt that you can’t force your mind to retain them as you pity yourself). They’re staying there because they’re the ones taking longer to be retained in your head.

You may even fail to burn them when the time comes but then again, that’s better than burning something you forgot the meaning/reading/both of when you encounter them in the wild.


You can use leech trainer or site called bishbashbosh.

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Just popping in to link to the BBB thread:

BishBashBosh: Cram Apprentice 1 items and recent failures


I think your whole post is one of the best descriptions I’ve read of something like this - I’ve tried to describe it as ‘my mental boxes filling up’, at which point I need to break open the boxes that are starting to overflow and divvy the contents up - i.e. recategorize everything. That does usually take a little time, but tends to work way better once it’s done.
One of my original boxes when I started learning Japanese vocab - the one for ‘3-mora verbs that end in る’ didn’t hold very long.

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Thank you all for the amazing replies. I was having a rough week and getting discouraged, but you’ve all given me the confidence knowing that these struggles just mean I’m truly learning the material.

Best of luck to everyone on their studies, and let’s continue struggling together!

How many lessons do you do in a day? I ask because I’ve been doing about 10 lessons a day and at 44, I’m doing pretty well. Sure I have occasional words that are a struggle but who wouldn’t lol. Maybe your mind is getting overwhelmed with too many words at once? Maybe space out your lessons more?

Thanks all - this has been a helpful thread, as I came here seeking similar advice. When I first started WK, I was skeptical about my ability to learn/retain 1000 of anything, let alone something so literally and figuratively “foreign”. But after a time, I started to understand how the system works.

Approaching Level 5, however, I’ve started to experience what I predicted might happen - I’m already forgetting (or partially forgetting) material from Levels 1 and 2 that I feel I “should” remember. Will I ever be able to accurately hold more than +/-75 in my head at a time (with caveat that this should improve as complimentary Japanese learning/reading/exposure advances)?

While I have your ear, any thoughts on strategy for the pacing of lessons/reviews? I’ve been reluctant to introduce too many new lessons at a time until I have current ones “under my belt”. As a result, lessons have been stacking up, but reviews are usually zeroed daily. Does that makes sense or, in the long run, is it better to move more lessons into review mode faster?

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doing lessons is how you regulate your speed in WK. if you find you have time/energy for a few more reviews than you’re currently doing, you can increase the number of daily lessons a bit.

i do recommend zeroing your reviews daily though.