Forgetting Everything & WK may actually be hurting me

I will in short time be resetting to level 1. I have been afraid to do this for going on 2 years now and I have no choice but to do it.

I have failed N1 four times and I believe I am about to fail this Dec. test again. WK was absolutely instrumental in me passing N3 in 3 months, and N2 the following 6 months later. I skated by on N2 and had a bit of luck on my side.

But about a year ago after failing N1 once or twice, I realized that I feel WK has reached peak value and I simply am beginning to forget the kanji. The mnemonic refresh was the straw that really just destroyed me.

Lastly, I have heard from many people that to do N1, you have to actually use your Japanese (go figure). I passed N2 by just studying my ass off with Soumatome textbooks and mock tests. But I feel with N1, I am literally doing the same thing (using WK thinking im studying) but its actually not doing anything more for me.

Maybe twice failing is OK…but three times? FOUR times? I just feel like a loser. I just want to beat this test. I have lost the joy for Japanese but I want to get it back. I have Lifetime WK but maybe I’ll just stop using it for a while. I don’t feel like I’m progressing and im also objectively not progressing (failing FOUR times?)

To be fair, my score has increased each of the four times I failed. I was 15 pts off from passing last time. But in the time since, I have moved to Tokyo and started a new job where I speak English 99% of the day and never use Japanese (other than some email correspondence where im shit since I dont know keigo business JP and it takes long time to type and i need help)

I hope this is the right thing to do.


Are you failing the test from the kanji sections or other sections?


I think this is a good chance to take a step back and look at your situation. Why do you want to pass N1 so bad? I don’t think it is some pinnacle of Japanese proficiency. Is it for job requirements? Why are you studying Japanese if you are not using it at all? Just for the enjoyment of it?

That said if your sole goal is to pass N1 I would think your time is spent better than resetting and doing WK. N1 requires you to actively read, speak and listen Japanese and is really hard to pass by just studying (they even say this in the JLPT requirements). If you are not engaging in those no wonder you are forgetting the kanji. Even then I would think with N1 there are much harder things than the kanji (unless that of course is the only section you are failing).

Don’t look at JLPT as your only sense of progress. I’m sure you have advanced by HUGE amounts since you first took N1. I know Chinese people who passed N1 but can’t use their Japanese at all in any meaningful sense of communication. Standardized tests only test if you are good at that test.


My method of study is rather simple. Once you get to a certain point in a language, I do believe there is no other way to get better at it than by speaking and reading. Speak to as many Japanese people as you can. It can be mundane crap. And read something in Japanese every day. Make sure you’re reading a wide variety of stuff too. The JLPT tends to cover more nonfiction than fiction, so maybe reading NHK news (not NHK easy) could be nice daily practice. These are just some of the things I do though. I’ll let you know how effective it is when I attempt the N1 next summer.


Agreed. Especially reading. My main problem at the JLPT was the reading section, not necessarily because of not understanding, but mostly because I would run out of time before going through it all.


This hits home because yes you are right about a few things.

When I came to Japan, I wanted to remain here and I knew that to be taken seriously in any sort of context I would need to have N2 minimum. I got that within 9 months on a very shakey foundation but I got it. I feel I felt a sense of ease at that and I eased up.

I 100% agree with you that having N1 does not mean you can speak Japanese. I have already become that person to be honest. A person I was so terrified of becoming when I came to Japan.

Through so many years of studying however, I have reached I think a point where I feel no joy anymore so to answer your question I am studying to “beat” the test and “beat” the language. I try to study vocabulary and I just forget (I studied the N1 vocab books). This is extremely discouraging.

I study lots of grammar, and even just yesterday, I heard how すき after a てー verb can mean “that moment” or “that second” as in something happeend “at that moment” and I was like wtf? I have never heard or seen that grammar in my fucking life. It feels like im fighting a monster and just new heads keep growing in the form of 30 different ways to say the same thing.

I also have an issue where Japanese people do not correct my errors and just allow me to make them…I know what im saying is wrong or at the very least not natural but they just go along.

I know its a matter of mindset - some people can somehow think this is “cool” and find enjoyment in these new things…maybe I would do if I could remember them. Or maybe im missing something.

I dont mean to rant, and thank you for your thoughts – but I am in despair because I have become to person you described - a person who cant speak even after vowing never to become that way.

edit: remove profanity


But how do you do that when you literally dont know any words. I mean other than basic daily stuff we hear all the time, how do you honestly just go up to someone and expand into other conversations?

I have tried it and then I have to stop and ask them many times about various words that I dont know and the conversation does not flow well.

Even when living in Japan maybe scheduling regular spoken conversation practice via italki or similar could be useful to you? That way you’d have someone that’s expecting, supporting and tolerant of your currently only being able to produce the basics?

They’re definitely unlikely to mind if you ask what every other word means and always ask them to repeat themselves.

This is what got me to the point where I could converse comfortably (note: not 100% correctly, but without being bothered or hindered)


I wish I had some advice for you, but I don’t really. I’m not as long into my Japanese journey as you are, and my honeymoon phase hasn’t really disappeared yet.

N2 is nothing to sneer at, though! You clearly came a long way! And try to cut yourself some slack on not progressing as much as you’d like - it can be really hard to find the time to study after you spend a lot of time and energy working in a mostly-English workplace.

I mostly re-watch stuff I’ve seen before with English subs, but with JP stuff to give my vocab a workout without being annoyed that I can’t follow all the details of the plot. That, and reading native stuff.

I also wanted to warn you that there are forum rules against swearing. It’d be a shame if you can’t vent and get advice because your topic gets closed down by mods that have to uphold the rules. :slight_smile:

I hope things will look up for you - whether by vanquishing the N1 beast, or by finding some enjoyment in your use of the language again! Best of luck!


I have heard and seen many ads for italki but never used it myself…is that the service you used to improve speaking? I’m not sure how much it is but, Is it worth the price for maybe a couple hrs a week?

Ah! I didnt know about the forum rules- but I edited my post to remove the few profane words I had in there.

It’s good you are still super joyous about the language. I hope I can return to that. The only thing I watch that I do find fun is terrace house. But I am watching a drama called Unfair, which has a ton of police slang etc.

Is there a show with “normal” speech or fairly normal? Many ESL speakers watch Friends because its supposedly not that off the mark from normal language.


Yeah I’m confused too. Where does this belief stem that resetting Wanikani is the right think to do in this situation to finally reach N1 ? @bomaran why do you think it would help that much ?

Yikes. I’m in this exact situation since a few months, and I can already feel my Japanese skills plateauing hard… (and I’m pretty bad to begin with, way worse than you :stuck_out_tongue:) It’s really hard to study or enjoy Japanese after a day of work…


I super recommend it! I’ve been using it for probably about two years 1-2 hours every week and the results were obvious when I went to Japan and was able to speak to people without that much hesitation (understanding their replies are my weakest point, but that too has gotten a lot better).

I also find it very helpful to actually have someone you can just pay to schedule the time with, I first tried using a HelloTalk partner, but she was often busy so it didn’t really take off after the first two conversations.

As a bonus you might even make friends (or at least acquaintances). I got to visit a former italki teacher last time I went to Japan, for instance.

The rates vary, but if all you want is a conversation partner I would recommend getting a community tutor (i.e. a regular dude/dudette, not a qualified teacher). These are easy to find at below $10 per hour, which I find to be quite reasonable for an hour of someone’s time.

They’re also more likely to just act as patient conversation partners, not actually try to rope you into a formal lesson (if you want a formal lesson they might not be the best option).

I would also recommend using the three trial sessions you get on three half hours with different people, just to shop around a bit before committing to a full hour, since chemistry is so important.

Well… that got me all excited, but I hope it was informative :slight_smile:


Have you tried watching youtube videos on subjects that interest you? I enjoy watching let’s play videos of video games in languages I study, for instance.


Maybe it’s not nearly as normal as I think it is, having never lived in Japan myself, but I always feel like アグレッシブ烈子 on Netflix has pretty normal speech. Others will correct me if I’m way off the mark. ^^ Also useful that it’s set in an office quite a lot of the time.

I also like watching Japanese Lets Plays. It gives a lot of visual feedback on what is going on, so there are a lot of context clues about what they might be talking about if I’m not following along that well, and it’s still entertaining to me even if I don’t follow all of the conversation, or the game’s plot.

While both based on a manga and pretty contrived in their language, I also enjoyed the live-action adaptations さぼリーマン甘太朗 and チャンネルはそのまま that are on Netflix. I watched both at least twice. Once for the plot, and once for the language. But I know Netflix’s offering depend a lot on region, so I don’t know if you’d have access to them (and if you even have Netflix).


I believe resetting will help me for two reasons.

1 - Mentally

For a long time, like the problem with many ESL learners as well, I thought simply studying kanji = studying. And honestly, for a long time it did - it absolutely was critical as I said in OP to pass N3 and N2 on the first try within 9 months. Would have not been possible were it not for WK.

The problem is, there is a limit to this. At some point you need to let go of the textbooks and flashcards and fucking USE the language. WK took enormous amounts of time to get through esp near the end and I was on it 3x a day religiously in order to get it done. I could have been using JP.

2 - Forgetting and not seeing kanji

Lastly, I have forgotten many kanji and I feel my memory weakening. Many of these kanji I burned literally in 2017. There is no use remaining 60 and never seeing these “burned” kanji which are prob barely remembered now.


I do have netflix and I liked aggretsuko the first season. I’ll definitely check that out I know they uploaded some more.

I have been watching a Drama called “Unfair” but its a lot of cop slang etc. At least its real people though… But honestly i dont know if ill be able to avoid slangs etc. Maybe i should just watch everything

1 Like

I haven’t heard of these lets play vids. Any links of ones you like?

This sounds great - I’m glad I spoke to someone actually using it because now I feel more confident in purchasing and using.

The trial period sounds nice and I do think a casual person like you mentioned would be best. I do have a specific tutor 1 hour a week who tutors me on JLPT. She is a nice older lady but 1 hour isnt enough- and the conversation needs to be more broad.

My only last question is…for a Japanese learner who has lost his way, I literally don’t know how to learn new vocabulary anymore. I dont think my vocab has really expanded in any real way in years. Meaning, I own the word - I can use it comfortably in speech etc. (understanding doesnt count for me)

I want to speak about more advanced things but like…do I just have to ask every single time an unknown word comes up with people? It seems like past daily conversation that would just get incredibly tedious and annoying for my convo partners.

I’ll take this answer from anyone if possible then just まとめ everyones advice and go forth positively

Quick reminder that you should probably go edit the profanity out of your previous post.

On the topic of speaking and asking for words you don’t know- yes. That’s what I do in near 100% of conversations I have and while yes, in the beginning you may have lots of words or phrases you don’t know, the common ones will stick faster and you slowly ask less and less questions. I have, to date, never had someone get upset or frustrated with me for asking what a word meant. Even when it was something I definitely should’ve known. And for the record I’ve never had “speaking partners”, these are my students, friends, and coworkers that I’m barraging with questions.

On top of that, as your vocab expands you eventually become able to explain your way around words you don’t know or can’t think of in the moment. In doing that you’ll usually learn a new word (the one you just explained around) and also get good experience in properly conveying your own thoughts in more ways than you’re used to. This can even cement that word in your mind better than standard practice because it can be more memorable. For example, I blanked on the word for “wing” once, as in a birds wing, and so I told my class “You know… bird arms???” while flapping my arms like wings. The teacher then looked at me and goes “OOOOooooh. 翼!” and I never forgot that word again.

Japanese is a very frustrating journey, and your progress won’t be linear. Some days you’ll kill it, other days you won’t be able to ask to borrow a key to the PC room. It happens to all of us. The important thing to remember is that yes, you are making progress. Even when you don’t see it. Keep your head up and you’ll get there eventually.