Forgetting kanji/vocab

I consistently average above 90%+ for reviews, and begin to feel extremely comfortable with the kanji/vocab in the current level. I study every day without fail.

HOWEVER, once I move onto the next level, prior levels start to become hazy incredibly quickly. I start to get slower & less confident with the older vocab.

I know the SRS will adjust accordingly, and continue showing me older words, but I was hoping for some reassurance. It’s frustrating to be so confident with words just 2 weeks prior, only to begin to forget so quickly :frowning:

I find myself wishing the first reviews of older materials came a little earlier, before I got to that point. Is there a way to manually adjust this?

Thanks so much :pray:

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I’m not sure there is a native WaniKani function for that, but maybe take a look into Plug-ins and userscripts here in the forum?

As for what I do, I also practice the vocab the other way around with KaniWani. Maybe that is something that can help you anchor stuff much more firmly?


I also got/get that feeling, I think it’s natural.

It’s almost like the new stuff I’m learning on my level is pushing the stuff from my previous level right out of my brain.

Well here’s something to think about:

Level 2 has 34 radicals, 36 kanji & 78 vocab that’s 148 items, but your brain actually has to learn like 300+ items. Why? because 36 kanji means 36 meanings, 36 readings, On’yomi & Kun’yomi for each. And many kanji have multiple On/Kun readings, so it really starts to add up quickly.

So I think, it’s ok to not remember it all or start to get hazy especially when you move onto a new level and start learning new content. But after a few months of repeating them over and over, they’ll just stick with you.

So I would just say stick with it, and also don’t overdo it because that can actually be more detrimental. There are other things you can focus on outside of WaniKani such as grammar (it’s never too early to start), or listening practice.


You need to forget in order to remember. Don’t worry about it. Just continue to move on and learn new things.


I get this a bunch too, mostly with the vocab. A lot of the vocab on Wanikani isn’t the sort of vocab I run into naturally so it falls on the “lose it” side of “use it or lose it” for me ;c


SRS has this problem, where the first time you learn a word, you learn it together with many other words it associates with, because that’s how they set them up in sets, and that makes retaining it easier.

However, once you forget it once, and it comes up again to re-learn, it won’t be surrounded by those other words, because you didn’t forget them at the same time. It will be on its own, with no context whatsoever.

To me, this makes it a hundred times harder to retain, and makes all the SRS systems I see (except probably custom Anki decks, where people put enough context in on each card) essentially lie to you thet they’re making it as easy as it can be to re-remember forgotten words. Context and all the words given word associates with, connects to, matters the most.


It can be really helpful to put the vocab in context, and practice it outside of WK. Try writing some sentences using new vocab, or do more reading. Coming across words in the wild will cement them in your brain in a way beyond just doing reviews will.

It’s very tricky when you’re a beginner though!


that’s pretty normal. after all, these are new things, which your brain hasn’t had many chances to reinforce in your memory.

what you need a bit more exposure. i use the “recent mistakes” extra study option once a day (for extra exposure to stuff i got wrong). reading is perhaps the best way to get extra exposure, but might be a bit hard this early on. if you watch anime, you might make a habit out of pausing it whenever there are kanji on screen, and seeing if you recognise any of them? seeing kanji you recognise out in the wild is exciting, and that helps to reinforce things ^^


It’s exhausting and not as well “structured” as Wanikani, but yeah it’s true. You only REALLY learn, what you encounter in the wild.

That’s not easy, because the material that actually uses many Kanji is often also really hard :smiley:


This is true, but I don’t think it’s a serious problem with SRSs.

As you progress you will frequently come across 熟語(じゅくご) (compound word) vocabulary that use characters from prior levels.

The expression, though, is “use it or lose it”. Even natives begin to forget their kanji if they don’t read Japanese regularly. Getting to level 60 or even burning everything is just the beginning of a journey. WK is inevitably just an early part of the process that must be augmented with “real” reading.

My advice to the OP is not to worry about it. Forgetting earlier stuff is a normal, necessary part of the process that we all go through. How else will the SRS know what you need more practice with unless you answer incorrectly occasionally?

Memorizing isn’t a process of 8-reviews-and-done, some items will require dozens or even hundreds of reviews to memorize.


It’s natural to forget stuff when you don’t review it for a while.
But remember, WaniKani has its own system, and getting things wrong is just part of the process. Incorrectly answering and forgetting stuff will cause you to review the item more. Don’t sweat it, you’ll master it eventually. Everyone goes through this sometime in their kanji journey, and it’ll stick in your brain soon.
:crabigator: :durtle:


My question to you is are you speed running/going too fast? Are you using the extra study feature?

The extra study is amazing for restudying new vocabulary, recent mistakes, and any burn items if you have any burned.

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I try to do new lessons in as few chunks as possible (invariably more than 2 days), but wouldn’t say I’m speed running - my avg is 11 days exactly / level. I use the extra study and review my recent mistakes daily, and when I notice I’m making mistakes on the same vocab, I will re-assess the story i’m using, or drill the mistakes until they’re second nature. If I had a hard time memorizing new lessons, i’ll go back and review all the new lessons again too.

I consistently get 90-100% on reviews, so I feel confident in my speed and review process on whatever level i’m currently doing. I get the current level stuff so deeply ingrained, that when I go back to the old stuff, it seems foreign again (no pun intended). I wish those older reviews came up quicker, before they felt so long ago and distant in the memory.

I truly appreciate all of the comments, suggestions and supportive messages! You’re all amazing <3 My big takeaway is to try to enjoy the process, and not get so frustrated at myself when something was comfortable to recall, and then it’s a cobwebbed void a month later.


Also as you get going anything above 80% is good. Even when I make dumb mistakes I accept and move on. I like getting 90% but when you have 80 reviews 80% is also fine.

Also guru stuff is always falling into apprentice again. But eventually it moves up after it goes back and forth… then you get another kanji or similar word that causes it to fall back to guru…


For new items (within days or so), you probably don’t need to worry much about accuracy. It would probably get better soon enough – “if you already have a good way to learn sideways”.

For older items (after weeks) that you forgot, accuracy isn’t immediately important. SRS can do its job. But again, you will eventually have to try to remember the items well. (For Anki, you might eventually be tempted to suspend, but WaniKani doesn’t allow that.)

WaniKani has its own problem – it is leveled, and things of the same level are grouped together. If you get used to other flashcard apps (like Torii), you should see less of this problem.

Again, accuracy is indeed important, but not immediately. Mere bad numbers don’t mean much, but it would mean a lot after a while.


Do you also practice reading too? When learning a new word and every time I get a word wrong I reread the context sentences. I also read low level Japanese material and see what I can understand on Japanese twitter. Sometimes I see a word I had just learned on WaniKani so I get to experience context in real life.


I second this - seeing the words and kanji in real life makes your brain say “oh, hey, this is something I’ll come across in the wild, better remember it”

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This is reasonable for earlier levels, but remember that what you do today will affect your future reviews for months into the future.

You won’t see your “steady-state” workload until you’ve been doing reviews for a bit more than six months. Only then will you start reviewing enlightened items that you’ve not seen for 4 months. A big batch of those all arriving on the same day can wreak havoc on your accuracy, which tends to sap motivation.

I’m very much in the “slow but steady wins the race” camp, but everyone needs to find the pace that makes the most sense for them.

Personally, I tended to do all my lessons pretty quickly for the first 16 levels or so. Then I simultaneously started seeing more completely unfamiliar kanji and seeing enlightened items. That’s when I learned the value of pacing my lessons.

I find kanji much more difficult than vocabulary. I already had a reasonably large spoken vocabulary before starting, but found context-less kanji with entirely unfamiliar readings and “meanings” much harder (“meanings” in quotes because only vocabulary has precise meanings, kanji “meanings” are more etymological hints than anything).

That’s why I started slowing down early in a level, rarely doing more than 5 lessons per day when it was almost all new kanji. Later in a level where it is almost all vocabulary I’d do much more, often 20 or 25.

Just remember that persistence is approximately forty bazillion times more important than speed.

You can skip lessons if you’re tired or demotivated, BUT DO YOUR REVIEWS EVERY SINGLE DAY.


Normally in a review for 1 kanji/vocab, WK will ask once for its meaning and once for its reading. However, what I do is, even if WK is only asking for the meaning, I’ll try to recall both the meaning and the reading at the same time in my mind. Vice versa, when WK is asking for the reading, I’d try to recall the meaning too. This method benefits me in a way that:

  1. It helps me to bind the meaning and reading as one package, so it lessen the chances of me rememberring only the meaning but not the reading, or vice versa.
  2. It helps to cement the kanji/vocab in my mind because I attempt to recall both the meaning and reading twice in each review session. It’s like I have to prove myself that the first success wasn’t just a fluke.

For vocabs that have abstract meaning, I found that learning it in a simple phrase or sentence makes a big difference. For example, I didn’t have a problem with the kanji 近, but I had a hard time remembering the difference between 近く、近々、近づく until I tried to remember them in context.


This is a very good habit.

Further, I think it’s extremely helpful to always “hear” the reading first in your mind’s ear, regardless which is being asked for. Especially with vocabulary.

I believe it important to “think in Japanese” as much and as soon as possible.

We must answer meanings using English because our Japanese doesn’t yet suffice, but it’s important to realize that translating is best avoided. It’s best to go directly between concept and reading, not a two step process from English word to concept to reading (in either direction).

That is, 近い means the concept of nearness, not the English word “close” nor “near”.

Answering with the English word is unfortunately unavoidable, but you want to think ちかい, not “near” as soon as possible.

Training yourself to always “hear” the reading first breaks the habit of translating and helps you to start thinking in Japanese sooner.