Frustrated in 20s and slowing down Wanikani to focus on reading

Curious to get feedback from others on my progress/plan. For context I’m an older learner (36) with a full time job and a partner, I can realistically commit 1.5 hours a day consistently to learning Japanese.

I’ve been noticing Wanikani has been slowly getting more and more difficult as I just can’t get my brain to remember all of the words, all of the mnemonics. I so often have a vague idea of what a word means or know what the two kanjis are but then forget the readings. Also, I had been studying Japanese for two years before doing WK so likely a lot of the kanjis/words in the first 10 levels I had already seen.

I recently decided to switch from having 100 apprentice items to only 50 apprentice items because I was spending two hours a day on WK and I was dreading doing all of the reviews and was feeling it wasn’t sustainable. This means that level 23 took me almost a month (instead of about 7-10 days) and level 24 is likely going to take me even longer as I keep bringing down guru’d items back to apprentice. Even with the slower pace, I’m still finding that on average I’m scoring about 80% at the end of a lesson instead of closer to 90% which I’d prefer. I find it particularly frustrating that I’m still struggling to get a “good” performance (85%+, ideal target is 90%) even after slowing my pace!

Is this pretty common to just hit a wall with WK? Because I feel quite frustrated, and while I won’t give up since I’m convinced that WK is still the best way for me to use SRS (since it gives SO MUCH for free in terms of story, full searchability, plugins, etc.) and that if I keep grinding at it eventually it will consolidate.

And on a related topic, my plan is overall to focus more on reading more than anything else in the midterm. I’m in two absolute beginner book clubs, I’ve bought all of Yotsuba to start reading, and I just noticed a few weeks ago that I finally feel ready to tackle easier Satori Reader articles. There’s a lot of people who say to learn just enough grammar (my goal is to do all of bunpro N4 by the end of the year). Part of my hope is that just by reading a lot I’ll be exposed to some of the WK words/kanjis which is going to help. Also, in the long run reading is more fun than just grinding SRS. I’ve read that some people make the switch to lessen WK and do more reading around level 30, is this generally seen as a good idea?

27 Likes

Just a spontaneous thought, this seems like plenty and quite a lot. Another is to always keep your partner and your work-life first and center to make anything you’re doing meaningful for your satisfaction of life going forward.

I think this is only natural. Compared to a normal Japanese kid going through school, you’re stuffing your brain with kanji at an unprecedented rate! So give yourself some slack! Some words/kanji/readings/meanings will just be harder to stick. At level 20+ your starting to accumulate “leeches”, items that just keeps bouncing between Apprentice, Guru, maybe Master, and back.

If you do have enough time, do something about those items to move them firmly up the SRS. That will keep reviews down overall, which you seem to want to do. Make sure you’re on top on what you’ve learned so far.

But, also, make sure that you at this stage move on to other stuff, since, learning grammar, listening comprehension, production, and more comprehensive reading skills is something that simply isn’t taught by WK. I think you should try to give yourself a project to read through, whatever media that is.

It will make WK more meaningful and fun going forward for sure. Good luck! :+1:

ganbatechi

28 Likes

I have been in a similar situation. Although for me I would stop doin WK for months because I was so overwhelmed by everything. Sometimes you just have to slow down. I realized that for me consistency is best, so even if I’m going slower it’s better than not progressing at all or spending hours on reviews. Don’t worry about how fast others are doing things. What’s important is finding what works for you.

As for reading, you can try reading. If you still haven’t learned N4 grammar then it might be difficult. I’ve been stuck on N3 grammar, basically I’m struggling to make progress. I learn something, but then forget what it means. Although slowly I am remembering, it feels like such a slog. I have been trying to watch things more in Japanese and read more in Japanese. I got some graded readers and they are great. I picked up a manga and it is still too hard. Watching shows I understand sometimes and other times I completely miss the point. However it’s helping me to reinforce words and grammar I have studied. For me I had to get over not understanding everything. Otherwise I would get frustrated and stop reading or watching.

3 Likes

Ive gotten tired of doing reviews everyday as well so I stopped doing lessons altogether. It’s been 4 months now and I won’t resume lessons until I’ve burned everything I currently have.

I’m doing immersions so it’s fine. Plus, I have lifetime on wk :slight_smile:

Just take a long break when you need to and come back strong.

7 Likes

I’ve also started slowing down during the 20s going from 8-10 days to 12-14. I think it’s a normal reaction. Kanjis are getting harder and by that point you just kind of want to learn something else and use those kanjis you’ve taken time to learn.

But hey, I guess as long as you don’t stop and keep going, the best pace is the one you can keep. Every minute spent reading is another type of learning and reviewing, and you’ll learn plenty that way too

5 Likes

here’s my opinion:

1.5 hours is a lot of active japanese study! if you feel like it’s just the right amount then keep it up, but i think you could bring it down. doing less things at once, though it feels slower, can help you retain things more.

it is natural for it to get much more difficult, you are learning harder and harder kanji! for me, i’ve never bothered learning any of the mnemonics and actually i don’t even spend time on the radicals “meanings” (WK’s mnemonics do NOT make sense in my brain, so i added a synonym of just the letter “a” to each radical so i can just move past them). just seeing the radical and being aware it exists is enough for me. maybe doing something like that will be beneficial to you, so you can spend more time actually learning things in a way that works for you. i think it could also be helpful to identify the things that are regularly causing you problems, (there are some leech WK extensions that are helpful for identifying these) maybe make a word doc and paste them there, take time to really get a good look at them and try to break them down in a way that you can retain.

like you, i have also stopped doing new lessons as i want to get all my lower level leeches out of the way before beginning anything new. it is not a race. the only person you are competing against is yourself, and it’s not necessary to worry about how slow or fast you are going. it will probably take a while to get that apprentice number down, but it will go down. again i recommend identifying your leeches and focusing on learning just a few of them deeply at a time and getting them out of your apprentices little by little rather than feeling overwhelmed and frustrated that you can’t remember all of them at once.

i think it’s common to hit a wall with any kind of learning. and it can be super super frustrating! but remember that lvl 60 WK does NOT equal fluency. it’s just once piece of the pie.

btw, i have been on WK since like 2017, and i’m still only this level… but i can speak conversationally about nearly any topic except science or politics. so seriously, don’t worry about your speed. focus on breaking down and learning the things that are difficult for you and continue to branch out with other areas of study like you already are with the books.

7 Likes

I think it’s a good plan. I waited until about N4 level to start focusing on reading and I think that’s a good time, but if you have the patience for it now, you’ll get a lot out of reading. In the end reading is the real thing you want to do and what I think you’ll learn the most from – Wanikani is just a stepping stone to get you able to read. By the WK level you’re on I was also doing Yotsubato and Satori Reader exactly, so I think you’re good. If slowing down WK is the cost to read more, yeah, I think that’s a good tradeoff. For the specific difficulty you’re having, too, I can say there’s a definite difference in how easily I remember the words I’m forcing through WK alone and the ones I’ve read repeatedly. It helps substantially.

And for what it’s worth, the early 20s are kinda weirdly hard? 21 is a common difficulty spike, and the level that I personally have the lowest accuracy on.

To be clear, I wouldn’t insist to someone that they definitely have to do X hours of study or anything like that, we’ve all got our own circumstances – but if someone has the time and energy for it, I very strongly disagree that the point at which diminishing returns come is anywhere near 1.5 hours a day. If OP finds the frustration is leaking into their Japanese study in general then definitely do anything you need to to avoid burnout, but I don’t think more time stops being better until it’s far more excessive than that. I’ve seen enormous progress myself from doing much more than that.

11 Likes

oh yeah definitely! i don’t think there is a set time for diminishing returns, which is why i included that if it seems right keep doing it, but i just meant focusing on one thing (like just WK for instance) for X amount of time and not seeing results is a sign to branch out and possibly include some passive (or otherwise less intense) learning within the time frame as well, rather than just all 100% active learning for the allowed time period, to allow better retention of information rather than overload

4 Likes

Ahh ok, my misunderstanding there, sorry! Yeah definitely, it’s really beneficial to mix up what you’re doing, we’re on the same page.

2 Likes

I’ve been in a similar situation before. I think what you’ve planned out here is a good idea and makes a lot of sense. N4 is a great time to start reading imo, especially with the help of ABBC and Satori Reader! And I noticed that once I started reading, I kept seeing a lot of Wanikani words and kanji I had trouble with and was able to really learn them and the context they’re used in. Same with grammar, if you’re having any trouble with the grammar you’re learning on Bunpro, you’ll likely start to really understand them once you come across them when reading. So I think reading at this point is a great next step!

3 Likes

I’m not as far through Wanikani but in a similar situation life-wise - 40, job, married, two small children, passed N5 a couple of years ago, working on N4 grammar. My plan is to just keep going steadily at Wanikani and Japanese in general. The Team Snails on Vacation thread is a nice place to hang out if you want some encouragement taking it steady.

4 Likes

Umm, humble brag much? :roll_eyes:

I stopped at around 30 because I was like, this is too hard for the use I’m getting out of it, considering kanji stops being the most common ones. Changed to focusing on everything else and it worked out pretty well.

Reading is imo the best way to actually cement the kanji to memory.

I wouldn’t say 30 is the place to switch, necessarily. There should be some reading since before depending on your grammar level, but yeah. Some people hit diminishing returns on kanji at different points. Do what works for you. :slightly_smiling_face:

5 Likes

Hi, sorry, what is Yotsuba and how it helps you to improve reading? thank you.
I’m new so i don’t have a meaningful advice… i’m just in level 7, buuuut this sounds hard. Buena suerte.

2 Likes

It’s just the best manga ever.

6 Likes

As many have mentioned, 1.5 hours/day is a LOT of time to spend on WK. Everyone learns differently, but I agree that that’s at the far end of the spectrum.

You don’t mention how many sessions you have per day nor how many items you typically review in each session. Is this one marathon session, or two, three, or even more sessions spread throughout the day? I’ve always done just one ~45 minute session per day for what it’s worth, but I’d recommend two or even three sessions shorter sessions per day if you can swing it.

Most people seem to prefer a pace of about 6 to 10 questions (or 3-5 items) per minute (depending mostly on typing speed!). While it’s good to struggle to recall some items (that struggle actually programs the neural pathways in your brain) it’s bad to spend too much time on any individual item or, worse, most items. It’s often better to just give up if you can’t answer in 20-30 seconds or so.

Remember that repetition is a huge part of the process, and answering incorrectly just gives you more repetitions for an item. That’s what you want! The ideal case is when you’ve seen most items enough times that you recognize them and can answer instantly and effortlessly.

This explains the frustration for sure. You mention only 50 apprentice items, but how many guru items do you have? If you’re spending 1.5 hours/day with only 50 apprentice items, I’m wondering if you have a huge number of guru items that you haven’t really learned well yet.

I’m a fan of the rule-of-thumb to keep apprentice-items + guru-items/10 around 100 to 150 items, since those will always be the huge majority of items in your daily workload.

Some userscript suggestions

It can be edifying to configure the ultimate timeline user script to show the SRS breakdown of scheduled reviews for the next 120 days.

Mine looks like this:

Notice how pink and purple (apprentice and guru) dominate the next several days of reviews).

I’m biased, but I’m also a fan of the GanbarOmeter to manage one’s workload.

Here’s mine:

Since you’re on level 24 and started more than 6 months ago, you should also have a few master and enlightened items each day. It’s totally normal to miss a higher percentage of those since you haven’t reviewed them in months, but they should only be a relatively small fraction of your daily workload.

Lastly, I’d STRONGLY RECOMMEND stopping lessons altogether and using the extra study feature to get in more repetitions until your overall review accuracy gets to a point where it starts feeling easy rather than frustrating. You need to figure out if it’s “recent lessons” or “recent mistakes” that are causing you the most grief, but either way the solution is more out-of-band reviews.

The old saw about marathon vs. sprint is true. Motivation is key. Who cares how long it takes? As long as you’re making progress and enjoying the learning process, you’ll get there eventually. Quitting is the only sure path to failure.

Yes. Extremely. Especially after the first six months when enlightened items begin to appear in your queue.

Maybe, but unless you really enjoy manga, children’s stories or even the truly excellent Satori Reader content, it’s hard to read much until around you’ve reached around level 35 (95% of JLPT N3 content).

I’ve only recently started to feel even moderately comfortable reading (though I’ve spoken the language poorly for many years). It’s never too early to start reading, but one needs to build up an awfully large corpus of recognizable vocabulary before reading is anything but a difficult slog.

Finally, remember that even level 60 is just the beginning of a journey. Relax. You’ll never stop learning about the language.

6 Likes

Thanks everyone for the clarifications, support, and encouragement!

Just to clarify, when I say 1.5 hours that’s a very rough estimate over Wanikani, 1 cure dolly video a day, bunpro, and two WK ABBC bookclubs.

This is my current progress. I’ve been seeing the number of leeches steadily climb over the last two months, part of what prompted me to slow from 100 apprentice items to 50, especially as I’m forgetting some enlightened items and my brain is struggling to remember everything (even stuff I thought I had remember, such as the difference between 生む and 生まれる I’ve been getting wrong lately).

Overall, it’s very comforting to know I’m not alone in not wanting to race for level 60 and feeling that it’s better to slow down and focus on reading and keep WK on maintenance. I’m struggling to completely stop WK progress but instead focus on having a certain number of apprentice and doing new lessons only when I have fewer apprentice, even if it that means it takes two months for one level.

3 Likes

Completely stopping seems unreasonable, because the farther you get with WK, the easier real reading becomes.

IMO, there are only two differences between real reading for practice and WK:

  • WK won’t teach you any grammar (except for the example sentences)

  • WK only teaches you the absolute most common vocabulary and some (often unusual) words to help learn the readings for individual characters. Real reading will help you to learn the vocabulary that interests you. Note that even level 60 only teaches about 1/4 to 1/6 of the vocabulary a moderately literate person will be exposed to.

2 Likes

While this is of course true, WK is not the only way to learn vocab/kanji.

3 Likes

Certainly not! :wink:

3 Likes

i heartily recommend reading.

while reading, i noticed that my grammar was quite lacking, so i’ve been doing some catch-up on grammar. but i rely on the reading to reinforce the grammar.

manga might be easier to start with, but i’m not convinced about that. the text being in image format makes it difficult to look things up, and you’ll definitely need to look up kanji and words. having to look up kanji by radicals can be tedious, and slow your reading to a crawl. that said, i did start with manga myself.

but i’ve just finished my first LN, and it’s transformed my experience of japanese. ploughing through pages and pages of text like that has contextualised everything i’ve learned so far. 100% would recommend.

(p.s. i also rushed the first 24 levels of WK, then crashed. 10 lessons a day seems good to me currently)

6 Likes