Once I reached the “pain” levels (11-20) my average review accuracy dropped to around 65%. My review workload became bloated with stuff stuck in the Apprentice-Guru-Repeat cycle. So I did two things that helped:

  1. For a time I did not do ANY lessons if my 48-hour review forecast was greater than 50. Yeah, 50. I’d go for many days without a new lesson.*

  2. I now write down the Kanji, meaning, and phonetic (hiragana) of every item I get wrong in a little book. That’s it! I just write them down. (Bonus: turns out I really enjoy copying Kanji characters neatly with a fine-tipped pen.)

Result: review accuracy now consistently 80% and up. I feel better.

*Refinement: I’ve discovered vocabulary reinforces the Kanji so much that stopping lessons at the vocabulary phase of the level is counterproductive, so I do 5-10 vocab words a day regardless of the review forecast (which is generally around 100 now). Then full stop when the next level radicals start appearing so that I can consolidate the previous level back down to a workable review load.

Oh, and another useful metric: If my “Guru” number is greater than my “Master” number, I pause lessons, regardless. Gotta move those little Gurus along.


Highly recommend 3 new kanji + 9 vocab per day, using a tampermonkey script to filter the reviews. It’s what I’ve been doing and it’s slow going, but the vocab really helps cement the different readings and meanings of a particular kanji and the limited amount of new kanji lets you keep your review count low. So far with this ratio of lessons, I’ve been finishing all of the kanji and vocab for each level at roughly the same pace (towards the end of each level when all the kanji are learned but not guru’d there are a couple of days where you will be limited on new vocab as you wait to guru more kanji)

Also, I started using a phone app called “Ringotan” which helps to learn to write kanji, and I’ve found it is pretty useful at being able to recall the shapes of each kanji in my mind. I also recommend using something like kaniwani if you haven’t been using it. Recall memory is also important and helps reinforce recognition memory.



Is it this one? WaniKani Lesson Filter

I find bishbashonce really helps me out, going over your your missed items and new lessons.

Yes. You have to set it up the first time you go to do lessons, but then it remembers what you entered last. I normally have radicals blank (I always just do all radicals as soon as I level up) and leave it on 3 kanji and 9 vocab.

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Here is my two cents for whatever it is worth. I am not very far along - in the middle level 8 vocabulary.

I hit a point somewhere in the midst of 6-7-8 that some things started blending together, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels a little bit. The more kanji you are introduced to the more there are things that are similar.

So what has helped me?

  1. I am not using WaniKani in isolation. It is a very effective tool to build vocab if you also see these words in other contexts. Also, WK does not teach ANY grammar (well, very little and with not much explanation…). I am working my way through Genki - and using KitSun to learn the vocabulary from Genki. Genki is used in many colleges to teach Japanese. It is well written such that I am not having any problem using it solo without being in a course. I am finding that the vocab in Genki sort of parallels WK so that one reinforces the other.

  2. I find the radicals to be the easiest - I do not seem to have any trouble associating a picture with an English word. I tend to do all that are available once they pop up. I have the hardest time getting the kun’ and on’yomi readings to stick for the first time - so I tend to take those more slowly (~ 5 per day). Vocab is in the middle - if it is something I know well, I can fly through new combinations but if I am carving new pathways in my brain, it takes longer. (I usually aim for about 10 new vocab per day).

  3. Sometimes I need to make my own mnemonics because WK is not doing it for me.

  4. I make new exercises for myself as a way to work out things I am struggling with. Example - nin vs jin is killing me right now; hoka/haku/hoku - have to sort out what all those go with and the endless subtle verb variations are also tricky. I have a notebook where I physically write things out by hand which I think really helps the learning process.

Good luck to you - and hoping you find something that works better for you because really it should be fun and not so painful.

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I’ve been called a zealot and overly stubborn, so take this however you will

Frustration is one of the most crushing feelings you can have. There is quite nothing like the soul-wracking feeling of not feeling like any approach you take towards solving a problem is working or has a chance of working. I know damn well that feeling of things not clicking and not budging an inch forward.

Ultimately, though, in language learning, you must learn to continue despite frustration. That is absolutely essential to the process. Because frustration will be everywhere.

But we all can do with a change of perspective. Don’t see frustration as a dead end, see it as an opportunity for growth. It’s an exciting new chance to learn something new, and a natural reaction to leaving your comfort zone onto the great unknown of Japanese in the wild. Don’t just stay angry at your frustration, use your wounded pride as motivation to overcome the obstacle causing it and flex at it once you’ve conquered it.

After all, aren’t we all a little stubborn deep down? We are, after all, undertaking the task of learning a whole another language, and what chance do we have against the natives? It’s a fool’s errand, but one must suffer oneself gladly in our trying times.