After some suffering, I finally made it to level 60. I absolutely did not expect to finish that fast when I first started. I actually had planned 2 years to finish Wanikani, but with a few tricks, consistency and a lot of time spent, I was able to speed run it. Here is a screenshot of my leveling up progress.
I will share more screenshots of my progress as they become relevant to the topic at hand.
At the beginning I was not very experienced in making mnemonics by myself, which is why I fell in love first sight with the Crabigator. I would not have had the motivation to create a new mnemonic by myself for about 2000 Kanji otherwise. The gamified approach of the levels in Wanikani was a big motivation to keep me going – especially at the beginning (first 6 levels) when I was not taking it “seriously enough”. I read some posts about how being level 60 is only the beginning for being able to understand Japanese, which I now see it is true. If I took me the 2 planned years to finish Wanikani just to cover the basics of Japanese, it would be too slow for my taste. This is why I decided at level 7 that I would speed run the levels.
How can a mere mortal like me (and you) speed run?
As you see in the screenshot bellow, you can see that my accuracy is not insane to make me a talented Kanji learner. Also, if you take a look at the time spent reviewing, you will see that I put a lot of hours into learning Kanji. I also pre-learnt Kanji, so the time spent should be actually much higher if that counted. So, if you want to level to level up fast, here are some tips that helped me reach this speed:
Pre-learn Kanji: Avoid leveling up by abusing the ignore button (used scripts are listed below). Doing that will drop your accuracy in your Vocab learning by a lot. What I did to remedy this was always being 1 week ahead of my level in terms of Kanji by learning them before I got them in the SRS. Just search for the next level and go through all the Kanjis a couple of times on different days. Of course, putting emphasis into creating a vivid story in your mind.
Plan ahead when you wish to get your vocabulary reviews: Let’s go over an example for this. I had the problem that I would let too little to review on Tuesday morning.
To remedy this problem, you first have to know how the SRS works:
New Item → 4 hours → 8 hours → 1 day → 2 days → 1 week → repeat every few weeks. You can simplify this to roughly 3 ½ days (4h+8h+1d+2d = 3 ½ days) → weekly basis. Note: To be precise Wanikani gives you 1 hour of buffer for every SRS cycle after you reach “1d”, so instead of being 1d it is 23h, instead of being 2d it is 47h, …
I leveled up on a weekly basis. This means I could just take Tuesday morning - 3 ½ days = Friday afternoon and do new items on that Friday afternoon. Most of the new items, I did on Friday afternoon, would then “get stuck” in the Tuesday morning reviews cycle, since it repeats on a weekly basis (byweekly, monthly etc…). Mistakes in reviews messes this, but you get the point.
To summarize, just take a day you want to have more reviews in and subtract three and a half days and aim to do new items on that day.
“Wanikani Reorder script 2” is necessary and “Wanikani Override” useful for speed-running. For the ones who do not know, the Wanikani Reorder script lets you get Kanji before the vocabs, so you can level up faster. The Wanikani Override script ignores mistakes in case you got a Kanji wrong, which would hinder you from leveling up fast. Here are some other scripts I used, and you might find them useful:
Do not worry too much. As time goes on you will have more items to review, but you will get faster and more accurate in Kanji learning and Vocabs. Memorizing is a skill that can be improved by practicing it.
Do your reviews with a keyboard to type faster and avoid typos.
Get a good night’s sleep: Sleep seems to be underrated and it will solidify the things you learned the day prior. If you are not convinced and you are interested, then read the book “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker. There was an example in that book how a pianist couldn’t get a note right, not matter how hard he tried on the same day . But after a good night’s sleep, he could perform the piece flawlessly. The same happens to a set of vocabs you learn on a given day. You will struggle with them on the same day, but after a good night’s sleep you will wake up surprised how many more of them you will recall.
PEGI 18: If you are a mere mortal like me and want to do 3 ½ day level-ups, then you can expect 4-6 hours/day of Wanikani (pre-learning Kanji included), which is not very recommendable to everyone. For other people I looked like a Kanji addict but all I wanted is to get over with Kanji learning as soon as possible.
Coincidentally in the last few weeks of Wanikani my college finals (Electrical Engineering) were taking place. Those were some rough weeks. Speed-running Wanikani during my finals in college was not very fun.
I now regret not taking the beginning more seriously. I could have come closer to break the record or finish Wanikani in under a year.
Something that annoyed me a lot was making a typo I made on a Kanji in lvl 47 and then accidentally tapped enter twice on accident before using the ignore button. To get back to my old routine (which was leveling up on Saturday morning and Tuesday at 2:00pm), I had to delay lvl 50 by ½ days. I regret not installing a “Wanikani wrong answer delay“ earlier for avoiding such mistakes.
Some Vocabs I learnt in Wanikani – especially in the high levels – felt like ones I would never use. But at least I was getting some practice by recalling the meaning and reading of the Kanji of the given Vocab and there was a mnemonic for every Vocab, which made it significantly easier to learn them. So maybe it is not completely a regret because I also wanted the achievement of completing Wanikani, but if I were to start from 0 again with the same consistency (“motivation”) for learning Japanese I have right now, I would first learn all the On’yomis and Kun’yomis from 2000 kanjis over a period of 3 months making the mnemonics myself or just importing all the kanjis and radicals from Wanikani to an Anki deck and adding mnemonics for the Kun’yomis readings. After leaning the 2000 kanji, I would sentence mine (= creating sentence cards in Anki from e.g. anime/manga quizzing you on a specific word of a sentence you did not understand). This way I would not only be learning the words but also acquiring them.
Side note – Acquisition of language: According to a famous linguist Stephen Krashen you can only acquire language in one way and one way only – when you understand messages e.g. in stories. I recommend you checking out following links if you are not familiar with language acquisition and want to know more about it:
Stephen Krashen famous speech – Theory
Interview Matt vs Japan – Applied Theory
Language learning guide – Everything you need to know: www.refold.la
From those 3 links I highly recommend making the time to read www.refold.la, even if you to continue with Wanikani. You will not regret it.
What am I able to understand with my current level of Japanese?
I have been immersing in Japanese content since level 10 for approximately 2 hours a day. I also completed N2 on Bunpro, which is not really necessary according to the language acquisition hypothesis. In addition to that, I created a sentence mining Anki deck, which has approximately 600 sentence cards in it, but stopped midway through because I wanted to speed-run the last 17 levels on Wanikani and not die from overwork. With all of that, what I am able to understand right now is:
I can now understand roughly 90% of the words in a slice of life anime.
Understand the bigger picture of the story of more complicated anime, which is at least sufficient for me to stop using subtitles completely.
Read easy manga without having to look up words too frequently (every few pages I look up 1 word). One of the easiest one I read was rental Onii-chan ( Pixiv manga tend to be easy) followed by some Yurihime Comics manga, which tend to be pretty easy too. If someone else has some recommendations, please let me know :).
What will I do after lvl 60?
After clearing all the items of lvl 60 I will keep reviewing the Wanikani items until I burn every single one. Now that I have more time I will simultaneously be following the guide of www.refold.la and do the following:
- Make Anki cards by sentence mining and listen to the episodes I sentence mined passively (while driving, doing chores etc).
- Get more immersion (=consuming Japanese content via reading/hearing) by reading more manga and watching more anime.
- Take my Japanese only Youtube account more seriously and search for appealing content there to get more immersion time.
What influence did Wanikani have on my life other than learning kanji?
The practice of not having any other option than doing my reviews – not doing them would make life more difficult and would pretty much be the same of giving up learning Japanese – has forced (“helped”) me to fix my sleep routine and stop procrastination completely, which translated to stopping procrastination in other areas of my life as well. I do not know what the Crabigator has done to my brain, but something has changed.
Learning Japanese made me discover to the polyglot community, which made me aware of Stephen Krashen, who (together with Matt vs Japan on YT) gave me a direction in language learning and also made me see the importance of reading books.
After some self-help books I decided to take my life more seriously and fit in 1,5 hours of programming to my daily routine (I am aiming to become a decent Software Engineer). But it is not like I work the whole day in order to fit university (I skip some classes and study by myself to save time), Wanikani, programming, fitness, reading books and immersion into my life. With “deep working” taught in “Deep Work” by Cal Newport I still able to crunch everything in by working as effective as I can and still having some free time left to go back to my roots – gaming. I also found out in the book “Deep Work”, that an activity such as memorizing something (in our case Kanji and vocabs), overtime helps you with your ability to concentrate more intensely on other tasks as well, which makes you work more effectively and therefore frees up your time indirectly.
Basically, Wanikani has been positive feedback loop for various aspects of my life, not just learning Japanese. Quite literally gave me a direction in life. And now with the weights off, of not having to learn new kanjis so intensely, life will be much easier.
PS: Here is the cake with the amounts of days it took me to complete the items on level 60 (except 2).