Help! Vocabulary. Study Tips

Hi everyone,

First post! Recently, trying to learn Japanese is the only exposure I’ve had to language learning.

I just reached level 2 a few days ago. And, for me, the introduction of vocabulary words and multiple readings has seriously ramped up the difficulty of WaniKani.

With the level 1 radicals and kanji I was able to quickly read through the lessons, and the information would stick with me well enough for me to complete the reviews with very little mistakes. However, that has not been the case with vocabulary words. And, over the course of my last reviews, over half of the things I have been trying to learn have ended up in critical condition. (I’m not quite what that means yet, but it sounds kinda bad.)

I’ve been trying to model my pace through the lessons based on what I’ve read in these forums. It seems like a lot of people are suggesting that I do around 15-20 lessons a day. And, this might make me sound really dumb, but I’ve been honestly struggling to commit 1/4 of that (25 vocab words) to memory. Has anyone else had this sort of problem before, when first starting out?

I’m starting to think that I might need some extra reinforcement practice between the lessons and starting apprentice reviews. Is that sort of thing normal?

Anyway, I was mainly hoping to query everyone for suggestions on how to make things stick better when first learning them. I feel like reviewing the items right before the review is a bad idea. And, I know that flash card decks for anki exist, but I’m also totally new to WaniKani’s Spaced Repetition System (SRS), and I want to avoid studying in a way to undermines it.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Or, efficient study techniques that might be helpful for an inexperienced noob like me.


Honestly, this doesn’t mean much. I’ve found that their “critical condition” section is pretty much useless. I think if you get an item wrong on the first review it ends up there, but it’s normal to get several items wrong on the first review.

Based on the numbers you’re giving, I think maybe you’ve misunderstood what people mean by “lessons”. By lessons, they actually mean the number of radicals/kanji/vocab learned, not the number of sessions which come in batches of 5 by default. So when they say 15-20 lessons, they actually mean 15-20 radicals/kanji/vocab, not 75-100.

Yes, this would be bad. The idea behind reviews is to prove that you still remember an item after some specific amount of time. If you look at the item 5 minutes before the official review, you may get it right even when you didn’t remember it for the expected amount of time.

I don’t have any specific study suggestions, though I’m sure others will come along and give some. All I’ll add is that it’s probably not going as poorly as you think it is. It’s normal to get reviews wrong, and in fact that’s kind of the point of SRS. If you got everything right all the time, you wouldn’t need SRS to begin with. Rather than looking at incorrect reviews as “mistakes”, think of them as opportunities to review the items again sooner and learn them better.


There’s a script for self-study ([Userscript] Self-Study Quiz) where you can review the radicals/kanji/vocab on your own. There’s also an option to filter for leeches (items you got trouble remembering even after multiple a couple reviews) if I remember correctly. Though as @seanblue said don’t do those right before a review. But there shouldn’t be a problem when doing those directly after you newly learned them or after a review.

For a quick review after learning new radical/kanji/vocab you can also look at them again on the summary page right after the quiz and see if you still remember everything correctly.

The reccomendation for 15-20 lessons (read: words, not sessions of 5) is also mostly so people don’t get overwhelmed by reviews later on when items come back for master/enlightened/burned levels. If you feel like that’s still too much for you to remember, go slower (my maximum amount for kanji is 10). The focus is on quality not quantity. Or as someone else pointed out in another thread: it’s a marathon, not a race. You don’t have to finish first, just focus on finishing at all.

Also this:

1 Like

Some of the level 1-3 items are still on my wall of shame (made more mistakes on them than any items since). I started WK directly after learning hiragana, didn’t know any words, and everything just sounded like a sequence of random syllables, making it very difficult to commit to memory.

The good news: you will slowly become more familiar with what sound combinations work and which ones don’t, you’ll develop a feeling for rendaku and when to shorten readings with a small っ. The only trick is exposure - you need to see a lot of words to start figuring out some of the base rules. I started using Torii (SRS for vocab items), which exposes you to more words (also hiragana only). Feel free to start with some base grammar right off the bat to get acquainted with more words that way. The more you see (and don’t specifically need to remember), the more sense it will all start to make. But it’ll take a few levels. In the end, making mistakes on items that are in Apprentice or Guru really makes almost no difference in their path towards burning, so that part I wouldn’t sweat.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.