How I feel about studying Japanese and using WaniKani after 8 months

WaniKani is an effective study tool. WaniKani is great for remembering over 2,000 Kanji, and SRS works well for it that you can eventually burn meanings and readings.

The issue I’m dealing with right now is this: I bought the lifetime membership in December 2020. My studying is slow because of work, and now education, so I wasn’t expecting to get far. I’m fine with that.

But lately I’ve been looking into improving my workflow, and I find that if you’re looking to using vocabulary straight away, it’s terrible. A lot of vocabulary I’m learning is useless. Some of the people I talk to recommend learning enough Japanese to reach “conversational level”. I interpret that as learning the kanji and vocabulary needed to engage in conversations. I was told that at level 5 I would begin to see words like that, but look at the words I’ve been learning up until level 6, and then look at ALL the English words in this post alone you’re reading.

How many of these vocabulary words am I NOT using? Most of them.

This is not a complaint. It is a criticism, but what I’m really saying is I’m having trouble finding out how to be more efficient. I saw a video by Actar Raikit from 2 months ago and it showed him with his N1 scores as he spoke fluent Japanese in the video. But he said that it took him TEN YEARS.

I’m studying the language but I’m not using it. And the entire WaniKani community has too much English being seen and spoken. Most of the Japanese only threads are locked.

It makes me think. It does not matter if I’m okay with it or not, because it’s a fact.

It’s going to take me 10 years too.

Almost forgot, one of Actar Raikit’s tips is that watching Slice of Life anime is helpful. I’m going to watch Flying Witch soon. I thought ShiroBako! was great, but I’m going to sentence mine an anime with less episodes.


Judging whether vocabulary words are useful or not is a bit of a tricky question. To compare, how much of your English vocabulary did you not use in this post? Most of it, I’d wager.


I’ve always been worried that if I change things enough to where it actually works that would leave WaniKani because of it. But how do I manage to have two ecosystems coexist together? Right now I don’t think that’s possible (also because the second ecosystem I’m developing is not finished yet, but it’s looking VERY different) and if I do barely manage to do it, it’s because so one ecosystem is created to surpass the other. Eventually I’ll learn enough Kanji and Vocabulary on WaniKani to cover all of the N5 after level 16 if I remember correctly?

After level 10 you know 99% of the N5 Kanji - after that the next&last N5 Kanji () is level 16, correct


But how do I manage to have two ecosystems coexist together? Right now I don’t think that’s possible

By two ecosystem do you mean two learning platforms? In my opinion it works quite well if you see Wanikani as a tool only for kanji (and some vocab). I am using Wanikani for Kanji (and their vocabulary, which I often read is mostly there to help you memorize the onyomi and kunyomi), Nativshark for grammar and I am developing my own recommendation system for reading material. The latter pulls my Wanikani progress from the Wanikani API and then searches for NHK Easy texts with almost no unknown Kanji. That works quite well. It felt like an extremely huge success when I came upon the word 変化 and from context and Wanikani knowledge was able to guess both the meaning and the reading of the word correctly (according to there is a second meaning of the word with another reading, so lucky me :smiley: ).

Ah, and I’m also doing Core 2000 on Anki for vocabulary, but I don’t like that deck too much. We’ll see whether I keep on doing that. E.g. yesterday it showed me about 5 or 6 different variants of verbs using 下 all meaning something with “down” (“come down”, “take down”, …). For me that just does not work, smashing so many almost identical variants into my head at the same time.

Some might say that this is against the SRS system, because I see Kanji again before SRS would recommend them. But I assume everybody is trying to use the things they have learned, so there’s never pure SRS in isolation.

Eventually I’ll learn enough Kanji and Vocabulary on WaniKani to cover all of the N5 after level 16 if I remember correctly?

All of the N5 kanji, yeah. Vocabulary I don’t know, probably not. But along the way you’ll have a lot of N4, N3, and N2 kanji as well. gives nice tables. E.g. these are the percentages of kanji from each JLPT level which I currently know on level 12:

Level 12
N5 = 98.73%
N4 = 86.14%
N3 = 35.42%
N2 = 15.26%
N1 = 1.14%


I feel like you’re relying on Wanikani for too much, especially taking into account your time pressures. Wanikani, as a tool for learning Kanji, is great.

But if you want to effectively use Japanese - you’re going to have to organise your time around vocabulary (downloading anki and working through one of the Core 2k/5k decks etc) grammar (Bunpro/textbooks), speaking (iTalki, irl language exchange) and listening (watching anime/audiobooks/podcasts).

I also think you need to look at setting more realistic goals for yourself. No one gets fluent in a language without putting in some serious time and effort.


First of all, WK, isn’t an language learning app, it’s a kanji-learning app. That’s a huge difference. You’re not going to learn all the important vocab you need for conversation from WK alone. That’s not the purpose of any of the vocab. They exist as a help to remember the different readings of kanji. For both grammar and vocab you need to use other learning resources.

Is your goal to be fluent then yes, that might be the case. Especially if you don’t have much time to devote to learning Japanese. But, is there a reason you need to take it that far? You mention being able to hold conversations, but you don’t have to be fluent for that.

Maybe set more realistic goals for yourself, that also matches the time you have alotted to Japanese besides work and IRL stuff. And, especially, be more diverse in your learning scheme. WK will not teach you Japanese. That is not the purpose. It’s a tool to teach you how to read.

I suggest taking a look at the resource list to find complimentary things beside WK.


So you’re 8 months in, and you’re on level 6 out of 60. So you’ve mastered 5 levels in 8 months. That means it will take you a total of 8 years just to complete WankKani. Sorry, but at this pace I think even 10 years to “conversational fluency” is generous.

How much time do you devote to WK each day? Do you do reviews & add lessons every day? I’m guessing this is probably where you can make the most improvement. Find a way to reliably work more chunks of review time it into your daily routine, which will let you step up your pace.

It takes about 8,000 hours of studying to achieve a comfortable fluency with a new language like Japanese. There is no shortcut. If you want to achieve fluency in 10 years, you’d better be putting in 2-3 hours per day, starting now.


You’ll definitely need to supplement WK with other resources. The program teaches almost no grammar, and the vocabulary is entirely chosen to teach the kanji, so you’re missing all of the kana-only words, and many extremely common words are taught very late in the program because they involve very visually complex kanji.

The structure of WK is that it starts with kanji that have very simple shapes and slowly adds more complex kanji as you learn more radicals. There are both benefits and downsides to teaching like this. Personally I like it, but I’m also settling in for a long two years before I reach a basic level of low intermediate proficiency, so I’m not worrying too much about the order that things are taught here, since I’m planning on learning all of it at some point.

If you want to learn Japanese that you can use right away, there are plenty of resources out there that’ll give you a more traditional beginner start, which will supply basic vocabulary and grammar that will allow you to begin reading and conversing with other people in the language. I recommend choosing one or two other resources and doing them in conjunction with WK.

If you have limited time to study, you might have to go at a slower WK pace in order to incorporate other study resources, but I think you’ll find a lot of synergy between the stuff that WK teaches and the Japanese that you see in media or hear in conversation! WK has helped me immensely in learning vocabulary outside of the program and also recognizing words that I hear or see in Japanese media, even at my current low beginner level. But I’m also pairing it with studying from the textbook Minna no Nihongo and watching Japanese Ammo with Misa on youtube. Both of those resources have given me the tools to actually apply the knowledge I’m learning here when I watch or read Japanese media.


Hello! I’m sure you’ll get some backlash in your criticism since you just made it sound like I (along with everyone else) wasted my (our) time in the platform and we don’t get much from it.

But personally, thanks to WK, I’m slowly getting hints of what people in the anime I watch are saying, thanks to the vocab I learn here. So, I for one definitely made use of them, considering I’m going through studying Japanese slowly.

Since you have lifetime access anyway, maybe you can reevaluate on what you should focus on first? You can always stop and come back.

I just hope you won’t get traumatised with all the logical arguments you’re/you’ll be receiving.


That’s just an issue with your expectations. WK will teach you enough kanji and vocab to read native literature. But you need to work on it for at least one year. And if you’re busy, then it will take 2-3 years even. And in addition you need to study grammar using other resources.

WK is just a part of the puzzle. If you want to learn conversational Japanese then your best bet is to use tutors and speak lots.

Studying Japanese is hard. And it will take time, years.

I just looked through the lvl 1-5 vocab and it’s pretty much all commonly used words. I see them all the time. So it’s definitely not bad for you to learn them.

You can study vocab on the side too by the way.


Definitely +1 to this!

Also, at level 5-6 not all of the vocab is as useful as at later levels. I recently started Tobira and to my surprise many of the words I see there I’ve learned through WaniKani. Subjectively speaking, perhaps even more than the ones I learned through my Anki decks even though these were tailored based on their presumed usefulness.

10 years for high level fluency is a realistic goal. I would be more weary if he said he achieved such fluency after half a year :stuck_out_tongue: .


This community is not a language exchange community and most of the people get their practice outside the forum. Most Japanese only threads fizzle out after a few days because there is just little interest. And there are people with varying levels of proficiency. People who are studying for N1 won’t benefit much from chatting in Japanese to those who are chasing N4. And N4 people it may be too tough to read replies from more advanced learners. And it’s hard to express your ideas at a beginner level. So all in all these threads die out.

But this community is great for asking language questions and getting well researched answers. Or just browsing for Japanese learning resources and hints.

And finally it’s nice to feel connected to a community of Japanese learners. Especially for those of us who study on our own. Not sure I would’ve even completed WK if not for the community. And I wouldn’t get the motivation to read everyday, that’s for sure!


10 years sounds like a massive exaggeration- there are plenty of people who reached n1 in the 1.5-2 years by studying for 2-3 hours a day.
You won’t be super fluent but you will reach a point where you just read native content with big comfort and start acquiring language naturally which will inevitably lead to true fluency- output always comes after input. It’s a classical beginner learner mistake where they think they need to be outputing early.

wanikani really teaches you only 1500+ uncommon words ( which are quite common in written language) and they are still quite useful in remembering kanji readings.

If you have an issue with time though- you should carefully consider is it worth investing in japanese- because you need to devote at least 1 hour a day for asian languages- on average it takes 4x of study time compared with european language. Otherwise you just gonna study them for years and i think everybody main goal here is being able to enjoy native content as fast as possible, not to learn words/drill grammar for years.


That’s the entire point of WaniKani right there.

You won’t be using 里心 or 河豚 in daily conversation or when writing an email but you might come across them when reading a book.


Learning a language, especially like japanese is a lifestyle change. You don’t seem all that dedicated anyway to be fair. You didn’t have an hour a day to spend on wanikani? Get an app, use wanikani on your phone and do reviews when you have some time to kill. You either find a way or you find an excuse.


Plenty of people? :open_mouth: Really? Especially if it’s someone who didn’t already know Chinese characters?

Among the few cases I’ve seen online of people who have passed the N1 in 1.5-2 years, they have all spent a lot more than 2-3 hours a day on Japanese.

Stevijs3, who passed the N1 in 18 months, recorded his time studied to amount to around 3639 hours - if you divide this into 2 or 3 hours a day, it would take somewhere from almost 3 and a half to 5 years.


GOOD ON YOU FOR ASING FOR HELP! Five months in and at level 5 – getting help is the right thing in this situation.

I have a very direct and directive communication style; Please take what you can from what I say here, and ignore anything that does not support you.

Without further ado, …

“My studying is slow because of work, and now education, so I wasn’t expecting to get far. I’m fine with that.”

No – don’t be fine with that. If it’s taking you 8 months and you’re at level 5, it’s not working. And it’s not because there’s something wrong with your brain, and it’s not because there’s something wrong with WaniKani – it’s because you’re not hitting the right rhythm of spaced repetition. Your reviews are too far spaced out. What’s happening is that you’re going too far between repetitions, which means that your brain forgets the meaning or the sound, and then that means that you are effectively learning again from zero each time. Rhythym and pacing is everything when you do spaced repetition. There’s a pacing to things, and you have to keep it, or the memory goes away.

Hey I want to say also – it does not have to take you 10 years to reach some fluency in Japanese. Absolutely does not.

I see two possibilities for you at present.

Either (A) increase the pace of your repetitions to, say, x4 review sessions a day – something like 8a, noon, 6p, and 10p, (say,) or (B) fundamentally pursue a different path, for the time being at least, for Japanese study – something that does not rely on intra-day rhythm, if you cannot do spaced repetition right now. For example: Talk with Japanese people, in Japanese, for 1-2 hours on iTalki for $10/hr or HelloTalk language trade for free, x5 days a week. If you do that, you will DEFINITELY see serious progress, within 3 months.

Whatever you do, though, you must make sure that you’re having fun and making progress. If you’re not having fun, then you must (A) talk with people to understand what’s going wrong, like you’ve done here (yay you!), and then (B) create a path that works. If you lose your motive, you lose the game.

I highly, highly, highly recommend, studying how language acquisition works, through two means:

One, first generally, I hope every English native speaker in the world watches this video:

You can take what you learn in that video, and go straight to the bank with it.

Second, for English->Japanese specifically, my highest recommend is studying Cure Dolly’s videos on YouTube. “Yes,” “Cure Dolly is strange,” but I but I haven’t found anybody who better teaches both (A) Japanese structure, and (B) the 裏側 for learning Japanese. And I can’t think of a more encouraging and sympathetic teacher, too.

I might put down WaniKani for a 3-6 months until you get some confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm back again. Do some speaking and talking with Japanese speakers. When you want to learn to read Japanese again, study a little about spaced repetition, make sure you get your rhythm right, and then get back in.


i have 2 friends who passed n1. One in a 1.8 year. Another in 2 years. They didnt have chinese background or experience with that language. All their study was mostly through anki for like 3 hours a day. Definitely not the massive immersion approach with 24/7 japanese.

n1 is just reading comprehension exam. You don’t need to write or even speak Japanese. It is quite possible to learn grammar, 10,000 words and 2,200 kanji in two years. 550 days= 20 new words +4 kanji a day. Few sentences in between to get a grasp of grammar.

I suppose if your only goal is learning to pass the N1, and not to properly understand actual Japanese, it’s doable. I did hear about some Korean guy supposedly doing just this to pass the N1 in a year, although I’m not sure if it’s true (but it very well might be, since Korean is closer to Japanese than English is as well)