Long post ahead, you’ve been warned!
My dear WaniKani Community, it’s been a while. Did anybody miss me? Probably not. Anyways, I’ve been away from the forums because life got a bit crazy for a few months and, in consequence, WaniKani also went crazy and basically I was busy doing reviews, tons of reviews. But the time has come to make some decisions and finally, my long-overdue Level 60 post is here (you must write one of these when reaching Level 60, the Crabigator demands it, it is known).
But @carlostdev, crazy busy with reviews? At level 60? What are you talking about? That doesn’t happen!
Well, yeah, that is what this post is about. Hopefully my experience will be of use for some new user around here. Because, oh boy, mistakes were made. And I’m painfully aware of it.
The current situation
I started WaniKani sometime around January 2017, just after taking the JLPT N5 and deciding to focus my Japanese studies on Kanji, which resulted to be the most difficult portion of the test for me. I honestly don’t remember when did I reach level 60 but it must have been somewhere around November/December last year, just in time for my second attempt for the N3 test.
I went from Level 1 to Level 60 in around 2 years, even though my original goal was to get to that point by mid-2018, a year and a half. Things started to get complicated on the short levels, like 40-ish and definitely the last 10. I went from an average of 8 days per level to 15~20 days. Tons of leeches, lots of wrong reviews and when I had to take a break because I just couldn’t take it anymore, I neglected the Crabigator for a couple of months. As usually happens, it was very difficult to re-gain speed when I finally decided to come back and I started to forget things.
Long story not-so-short, it got to this point (and it used to be a lot worse):
Lessons (I haven’t even touched items for Level 60):
Overall progress and speed:
How I got into this mess (other than ignoring my reviews for three months)
I made a lot of wrong assumptions about WaniKani, particularly at the beginning of my journey, that generally affected my experience with the site. And I’ll try to explain them so YOU, hopefully a new WaniKani user on the first few levels, don’t make them.
Moving fast and breaking things
I’ve been using WaniKani on a monthly subscription since I got to Level 4, mainly because I was paying debts and couldn’t afford a longer plan, but it also acted as a motivation to finish WK in a short period of time, along with the promise of learning 2,000 Kanji in just over a year as stated on the promotional emails.
So speed was my primary focus. Wasn’t able to reach the 6 days per level that some crazy users around here have done, but got to 8 days, which was a very good pace.
What was the problem, then? I was working hard, not smart. I had a lot of time to spare at work so I didn’t mind to do reviews every hour. And so, I put very little effort in my lessons, let new items into the review pile and tried to learn on the go by making many mistakes and repeating items over and over. After all, that’s how SRS is supposed to work, isn’t it?
But thinking in terms of workload, it was a bad idea to combine constant mistakes with constant addition of new items to the review pile. I took too long to really understand the impact those mistakes had on my workload in the short term and the consistency of the WK content going forward. The snowball was born, and it did eventually crush me.
The importance of user-scripts
Probably the biggest misconception I had about WaniKani had to do with user-scripts. I used to think of Vanilla WaniKani as the golden standard, the way its creators had conceived it and as such, THE way to learn Kanji. I ignored the scripts and saw them as a way of cheating and making WaniKani less effective (which, of course, can be true if these are used irresponsibly).
Thus, during my first levels the only tools I used were the AlliCrab app for iOS and what is now known as wkstats.com to track my progress and anticipate the workload of the following days (because I also didn’t fully understand SRS times at the time). Doing reviews on mobile I made a lot of typos that, of course, increased my workload in the short term. But at the time I failed to understand the impact this had and was very careless about it.
As I spent more time reading the forums and had a better understanding of the Crabigator (and as the workload became unbearable because I was sending tons of stuff back to Apprentice), I went all like “Well, all those scripts kids are doing these days can’t be that bad, can they?” and finally started using them and trying to find a combination of scripts that worked. Ignore script is now a must since I have clumsy fingers and typos are a huge problem.
The way I see it now, Vanilla WK is not the golden standard, but a foundation, a tool that can be molded to suit each individual’s specific needs and styles of learning. I’ve read some criticism online stating that WK needed updates on the front-end which are not being provided by its creators; but I think the Tofugu team has done things right by focusing their efforts on the content itself, while encouraging users to enhance their WK experience any way they want, to the degree that we now have a very robust API in the works that allows third-party applications to do even more than ever before.
The WaniKani burnout is real. And honestly, I have no idea how I pushed myself all the way to level 60 with the huge amount of workload that I was having. My stubbornness played an important factor, I guess, because I’ve seen plenty of users resetting to lower levels for less than I bared, and looking back on it I probably should have done the same and not suffer as much in the process. I’d say I’m lucky the real burnout arrived after I achieved my initial goal, though right now the final goal of burning everything looks far far away.
While this is a guide on how not to reach level 60, I have to say, the experience wasn’t all that bad, and the results are undeniable. Simply put, WaniKani was of vital importance for me passing the N3. The rest of it came from the grammar lessons at my Japanese classes and listening practice from watching Japanese TV, but the Kanji and Vocabulary I learned with WaniKani really made the difference.
I was also able to see the difference when comparing myself to my classmates in Japanese school. We were following 「みんなの日本語」, which teaches around 5 or 10 Kanji per lesson, and we were doing like 1 lesson every two weeks. By level 25 I was way ahead our program and I was able to read more of the difficult examples the teachers sometimes used at class.
So yes, SRS works. WaniKani is effective. But definitely there are other ways to approach it and it should be complemented with other materials for practicing reading, grammar and listening.
Going forward. What's next?
OK, so my current situation in WaniKani is tough. What can I do about it?
Certainly, it would be possible to make the huge effort required to attack that 2,500 review pile and get it to zero, do my level 60 lessons and keep going until I burn all turtles. But no. I’m mentally tired, and the amount of time this would require, as I figured out when I got the review count from 3500 to 2500, is huge (considering the amount of Apprentice items I have right now). This is no longer possible since I’m getting more responsibilities at work and I can’t dedicate as much time to the Crabigator anymore (and the recurrent workload would also be huge).
No, I’m afraid if I really want to beat the Crabigator, I’ll have to start from zero all over again. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this and, now knowing to ways of the Crabigator, I think I’ve developed a system that will allow me to keep a fast pace in a more structured way that will hopefully help me dedicate less time to WaniKani, less than I did on the first run, at the very least. Will report back on that as I go forward and see the results.
WaniKani is a very cool tool and I’ve learned a lot. I’d dare to say that without it I wouldn’t have passed the N3. But I used it in a deficient way that made me work a lot unnecessarily. If I could offer a few tips:
- Watch your accuracy, every wrong review today is extra work tomorrow.
- WaniKani is awesome because it is flexible. User scripts are your friends, learn to use them and find the ones that work for you.
- While the gamified system can be addictive, remember that the ultimate goal is to learn Kanji, not to reach level 60. Don’t be afraid to slow down or even go back a few levels along the way if you feel it’s necessary.
- The forums are also your friends, we’re here to help you.
All of these lessons I had to learn the hard way because of the way I approached WaniKani on the very first levels. I was just too excited to get going and only skimmed a bit of the getting started guide. My style of learning is such that I’m better at learning something by action, doing things instead of reading about them. But in this case, the first levels of the journey are of vital importance, and the mistakes you make at any point, big or small, you will carry until the end.
I can’t stress this enough: Read the FAQ and the starting guide and really understand it for best results. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised on how many of us miss on this vital point.
So that’s it. My level 60 post. If you read the whole thing, thank you! Hoping to hear your thoughts on my WaniKani story.
That being said, I’ll just end by saying
The real Level 60 is all the Kanji friends we made along the way