How NOT to get to level 60. My experience with WaniKani

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):

Reviews:
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Lessons (I haven’t even touched items for Level 60):
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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 burnout

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.

The results

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.

TL;DR

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

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Congratulations! :smile: :sob: Wish it went smoother for you. Thanks for posting all of this. There is some good information in there.

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I see some similarities to myself, at least in terms of what level 60 looked like. I hit level 60 last Fall, and immediately afterward I couldn’t do wanikani for a few days and forgot vacation mode. That meant my reviews got unmanageable very quickly, and so I stopped entirely, without even starting the level 60 lessons. I just kinda felt done when I hit 60.

I’ve been reading manga in Japanese regularly all since then, and honestly most of what I learned in the later levels hasn’t come up much, so I would have forgotten it all anyway. This is why I don’t feel bad about bowing out literally at the finish line.

But since I’ve got a lifetime sub, on a whim I just came back and reset to level 1. I’m curious about how much I remember. I’m also curious to find out which of the (many, I’m sure) kanji and vocab I’ve forgotten are actually ones I’ve been encountering “in the wild” ever since I quit.

I by no means intend to get back to level 60 again. I can’t spend another 600 hours or whatever it took me the first time. But it’ll be interesting to see how many levels I can get through before I run into a lot of forgotten items.

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Hey another fellow sufferer!

I also went pretty hard and fast and definitely paid the price once I got to 60. It definitely wasn’t bad as your experience, and I don’t regret going as fast as I did, but I did experience burnout which I feel I wouldn’t have if I gone slower.

People need to realize that reaching level 60 isn’t the end of WK and what they do 1-60 is really going to affect their experience/workload post-60. It’s all a fun roller coaster ride until you start going down, down down. And your reviews go up, up, up!

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2310 Apprentice… How many reviews do you get on that day?

Congratulations on reaching 60! And cake!

Thank you for the lessons. It is not too late for me yet… These last 10 levels I have been pushing myself more, but I realized again, because of you, that the objective is learning kanji, not getting to 60.

Have to control myself, I wanted to finish before the JLPT in July, but at the moment I don’t have the capacities to learn that fast unfortunately

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This is exactly the kind of “endgame” analysis I have been looking for. Thank you so much sharing your experiences and recommendations. I’d love to ask you some more in depth questions.

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Glad you’re all finding this post useful! I really am

I totally understand how you feel (and wow, we basically went through the same). But I kinda like the challenge of burning as much material as I can. Also, it is clear to me that I’m forgetting some pretty basic vocabulary, so I can use the extra practice of the second round.

Yeah, I don’t regret going fast either because I did kind of learn all the Kanji and passed the N3. I do regret, however, being so careless with my accuracy on the first levels.

That’s a pretty hard question to answer. You see, since most of those apprentice items are already on my review pile, I wasn’t getting that many new reviews a day unless I actually did reviews that looped back into the review queue (best case scenario, I did some items on App 4 and wouldn’t see them on a couple days, but most of them would come back within hours).
On my last two week sprint I was doing between 500 and 1000 reviews a day, which translated to a decrease of 200 to, at most, 500 reviews when comparing one morning to another, which was pretty frustrating. Maybe another couple weeks would have sufficed to get the queue back to zero, but at the moment I can’t affort to be seen WaniKaning at work all day as I used to in the good old days, and also I would be dealing with similar workloads coming back every few days until I burned those items.

Not sure what JLPT test are you taking, but at your level I’d say you’re probably safe even for N2. I’d focus on preparing for other aspects of the test, like vocabulary not included in WK. Stupid mimetic verbs, they think they’re too good for me

Sure! Don’t hesitate to ask!

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Oshin has been here. It’s a mark. I’ve read your post until that quote block. I want to respond but I currently don’t have energy to do that. I’ll read again your long post later.

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Thank you for sharing.

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Very important post, thank you for sharing!

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I agree with you about the scripts. I found the most effective way for me is to ignore most wrong answers until they are in the previous level. If I have memorized them by then, they move toward enlightened and if I haven’t memorized them by then they go back down and I relearn them.

This way new material is constantly offered and the idea of memorizing the current lesson perfectly doesn’t get in the way of receiving the next lesson.

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Ended up in a similar situation myself, too, although I fell flat already before the finish line at level 55 after a little over a year of studying. Going on a trip, fully planning to continue doing my reviews, but got sick and things just escalated out of control way too fast. I did try to struggle back to speed for several weeks, but it got to the point that I got reviews on kanji that I had no recollection of ever seeing before – and wouldn’t see them again until long after I had already forgotten them due to the size of the review queue.

After a couple months’ break I finally bit the bullet and reset all the way to level 1, to give myself some easy time and get back into the mood of success. This time around, I’m making an effort not to rush by capping the apprentice level item count at a reasonable size (depending how much time I think I’ll have for reviews), pacing the lessons over several days instead of trying to start the next level as soon as it becomes available.

Reaching level 41 again after 16 months – so far so good!

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I’m in your same situation regarding the scripts. I feel like I would use them as a way of cheating past my mistakes and I think not having the option of making mistakes correct forces me to pay more attention since every mistakes is definitive and matters.

Also it feels a chore to setup and I don’t have much time + considering I use WK in 3 different devices and one of them is at work, it just doesn’t feel worth it.

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Congratulations!! :tada::tada::partying_face::confetti_ball::confetti_ball:

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Congratulations! That was a very interesting read.

Your situation echoes mine a lot. Except I got overwhelmed multiple times along the way and had long hiatuses after which I had to crawl back up through thousands of reviews. Now that I’m 60, the review pile is still big (not as big as yours though), and my level 60 lessons are still slowly, slowly decreasing (managed to do the kanji ones at least so :man_shrugging: ). It is indeed important to not go too fast, and work smart, not hard (I have the same accuracy problem due to lessons not being learned properly and over-reliance on the SRS).

Anyway, have fun after resetting :slight_smile: hope it works well for you.

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Thanks for sharing your experience, I’m actually starting to spend more time in the lesson and relly less on the SRS and it’s good to see your thought going in that sense :slight_smile:

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It’s thanks to your mistakes, and those of others, that I’ve already learned not to make those.
I started out doing all the lessons as soon as they came up, even if they were more than I could realistically remember. Though I must add that most of the earlier vocabulary was already known to me, which made it easier to rush, I suppose.

Now halfway through level 6, I feel I have found a suitable pace. I do 20 lessons per day max, so I can actually remember them. And I don’t let my apprentice items get above 200. I also use the self study script to review items that seem to become or already are, those dreadful leeches.

Even though I’m in it for the N2 test in July 2020 (and thus need a little speed) I don’t want to rush it. Because rushing leads to forgetting. I want to be good at my dream job once I finally pass that test. (I plan to become a translator, just no idea what specialty yet.)

So TLDR: Thanks for your mistakes, now I won’t have to make them :slight_smile:

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Ain’t that the truth!

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