I learnt Hiragana and Katakana almost 20 years ago. I had learnt a bunch of simple words and even some simple Kanji so I could impress my family whenever we visited Japan. Beyond that, no matter what I did like listening to podcasts etc, I was not able to go much further because the amount of vocabulary required was always very daunting.
I started Wanikani 3 months ago, mainly because I was sick and in the bed and bored. Lucky I kept persisting, because once I crossed level 12-13, I realised that I was able to read so much - like NHK easy news, simple blogs, some of the beginner books I had bought etc, with the help of a dictionary for words I did not know.
Then I realised that, knowing this much vocabulary, I could finally start following basic grammar, and I started listening to some simple Japanese youtubers.
I am now amazed that I can understand 80% of the NHK easy news, follow along with the youtubers, read simple stories and blogs etc and understand a lot of it! Its really unbelievable considering this journey with Wanikani was only 3 months, compared to 20 years of trying to learn on my own!
I do feel terrible every time I see Koichi put into strange and embarrassing situations in every lesson, haha, because honestly he is a genius and so are everyone running this site!