I am celebrating the fact that I finally reached the 60th level (some days ago not today, actually) of Wanikani and I am also celebrating that, soon in two days (O_O) my subscription ends, I’ll move on and not use it anymore. (I’ll always use the forums to find information and books and stuff, you guys are awesome)
I don’t care about burning everything, I have burned 7171 items, all the important levels are burned. I don’t mind forgetting the more obscure Kanji of the latest levels. If I happen to encounter them I’ll be reminded of them organically, and that’s ok with me.
Bring on the fairwell cake!
Some thoughts and advice and links to do the click thing on
Progress and Stats and MO
My progress was far from extraordinary. I was not fast, nor super accurate. And as you’ll se from the stats, quite inconsistent, becuase, you know, life. The best decision I ever made, while using WaniKani, was to stop fretting about the stats and numbers. The final goal is to read, listen and speak Japanese, not to beat anyone else in the game. Here are some stats for those interested:
The first free three levels I have finished long before I started using WK (413). I’ve taken a break autumn 2019 for JLPT study, when I realized that my Kanji level is flawless for N3 but the rest needed some work. I couldn’t find time for doing both so I ditched WK for some time. Then when I started again I went back 4 levels because I remembered nothing of the latest levels.
My personal goal was to be able to read without having to reach for a dictionary all the time. I knew from past experience with other languages (english and italian, I’m native greek) that my mind needs to read a lot to be able to learn a language. And by read, I mean things that interest me, not textbooks.
For the way I operate and the time I have available to do reviews, the main WK site was not comfortable for me. I felt better with having an app that I could carry around on my phone and do reviews whenever there is some dead time. I can’t remember the first app I used but it had the disadvantage of not having an offline mode, so I ditched it and found Flaming Durtles which I recommend, if you need offline mode (I wanted to do reviews when I was on the subway, where connection is really bad, so FD helped me a lot with using my commute time for studying)
No scripts, I used the ignore/undo button sparingly, only on typo or stupid mistakes. Later in the levels, if I knew that I know a vocab when I see it in context but I just can’t remember it in a review, I would ignore and move forward. Also at some point, I decided that it was ok to NOT learn some words that I am not interested in, as long as I recognize the kanji and reading (looking sideways to all the military ranks that I won’t be able to tell apart)
The first time I tried to memorize Kanji was years ago and it was a complete failure. I thought my brain was broken and I would never succeed. So I gave up. A few years later, I started Heisig and guess what: it was a success! I managed to learn about 800 kanji but the fact that I didn’t know how to read them still, was very annoying to me. I could look at a text and guess what it meant but could not read it. So I couldn’t move on with my studies. (Here someone could say that I should do a speed thing and learn everything in a couple of months and get it over with, but unfortunately, my study time was limited and progress was painfully slow.) But, I knew by then, my mind was not broken, I knew how helpful SRS was and I just researched the internet for another tool to help me memorize Kanji and I found WK.
SIDE NOTE: One very useful skill I have acquired from Heisig is to know how to write Kanji by intuition. You can give me a very complex Kanji and I know how to write it 95% of the time. Heisig gives you that and depending on how I feel about my writing ability in the future, I might do a quick Heisig rerun focusing on the writing.
WK and reading
By that time I had understood that Kanji knowledge was essential for the way I wanted to study. So I focused on WK without forgetting to slowly go through the grammar. Everything is easier when you know the Kanji, grammar books don’t cause you headaches, trying to understand theory and searching for Kanji at the same time is a difficult task. I don’t know how conventional teaching deals with that (and I don’t want to know).
So I pushed forward and around level 30, they said I could start reading stuff that is not textbooks. So I tried NHK Easy News and it helped a lot. The second most useful thing which thrust my studies forward was joining a WK book club and reading my first book にゃんにゃん探偵団. That felt like an amazing accomplishment and even if it took me 2 hours to finish a page, it helped me more than anything and gave me the confidence to start reading more books. WK is a great source of finding materials at your level. So I went from にゃんにゃん to よつばと！ and then through dozens of EHON NAVI books. Don’t underestimate ehon navi if you are a beginner.
And then suddenly I could read a whole book without illustrations, 時をかける少女。
Last week I finished my first book without furigana, 鏡の孤城, 554 pages. I would never have done this without WK. It wasn’t easy, my mind struggled a lot for the first 200 pages, before it started to become easier and then after page 300, everything just clicked, I was able to read fast without even thinking about it, 40-pages at a time without feeling exhausted afterwards.
It’s not that Wanikani taught me everything, but it helped me built a very solid base, even if sometimes I forget bricks of that base, even burned ones, it doesn’t matter, a quick look at the dictionary, bam, you know it again.
SRS or not SRS
That brings me to what I want to do after WK and includes not spend all my time with SRS**-ing, but instead with reading. Reading is like nature’s SRS people. It’s better to encounter kanji and vocab in their natural environment, which is text (and conversation). Text is magic for your brain. I don’t want SRS to become a goal in itself, I don’t want to build anki decks that will suck time that I could otherwise use to read, listen or see japanese content. Let the content decide for itself the SRS-ing. That’s my resolution for going forward. I don’t say this without evidence. For many kanji or vocab, when I see them alone in a review session, I fail them. If I see them in context, this never happens.
SIDE NOTE: I have tried creating anki decks in the past but I always end up hoarding more and more words and then creating a useless huge anki deck which I then proceed to delete.
Past, Present and Future Study material
I used Genki, Tae Kim, Imabi, Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly and N3 study books (the matome series). I used bunpou, random web pages, I googled what I needed as I encountered it in reading. I also read Rubin’s Making Sense of Japanese which cleared up a lot of the fog surrounding japanese grammar. Once I was comfortable with reading Kanji, I got two japanese grammar books for japanese kids( 小学&中学入試 まとめ上手 敬語と言葉のきまり and ドラえもんの国語おもしろ攻略 文法力がつく. These helped IMMENSELY with understanding how japanese grammar works. I plan to revist them often and get some more advanced grammar material. Related to this, japanese youtube study channels for japanese kids. You practice reading, studying grammar and listening at the same time!
I recently started Tobira to give me some structure in what I need to learn. And I mainly need to read more, listen more and speak more. I have started an advanced book 雪国 and while it’s difficult, it’s not impossible.
I use bookwalker for free books and manga and check out the seasonal freebies Kadokawa offers, for quick reads.
If you are interested, I have a Goodreads shelf with all japanese books I read.
EDITED TO ADD SOME RESOURCES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
Unpopular opinion: I find graded readers extremely boring. The fact that they are only written in order to help me read easier, bleh. I tried once, couldn’t find myself interested enough. BUT, there exist naturally occuring graded readers and you can find them in children’s books (that’s why I suggested EhonNavi above). But not all children’s books have to be cute and kawaii, not all adults like that. Luckily for us there are the NAZE DOUSHITE series. Starting from 1st elementary school grade to the 6th, the books are a gift to japanese learners. It’s like they unintentionally made graded readers for us, learners! I think the 2st grade could be read by someone at about level 20 of WK and finishing N5 and then you can move up. I discovered the series late, it didn’t make sense to grab the 1st grade volumes, so I only got the 5th and 6th grade ones. I enjoyed them a lot and I learned tons of stuff about japanese history, culture, social life, about science stuff and biology. There are reading groups here in WK for the series. Strongly suggesting them.
As I mentioned I already took the N3 exams once in 2019, I failed listening. The 2020 JLPT exams were cancelled due to corona. If the exams happen in July I might take the N3 again. If it is for December, I will check my progress and go for N2.
I plan to start reading some N2 level prepareation textbooks, let’s see how it goes. It can’t do any harm
I need to practice listening more and speaking is my weakest skill. But, reading helps with all skills, I find my ability to speak gets better every few months, just by reading more and being exposed to language more, not by speaking more.
I am able to follow most アニメ and ドラマ with subtitles, I can understand kid stuff and people speaking slowly even without subtitles. I listen to podcasts, radio, I follow japanese food youtubers, I follow japanese bookstagramers and cat instagram accounts, I have Kurashiru app on my phone and I find every day a recipe to follow from there (I love cooking).
My only advice is to find the things that interest you and do them in japanese! Baby steps, give time to your brain, it’s a great machine, the more input you give it, the better the output.
Also, there is a lot of advice out there for what to do. Follow them all and none of them. What I want to say is: follow what you feel like following at any particular phase of your journey. Some say only tadoku!!, read fast get used to reading fast, others say only read carefully and parse and analyze everything in order to learn! I’d say do what feels right at any particular moment.
I had a book that I started with hyper-analyzing everything, at some point I felt I didn’t need to do that, and just went in, tadoku method. Some passages I found interesting, and wanted to analyze them, I stopped and did so. Did it hurt? NO. Did it help? YES.
When I’m watching an anime, somedays I don’t mind following through with only 80% of understanding, other days I feel annoyed by not understanding 100% and stop every other sentence to read the subttiles carefully. Does it hurt? NO Does it help? YES.
My conclusion is: get advice, always customize it to fit you!
My plan for 2021 is to get a conversation tutor and at 43 years of age, keep on going!
☆*: .｡. o(≧▽≦)o .｡.:*☆