I don't feel very "comfortable" with my vocabulary/kanji, even at the "master" stage

I’ve been sitting at the “master” level with about a hundred Kanji/vocab, but I don’t feel any more comfortable with them than I did say, a month ago. I still need to use mnemonics, and it feels like the neural routes I use to get to the translation haven’t gotten any “shorter”, so to speak. Is this normal?

I’ve been working with the Genki textbook, and I hardly need to spend any time relying on mnemonics when I learn its prescribed vocab through traditional flashcards. Is it just that the additional Kanji element makes the mental process of attaining fluency much, much longer?

Just wanted to hear other peoples’ perspectives, whether you noticed the same thing early on, etc. Hoping it’s not just that my brain is weird and “dislikes” WaniKani, because I find it very useful for getting the information into my brain. It’s just that I’ll often find myself staring at a prompt for thirty seconds before entering the correct answer.


I think it’s normal. If you can still remember it somehow, it’s already a good sign :slight_smile:

Master still only means that you saw the vocab a handful of times, the recognition speed comes with practice.

With Genki you see the words both while reading and while working the flashcards. In addition you know the context where the words are used instead of trying to memorize words that don’t really mean much to you.

The benefit of WK (or learning kanji) is that you can understand why certain vocab is what it is (because the parts it is made of have a meaning as well), and you can understand written words you haven’t seen before just using the kanji.


I’d say it’s pretty normal to feel this way. When you’re studying with Genki, you’re likely reading example sentences and/or passages that utilize the vocabulary they’ve introduced, and hence your brain has more ways to understand and recall that word. With WK, the words feel a bit like they’re “floating around” because they don’t have as much context. They do provide example sentences, but I don’t find those particularly helpful. As you read more, you’ll encounter WK words more and become more familiar with their meaning and usage since you’ve better seen them in context.


You’re not the only one who stare at a prompt for many seconds before entering the answer. I’m sharing my experience using WK. This happened to me too for items I’m less exposed. But for items I’m much exposed, I don’t need many seconds. I know the answer at once. It could happen to my enlightened item than will be burnt. It could happen to easy vocabs I’m less exposed although those easy vocabs are not yet master. It could happen to not easy vocabs but I’m exposed although those not easy vocabs are not yet master.

By being exposed, I mean, I sometimes see kanji/vocabs I learned on NHK Web Easy, sometimes on Native Japanese tweets, sometimes from Native Japanese song I listen (yep, I mentally reproduce the kanji/vocab I hear if I can give an answer instantly during a review session), sometimes from Japanese TV, etc.

Other than your question I quoted, I think other WaniKaniers might want/have replied.

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Hm, well I guess I’ll be an opposite data point then and say while I’m no stranger to the blank mind at the prompt, that’s usually at the apprentice/guru ones. By master/enlighten it’s getting pretty automatic and I just have to go slowly enough to not make any typos. There are a few that still get me to have to think (looking at you, 生地), but most I’m not even thinking of the mnemonics anymore. Ask me again when the burn reviews start coming :fearful:

Seems you’re far from alone, though. The SRS will eventually work - you’ll see an item, and rather than remember the mnemonic, you’ll vividly remember how mad you got the last time you failed it. And that’ll make you remember better than some mnemonic Koichi made up for you. :slight_smile:


Good to hear.

Follow up question:
I’ve halted on my lessons for a while now, thinking that it would be best to get most of my vocab/kanji to “master” before I continue introducing new material. Do I need to do this? I’m new to language learning and I’m not too clear on whether introducing new information can impede the process of mental compartmentalization.

The number of lessons determine your workload, you should choose based on the time you want to spend on WK. In the beginning the workload comes only from the lessons you did in the past one or two weeks, but on higher levels more SRS levels come back, so you might see 4–5 lesson batches at once even if you do all reviews on time. If your nightmare is doing 100 reviews at once you should spread out the lessons a bit.

I’m not really a learning expert, but my advice would be not to worry too much. The is never really a “level up” feeling in language learning and you will always feel like you could be doing much better. But your brain needs some time to adapt, and even if it seems like nothing is happening you are still improving. Then, after a few weeks or months, when you look at material you were struggling with, you can only say that it’s simple and anyone would understand that, and there is so much more that you cannot do.

But if you keep on going and look back, you can see that you came a long way.


You might also find it better to do your reviews a bit quicker. If some items are levelling up because you knew the answer instantly and some only after you stared at them for half a minute, you’re definitely going to end up with some higher level items that you aren’t so comfortable with.

If it takes more than a few seconds, just move on, let it drop, and then you’ll get drilled on it more frequently.

I think you should continue doing lessons. The more stuff you learn, the easier it is to learn :wink: learning more kanji and more words constantly helps to reinforce and consolidate those you’ve already learnt. You also want a mix of material in your reviews so that you’re not just learning the answers as part of a batch.

If you start to get overwhelmed, then slow down ^^

I’d just go for it if I were you at the pace set by WK or at least one that fits your lifestyle. There are some words/kanji that I now get on sight and I worry that I’m not thinking about it enough ie that I will forget it because I’m not saying the mnemonic in my head as I write out the meaning/reading. There are others that I don’t know at all and I think about it for 5 mins and it comes to me. Others, of course, I fail at.

Ultimately, when WK is completed, it will be a matter of reading kanji in the wild. Some will be new, some recognised, some forgotten. Some you may never see again. So I see this as a base that will lead to a whole new level after completion with ongoing learning, referencing, looking up forgotten kanji/radicals etc.

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I agree with this - well put. My concern about focusing strictly on mastery of a small set of the early kanji and vocabulary would be that it limits the ability to start reading and solidifying (and further acquiring) knowledge. I think quantity > quality at the point described by OP. Reading will help you learn too.

Actually I find that learning more kanji HELPS remembering the old ones. The first ones are the most difficult because it’s so new and alien but once you learn more kanji and more vocab for the older kanji it starts to make sense as a system, especially if you have the phonetic components script installed.


This is true. There is nothing to stop you resetting or going through the kanji again using other methods eg Kanji Study app, KKLC or other book etc. I definitely did this on a couple of occasions when I knew I hadn’t focused on a level enough and my review scores were under 60% regularly.

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Here is my idea, because it doesn’t look like anyone else above suggested it. It will load you up with a little extra work for a while, but you will end up feeling more comfortable with what you have already learned.

When an item comes up that you are even a little unsure of, answer it incorrectly. This will move it back in the queue, so that you get more repetitions.
Alternately, use the quiz application to give yourself some extra reviews.

In the end, I think that those above that say to just keep moving forward have it right. :slight_smile:

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The firs time I tackled WK I sucked at the vocab and honestly it didn’t stick in a meaningful way. Since then I’ve done lots of different types of study so my vocabulary is much better… but even then some vocab I’m comfortable with when talking/listening still trips me up in WK. For example a lot of the 大 stem vocab, they all just looked the same to me, so I started reading them aloud. With 大切 and 大いに my instinct was always “big something…?” but once I started actually reading them out I knew what they were. This created a mental link now, so they’re much more instinctive just from reading.

So, yeah, you might find they just don’t stick. If so, don’t be afraid to fail and level them down. But once you start drawing influence from other study materials, hopefully you’ll find things starting to click and become second nature.

For me, KaniWani is a necessary supplement (not beneficial, NECESSARY) to feel comfortable. First I burn on WK, then it unlocks on KW and I try to burn it there. After these double-burns, I feel quite good and I use those words on HelloTalk to reinforce them

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Absolutely this. Once you get used to hearing one kanji read as “はげ”, it suddenly feels much more natural the next time one with that reading comes along. That, and having a lot of reviews to do each day immerses me in Japanese for that much longer, helping my learning overall.

A lot of people overlook this, but it’s the heart of SRS, which is what makes WaniKani and Anki such good learning tools. It’s self correcting. You aren’t being punished if you get something wrong. You’re letting the system know your weaknesses, and it’s giving you more reviews to help shore them up!


Just wanted to let you know that I started using KaniWani, and it’s been like a switch was flipped in my brain. It’s amazing. Within two reviews for most vocab, my recall time was cut down to like 10% of what it had been. Stopped needing the mnemonics; it’s just automatic for most terms now. Looks like my brain just needed that gap to be bridged.

Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention.

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I also find it harder to remember the WaniKani vocabulary as compared to the Genki vocabulary. This is especially true with the verbs encountered in WaniKani because with Genki you are given the particles, you practice the conjugations, and you usually have a few practical examples to work with. For me, I think this mostly has to do with not having context (e.g. example written sentences, phrases). The example sentences listed for each vocabulary word also usually contain unknown grammar and so I’ll often only get a vague idea of how the word is used in context.

Saying that, WaniKani is also pretty helpful because I have learned words on WaniKani that I would later encounter in Genki. It was then more motivating to actually remember the word, and I could oftentimes leverage the component kanji readings to remember the reading.

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Glad it helped - YMMV but you’re just level 3, to be honest I would wait until you get your first burns on WK and then review “Burns only” on KaniWani (you can turn it on in KW settings) + manually unlock by levels if it gets too overwhelming. For context, I have only up to level 10 unlocked on KW at this moment, the rest manually locked

Anyway that’s what works for me - you make it an even longer SRS so I think it sticks better, as opposed to just reviewing everything immediately (still in live memory) from the other side

I think you should try to put the vocab/kanjis into practical use. Maybe at your level, the sentence would be very limited (in terms of structure) and short, but it’s effective from my experience. For example, this word 著しい I just made it my nickname on Discord sv for some days, it really helped :smiley: Maybe learning on Wanikani is a bit different from what you are used to.

Actually, mnemonics here would get weirder as you progress, some guys just completely ignore them or just give a glance not me As I can see you have reached lv 3 which is the last free level, so you should decide whether you feel good with wani or you can just find another method to study kanji.

the additional Kanji element

those radicals are very useful and would be used by nearly any mnemonic based methods as far as I know. It’s just whether the story is “good” enough to stick into your mind.