"I finished all the lessons, now what?" - Solving the level 1 problem

I got an email right at the start reading:

こんにちは、 acm2010!

I know it’s only been about an hour, but hopefully you’ve gotten started on WaniKani. If not, the first step is to do your lessons. Once you’ve done that, the radicals you finish here will be added to your Reviews Pile.

But, you may have noticed that you aren’t allowed to do your reviews right away. Because of this, the most common new-member question we get is “Hey WaniKani, why are you making me wait? Forget it, I quit.”

The waiting is very important, though. WaniKani’s reviews are built on something known as a spaced repetition system (SRS). The idea is that you make the most improvement to a memory if you recall it right as you’re about to forget it. An SRS helps you to automate that. When you don’t know an item well, the wait between reviews is much shorter. When you know an item quite well, the wait is much longer. So the better you know something, the longer you have to wait.

Because you’re just starting out, WaniKani has to assume that you don’t know anything. So, the wait times between reviews are relatively short. But, you don’t have many items to review, so it feels very slow. But, as long as you do your reviews when they’re available, and you’re inputting correct answers, you’ll unlock kanji within a couple of days. You’ll unlock Level 1 vocabulary, as well as Level 2 radicals a few days after that. With something as long term as kanji learning, one week is a drop in the bucket. Stick with it through the last free level (Level 3) and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

While you wait for your next available reviews, I highly recommend that you read the WaniKani Guide. It will go into much more detail, as well as tell you what you can expect in the future. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Please work hard!
Koichi & the WaniKani Team

Just writing it in even bigger red letters so that even the most reading averse individual gets it spoon-fed is certainly possible, but people learning kanji should have an attention span longer than a few seconds.


It’s not that I disagree with the “users are dumb” idea, but in my world you can’t use that as a valid excuse to not make improvements. Removing that makes it a question of priorities and since there continuously is a stream of users coming to the forum and making these types of posts over and over again, I think it’s an issue worth attempting to improve.

I don’t want to sound like I’m trivializing the work, given the size of the WK team, but I think some small-scale experimentation to try to improve this situation would be doable. It may be that people are dumb and don’t read, because WK clearly has done quite a bit to build solutions for this problem, but it may be necessary to cater to that inability to read, if that is the source of this issue, for the sake of having a solution.

Since it seems this particular question is raised far more than anything else is, I think having some kind of notification for this particular question would be helpful. What about when the user first joins the forum they could be shown a message for it? All forums deal with these types of questions, but since WK seems to have just 1 main question for new users in particular, I think calling it out specifically would be possible.


Perhaps just providing one mode of displaying this information may also prove to be a barrier for some? It’s obvious that many who author their own threads asking for the same information indicate that those users are not actively exhausting the resources available at their disposal. For some people reading something may seem like more work than watching a short video that explains the same thing.

Personally speaking, I don’t think these types of queries would be reduced even if a variety of means to access and consume this information were provided. It’s indicative of this age of instant personal gratification. Even the users of the forum enable this when such threads come up; one user links to the FAQs and guide in one post, but then another user follows up with a “summary” of the information previously linked to, which negates the efforts of the first user to encourage the OPs of such threads to take ownership over their learning about WK. Alas.


I wish I had a tutorial when I first started. But I sure as hell read the FAQ and Guide multiple times.

Kids these days…


I fixed it guyz.

if (userlevel === 1 && lessons === 0) {
  Array.from($$('a')).map(x => x.setAttribute(

Would change all links on WaniKani to search the forum for “waiting what do now”


Maybe the problem just seems bigger than it is, this forum only has a low number of messages, so the one or two complaints out of hundreds of new users (?) per month just feels frequent.

I also think that there are different kinds of people starting the threads, from the “smart but hasty” to the “I’m potentially paying, treat me like a king”. Maybe a more clear, non-removable message visible during the first levels will help some people. But Tofugu tried a lot and there are some complaints anyway, maybe they think 仕方がない.

There are also people who do read the FAQ but think that waiting surely just applies to “normal people”, while their brains are so shiny they were always ichiban in their nihongo class. If the question turns into SRS, yes or no, it will come up as “waiting is unnecessary” anyway.

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joke went over your head

I agree on everything you said. If many people do the same ‘mistake’ it’s the system that is wrong not the people. Also, since at the bebginning there is very little to do because of how SRS works, they system should provide other things to do (for example clarify the terminology used throughout Wanikani -like ichidan/godan verbs- that is never explained and just assumed, even if wanikani suggests to wait until level 10 before attempting grammar). People would have things to do and in the meantime the SRS would do its magic.


I basically agree, but this:

is just wrong. That kind of thinking leads to everything being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, instead of tackling the underlying causes of the problem - laziness, feeling entitled, low reading skills, and other problems of society that seem to get worse with every generation.

On a more productive note: I suspect that part of the problem stems from the fact that most message boxes, highlighted sections or popups a user gets to see on their device are really not worth reading. In that case it becomes a problem of presentation: How to get the user to actually read at least a short paragraph instead of reflexively clicking through it?

That’s a very good point. In fact, maybe the regular lessons/reviews part of the GUI could be hidden or disabled while the user gets presented some complimentary information in the meantime.


They should probably just link this somewhere, they already got it: [hmm not ichidan/godan, but more interesting anyway]

On the other hand, WK doesn’t try to be a one-stop-shop for Japanese. It is even assumed that you know the kana. I think it’s better to have dedicated product than trying to cram everything into one. There is a Japanese textbook to go together with WK in the works by Tofugu (to be released soon™?), it will be a better place to address all grammar needs.

Edit: where did you see that “wait for level 10?”

An email at the beginning of the year, not sure if it’s on the site too.

Email excerpt:


That seems to conflict with the WK Guide where they suggest level 5 :thinking:

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Looks like SOMEONE needs to get their story straight… :eyes:


Wanikani gives conflicting information (as mentioned in the messages above) about which level you should be before attempting grammar, but in any case not straight away, so if it uses terms that only a a grammar book teaches you it should explain what they are. As for the kana, I don’t see a problem: it clearly says you should learn it before starting, the same is not true for ichidan/Godan.

As for Textfugu, I wouldn’t advice it. It’s an unfinished product, it will probably never be finished and frankly it’s not the best grammar resource out there. One would hope in eto eto, but it has been a long time since the last official update so I’m losing hope :frowning:

I find myself compelled to agree with everything you’ve said.

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I find that most of the time when someone says they, they’ve significantly overestimated their skill at humor (or at least underestimated the chance that it’s actually something that’s been suggested seriously before - Poe’s law and all that). Regardless, I don’t need to take your post 100% literally (and I didn’t) in order to use it as a jumping-off point to comment on the larger “these people are just hopeless” sentiments in this thread.

In the end, regardless of what any of us say here it’ll be up to the WK admins to decide what if any additional things they want to do. My opinion is that it’s an issue worth addressing further - but I don’t run the site.


arent you from reddit by any chance? can you please just calm down lol

I just hit level 4 this morning, so everything you’re describing is very fresh in my mind!

My approach was like starting a new workout routine. If you make up your mind to lose sixty pounds, that’s great! But it doesn’t matter how much you work that first day… you’re not going to do it all. In fact, if you push too hard when you’re just starting out, you’re likely to do more damage than good. As frustrating as it was, I feel like those first few days of review and wait, review and wait, did a lot to make sure that my motivation was for the long term, and not a flash in the pan.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if there is a problem with the first few levels, it doesn’t lie with the site or the approach used. If you can’t wait a few hours between reviews, how are you going to wait two years to hit level 60?


That’s actually a very nice analogy.

I totally agree. And it’s A/B or multivariate testable, to boot. Even just testing out changing up the current sequence of tour/email/faq and seeing if there’s a change in registrations, complaints, etc.

Then again, with my user-testing hat on. It’s entirely possible to do all the testing and find that the people who are least likely to sign up for the program/continue after level 3 are those who don’t read the FAQ and ask in the forum. That means they might be the price to pay for an effective system that whittles out the ones who aren’t likely to follow through.

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