I guess I need some advice (retention)

I’m at a bit of a loss right now because my retention sucks. I usually get around 65-75% on the post review summary - sometimes even less and fewer times more than 75%. The next time I see vocab/kanji it’s like it’s the very first time. There are so many vocab and kanji that cycle between Apprentice and Guru it’s unreal. Once I see the reading I usually remember the meaning as well (I’m doing reading/meaning back-to-back). I do read the reading out loud and read the mnemonic every time I fail an item but to no avail. I guess it’s partly because I can’t remember all of the radicals either when I see them in a kanji. I think that’s also partly due to having used the undo button a bit too freely sometimes. Maybe 1x1 is another piece of the puzzle, because you see the failed item immediately again (is there a script that fixes this?)?

I have no idea what I should do at this point. I thought about a reset to level 1. I guess I went way faster than I should have and now I’m sitting on a big pile of lessons (about 750 lol). But a reset to level 1 is probably a bit too crazy.
I have also thought about doing the self-study more frequently, but it just adds more “reviews” and it feels like it’s not that useful since it kind of shortens the SRS stage so I might get it right because I’ve seen it much earlier than I should have? Though maybe I do need a shorter interval for those items if they don’t stick with the regular timings.

My other take is to just go on with it. I try to read daily and I think I had a few items that now stick after I saw them a couple of times during reading, but there are also a lot that I see quite often and still get wrong frequently (which I guess is normal). So my plan here is to just read more. I do have a lot of time at the moment and should be able to read a lot more (and I do want to, but I’m quick to procrastinate, especially my brain has a bad day). I guess reading is the most crucial thing to do, though. Regardless of which option I go with.

Lastly, I noticed when I had a look at WKstats is that all my open lessons are from level 20+, so maybe it’s a more sensible approach to reset to level 20 and then go slower, and perhaps unburn old radicals of kanji I fail all the time? Or even reset to level 15? I do have quite a number of level 10/15+ items (esp. kanji) that are between Guru and Enlightened, most are Enlightened though.
Ugh, idk. At least resetting to level 20 seems like a decent idea after writing all this stuff.

It’d be nice if anybody could give me some suggestions/thoughts on what I should or could do.

Thanks for reading, here’s a random small cat

Sorry for this stupid wall of text. I feel like my brain is just broken beyond repair lol


That seems like a pretty low rate, so I would think it may be related to how you are conducting the lessons. Are the mnemonics not sticking? How much time do you spend thinking about each item?

You definitely should read more and use textbooks, etc. WK is merely an exercise to help learn real Japanese. It is not the main thing, and is in many ways a distraction (albeit necessary to get things moving). In isolation, kanji is a very random collection of squiggles and sounds, but if you are really immersing in the language, they have more meaning, importance, and stickiness.

Also, once I got into the 20s, I stopped being super strict about most vocab. If I miss a rendaku or にん・じん reading, I give myself a second chance rather than failing it. I’m pretty strict on verbs and adjectives, since they usually have a new reading entirely, but being anal about jukugo words is a bit self-defeating at this level. Just read more, since you still will struggle with these words in the wild anyway.

There is also the option of studying ahead using Anki. There are complete WK decks on Ankiweb that you can delete the vocab from and study one level ahead of where you are (or in your case, review and study ahead). I do that sometimes to make things go more smoothly.

And finally, in all seriousness, make sure you get enough sleep, don’t drink too much, and avoid the puff puff. These things make a huge difference for me.


Does this mean you’ve been avoiding doing vocabulary lessons?

I can’t give any advice based on experience, but I’d say if you wanted to reset, pick a level where you have a lot of lessons sitting. So, if you had five lessons pending for level 20, ten for level 21, and twenty-five for level 22, maybe level 22 would be the place to return to.

Personally, I’m trying to focus on at least two vocabulary for each kanji lesson. But I’m sitting at 7 kanji lessons an 52 vocabulary lessons pending, and my retention’s so bad lately that I haven’t been under 100 apprentice in quite some time now. (I reached apprentice 90 during my reviews this morning, but when I finished reviews, I was at 101 apprentice…)

I’m still trying to figure out a way to increase my retention. At this stage, I’m mixing up too many kanji.


As @ChristopherFritz says, if you’re skipping vocab, do that.

Otherwise, put WK lessons on hold for a bit and practice grammar and reading/listening to native material for a while (also speaking if it’s convenient). It’s a lot easier to associate kanji with words you already know than to learn kanji and then associate them with words (that’s probably my only gripe with WK - I think vocab should come before or at the same time as the kanji).

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I forgot to address this part - skipping that much vocab will definitely screw up your retention of the kanji themselves. You need to plow through that pile or reset.


I guess they often don’t stick, partly because I don’t recognize the radicals within the kanji or break them down too much. For example, the kiss radical in kanji I always break down as winter and mouth, so I don’t remember the kiss mnemonic. I do have a look at what radicals are in the kanji if I get the kanji wrong, though.

Yeah, I know. I definitely spend more time reading than I do on WK. Especially now that I have a decent base for reading stuff. Of course I also study grammar etc. I do see WK as a supplement to (probably not enough) reading.

I’m doing this, too. But it might have been a bit too liberal sometimes.

I don’t really want to do even more SRS, however I started to do sentence cards from shows I’ve read/watched like Flying Witch or Non Non Biyori.

:sweat_smile: First one I’m working on, it’s getting better! Second I don’t at all and third I haven’t in a while. Definitely makes a difference!

Yes and no. Because I was going fastish I was giving kanji priority over vocab and I always did vocab lessons alongside, too. It’s just that because I am dropping so many items I’m always at my set max amount of apprentices. That lead to not doing enough vocab vs kanji… so I would always do a few kanji and vocab, then wait a few days (w/o lessons) for the apprentices to go down, then do another few kanji and vocab => I level up while not having done enough vocab, vocab piles up… (I hope this explanation makes sense)

And @anon1067447 Yeah, I’m definitely drifting towards a reset to level 20 (all the vocab are level 21 and above) so I get rid of this obnoxious pile. Then go slower and just slap my butt and read more until I’m decently satisfied with myself.

I just recently did a 2+ month lesson break to get my gurus and apprentices down, which did lead to me reading more. Like I said above I’ll definitely have to get myself to read more and I will (stating this here so I can hold myself accountable :eyes:)

Thanks for everyone’s replies! Much appreciated. :slight_smile:

Going too fast is part of your problem. You don’t take the time to assimilate what you have learned. You have a large build-up of items that are not fully learned and it bogs down your reviews. Besides delaying vocab lessons makes them pile up and they won’t fulfill their purpose of consolidating the knowledge of kanjis.

You need to find a pace that works for you. Going fast doesn’t.


You gotta stop using a reorder script, stat – or set it to show you vocabulary first. Level number is totally meaningless if it becomes the point of your studies. That vocabulary is there to help you form connections between kanji so they can stick in your memory better (not to mention actually teaching you words; just learning a bunch of kanji will not necessarily allow you to understand new words immediately.

If you’ve gotten out of your depth, don’t feel bad about slowing down and treading water for a little while. Work through your review items, keep promoting the ones you do well with, and slowly add in the vocabulary items you’ve been skipping. If you keep at it, it will stabilize eventually.

Also, don’t forget to be getting exposure to Japanese outside of WaniKani! The book clubs are super supportive and can help you get into native material, which does wonders for helping you attach real-world significance to your review items.


Yeah, definitely spend more time connecting with the radicals. The kiss example is a good one, as I find it quite vivid. Winter+mouth is a pretty visceral description of a kiss post-breath mint, so I can actually smell and taste it!

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I’m going to reset to level 20 tomorrow (that’s where my open lessons start and when I started to have a couple of bad months in general) A few levels before 20 don’t look that great either, but I doubt it would be that much more useful to reset to earlier levels.
I’m also going to try to do at least twice or thrice as much vocab as kanji (I’m not sure what a good ratio is) while going more slowly overall. And then just double-check each and every troubling radical/kanji of prior levels when I come across them and unburn when necessary. And of course immerse a lot more, too.

Thanks again for your input!


My own practice is to complete all lessons from the previous level before being done in the current level. I participate in the 0/0 Streak Challenge to stay on top of it.


Makes perfect sense, as I’d been doing similar. That’s why I dropped down to one radical, one kanji, three vocabulary for a bit, then (once I ran out of radicals on my current level), one kanji and two vocabulary. But I may start focusing solely on vocabulary…once my apprentice gets down.

My experience so far (mostly reading manga) is that many words I’ve learned in WaniKani (and probably forgotten) don’t really seem to come up all that much. Plenty do, though, and lately I seem to encounter a word I recent learned in WaniKani at least once a week.

Hopefully we’ll find reading material and methods that will help us reach that WaniKani halfway point!

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Try out the news (easy news) or Satori Reader. More grounded material like this (compared to what I think of when I think of manga) is loaded with WK words. Satori lets you sync your WK level to hide furigana for things you should know.


When I started reading your post, I immediately thought “why reset to level 1, why not 20?” and I was glad you also came up with that idea. I think going back to level 1 would frustrate you even more, so I wouldn’t go that extreme. But taking a step back seems what would help you most.

I am stuck as well in the 20s. I went okay until 23, got slower until 25 and am now so super slow, it’s criminal. Those levels are hard. Extremely. I mix up so many radicals and kanji - just like you say, I came to a full stop for weeks and did not do any lessons. My apprentice are now below 50, guru are around 300. I will take awfully long to reach level 60, but I know I can reach it that way. I need to focus twice as hard now as I did 10 levels ago.
I noticed that I am mixing up kanji I used to know for years. It feels like my brain is fighting so damn hard against anything I do. I read a lot of manga and novels, I play Japanese games, I am doing fine while doing so. But I just totally f*ck up when I sit in front of Wanikani. This usually happens before I make another big leap, so I will sit this one out, do my kanji reviews, read more, work on my leeches.

But you say you already have a big pile on your plate. That’s why I think taking a step back and then going slower would help you. Maybe try level 25 if 20 seems too far away. It already takes a lot away and lets you “breathe”. And you can still go back to 20 if you are still struggling.

Also, something strict I do: I do 5 lessons a day IF I get 85% or above. If I only score 84% then nope, no lessons for the day. I noticed that the new vocabulary stick so much better with me. My leeches are all from level 17-23. I was still forcing myself to do ALL lessons immediately at that point and that is biting my ass now.

I would also suggest you not to use the re-order script. I know I could start with the next level already now, but I still have 60 vocabularies waiting for me. It is exciting to learn new kanji and the first time I held myself back, I felt so frustrated. But on the long run, it helps. Vocabulary is actually more important. When I read a book, the kanji alone are not really helping - the vocabulary is actually the cool part. But sometimes I just forget and get obsessive with kanji when actually the kanji are just the base for the vocabulary.

And at the very end I would like to remind you we all go through these phases. I know some rush to level 60 and I am envious because I have to slow down, and for me it feels like I have hit a wall. But most of us do. Sometimes when I mess up a kanji I should know by now, I am so frustrated, I just want to scream. But this is part of the learning process. You are already (nearly) half-way through WaniKani. Japanese is a difficult language and we all have to question our sanity from time to time why we do this. But in the end I think every step gained is important. Don’t just look at your failures, also feel proud at what you have already accomplished and don’t let the frustration be the dominant feeling.

So even taking a step back is not “failing”, it is taking another step to tackle the leeches that keep haunting you. It’s a sneak attack.


Yeah, it’s been a mixed bag so far for me, too. Though it’s always nice if you come across a vocab you’d think you wouldn’t see. :smiley:

@epyon_10 Thanks for your post! I did consider 1 (or more likely 10 or 15) because I do have quite a few leeches (mostly kanji) from the tens, especially level 15-19. But I think it might not be worth to reset back that far.

Ya, true. I think when reaching level 20 - 30 one has a great foundation of kanji that come up frequently when reading.

:sweat_smile: Mood.

I just reset to level 20!
Seeing that I now only have 53 lessons and 25 apprentices feels really refreshing. Far fewer guru and master items, too. I think I’ll spend the time saved by that solely on reviewing and leech squashing for the next 2+ weeks or so to get things from prior levels deeper into my brain. And if necessary unburn kanji or radicals.


I hope the 30s will be easier than the 20s. Still slogging through the last vocab in 29. I am feeling a lot of the same pain you mention. Specifically the vocab cycling between apprentice and guru. As I am writing this I have 53 leeches out of 111 in apprentice and 141 leeches in guru. This has made my last few levels painfully slow. For the early 20s I believe I was hitting around 150-170 apprentice items as a goal and that has come back to bite me. Many of the associated vocab with judge/theory/publish/phenomenon/characteristic/material I am still struggling with.

I think the only way out of this hole is to never push over 100, relearn mnemonics for leeches, actually learn to write them, and brute force writing them.

EDIT: Before 20s my review accuracy was well above 90%. Now my average review accuracy is 80%.


Judge… oh gosh do I hate them. All those judging kanjis that I judge so hard. I think most of us go through this special kind of hate. And characteristic, yup, that one sounds familiar as well. And materials. Everything is matieral for me. Don’t forget employment. And police. So. Many. Different. Ones.

I think all of my leeches are connected to employment, judges and police XD

And yeah, I was worried when I was below 90% before I hit the 20s. Nowadays I celebrate when I reach it XD


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