Phew. I just finished guruing the last level 60 kanji and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the (very enjoyable) tunnel. I figured throw out my statistics of using Wanikani for others to compare to, explain why I did Wanikani, give my chronology of learning and give any compliments/critiques/advice on the journey
First, the screenshot of stats:
Where my lessons are currently:
Error percentage over the coarse of my journey. Shows that the more Japanese you know, the easier it is to remember it. Many people think it gets harder the more you know.
Chronology of doing lessons:
My workload per day:
My review streak:
Level Up timeline:
Why did I do wanikani:
Well, prior to starting to learn at all, I had a thought in my head. I remembered back to learning Spanish in high school and remembering how much I did not enjoy learning Spanish. Nothing against the language in particular. I was just a kid who didn’t care to learn a language.
Since getting older, I’ve accumulated many hobbies (computers, gaming, drumming, card games, etc) and realized one thing I haven’t given a “good ol’ college try” on was a language. I’ve always been a fan of anime and mainly watching sub but around the same time, I also started to discover the Hololive Japanese Vtubers and almost wished I could just listen to them and understand what they’re saying in real time. So I figured give Japanese a shot for at least a week, dip my toes in the infinite pool that is Japanese and see what happens. If I don’t like the language then no harm no foul. Eventually I found other goals and reasons for learning Japanese. I was a fan of the Bakemonogatari series before learning Japanese but now I’m an even huger fan because of the word play and noticing things in the series you dont notice the first time. I bought a couple books of the series in Japanese and want to eventually read the books and enjoy the word play. I also haven’t told a couple close friends that I’m learning the language so I’m trying to become decently fluent in the language, go to Japan with them for vacation and just start knowing what things say in Japanese and when they ask how I know all this, just say “I learned through watching anime over the years with you guys. Haven’t you guys learned it by now as well?”.
Chronology of learning:
I started with Duolingo (I know, I know) and mainly used it to practice recalling hiragana and katakana with at least getting a taste of a small sentence here and there and hear how the words would be spoken.
After a couple weeks, one thing kept annoying me (as in trying to wrap my head around them) and that was kanji. Initially, learning kanji was almost like learning a language within a language. What I mean is you learn hiragana and katakana as “layer 1” of Japanese but then you “cram” these kana into kanji to make another “layer” of the language. It was such a foreign concept to a native English speaker.
“Why do I need to know all these kanji?” “Why can’t people know what I’m saying just based on kana?”. I would naively say to myself. I knew to fully understand sentences I would have to learn a lot of kanji but I felt discouraged. “I would have to just look at kanji and their readings/meanings for hours everyday to even get a fraction of them in my head to recall.” I thought to myself. I work a full time job and don’t have that much time to cram. Plus, my mind starts to wander if I study for too long. How am I going to get this done?
A long time friend of mine took a semester of Japanese during his college years and I consulted him. He mentioned he heard of this website called Wanikani with a Spaced Repition System (SRS) and mnemonics. He never pursued it and didn’t do any Japanese studying after his college semester but if I wanted to try Wanikani, he would too.
I was a believer of mnemonics because of prior experiences in life and they helped me with recalling kana for the past few weeks but I was skeptical of this SRS idea initially. It sounded too good to be true. Do flash card level reviews several times a day that in total wouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes of my day and retain that information for months? That sounds too good to be true.
I started with the first 3 levels not really expecting anything to come of it. Once I got to the end of level 3, I reflected on the process and was actually quite blown away. I still remembered almost everything from back at level 1 to now (which to me at the time was a lot). WIth no real negative reason not to continue, I paid for the yearly subscription and continued on.
I knew for me, if I wanted any chance of getting through all 60 levels, consistency was the answer. Not brute force so I established a routine on when to do new lessons (and to a lesser degree, reviews):
Monday - Friday: Do 10 lessons sometime between 5 and 7pm. My first review would be before or at 11 (which is when I go to bed). Then, do reviews in the morning 8 hours from then.
Saturday and Sunday: Do 20 lessons in the morning prior to 11am. That way, between my first review and second review being correct during the day, I would have future reviews before going to bed and alleviates the big stack of reviews I get during the weekday mornings to some in the afternoons.
Eventually I learned about Kaniwani and Bunpro and use those to help learn recall and grammar. I’ve slowed down a little bit on Bunpro/grammar but that’s because I want to focus on it more once Wanikani/Kaniwani start to slow down.
My future plans are the following:
- Use burn reviewer for a little while to see what I may have mentally dropped during my journey and revive words
- Watch anime with Japanese subtitles to get my listening better. I’ve used animelon.com in the past to practice a little and I’ll probably go back to it.
- Another goal I forgot to mention is I want to learn all the joyo kanji for two reasons. First, if someone asks me how many kanji I know, I have a definitive list I can tell them instead of “oh you know, a few hundred” and even then, the person still doesn’t know which ones. It would also help me know that if I see a new kanji in the wild, I know its not apart of the joyo group. To do this, I was going to try the “The Lost WK Levels” in Kitsun.io which go through the last joyo kanji in a level 61-70 format.
These last plans I was going to do at somewhat the same time:
- Focus more on grammar.
- Start practice speaking to natives. I know most people think this should be higher up on the list but I’ve been mainly been reading, learning and internalizing Japanese and I dont have any natives to speak to so I would have to research the best way to go about this.
So now that we’re reaching the end, let’s go over compliments, critiques and advices I have on the site:
- Mnemonics are pretty solid. It may have been me just getting used to it but it seemed like the very early mnemonics weren’t the best but it may just’ve been me being new. Later on (after level 10 or so) they seemed to get better.
- The early interface I started with didn’t seem the best but it wasn’t bad. I can’t give specific examples or reasons why but the new (current) interface on the site is great.
- Allowing the community to have access to the API to create scripts is A+ in my book.
- The audio samples for words in Vocab is great
- I respect their dedication to not using Furigana to force people to “take off the training wheels” with furigana so to speak.
- Keeping Fugu in the vocab (you know where I’m going with this one )
- Great community <3
I know some of these critques are scripts you can install for the site but I’m looking at this from a pure WK standpoint since people can have various scripts from each other and I know some of these have been voiced before in the community. I write these critiques out of love for the site. Not spite.
Built in dark mode would be nice
A built in “undo” button that may be is turned off by default and only once you acknowledge its power you can turn turn it on in the settings.
More in depth explanation on when to use certain on+on readings and when to use certain kun+kun readings. For example, 湧水. It can be read as ゆうすい (onyomi) or わきみず (kunyomi) but when/why would you use one reading over another. I know they explain this in some newer vocab words but there’s many more that don’t. I try to google it too but sometimes I can’t find much.
Just a thought but Enlightened being after 1 month and burned being after 4 months seems like such a drastic period of time. I was almost thinking there should be a 2 month SRS check between the 1 month and 4 month so the SRS overall would be 4 hours > 8 hours > 1 day > 2 days > 1 week > 2 weeks > 1 month > 2 months > 4 months >burned. Just a thought. I understand it would in theory add 2 months to the already lengthy SRS.
Consistently make kanji lessons teach you onyomi (if there is one) and have vocab lessons teach you at least one kunyomi (if there is one). In my early levels, I thought all kanji lessons were onyomi and vocab taught kunyomi until I realized it didn’t. This would help me more mentally compartmentalize readings. I understand this may not be always doable because other kanji needed for a on/kun reading might be later down that you don’t have unlocked yet but just something to think that may be implementable.
More name vocab. Recently, names have been started to be added as vocab words and I’ve really liked them. Adding them so when you see common kanji names would be great. If kanji have certain common nanori readings, you could introduce them in 1 or 2 vocab lessons with names.
Advice for people:
For most new learners, unless you’re already semi fluent in Japanese or know a good amount of kanji, take your time. This isn’t a rush to the finish. Just make the you of today know more than the you of yesterday. You don’t have to compete with anyone but yourself.
Some words are not going to stick and that’s ok. Sometimes they will just finally stick after a while. Sometimes (and this seems more early on) do some research on what it is you can’t seem to remember. For example, for me, transitive and intrasitive pairs were messing me up for a while until I researched it and had a better understanding of them.
This community knows a lot. Ask them if you don’t get something
Look into scripts for the site. You may not think you need any or are good with what you have but you find something that you’ll go “Oh. That cute be helpful”. For example, I never knew of the Keisei Phonetic-Semantic Composition script that shows you what parts of kanji tend to represent how something is pronounced until around level 50. Wish I found it earlier.
That’s pretty much it. I may add/remove bits here and there but this pretty much sums up my journey. Hope you all enjoy it as well. Let me know if you have any questions