This is it.
21 days ago I reached level 60 and 10 days ago I did my last lessons (though there are still the ongoing content additions which are continuing until next spring, kind of undermining my whole „done“ demeanor). It all still feels a bit too surreal and I can’t believe those past 18 months have passed already, but I’m also looking forward to the next big chapter of my language journey, which will be - quite fittingly - reading.
I’ve always loved to read level 60 posts and think that I, too, might have a few tips and perspectives on how to master WaniKani that are worth sharing. So please enjoy!
Who doesn’t love stats I ask ya? Here’s my ascent broken down into every number you could think of.
I have to remark at this point that I used Double Check, so my true accuracy is several percentiles lower, more to that in the Scripts-section.
As you can see, from September 2020 on I was really eager to do 15 lessons a day. Some days I just didn’t have enough though or did too many, so I balanced it out the following days. There is one day however, the 21 of July 2021, that causes me great sorrow: the only day where I did not do a single lesson. The week had been incredibly busy and I didn’t manage to guru my Kanji in time :(.
There are several different approaches to the whole level-based system and I’m sure you’ve already come across a lot of them. What I sadly don’t often, if not rarely see is the one I used and of which I think as the most sustainable lesson schedule. By that I mean it’s not only (possibly) the least prone to overloading yourself, but also the most efficient way to make a habit of WaniKani, one where you don’t waste your energy dreading reviews, but spend it instead doing them. And best of all: you’ll make completely steady yet substantial progress.
The solution is really simple: Do the same amount of lessons. Every. Single. Day.
Choose the right amount between how fast you want to be and how fast you can be. More lessons also mean more reviews so don’t overload yourself. For me this meant 15 lessons. 8563 items divided by 15 equals 571 days or roughly 19 months. The other condition is to get to 0 reviews once a day. Thanks to feeding the SRS system in regular intervals with a fixed quantity you’ll always have about the same amount of daily reviews which will help your item retention. With these two rules WK will manifest itself as an unquestioned habit in your life the fastest way possible.
BUT: While this might be the most optimal schedule you should always think about what’s the most practical one for you and your living situation. If you find yourself not being able to do your lessons everyday, then don’t do it.
This said you might still be thinking: what do I even have to schedule? How does the SRS-rhythm fit into my day and what is the corellation between Radicals, Kanji and Vocab?? For the fundamental understanding of how WK even works, I’d like to point to a guide that really opened my eyes when I first started out. It’s probably the most read thread on the forums but it doesn’t hurt to keep spreading the word. Also thanks, @jsp
Now, a last thing about my schedule: There is a way to do this and reach 0/0 at the end of every level. But it does require some planning ahead. Let’s take an example of a level with 132 lessons: Ideally I’ll do 15 lessons for 8 days and then level up. That means at the end I’ll have 12 lessons left over from that level (132 – 8 * 15 = 12). The last batch of Kanji I’ll do will be a batch of four and I’ll do it on day 5 (so that they’ll be ready at the evening of the 8. day). Now what would happen if these four Kanji unlocked exactly 12 Vocab? It’d leave me with a 0/0 at the morning of the 8. day.
So what I would do is to find 4 Kanj that in their sum unlock the needed amount of „rest“ lessons. Before starting a level I’d go through all Kanji, click on their Vocab (which is sorted by level) and therefore see how many of them get unlocked the same level.
WK tends to simplify the meaning of a Kanji or only indicates one of them, even though Kanji oftentimes have several, all of them wildly different. This helps to channel your focus on what’s important but I often find it incredibly helpful to compare the meaning to other dictionarys in order to get a better grasp of that one specific meaning and a broader understanding of the Kanji as a whole. This is especially helpful for non-native speakers like myself.
Compound words that are based on already existing coumpound words refrain from the small tsu. 著作権 is read ちょさくけん and not ちょうさっけん. Same goes for suru-verbs:
配達する = はいたつする, 達する = たっする
In Jukugo the core meaning often comes from the last Kanji and the others modify it’s meaning.
Understand the differences between transitive/intransitive and active/passive. In both English and Japanese you can build the passive form of a verb out of the verb itself.
I knocked sth over. - Sth. was knocked over.
For the intransitive version in English you often have to use another verb.
I knocked sth over. - Sth. fell over.
In Japanese however, you’ll see most of the time a transitive/intransitive-pair using the same base Kanji. Understanding the difference between trans./intrans. and active/passive helps to clear a lot of confusion.
Read up on phonetic-semantic composition
Watch out for homonyms. Oftentimes, especially with verbs, two Kanji mean very similar things and take on the same kun’yomi reading. Meaning you only really have to learn a reading once.
And it helps to know what is spelled the same (in Hiragana) but means something totally different.
Try to remember the mnemonics until Master. If not you risk to just memorize an item on sight but once you stop seeing it every couple of hours (after Guru 1) it won’t stick with your long-term memory. At the same time read up on the mnemonic when you notice that you just knew something too quickly and without really understanding the individual parts the item was made of. Your brain wants to forget things it has to think too little or too long about. You have to make just the right amount of effort in order to memorize something long-term.
Stop doing lessons a couple of days before going into Vacation mode.
Look at the hotkeys in the review window. I constantly use f and space.
When I don’t know an item and try to deduce the mnemonics of it, I typically ask for „what happened with name of the radicals/meaning of the Kanji“. When that question doesn’t evoke anything try asking for „how“ or „who“.
WaniKani is primarily for Kanji and this means that you’ll be learning some Vocab along the way you probably won’t ever cross again in your life. BUT! Never underestimate the power of compound words. Vocab is crucial for reinforcing the reading of the respective Kanji and is therefore never to be neglected.
If you’re not sure whether WK is for you, don’t ask the question: Can I really spend x years on this program? Ask yourself: Do I have the time for it today? And if you can manage it today, you’ll manage it tomorrow and the day after that.
Trust the process. WK manages to build up a workload that’s not to be sneezed at, but it doesn’t hit you with it right away. Instead, your workload gradually increases over the first couple of weeks which gives you the needed time to adapt.
Don’t loose sight of your actual goal: Learning Japanese. It’s easy to get comfortable with just doing WK, but it’s only a part of the process. If you don’t learn grammar and practice reading it won’t yield much.
Scripts, threads and other (there’s no other to be honest)
Here are some cool threads I stumbled upon during the last 2 years:
How to Study with Native Material
Scripts. Oh man, topic for debate for sure. I think generally speaking scripts are a big opportunity to help you, give you some extra stats or just make your dashboard look cooler. Go take a look at the master thread, read through the discriptions and I’m sure you’ll find something for you.
There are however two scripts that can kind of break your back if you don’t know how to control yourself. Reorder, with the danger of piling up Vocab, for me didn’t pose a problem. I did struggle with Double Check though. I still think that not using it would have made reviews a hell because I’d misspell every third reading. Or didn’t remember the English meaning, only the German one. But there have been many times where I said to myself „ah, you’ll know it next time“ and let it pass. And quite frankly that was really dumb. I don’t know how else to put it. So beware of that. Make some clear rules for when you can retype something. And by the way, if you find that you can’t remember a specific meaning, add a synonym with something you can memorize.
Where will I go from here?
WaniKani was the first step in my Japanese studies and I worked through two textbooks for N5 grammar and half a manga while doing so. Not very much one might notice. And it’s true that this imbalance will result in me having to learn hundreds of Kanji again because I’m already forgetting them. But that’s okay, in the end I was visibly struggling doing both WK and reading consistently, so I’m looking forward to spending a lot of my time on mangas from now on. It still takes a lot of effort for me to pick up a manga but my comprehension today is worlds away from what it was only months ago. So now I just want to get into the practice, the routine of reading for the next year or so. My goal is not to understand everything, but being able to read over things I don’t know, internalizing grammatical concepts and knowing when to look something up. I also have the Shinkansen Master N4 lying around, but who knows when I’ll be seriously getting into that – for now my new focus is set.
The community here is a wonderful place. I’ve had lots of pleasant encounters and you can find here basically anything concerning WaniKani, studying, Japanese and Japan. So if you’re still very new, I’d like to encourage you to go out and explore. Personally I want to give a shout-out to the people in the POLL-threads, the goal-threads that I have been a part of and finally the incredibly helpul and welcoming people in the bookclubs where I can ask questions a year after the manga is read and still get an answer the same day. There have been times where I didn’t have much going on irl, so I spent a lot of times on here where I got to meet a lot of interesting people. I think you know who you are and I wish you guys all the best, especially when it comes to your studying!