Well, I’ve finally gotten to level 60, so I thought I might stop lurking and write my obligatory level 60 post. WaniKani was actually a lot harder than I had expected. Things weren’t too bad until somewhere in the Death levels when I started burning things. At that point, I was starting to have around 200 reviews a day, which normally took me an hour and a half to two hours a day to finish. It doesn’t really sound like that much, but when you consider doing that every day for almost two years with a household to run at the same time, it was actually really daunting and grueling a lot of the time. That being said, any program that manages to successfully get you to devote that kind of time to improving a skill is a wildly successful one in my book. WaniKani kept me motivated and engaged the whole time and I can actually recognize and read most of the kanji I come across now. That feels really awesome and I am super grateful to the WaniKani team for the hard work they did in creating and maintaining this learning tool. At the same time, you need to know that WaniKani is not for teaching you Japanese, it is for teaching you to read kanji. I am not too bad at reading kanji now, but I am still atrocious at even elementary Japanese. I know a lot of the words in Japanese sentences, but my grammar knowledge is too poor to be able to make sense of them a lot of the time. My speaking is even worse. I can recognize many written kanji words, but my recall is very bad when I am trying to put sentences together myself and I have almost no ability to recognize the words I learned in WaniKani when somebody speaks them to me. WaniKani is fantastic at what it does, but there are other skills I will have to build from level 1 before I will be able to say I “know” Japanese.
My favorite thing about WaniKani was how goofy and playful everything was. This made what is normally an unbearably dry and repetitive exercise process into something fun that I looked forward to doing. I was really lucky to have started WaniKani early enough to still have access to the old radical names because the goofiness and shock value of the mnemonics based on them made things way easier for me to remember. If I really cared about what the actual radicals taught in Japan or China were, I would have got a textbook and learned that way. For me, the old radicals made things memorable and made reading the mnemonics really fun and that really made WaniKani work for me. I also really enjoyed the “we are not a cult”/Crabsmas mythology thing, which made the website seem so laid back and fun. Most language learning resources are so official, stiff, and to-the-point that this was really refreshing to have to set WaniKani apart and break the monotony during the downtime when waiting for reviews.
Things that helped:
Reviews were actually really frustrating in the beginning when I would get things wrong all the time because of my bad spelling or hitting the wrong keys on the keyboard. But then I learned about scripts and I would encourage any new people on WaniKani to invest the time in learning to install them into your browser. The “ignore button” script was a lifesaver, since it gives you a chance to fix your spelling if that was the reason you got a review counted wrong. Obviously, don’t use this script to cheat because you will just end up spending all that time on WaniKani and actually learn nothing in the end. All the statistics scripts were really cool too. Looking at the heat maps or wkstats.com were really motivating for me and pushed me to do more reviews and lessons than I would have otherwise. The “Happy Burns” script also helps a ton with keeping me from getting disheartened, as silly as that sounds. Somewhere in the Hell levels, having review session accuracies in the 60%’s started to be super common and I started having a pretty bad attitude during sessions where it felt like I was getting a lot of reviews wrong. It is still tough on me when I have sessions like that, but the confetti that flies out when I burn things remind me that I am still making progress and it helps me get back to a better state of mind. Lastly, the Tsurukame app for my phone was a total game changer because it allowed me to still do reviews when I wasn’t home, or, more often, when I just didn’t feel like booting up my computer or when I was still hiding in bed in the morning. This app was fantastic and had most of the scripts I liked built into it. The disadvantage was that I was generally twice as slow doing reviews on my phone as I was on the computer.
Moving forward, once my reviews start letting up, I am planning on focusing on grammar. If I had to do it all again, I think I would have liked to have focused more on grammar from the start and then do WaniKani after I had a good handle on it. Then again, the vocabulary I have learned from WaniKani is already helping me because I am not having to learn all the words in example sentences and I can focus more on the grammar and structure in lessons. Anyway, that’s it. Good luck on your own Japanese journeys.