Finally, after 471 days, I made it to the top. It’s kind of surreal how something that’s been such a big part of my life is finally over. I’m very happy, but also a bit melancholic. Although it was tough, grinding through the levels was satisfying, and I’ll miss being part of that community.
I’d like to briefly go over what I thought of the experience, what I plan to do next, and if I have any advice.
To quickly answer the question of whether WaniKani is worth it, the answer is a solid YES. If you are serious about learning Japanese, WK is in my opinion probably the best service you can use.
Overall, I have really enjoyed my time doing this. Looking back, I can’t believe I have gone through almost 9000 items, even if it took a lot of time. I can’t imagine the time it would have taken me to get this far without WaniKani.
I started right at the beginning of the pandemic, so I had a lot of spare time between Zoom-lectures to do lessons and reviews. For the first 30-40 levels I probably spent around 45 minutes to 1.5 hours per day reviewing, with some additional time for doing my lessons. At level 40 and beyond though, the time and effort needed seemed to increase exponentially. My accuracy for a given review-session has dropped from around 90% to more like 65-70% at the time of writing. As I got more items wrong, my review batches got bigger, making me get even more items wrong, compounding the effort required to complete a full day of reviews. Towards the end, on an average day I probably spend around 2.5-3 hours reviewing.
So, how good is my reading after 60 levels? Well… I am surprised by how much I can understand, but am still far away from reading effortlessly. In a given sentence I might recognize most Kanji, but not the word they make up. I’m sure this isn’t something a bit of immersion won’t fix though.
I am currently taking Japanese B1 at my university (B1 being around N3 or N4 as I understand it), and would like to spend some actual time on that course. Then, in parallel with that, I am going to go all in on immersion. As I understand it, truly immersing yourself in a language is the best way to learn it quickly. Having been nominated to study in Tokyo a year from now, I am extra excited to start consuming native material. I might stick around for a while, guruing all the level 60 items, or I’ll leave right away. Haven’t really decided that part yet. I am thinking that I might check back here in a year or so, detailing my experiences with immersion, what I did, and how far I got. If I get around to doing that anyway.
The best advice I can give is to just go at your own pace. Do what makes you feel like you have time for other types of study, and life in general. If you are just starting, know that it gets intense pretty quickly if you keep a fast pace. If you are approaching level 40, know that the “fast” levels that are coming up can be pretty overwhelming if you try to do them as fast as possible.
Also, I’m not sure if this is a “good” thing to do or not, but I tended to add as many variations to a Kanji-meaning as I could after learning it. The amount of times I wrote “rob” instead of “robber”, “change” instead of “changing”, and other similar mistakes probably delayed me by a couple of weeks. As long as the intrinsic “feeling” of the Kanji is correct I feel that it is fine to do this.
Feedback to WaniKani
Honestly not much. You have a great service here guys, keep it up. The only thing I would have wished for was more leniency towards items with similar meanings, maybe giving a hint that you were supposed to say “rule” instead of “law”, for example.
Also, instead of reviewing words “in a vacuum”, it might be better to review sentences instead. I feel like I’ll miss a lot of words that I’ve learned by not understanding where they belong in a sentence. Sure, there are example sentences, but does anyone actually read and remember those?
I would finally like to give thanks to all of you guys! I mostly lurked on here, but all I’ve seen are friendly language enthusiasts helping each other out. Comparing this to my sparse experiences with the Japanese community on Reddit, there is simply no comparison. I will probably check back here regularly, especially when I have questions to ask!
All in all, I am proud of my accomplishment and the time I have dedicated to learning a new skill. As language learning is a continuous process, there weren’t really any “wow-moments” of sudden clarity, but looking back I can appreciate the mountain I scaled to get this far. Good luck to everyone still climbing, I look forward to seeing you at the top!
Okay so before I knew about WaniKani timemachine I decided that I wanted to log my reviews myself, which I ended up doing all the way to the end. I have logged “most” of my reviews since level 6 or so, but definitely got lazier towards the end, so take the latter parts with a grain of salt.
All of my categories remained pretty steady until the 800th review, which is just around level 40. At that point the apprentice and guru items start increasing at a rapid pace. Before level 40, I kept a steady 150-200 items in apprentice, but towards the end I was pushing 500 at times, and 300+ most of the time. In total, I logged 1122 review-sessions for WaniKani, and 965 for KaniWani (which I won’t show here, as it is very similar to my WK-progress).
One of the reasons for the huge increase in low-level items at around 40 is probably that I hit a sort of “critical mass” of items with similar meanings (as in the actual meaning being similar, or the “reading of the meaning”, if that makes sense). Typical offenders would be items like “Condolences” vs “Consolation”, “Rule” vs “Law”, and “Smart” vs “Clever”. This is visible in my significantly lower correct percentage in the “meaning” category across the board.
I have tried to estimate the time it took for me to get this far. Generally if I go at my fastest speed I complete 100 reviews in 20 minutes. Going by this, it would mean that I have spent around 500 hours only doing WK reviews. Using another estimate I calculated of around 10 seconds per reviewed item, it points to me spending around 850 hours on only reviews. Considering that I did KaniWani as well up to around level 45 or so, and did lessons for both services, I think it is safe to say that I have spent around 1000 hours in total on WK/KW. This works out to around 2 hours per day overall, which I think is a fairly reasonable estimate.