I reached level 60 in exactly 1000 days. Learn this one weird trick to do it faster than me

Apparently it’s customary to make a post like this and celebrate yourself. Not one to pass up any opportunity for self-adulation, here is my post. Read at your own peril.

Chronology
My Wanikani journy began in May 2019. I was studying abroad in Japan and another exchange student told me about it. While I had Kanji classes in addition to my intensive Japanese courses, we just learned seemingly random Kanji and vocabulary and I didn’t really feel like I was making much progress. So I gave it a shot and I was immediately hooked.

I arguably spent too much time studying Kanji during my abroad studies and didn’t spend enough time practicing conversation. March 2020 I had to go back home to Germany and with the developing Corona crisis I made the best of being stuck at home and pushed Wanikani heavily. Once I hit the fast levels though, I took it too fast and when I failed to reach 60 before Christmas, the increasingly heavy burden of daily reviews and ghosts eventually killed my motivation at level 57 and I fell of the wagon. After a couple of months of guilt, I reset myself back down to 50, and after another three months I had my reviews under control again. Going too fast cost me 6+ months of progress. This time I took it much more relaxed and made sure not to overdo it.

Praise to the Crabigator
Obviously through Wanikani I actually managed to learn a lot of Kanji, I don’t think I would have had the motivation otherwise. Honestly, I never thought I would be able to stick with it all the way until the end. I have a habit of dropping things half-way before finishing.

The leveling system makes it much more motivating for me and I actually found myself studying Kanji for more than an hour every single day for over a year.

Also a shoutout to @Kumirei and their awesome Dashboard script. The streak counter alone kept me going so many times!

I actually work for a Japanese company now where I exclusive communicate in Japanese. I just passed the trial period and got hired fully and scheduled to move to Japan as soon as the border situation will let me and if the VISA gets accepted. I think it’s fair to say, that without my Kanji skills I would struggle even more than I am still doing right now! Who knows whether I would have even landed the job in the first place? So thanks Wanikani! :smile:

Biggest gripes about Wanikani
I don’t like Wanikani always sticking to the Radical system for explaining new Kanji, even though when it would make it much easier to explain the new Kanji with existing ones. For example: The Kanji 痴 (stupid) is explained using the three radicals 疒 (Sick) + 矢 (Arrow) + 口 (Mouth). So the Mnemonic turns into
You're sick because you put an arrow in your mouth and tried to eat it. To be honest, that's just really stupid. You have to be stupid to try to eat an arrow. You deserve to be sick.
Why not just use 疒 (Sick) + 知 (Know), a Kanji that you already learned? This makes the meaning for 痴 immediately obvious. In addition, this also reinforces the learned meaning for 知. There are many cases where the explanation would be much easier if they just allowed themselves to utilize the meanings of previously learned Kanji.

In the same vein, I would rearrange a lot of kanji so that you would always learn Kanji that are part of other more complex kanji first. For example you learn 肖 (resemblance) at level 58, but 削 (whittle down) at 37 and 消 (extinguish) at 12!

The way I did it
I set the following rules for myself and I feel like all in all they worked quite well.

  • No lessons as long as there are open reviews
  • No lesson reordering (more on that below)
  • Mistake override in moderation. Only override typos and meanings that should be correct. A couple of times I used it to override a level-up critical mistake, but I would generally advice against it. Leveling up too fast was what made me overwhelm myself in the first place.

Advice
Especially during the various races I joined, I noticed that some users just straight up skip vocabulary lessons to reach the next levels faster. I really recommend against that. Without the vocabulary cards, in most cases you can’t actually read the Kanji because you’re missing critical readings. In addition, the vocab cards reinforce the reading and the meaning and make it easier to recognize the kanji when you are actually reading Japanese text. I think this is the biggest mistake you can do while doing Wanikani. There is no point in going faster if you don’t do the vocab cards. Yeah, there are a handful of vocabs where the usefulness can be debated, but 99% of the vocab cards will be very useful to you if you’re serious about studying Japanese.

Don’t overdo fast levels! It’s tempting to go for these four day level ups, but you really should make sure that your daily review count stays under control. I learned that myself the hard way.

Finally
Anyway, this post has already grown way too long. I’m going to use the freed up time to finish Bunpro and focus reading Japanese book material. See you in space, cowboys!

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Congratulations! I agree with many of your points…also really wish they would just use previously learned kanji instead of going back to the radicals…it would reinforce the kanji too…enjoy some cake!

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The Keisei-script really helps you skip the mnemonics in the later levels and focus on the kanji as building blocks, while also recognizing radicals that impact readings.

Some of this stuff could very well be part of vanilla WK imo.

Anyway, congrats on reaching lv 60! :partying_face:

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Mhm, looks like I found out about that script too late! But definitely looks interesting.

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I think the biggest problem with WK is having the radical system be completely separate from the kanji. A significant chunk of WK is spent “teaching” radicals that you already know as characters because they can’t use a character you already know (like 知) as a radical for a new character. I think 痴, for example, is the way it is because they didn’t want to double up yet another character as a radical, but that wouldn’t be a problem if the system just allowed them to use learned kanji as radicals

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I completely agree. The radical system is not working that well once they start introducing more and more made up ones (ones that are actually just regular kanji).

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Congratulations! Way to stick with it!

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Btw, what about Apprentice. Some says Apprentice + 10 % of Guru should be more then 100. What was your numbers during your amazing trip? What would you advise, what numbers should we stick to?

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Pretty sure keeping your number of apprentice items in this or that range is just a way of managing workload, so stick to what you personally think you can handle in the long run (taking into account that the number will dictate master, enlightened, and burned workload down the road as well).

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Hey, congratulations! And thanks for the thorough write up. I love reading these, and I couldn’t agree with your rules more.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I don’t get skipping vocabulary at all.

To me, the entire point of memorizing the readings and sorta-meanings of individual kanji is to be able to read Japanese (that is, Japanese vocabulary). It sounds weird, but to my mind, most kanji in isolation aren’t really Japanese words (or meanings), they just have loose conceptual ideas and sounds associated with them.

Vocabulary items have specific, clearly defined meanings, but to my mind most individual kanji only have loose, conceptual sorta-meanings. Single-character vocabulary are the exception, not the norm!

Don’t people wonder why so few individual kanji rate their own vocabulary item?

For this reason, I try to be quite strict with myself adding user synonyms to vocabulary, but I don’t worry too much about adding synonyms for kanji. The WK provided primary English meaning is usually quite good for both, but it’s far more damaging to memorize an incorrect meaning for an actual vocabulary word.

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I think there’s something of a perception that reading Japanese would be easier without having to worry about kanji, so they try cramming that first. WK really isn’t the platform for that kind of approach. RTK, Kanji Damage, or evening just mining off jisho are good enough for that. For those who are determined to go that way WK is just a waste of money, but I really don’t recommend it. WK puts together related items that are largely useful, so for those in it for the long haul it’s like having a nice path set up beforehand.

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going to be honest, the subject title gave me the vibe of a clickbait advertisement lol ‘check out this one trick that Crabigator doesn’t want you to know!’. grats on completion.

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Congrats :confetti_ball::smiley:

That’s awesome.

Yeah, I agree with both of your points. I hope the WK team will address it at some point.

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Looks like they are already addressing it in some cases, although the sheep kanji is already treated as a radical. At least they seem to be on to the idea that they should change the mnemonic breakdown of kanji to the largest recognizable units…

Since this seems like really good and well argued feedback it might be worth at-ing @Mods or maybe @TofuguJenny ? to make sure they’re aware and can discuss it when they’re working on the content updates.

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That’s awesome.

It helps that I work as a programmer, so already a lot of Katakana and English terms are getting thrown around. In addition, because of the 8 hour time difference they give me a lot of long term tasks so I can work quite independently. And everybody is very welcoming and helpful and they are supporting me with daily conversation meetings so I can improve while still living abroad :smile:

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That’s what I was going for - and yours would have been an even better title! “Koichis hate it!”

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I made you a grand marnier cake. Enjoy!

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Wow that looks delicious! I

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Congratulations on reaching level 60, and thanks for the feedback! We’ll bear it in mind as we work on improving WaniKani. :grinning:

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I never really worried about that, I always just put a pause on new lessons for a while if I had trouble finishing my daily reviews. However, maybe putting a rule like that in place would have prevented me from burning out near the end for christmas 2020?