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.
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!
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 overridein 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.
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.
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!