The question being, “how far could I go with WaniKani before my personal optimizations had me move away from the platform.”
It’s been about a year or more since I’ve been active here. In times past, I have posted about my personal gripes with WaniKani as a tool, never as an OP (I think) but always in response to someone else who I found was making observations I sympathized with. I won’t link to the posts. In short, my message was always the same. Trouble with the way WaniKani works? First, use scripts to try to adapt WaniKani in ways you like. If that doesn’t do it for you, then for the sake of your own learning you’ve got to free yourself and use a different platform.
In March of this year, I took my own advice.
Before I talk a bit about changes I’ve made to my own learning strategy, I’d first like to thank the WaniKani staff for putting together a great tool! I had dealt with RTK before WaniKani, but WaniKani showed me clearly how I could make RTK more engaging and also gamify learning kanji. It made a big, positive impact on my learning. Thanks also for sharing the database of WaniKani material via the API! Centralizing the content allowed me to quickly make the tools that better suited me. For these reasons and more, I speak highly of WaniKani to people asking me about learning kanji. (BTW I shilled for you guys, putting a couple more lifetime subscriptions in your pocket :p)
Also, thank you to the community here. I’ve had lots of great interactions with the people I’ve engaged with. It’s cool to see people helping each other learn. I love that! That’s why I’m writing this post. This is my way of giving back, to whom it may concern.
Now, about how I tailored tools to my own taste, I use Anki as the underlying platform now. I played with but no longer bother with MIA/Refold’s Low-Key Anki. I use vanilla Anki with the exception of the review heatmap addition. I wrote a Python tool to fetch and transform WaniKani content for Anki. This is not novel work, has been done before. But it’s important to me because it’s a way of investing in my own learning. Plus, the tool is written entirely by me, meaning that I understand all of it and can modify it easily to suit my needs.
Here are some mobile screenshots of what I now use.
This new organization is more helpful to me because it:
- does not rely on text input
- features target-language context sentences presented with the quiz card for vocabulary
- is fully extensible
- does not lock new content behind levels
- consolidates tools I use for learning
Regarding text input, I decided that it’s not important to me in the context of this tool, so I removed it. This was not because of but did alleviate annoying problems with spelling mistakes or subtle meaning differences that caused me to fail items in WaniKani. There are scripts for this or third-party apps for mobile, but I don’t even want to bother if I don’t have to.
I like it this way because I can efficiently learn Japanese on my phone with just one thumb. This is great for learning on the go, like in trains, where I may have to hold a handle or my own bag, umbrella, etc.
Putting target-language context sentences alongside (the quiz portion of) vocabulary is useful to me. The more Japanese I read, the more I remember what learning my L1 was like as a kid. It’s something I didn’t think too hard about because I did it “naturally” back then. I’m talking about intuiting the meaning of things based on context. I’m a huge fan of context sentences, and I really dislike memorizing things in isolation. For words that are particularly difficult for me to memorize, context sentences are often the thing that helps the meaning stick.
I touched on this already with the lack of text input. I can easily remove what I don’t want and add what I do want. You can see I’ve also removed certain text styling, audio samples, etc., and I’ve added nanori which WaniKani provides but I don’t think showed during review (maybe I just didn’t notice it). I can make one-off changes to cards, like “fixing” a radical meaning (1)(2) if I so desire, I can make bulk changes through Anki templates, and I can apply changes via scripts acting on content outside of Anki.
Also, I can add cards, even entire custom “levels,” at any time, should I so choose. I am in the process of adding vocabulary dealing with software and hardware engineering and computer science to help me at work.
With WaniKani, I wanted to be learning new content everyday. This isn’t possible with vanilla WaniKani. With my Anki setup, I set my own pace. I can see the last new cards from level
n and start working on content from level
n + 1 in the same day.
Not a gripe against WaniKani, as them having their own platform is part of the business model; personally, though, the fewer platforms for me, the easier life is. All my Japanese language learning ends up in Anki. It’s nice having one aggregated review session each day.
Some final words about my tailored process. I still learn content in the order WaniKani presents it. Updating my cards to pick up updates made in WaniKani is easy since I just re-run my script and make a few clicks in Anki. I learn 30 new cards per day, making my level progression about every 6 days. Review load is about 170 cards per day. I’ve been running with this new approach for some months now before posting this (I started on March 5th this year) and have had a more positive experience overall. I work with content on desktop, but nowadays I mostly use Anki on mobile (see screenshots above). Currently WaniKani cards far outnumber all other cards in my decks, the total of which comes to about 20 MB.
And lastly, a word on methodology. The best methodology for you is the one that meets your needs. If it’s WaniKani, more power to you! If not, I encourage you to research and experiment until you find or build the tools that empower you.
I won’t be visiting WaniKani much anymore, but I’ll maintain my account here. I may drop into some book clubs in the future. Thank you staff, and thank you community. It’s great to work alongside each other with shared goals. Onward!
While I share tools I build, I have not and will not release content that effectively provides WaniKani to others for free, as that violates the Terms of Service. This means I also won’t upload any Anki decks to share.