Is the PRICE of WaniKani + Bunpro _really_ worth it for learning Japanese?

I’ve been planning for a while now to use WaniKani + Bunpro as my primary Japanese learning resources. I’ve been using WaniKani for three and a half months now and am currently at level 8, and once I finish level 10 I plan to start using Bunpro alongside WaniKani for keeping my grammar up with my vocabulary/Kanji skills. I also purchased A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar to supplement my grammar studies.

I felt like this was an awesome way to learn Japanese since both WaniKani and Bunpro have worked exceptionally well for me up until now. I tried many different methods of learning and this has been by far the best I’ve found. I feel like I’m making great progress and have been having lots of fun with it and developed good habits to keep me on top of my work.

That is, until earlier today when I was visiting my family and I mentioned the costs to them, and they seemed to have negative reactions. I mentioned that I had spent $66.30 (USD) on my studies so far (3 months WaniKani + ADoBJG book) and planned to spend an additional $19.82 on two more months of WaniKani and then $320 to buy both Bunpro and WaniKani lifetime subscriptions during the Christmas sale (coming out to $406.12 total). They seemed disappointed by this, and my father went on a monologue basically saying “Well, that’s okay. I spend money on things I don’t need too sometimes.”

In that moment I felt embarrassed, like it’s silly of me to spend so much money on something so trivial as learning a language. (Especially since I’m only doing it as a hobby. I have no need to learn Japanese.) My whole life I’ve always been a huge proponent of self-teaching and growing up I taught myself a lot of very valuable skills - always using free resources. But now that I’m older I’m much more comfortable spending money on my hobbies, and so this is by far the most money I’ve ever spent on a hobby.

This conversation left me feeling kind of stupid, like I should just self-teach myself Japanese and not fall into this trap of paying (lots of) money to learn something that I could just learn using free resources available all over the internet. But up until then, I felt totally confident in my decision to spend money on these resources.

So now I’m very torn. Am I being stupid spending so much money to learn Japanese? Should I just go find some free resources to use instead? I’ve tried quite a few free resources (RTK, Anki, Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide, Cure Dolly’s grammar series, etc) and all of them felt like banging my head against the wall. But perhaps I didn’t look hard enough? Perhaps there’s something I’m missing and I’m just being lazy settling for WaniKani and Bunpro because it’s easier than continuing to look for free options?

Or am I totally overthinking all of this and I should just stick with my current plan since it’s working so well, and consider the $400 a worthy investment? I’m not rich by any means. I have very little money and $400 is a large portion of it.

tl;dr - I was really excited to shill out $400 on my Japanese learning, but after a conversation with family it has me second-guessing myself and feeling like I just fell for some kind of scam, paying $400 for something that’s available for free all over the web. What do I do?

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Personally, I don’t think very highly of WK at this point, although I did get lifetime during the sale years ago. I don’t think there’s anything wrong though with wanting to spend money on something you enjoy, plus it’s also developing a skill that could be marketable in the future.

If the spending money part is what actually bothers you, I would recommend trying Renshuu.org. It has almost all of the functionality of WK and Bunpro along with other features that are all native. The biggest differences are that you can’t type English for Japanese words/kanji and there are less allowed answers than Bunpro iirc. There is language production practice though; games to help you practice counters, writing, etc; and study aids such as easily adding any vocab/kanji/grammar lookups into a review page or whole study schedule/deck. There’s also the garden motivator where your studying lets you get various plants, animals, and decor for a garden that you can design as you please. You can also grow trees from a sapling to an adult in the garden.

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If you couldn’t do well with free resources like Anki, I’d say it’s worth it.

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It’s not silly at all to worry about your finances and taking a healthy look at what your hobbies are costing you, with other IRL expenses being priority 1 for most people.

I think you’d do well to go for a yearly sub, as that’s much more worth of money than the monthly subscription, for sure.

As to whether both apps are worth it, only you can answer that question.

Do you think you’d be able to learn kanji on your own, using some other method or books? If not, some sort of app might be necessary, but there are less expensive options out there, like Anki. But that one didn’t work for me either.

The same question applies to grammar. Many people say Bunpro is great, but I have never used it. Some say there’s limits to its usefulness. It’s a bit mixed. Many on here rely on youtube channels discussing grammar, the Tofugu articles (both which are free resources) or some sort of text book, which you might be able to borrow from the library (worth checking). All of those options might be a way to push down your costs when learning grammar.

I’d say, if possible, find ways to keep doing your hobby, rather than giving it up. That’s a bit too sad if you’re enjoying it. But, yeah, other expenses are of course more important in life.

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If you like WaniKani, then maybe yearly subscription. I don’t know much about Bunpro.

A perspective can change much in a year. (I’d say, beyond 6 months is very uncertain.)

Also, if you can get into reading native materials, you can then learn Kanji found in the materials too. I have wrote my thought about learning Kanji in the wild somewhere. (My opinion now – use monolingual Kanji dictionaries, learn vocabularies you should have known, that is, if you still want to learn Kanji.)

Also, don’t ever think you can master Kanji with WaniKani. Not even half. Learning a significant amount of Kanji and vocabularies, maybe.

I am not totally certain that learning Kanji and vocabularies from a pre-made list is the best idea, but certainly it’s an idea to get started.

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Last December I purchased the ‘lifetime’ WK sub.

Up until I started using WK I had tried (and failed) to learn any significant amount of kanji using all sorts of resources - books, videos, web sites, etc.

It was only after starting with WK that I have achieved a measure of success - I still have a long way to go, but I’m confident that the money (and large amount of time) that I have invested in WK has paid off for me, and will continue to pay off.

Consider the amount of time that you put into studying as an investment - even if it does not directly translate into money out of your pocket, there is a significant opportunity cost when you’re devoting a lot of time to a pursuit.

If the time spent on WK is productive, while the time spent on ‘free’ resources is not, then that would certainly help make the case that it was a wise investment, rather than a silly waste of money.

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Obviously this is all just my personal two cents, but here’s a couple thoughts:

First, my knee jerk response is: consider how much it would cost to take, say, a traditional college class on Japanese. I took Japanese in college. If I think about what I was probably paying per class, given my tuition rates, then $400 isn’t even a drop in the bucket.

Secondly, you said you’ve looked at other free resources and they weren’t working for you. Obvious statement incoming: learning a language is really hard. Learning Japanese is, arguably, even harder! If you have found a resource that makes it easier for you, and you have the money in your life to spend on that resource, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. (Whether that resource is WK and Bunpro, or textbooks, or a class, or paying for a tutor…whatever.)

Personally I love Wanikani. It’s by far the most effective form of kanji studying I’ve ever had, hands down. It works way more effectively for me than writing and memorizing did in my college classes. Bunpro is up there are well – SRS is just very well designed for my particular study habits. If these are what work for you then I’d say deliberately ignoring them is just going to make your own studies harder.

Third, and with all due respect to your family: it’s your money, and it’s up to you how to spend it. Period. Personally I think it’s a bit rude to tell someone they shouldn’t be spending money on a hobby, because we all need hobbies and things we do for fun. Hobbies are by default something we “don’t need”, but that is their inherent value. Some people buy too many shoes. Some people go to fancy restaurants. Some people travel, or go on cruises, or do photography, or draw, or knit, or go hunting – you get the point. There are a billion different hobbies an interests in the world, and most of them either require or allow you to spend money on them. If we only ever spent money on things we “need” we would be pretty miserable creatures, yanno?

Of course, if you didn’t have the money available it would be a different discussion. But as my mom has always said: “If you have the money and its not hurting anyone, then what you do with it is up to you.” Or, alternatively, pull a Marie Kondo: Does it spark joy?

To me, it sounds like it does, and so you have $400 dollars well-spent.

TLDR: I don’t think it’s a scam at all. Sounds to me like you were perfectly happy with your purchases until your family said something about it, and I don’t think you should let them discourage you from using a resource that you like and that’s helping you with your hobby.

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I feel strongly that If it’s a hobby you enjoy, it’s not trivial. Even if the hobby was completely frivolous and meaningless to outside observers, if it’s a part of your life that makes you happy and the money spent helps you engage with it in a way that feels fun and rewarding, that’s an entirely valid benefit to consider spending money on.
And anyway, a hobby that teaches you more about the world isn’t completely frivolous by any measure.

I’m definitely not in any position to advise people on how most wisely to spend their money on this kind of thing, but while there’s stuff I’ve bought for this hobby or others that haven’t felt worth it in retrospect (or that I still haven’t gotten around to…), there’s also been a lot of things I bought thinking consciously “I’m probably never going to really use this… I’m probably wasting my money right now… but I want to see where this enthusiasm goes” that ended up being profoundly impactful and rewarding (Wanikani absolutely being one of them for me, for what that’s worth).

As long as you can spare the cost and don’t go in blindly, I think a risk of a “oh well, that’s some money I could have saved” regret or two is worth it to find the things that do leave a meaningful impact on you.

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It’s not a scam, and as you say, it’s been working out for you the same as it has worked out for a ton of people.

I’d easily say that $10 monthly (that was the price last time I checked) is more than worth it for the convenience WaniKani provides, and I don’t know about Bunpro, but some people like it, and if it works, it works.

Now, lifetime is a different thing. Do you see yourself needing WK in a year? Most people graduate from needing to be hand-held into being able to figure it out as they go with native content and just looking things up in the dictionary and stuff, while others appreciate having this to fall back on and do reviews from time to time.

There’s a big difference between a monthly payment, and a big one-time payment, especially when you say that $400 is a large portion of your money. It would be for me, too.

I probably wouldn’t do it and rather keep paying monthly unless I was planning to use it forever, as there’s no point to lifetime otherwise. I’d even probably prefer to pay a bit more monthly just so I don’t have to pay one big sum.

Objectively speaking, $400 is not a lot when it comes to Japanese study, if you factor in how much a class usually costs. Here, where it is extremely cheap compared to the US, for example, $400 gets you around 32 3-hour classes, in a group setting, of course.

Could you do it by yourself? It depends.
You say you’ve tried, and there really is no shame in trying to make things easier for ourselves. Especially when it’s something we enjoy, be it for a hobby, or for work. Spending where it’s sensible is a smart thing to do, rather than wanting to do everything for free/cheap and maybe not only taking more time, but with the possibility of burning out, etc.

I learn by myself 100% at this point, as a lot of us do, and I wouldn’t change WaniKani being one of the only things I paid for, because it paved the way for what I’m able to do now, if only when it comes to kanji. I also had fun with it and it served as study when I didn’t want to think too hard about grammar or anything else.

Other people don’t usually know our thought process, what we need, etc., and most people would say it’s better not to spend money if you don’t have to. But as even your dad said, we do all spend money on things we don’t need, so why not? It’s a lot better to spend money on studying and bettering yourself than just on mindless entertainment, or unnecessary things. Everything in life is trivial.

If you don’t spend it on WK, what are you spending it on? Unless the answer is basic necessities, then there’s no reason not to, imo.

Even if you decided to take your time to think about it for a while, you can try to figure it out for free, and if it doesn’t work, you know you have your old plan to fall back on.

Maybe talk about it with people who are more receptive to your goals and plans, and see what they think. I know if I told my dad, he’d disagree as well. But my mom might say that if I think it’s worth it, then there’s no negatives to it.

Good luck. がんばって (p^-^)p

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here’s some waffling and probably missing the point life advice from pembo:

Spending money on a hobby isn’t wasted unless you’re putting yourself in financial harm. The only thing to be wary of is ‘sunk cost fallacy’. There may come a point where you’re fed up with studying, you don’t like it anymore, and want to quit, but don’t because you’ve already sunk so much time and money into the hobby. It’s okay to walk away, don’t keep throwing more time and money at it. (This is not a bad thing, interests come and go, people change over the years, and I’m assuming you’re young-ish so this happens over a much shorter time period than older people).

You’re not stupid if you’re spending money on the correct resources. It’s stupid to spend money on those snake oil merchants, the ‘get fluent in 6 months by watching anime’ kinds of schemes. Stuff like WK, bunpro, community approved textbooks are not stupid purchases, as long as you are getting the most out of them.

You can absolutely study Japanese for free, but along with the hard work of actually studying, you have to organise and create your own study plans. You need to vet the resources. I’m happy to spend my money and have an already curated and structured lesson plan, I have gone through GENKI and am currently studying Quartet, and paying for WK. I tried doing kanji study with Anki and a RTK deck but found my progress lacking. It takes a lot of pressure off me as a learner knowing that once I understand the current quartet page, the next logical step is to learn the page after. I don’t have to go googling around finding the best order to be learning things.

I’d take a step back and look it this from your parent’s perspective. To them it does seem like a waste of money, you’re studying a language that basically has zero practical use to you apart from it being a hobby. But as far as hobbies go, it’s a pretty wholesome and fulfilling hobby, plus you never know what doors it may open in the future. (a job in the future might have some dealings in Japan, would be pretty handy having someone who can speak both languages handling that account etc). I’m personally learning Japanese for the sake of learning it too.

I’d continue on with what you’re doing now and see how you feel when the year end sales come, there’s every chance you realise you don’t like either or both bunpro and WK. I personally didn’t like bunpro and I’m hesitant to recommend WK with some of the things that happened this year, especially if money is a concern, but I have no interest in swaying you either way.

it’s probably worth adding that I’m still on monthly for WK. The lifetime is a huge chunk of change in my eyes and there’s a chance I may move on from the service at any point.

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This is what I was going to comment on… What’s the value of these resources in relation to other factors.

To be honest, this characterization doesn’t reflect too well on your father.

But the whole thing does raise a good question: what’s the value of learning Japanese worth to you?

There are plenty of Japanese students who pay much more to learn English over the course of months and several years, and I don’t think they’d see the total costs you’ve mentioned as prohibitive.

The question is: what resources are available to you, and which resources seem like the best use of your resources (time and money), given your situation.

Edit: for what it’s worth, I paid for a Lifetime subscription to WaniKani because I figured it was the best way for me to ‘up’ my kanji/vocabulary level for my life here in Japan (where I came to marry my Japanese wife). It’s been that, faults and all. Personally, I haven’t ever felt inclined to pay for Bunpro and personally don’t enjoy it as a resource… but plenty of other people do. I’ve spent lots on physical textbooks, however, and am trying to force myself to continue to get value out of those… I get the itch to purchase more resources, but I’ve got enough to last, so long as I truly use them…

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Depends on your situation.
If you are a student without revenue but a lot of time, probably not, you can learn with other free alternatives.
I have a salary but not a lot of time so I was happy to pay for the work being done for me (=by “the work” I mean finding relevant material to learn and set it up with mnemonics and SRS and so on so I can just log in and practice)

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I don’t know about your particular school, but unless you’re planning to major in Japanese, I’d recommend auditing Japanese classes if possible. It’s a lot cheaper. My uni cost about $30k/semester, but to audit a course is only $100. You have to get professor permission and complete paperwork, but definitely worth trying.

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To be fair, we all say some stuff sometimes that doesn’t come out exactly the way we want it to. Father seems to acknowledge that everyone has hobbies, even if it is in a less than perfect way.

And that’s the long and short of it, isn’t it? I might save money cutting out coca-cola from my life but that’s not gonna happen. Life’s too short to deny yourself stuff you want that is in your budget.

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I appreciate the advice, but I graduated in 2020 :joy:
I did minor in Japanese, though, and we had a language requirement anyway.

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Why would you be stupid? You have a hobby you are investing resources into. Many people do that and relatively speaking, there are a lot of hobbies which are as or even more expensive. In some of them buying the equipment is a $500-1000 cost upfront.

I think it’s a matter of preference. I personally don’t find RTK useful, because it doesn’t actually teach you Japanese (contrary to what the hardcore evangelists make you believe…). Some other resources like Tae Kim’s guide are good, but only adequate/fair as a standalone resource.

Is it possible to learn Japanese grammar through free resources alone? Nowadays, yes, since you have hundreds of teachers on YouTube alone, not to mention blog posts, articles, grammar resources, etc. It’s more of a matter of knowing what you need to look for.

I wouldn’t say lazy, but it is a more convenient package, since much of hard work organizing stuff was done by someone else. Granted, there are nowadays more kanji teaching apps out there so one doesn’t necessarily have to use WaniKani.

To me personally $400 sounds like an overkill in this case if so many free resources are out there. Heck, you could even use Anki instead of WaniKani, which is free.

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Well if you’re ever interested in more classes for a much cheaper price, many colleges have the option to audit :person_shrugging: You don’t necessarily have to be attending.

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I’ve always felt like Anki and WK are different resources? Which is bizarre, given that they’re really doing the same thing, but I guess the structure and set up are just different enough.

Oh for sure! But right now it’s a bit moot, cuz I’m actually working in Japan and self-studying in my free time.

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Here are a few things I tend to think when I wonder about cost:

  1. A lot of people join language classes when they want to learn languages, and they’re way more expensive over time than an online subscription or two, only for a small amount of learning hours
  2. Similarly, some people join university specifically to learn languages and are effectively paying a lot of money and/or dedicating years of their life to learning, often in ways that are pretty inefficient compared to what you can do online with the right combo of methods.
  3. Hobbies cost money, spending $10-20 per month on a hobby isn’t that crazy. if you eventually get longer deals then it’s sorted forever (though it can be a mistake if you abandon it later).
  4. You never know in what way knowing more languages will help you in life. Maybe it will impress someone on your CV and make them want to hire you more, even if not related to your career.

As for wanikani specifically, there’s one big reason why it’s valuable to me, and it boils down to time. I’ve tried SRS things before, various methods, and also a similar one for Chinese. They all involved a lot of manual work and thinking to set up all the anki decks or the whatever you end up using. Wanikani is effectively completely automated and efficient to run through. Even small details like the fact that they wrote mnemonics for you for everything, so you don’t have to think of making up your own.

I’m fine with paying for being able to spend my time doing what’s efficient for learning, rather than spending hours of my time organising my own system just to save $10 per month or whatever.

Similarly, I tried bunpro on the side to see how it is, and found that it’s teaching me a lot without taking a lot of my time, so for now I’m continuing it.

As for the lifetime subscription: Even if it can potentially cost you more in the long run, I’d wait to be sure you really want to stick with it. It’s easy to get carried away but for example, $400 for lifetime means you’d need to keep using it for a few years to make those savings worth it.

I’m also in the same place of wondering if I’ll get that when they do sales at the end of the year, but it might still be early to tell if I’ll stick with it long term. maybe one year is better for a start.

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I bought all three of the grammar dictionaries for $150, Bunpro on sale for $120, Wanikani on sale for $200, and Kitsun.io for $200, totaling out to almost $700. To put that into perspective, it’s about what I paid for a single college calculus class.

There are hundreds of Japanese language learning resources online that are decent and free. There are close to zero Japanese language learning services that are decent and free. That’s what you’re buying here, not some static webpage with grammar information on it, but an active service to guide you on learning Japanese. The services are also priced with the expectation that you’re going to be using them for multiple years, perhaps up to a decade. I’ve been using Wanikani and Bunpro since the middle of 2018 and I do sometimes wonder if the cost of supporting services for me will exceed the cost of entry once I’m fully done with my reviews on Wanikani and Bunpro.

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