After 350 days, I am proud to announce that I have made it to this cool kids club, complete with the orange level badge on the forums. Now for this obligatory thread.
Saying the following is probably very cliched now, but I honestly did not believe I would have made it this far when I first started because I’ve tried numerous other resources for kanji learning that I just couldn’t stick with, and I think the main reason for that is because the kanji I was exposed to did not stick to me.
Here’s a little bit of my personal history and how I found WaniKani. Over 10 years ago, I started studying Japanese as in high school as the foreign language requirement. For those who don’t know, a year of a foreign language course is a common requirement of high schools in the US. I ended up loving Japanese and took it for all four years, even taking the AP (advance placement) course and taking the AP exam (equivalent to JLPT N3-N4, supposedly), scoring a 4 out of 5. After graduating from high school, I stopped formal and active studies in Japanese and consumed content passively, mainly from watching/listening to anime. While I was able to learn some common phrases and vocabulary here and there, it wasn’t enough that I may as well consider my growth with the Japanese language as non-existent.
Fast forward to January 2019, my friends and I finally made concrete plans to visit Japan in October 2019, something we’ve wanted to do for over a decade. With that motivation, I started to actively learn Japanese again. At the time, I felt that my strong points were listening and speaking, but my weak point was reading thanks to kanji (I think we can all relate here). I started by reviewing grammar with Tae Kim’s guide and fortunately, I’ve retained a majority of the grammar points covered in his guide. I then moved on to reading native Japanese material with the help of japanese.io which curates Japanese articles and helps you read them with on-hover furigana and on-click definitions for vocabulary, they also have a nice Chrome extension for reading outside their website. Reading native Japanese content was a huge struggle because I just didn’t know very many kanji and ended up relying on japanese.io’s features too much. I also found that despite coming across kanji and words I’ve previously encountered, it just didn’t stick. I did this for about 4 months, along with experimenting with different apps and reading blogs/guides on how to learn kanji. This was when I came across Tofugu and WaniKani. Their blogs were very informative, their philosophy made a lot of sense, and they sold me to give WaniKani a try, and so I did.
The first few (or several levels) were very easy because I knew most of this material already, but something about the leveling-up (gamification) aspect of WaniKani kept me wanting to stick around. Not only that, but I found many of the mnemonics humorous and easy to remember and in turn made it vastly easier to remember kanji. Looking back, this was the key piece that was missing from all other methods I tried. Upon realizing the effectiveness of WaniKani, I dedicated my soul to the Crabigator.
In retrospect, there are a few points that made me “successful” with WaniKani:
- Fun mnemonics
- Gradual (+1) progression that made a lot of sense and did not overwhelm me
- This guide (thanks @jprspereira!)
- Relatively low time commitment (vs. reward)
In addition to those, I believe the biggest contributing factor to making it this far was Tsurukame (thanks @davidsansome!). This amazing native app experience allowed me to fluidly take my lessons anywhere anytime. Of course, there is the WK website that I could’ve just used on my mobile browser, but I don’t believe I would’ve stayed consistent without a badge reminding me that it was time to review. I also feel that web applications in mobile web browsers are quite clunky and do not feel “smooth”. This isn’t a problem with WK exclusively, even the “best” like Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. suffer from this in my opinion.
My “worst” day, keep in mind I always aim for 0/0 so this is not because reviews piled up:
Where I currently stand:
Next Steps and closing thoughts:
I still have a ton of reviews in the next 6 months, so I’m by no means done and I will continue until everything is burned. Reaching level 60 does mean no new lessons, which means the time I dedicated to lessons twice a week can now be used elsewhere. I’m partially relieved that level 60 is the end (for now at least) because the last 10 fast levels, I really started to feel a little burnt-out going the pace that I did. I could’ve and should’ve slowed down, but I didn’t feel at ease knowing that I had lessons and reviews available, and also I thought “I’ve made it this far, I just need to power through these last few!”. Had there been a level 61-70 as fast levels, I probably would’ve died, ok not really, but I would’ve felt miserable.
That said, Wanikani is probably the best decision I’ve made regarding learning Japanese. The community is awesome, I’ve learned so much in a relatively short time. Not only that, what I’ve learned is sticking around too! I’ve heard of the concept of SRS in passing before, but never really thought much about it. I also used to think that mnemonics in general were stupid, but thanks to WK, not anymore given how effective it’s been for me. I’ll be taking WK’s adventures of farmhand Jourm, emperor Koichi, and the evil Mrs. Chou to learn new kanji and vocabulary. I also acknowledge that I cannot fall into the “burn” trap. In order to not forget what I’ve learned, I’ll continue to read native Japanese content regularly.
Over time, I’ve also racked up some vocabulary and kanji that aren’t taught in WaniKani, and I’ve been wondering what I should do once I’ve finished WK’s lessons. I’ve been looking at Kitsun or KameSame, or maybe just plain old Anki too. I’m but not sure what I want to go with; maybe someone can give me some recommendations?
I’m planning on taking the JLPT in December, I still have not decided if I want to go for N2 or N1.
I’ve been on and off the forums for during my time with WK, I’m hoping to interact on the forums more now that some of my time usually dedicated to WK lessons has been freed up. Also, obligatory question: how do I get a subtitle next to my name on the forums?