Keeping motivation as a long-time learner at a low WaniKani level

Anyone who started WaniKani after learning Japanese for several years already? I think it could be a great tool to learn higher level Kanji that I haven’t been able to get to stick yet, and also fill in some gaps from inconsistent study throughout the years. But, it’s just a bit tough to get through the beginning levels. I know everything, but it’s time consuming and kind of boring sometimes. I know if I can just get through maybe the first 20-30 levels, I will reach the part where most things are new and it will probably seem more valuable. For the moment though, I’m learning words like “時間” - a vocab and kanji word I learned probably more than 10 years ago now and read regularly in my daily life - I’m not going to be forgetting it, so it feels kind of useless to have it as a vocab word in rotation. At first the easiness of it was fun, but it’s starting to be less fun and more grindy.

While it’s easy, it’s also hard to keep pushing through as it doesn’t seem super valuable. At first I was trying to put all the words into review as quickly as possible, but then I sometimes left reviews to pile up because I’m unmotivated, and then it’s also demotivating to have dozens of reviews to do, even if I can finish them relatively quickly. I struggle with the radicals a lot as I know most of them by some other meaning, and going through and putting in synonyms for all of them is kind of annoying.

I really, really think WaniKani could be helpful for me… but first I have to get through the part that’s kind of boring because I already know it. Any advice, general encouragement, or motivation from anyone who was in the same situation?


A suggestion: you can ignore the radicals, and just mark them as “passed”. You can install User Scripts to reorder your lessons and reviews so they are grouped by type. And you can also have a user script to use WK in “Anki mode”, which means saying correct or false instead of typing out the whole text. (Thats if you study from your browser, if you are on mobile, the app Flaming Durtles for example offers those options directly in the settings)
That way you can ignore things that are not relevant for your learning in a non painful way and still get the benefits of WK for the rest.


I’d suggest taking a look at the pages for the later levels and see how many kanji and vocabulary items are unfamiliar.

You could either a) quit and go elsewhere for kanji… or b) be confident knowing that you’ll progress through most of WaniKani in closer to the year/year and half promised (as opposed to the 4 or 5-year plan that people like me have been on…)


Honestly, if you think you already know the first 20-30 levels, I would’ve advised just going with a different system that didn’t make you start with what you already knew. You probably have enough basis to learn kanji a different way yourself.

That said, I see you’re both on lifetime and currently level 9 so, as for encouragement… if you’ve been learning 10 years, you know how huge the scale of language learning can be. The rest you need to grind through is going to take a few months, but if you’re committed to this plan, that’s a tiny blip even compared to what you’ve already done.


I started Wanikani after studying Japanese for several years and still found it very beneficial. But I think it depends though on what your needs are. For me, I knew a lot of vocab but really struggled with studying kanji on my own. So I knew words like けいざい、げんかい、さんぽ and knew places like よこはま、しぶや、きょうと. But I didn’t know they were written like 経済、限界、散歩、横浜、渋谷、京都. That’s why Wanikani’s worth it to me, because I can now read these words with ease :smiley:

Those first 10-15 levels were a lot of review since it was mostly kanji I already knew, so I understand how you feel. It really picked up for me levels 20+. I still come across kanji I already knew beforehand, but a lot less now.

So I guess ask yourself what you’re looking for with Wanikani. Is it a method that works for you for learning kanji? For the kanji you didn’t know, do you know them now thanks to this method? Or did previous methods work better for you? Is it that you know all.most of the kanji for the first 20-30 levels, or is it that you recognize the vocab but need to work on the kanji? Examining what you’re looking for in your kanji studies should help you decide whether to continue or not.


Yeah, I bought the lifetime a few years ago close to when I first started - that was when the easiness was in the “fun” stage so I thought that I could breeze through the things I knew and then use it more for things I didn’t know. I’ve gone through a few cycles of motivation and demotivation since then. I will say, I’ve tried a bunch of ways to learn Kanji and non of them have been super great - well, they generally worked as I can read work documents and emails for the most part from knowing maybe 800-1000 kanji or so. But reading is definitely not “easy”, I still really struggle to read for pleasure or basically any other purpose than “I have to read this for work so I’ll read it”. My hope was that learning more kanji would make reading more fun, but I guess there’s no easy way to make something fun haha. Thanks for your comment.


Good advice! I’ll check out that app - one of the hurdles has been the lack of userscripts on mobile, so I have to be sitting down in front of my computer to study well. Cheers!


Oh understandable! I’m getting better but it’s certainly not easy still, easy takes so long. If you don’t mind me asking, have you tried the straight up “immersion” route? A lot of people on these forums work to increasingly move towards more and more of their study simply being reading/listening to things that are fun (as fun as they can be with the effort involved haha), often with a supplement like Anki to efficiently review the new words they come across. That’s how I learn entirely now, but I admittedly dropped WK at a very late level, having directly studied more kanji than you. Some people are able to do that early, though.

At a certain point people get decent enough at handling kanji on their own that just seeing them over and over that way (and having some background radical knowledge to break them up as needed) can be sufficient. Could be worth a try, and regardless it’d at least be worth doing some more of that if you aren’t a lot yet; it’s probably the best way to hang onto motivation that there is.

There are some nice clubs around here for easier reading with helpful people on hand, too.


I’ve seen the immersion method - I think one of the issues is that I’m not extremely into Japanese media, but I guess maybe I just need to look around to find more interesting stuff around my level, perhaps. I’ll take another stab at it. 頑張りましょうね


This is an issue for sure, but it might still be surmountable. I was pretty into light novels and visual novels, which was great for reading practice, but obviously not listening. Finding listening material I was very into was a task on its own and took a lot of trial and error.

People always say to engage with compelling content, which I agree with, but I think that’s step 2. The burden of finding compelling content and sorting through the endless sea of entertainment out there falls on the learner and is step 1 imo. It’s just that some people have that step figured out before they start learning.


I started with WaniKani in December 2020 when I bought my Lifetime subscription. I had an 8-month time gap that happened in September 2021.

When I got back into WaniKani, one of the first things I did to ensure consistency was to carefully pace myself. I stayed motivated this way because I made sure not to have 100 or more Apprentice level items at once. Even though this means learning more material at a slower rate, it allowed me to constantly check WaniKani on my phone for every small gap of time I have to get reviews done.

Kanji and Vocabulary don’t have any real value to me until I actually use it at some point. When learning, if you have Kanji or Vocabulary which you don’t know the readings/meanings to but they are not useful enough, feel free to get it wrong, because eventually, you’ll encounter it often enough to remember it through repetition. You want to allow your brain to sort the important information from reviewing the Kanji you need to pass to level up, and from the vocabulary that is most useful in real life.

Adaptive forgetting is a learning technique that has motivated me not to be discouraged when I get items wrong. As a result, I’ve recently managed to Burn and level items to Enlightened. In fact, this learning technique is an important aspect of Spaced Repetition, which WaniKani itself is designed around.

Normally when I recommend Wanikani to people, I tell them to take the vocab with a grain of salt. The vocab are there to reenforce the kanji you’re learning, not because they’re useful everyday words that a beginner should know and use (looking at you 助言). BUT if you’re at a higher level of Japanese, then this could be case where you’re actually at an appropriate level to be learning all the 書き言葉 that WaniKani teaches.

I’m in a similar situation where my WaniKani level is behind my overall Japanese level. I often find that I already know most of the kanji I’m learning. But, if I look at the vocab words, I see that there are a pretty decent number that are new to me. So I’d recommend trying to just speed through the stuff you already know and spend your time more on the vocab words. WaniKani does a pretty bad job of explaining how to use vocab and the nuances between similar words. When WaniKani teaches you a word you don’t know, take some extra time to look into the meaning, usage, and nuances. That should hopefully help you feel like you’re getting more out of the service until you hit those higher levels.


I had knowledge of approximately 800 or so kanji before I started Wanikani. Yes it’s very boring to review stuff I already know, but on the upside the kanji I am familiar with seem to be spread out across the levels so I’m getting a lot of out each level even if I am familiar with 50% of the vocabulary and kanji. In my case my Japanese knowledge was a little dormant since I last studied in the 90s so I am treating Wanikani as a much needed review. If you don’t need to review, maybe the boredom factor might be too overwhelming. I kind of enjoy the monotony myself.


Same. I would recommend Anki instead of WaniKani.

So you answer correctly eight times spread out over six months, then never review the item again.

If all the vocabulary is in this category then WK is useless for you.

If only a small fraction is, then it’s great.

Somewhere in between is the turning point.

You need to decide if there is enough unfamiliar vocabulary for WK to be worthwhile. Personally, I’d find even 20% sufficient to stick with it.

If you think answering questions you know is boring that implies that answering questions you don’t know and getting them wrong until you know them is fun and exciting? I’m just wondering if knowing a lot of the vocab is really the problem. Would you still be motivated if you were starting from scratch??
If you truly “know everything” then maybe WK isn’t for you?

I also came in with many years under my belt and know much of the vocabulary. But it’s very quick to go through anything that I might know so it hasn’t bothered me. Funnily enough, I just burned 時間 today.

I think it depends a lot on the mix of known to not-known, as @Rrwrex suggests. With jpdb, I’ve used the “I know this well, don’t ever show it to me” button pretty liberally, because I don’t want to clog up my review time with a big pile of words I already know. A few are fine, they make for a bit of a break from the work of learning new words; but too many in the system means the SRS’ efficiency at teaching you new words is a lot lower than it could be.


I just want to share that I am here in Wanikani because I like Kanji learning structure, and RTK is too dry, difficulty / rareness varies too much, and lack of levels (lack of small-number / easily-understood numbered progress). I might not exactly like many things on Wanikani, but vocabulary selection isn’t so bad if you can bear with the extras.

I think that Kanji are worth to be studied step-wise, in any case.

Anki is quite barebone, and even if you are OK with UI and syncing troubles; you would still have to figure out the curriculum yourself. is indeed another option, but personally I don’t give much hope to it. should be nice from what I have heard. A reason is that it is well-specialized for Japanese, also with pre-made collections.


There’s lots of reasons why I dunno that I’d recommend RTK, but it does have ‘levels’ – the book is divided into chapters, which are mostly fairly digestibly sized.

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The boring aspect is that it’s somewhat monotonous I guess. I also find data entry work boring for a similar reason - you’re just typing and typing but not really thinking much. Some people might like that, but it’s just not for me. Whereas if there are questions that I actually have to think about, if there’s a chance I might get it wrong for reasons other than typos (another reason I’m bad at data entry work - typos) - that’s a little bit more exciting.