After a long 350 days I have finally achieved level 60!
I want to extend a big thank you to the WaniKani team for their incredible program, to the creators of the userscripts for their very helpful scripts, and to the users of the forum for advice, encouragement, and general entertainment.
Reaching the final level is bittersweet. WaniKani has had such a big impact on my life and it’s going to feel weird having it slowly become less a part of my daily routine.
My journey with Japanese
My first encounter with anime was a gif from Macross Frontier, which ended up being my introduction to anime and the Japanese language in general. As I read the text at the bottom of the screen, I wondered what it would be like to simply understand the native language and let my eyes enjoy the action on screen. This sparked a small flame inside me, but it would be a long time before I even understood the mammoth task ahead.
Fast foward to 2018, I’m in University. As a game design major, many of my peers shared similar affinity for Japanese media and many of them would go on to take beginner Japanese courses as electives. I stared blankly at their Genki textbooks as they studied. I told myself language courses in secondary education were no joke and that it would consume too much of my time (and that somehow the classroom setting would assuage my Japanese aspirations). I told myself I’d just study by myself at my own pace. Was I somehow envious of their decision to take the course? Maybe. So I started to self study the only way I knew how. Using… Duolingo? Any time I had looked for learning resources online, I was always overwhelmed with the quantity and expense. I was not aware of the green bird’s efficacy, but he was free and popular. After mastering hiragana and katakana, the lack of grammar explanations (among other things) started to inhibit my progress. I was burnt out from my feathered friend and wasn’t sure where to continue.
Two years later, a friend recommended WaniKani to me. I bookmarked it and promptly forgot about it. Finally, while bored one March night, I noticed the bookmark in my browser window and decided to make an account, and now, here I am.
WaniKani not only exposed me to the wide world of Kanji, but it (through the forums especially) opened my eyes to a plethora of fantastic resources with which to further my language goals. …Plus having an actual job to pay for said resources certainly helped.
My immediate plans are to focus more on grammer and prepare for N5 JLPT in December.
In the long term I’d like to spend time reading and listening and look into scheduling lessons with a tutor.
Why so fast?
When I first received that fateful email from Koichi showing me the theoretical timeline of WaniKani learning, the journey ahead felt daunting. @jprspereira was able to reach 60 in just over a year? There’s no way I could achieve that. Upon reaching level 4 and purchasing a subscription, I compared my progress on wkstats. To my surprise, I was ahead of the legendary ultimate guide creator. Because of this, I decided to keep moving as quickly as I could, planning to let off the gas when I started feeling overwhelmed. Except I never let off the gas and kept racing through level after level. I never planned to speedrun WaniKani, but that eventually just became my life.
How did I avoid burnout?
The fear of the impending wall of reviews was an excellent motivator. There were some busy days where I slacked on reviews and paid dearly the next few days.
That and a rigorous training routine. 50 lessons! 300 reviews! And a 10K run! Every single day! But no, seriously, a consistent routine made WaniKani just another part of my life.
Do I recommend it?
It’s definitely not for everyone. Each person has their own learning style that works for them. Maybe an impending review tsunami is a great motivator for you, or maybe you’d rather stick with a more sensible pace.
My only regret is not understanding the way WaniKani worked sooner. I could have reached 60 a few days earlier.
Tips on going fast
I wanted to provide a few tips on going fast based on my personal experience with WaniKani.
Keep in mind that this method is inherently flawed and doesn’t fully allow the magic of SRS to truly help you in the way it was intended.
Please don’t attempt to speedrun unless you’re absolutely sure you want to devote a sizeable chuck of time every day for an entire year (though you can always slow down if it’s too much) and you understand that your overall efficiency and retention may suffer a bit.
First off, a reordering script is essential. Getting to the Kanji and radicals you need first and foremost is important to speed, especially when you can’t immediately tackle a 200 review pile.
Secondly, you’ll need a double check script. Mistakes are inherant in going fast, and it would really suck to delay yourself because you mistyped the hiragana.
It’s also really helpful to have self study script to keep the kanji fresh.
In my experience, it’s okay to cheat on the kanji and radicals, but only if you know them well by the time you hit guru and never after you’ve hit guru.
In general, you want to know the kanji and radicals before you reach the next level. That will enable you to breeze through the lessons and reviews. See “Kanji study strategy” for more information on this.
Choose days of the week to have as “breaks”. Maybe the weekend. Doing fewer reviews on a given weekday will lessen the amount of reviews that appear in the future on that weekday. This can be fairly flexible as the SRS items slosh around.
More than anything, do your reviews every single day. Strive to reach that 0/0 as often as possible. It’s not the end of the world if you end the day with 200 reviews. You’ll just have to pick up the slack and carry on.
Kanji study strategy
Getting the kanji and radicals down before the next level is crucial to maintaining your speed and sanity.
The first day of a new level, begin studing the kanji for the following level. Go through and carefully read all the information, making sure to consciously differentiate the radicals in the kanji and how they connect with the neumonics.
Several hours later, repeat the same process again with the first 5 kanji. Then quiz yourself on those 5. Then read the next 5. Then quiz on those 5. Then quiz on those 10. And so on. By the end you should be able to recall all of the Kanji and you should move to using the self study quiz scrip to periodically quiz yourself leading up to the next level.
The two step process was very important for me. I found I had trouble recalling if I skipped the first step and tried quizzing myself without it. Crazy how memory works.