Level 60 - A Journey of about 500 days

Greetings all,
I’m Ozball and I’m not the biggest poster here (hell I’ve only got a handful of posts total I think), but the community here has helped me get through the hardest of review piles (special shoutout to the WaniKani Memes and I can haz meme? threads), and I finally hit level 60 (about a week ago… I needed a short break :sweat_smile:)!

Stats and Images



First 5 levels excluded since they were from 2019
WKStats - Stats

This thread is going to be at least partially catharsis for me, so if you’re not so interested in the journey part and just want to know what I’m doing next, and my thoughts on WaniKani in general, just jump to those sections. :grin:

About Me

About Me
I studied Japanese in High School (including a 4 month exchange), took a break (from Japanese) for 6 years, did a Bachelors majoring in Japanese, followed by 3 years on JET in Kobe, followed by another break of about 3 years after my return to Australia. So an overall patchy learning history, and Kanji had always been one of my main weaknesses.

The Journey

The Journey
start

The Start
Enter WaniKani. I actually found the site at the start of 2019, but only did about 40 days before I drifted away due to lack of motivation and having to deal with all the basic kanji in the lower levels. Fast-forward a year and I made a deliberate choice to focus more on my Japanese, which meant tackling the mountain that is Kanji. So I came back early Feb 2020, didn’t reset (probably should have, but didn’t really know it was a thing back then), got slowly started… then the Coronavirus hit. For context, I live in Melbourne, Australia, and we had some strict and extended lockdown periods. So I’ve had a LOT of time at home doing very little for the last year, which actually has probably been the main reason I’ve managed to get through to level 60 without falling off.

tenor

Perfect Storm
While I was lucky enough to keep working fulltime during all the lockdowns, it was all from home, so in breaks between tasks, I did my reviews, usually multiple times a day, and just kept on top of the pile. And just kept going, and going. Sometimes I did the whole “stay up a bit late to get that critical review done” thing, but usually it was more just morning pile, smattering of ones during the day, and then an evening pile or two (depending on how many I did during the day). And it worked (for me at least).

wobble

Falling off
I had little motivation issues through out most of the levels. I had nothing else to do really, and my previous knowledge of Japanese likely made things easier to pick up, since a lot of the time I was learning kanji for words I knew, or at least had heard audially in the past. So a lot of “oh so that’s the kanji for that word” moments. But once I hit the fast levels towards the end (level 52 or so), things started to get harder. I’d mostly been going (at my) full speed this whole time, but all of a sudden new kanji and vocab were coming twice as fast (and even faster on the levels with 0 radicals), and lockdowns had finished, so I had less time compared to previously. So I made a decision to just aim to get the “fast” levels done in about the same average time as I’d done the “slow” ones, and not beat myself up about.
But even with this, the last 3 levels or so were quite rough for me. I’d hit a PB time on level 56, which meant I got a lot of vocab in before I could Guru off the previous level’s pile, and with the more obscure kanji and words in the later levels, I was making more mistakes overall (or at least it felt like it). So my piles kept growing. The last two levels (58 and 59) were a real slog, with review piles regularly in the 200s (usually I sat more between the 50-150 range) and part of my brain just throwing in the towel. (Two rough weeks of work during that time did not help anything either)


The Summit
But! I made it, I hit level 60!!! … Then I took a break. Well for a day, but it’s always been my plan to take my foot off the accelerator after I hit level 60, it was clear even from about level 45 or so, that this speed would not be sustainable for too long in a post-lockdown world. So now I’m just doing a few reviews here and there, and just sitting down every now and again to smash through a bunch (did 50 in one sitting before writing this, which is the largest single review block I’ve done since hitting 60). Yes I still need to guru all the 60 kanji, and yes there is still around 1300 items in the Apprentice - Guru range. But, the foot is coming off the accelerator, and they will come in time. My review pile is currently sitting at 900+ with a forecast of 1100+ by the end of today (so within the next 12 hours), and I’m ok with this. I no longer have the nagging desire to keep my reviews at 0 that kept pushing me through all the levels.

The Mountain Ahead

The Mountain Ahead
So, as occurs to all of us as we get closer to 60, the big question is… what now? What’s next? I’ve been tossing around a number of ideas but these are my main focuses:

  • Grammar - I’ve been taking private Japanese lessons during my WK journey, and grammar (and other things) have come out from that, but as it stands, with my Kanji weakness (at least mostly) fixed, my main weakness is now quite clearly my grammar. So lots more focus on that.

  • Pitch Accent - I came across Dogen’s youtube channel about a year ago, and have been fascinated with the pitch accent side of learning, but with the speed I was going through WaniKani, I didn’t really have the mental energy to focus on any thing else. So this is something I very much want to dive into now.

  • Reading - I should have done more of this as I went, hell I should have probably taken WaniKani a bit slower so I could do other forms of study as well (see next point for another example), but I have a low tolerance for having to look up words in Japanese, especially if I don’t know how to read the kanji. So trying to read stuff and stopping every few lines to look something up always annoyed me. These days, I at least know the general gist of what the kanji mean, and so reading is not as painful for me as it once was. So more reading is for sure on my list of things to do!

  • KaniWani - I probably should have done this along side WaniKani, but I didn’t really know about it till I was in the mid-20s or so, and the whole “no mental energy for stuff other than WaniKani” issue meaning I just put it off. But I’ve noticed that while I can read kanji, and my vocab has increased… I find that when speaking, I can’t recall the words I’ve learnt in WaniKani, even though I could easily read it if it was in front of me. So KaniWani is my chosen tool to try and cement the stuff I’ve learnt in WaniKani. … Though at a slower pace than what I did for WaniKani :sweat_smile:

My Takeaways

My Takeaways
WaniKani has been excellent for me, and has helped me a LOT with getting my kanji weakness under control.

Pacing
However, were I to do it again, I would not do it at the same pace. To be honest, the only reason I was able to do it at the speed I did, was due to the coronavirus and the lockdowns imposed as a result of it. For anyone still new to WaniKani please please please check out this thread if you haven’t already. Points 4 and 5 talk about Building your Own Schedule and Finding your Own Speed, which are super super important.

Other Study
This is part of the pacing takeaway really. The reason I wouldn’t do it at the same speed, is so that I can do other forms of study at the same time. Whether it’s KaniWani, or participating in the bookclubs here on the forums, or starting on pitch-accent early so I don’t have to unlearn mistakes etc. Don’t take WaniKani in isolation! It’s great, but only part of the puzzle that is the Japanese language.

Radicals
I’ll be honest. I hated these. They can be useful, and there are some that I’ve definitely taken on to help me out. But in general, I find them confusing, especially since there is an existing radical system in Japanese. And in most cases if you try to use them to talk about a kanji to a Japanese speaker who hasn’t done WaniKani you’ll probably look like a crazy person (“It’s the kanji with gold on the left, and then wolverine standing on top of water on the right”).
Having said that, for someone who might come to WaniKani without any kanji knowledge, they’re probably actually pretty useful for remembering the Kanji.

Just don’t be afraid to “make” your own radicals though to help you remember (similar to how you might make your own mnemonics), as sometimes there are kanji that get used in other kanji that can help with reading as well, but WaniKani still breaks it down into the smallest parts. eg Generally 般 is used in Transport 搬 and they share a reading in はん. Not the best example by far, but helps illustrate my point.

Scripts
I used very few scripts during my WaniKani journey. I didn’t even know they were a thing till the mid-20s. The only ones I used were the WaniKani Pitch Info, and the WaniKani HeatMap. Even then they were more just as curiosities than anything else. I am planning on getting the ConfusionGuesser script now I’m at 60, to help with some of those pesky words I keep mixing up.

User-Synonyms
These are a thing apparently? I wasn’t aware of them till about say the mid-40s :sweat_smile: They likely would have saved me a lot of trouble with some vocab where my meaning was “technically” correct but not quite in the way WaniKani wanted.

Level Up Emails
These were oddly motivating after the first few. Just the notification popping up saying I had a new email from WaniKani when I was midreview pile, gave such a rush of relief and motivation, knowing I didn’t screw up too many, and I’d moved forward. So yeah, thanks WaniKani team for these! They’re actually really nice.

And that’s about it I think? Feel free to ask anything you might be curious about, I will answer what I can. Or just agree/disagree with me on various points. (Radicals? :smirk:) Good luck to all of you still on this climb!

Also I’m torn on the formatting of this post :thinking: I want to make it easy to navigate, but putting everything in Details blocks makes it look quite empty… Anyone got any thoughts?

54 Likes

Congratulations!

4 Likes

wow great work mate, im in aus aswell and im starting my bachelor of arts japanese major soon , i cant wait for it and its cool to know another wanikani user did the course im trying :D.

3 Likes

Congrats! And… wow! Another person in Australia (I live there too!)
Luckily now you’ve done WaniKani and can focus more on grammar and your other weaknesses! Take it slow, and take care of yourself!

2 Likes

Quite an impressive feat. I am a lowly level 8 soon to be 9 so seeing someone who has gotten to the top of the mountain is motivating. So far I have reviewed Tae Kim’s grammar guide a bit and done some reading. I can speak quite fluently already having been doing so on a daily basis for the last 30 years or so. (I married a Japanese lady and she refused to speak any English with me.)

Many of the vocab I am running into are “so that’s how you write that!?” moments. I’m still at the point were most of the kanji are familiar from my studies from 30 years ago, but I know tougher times are soon to come as the levels increase.

Having a degree in Japanese and significant training in college, what would you say you would change in your study time during the corona break?

I hope to pass the JLPT N1 at some point, do you have any plans to pursue this in the future?

Again, congrats!

Makotochan

1 Like

Thanks all for the congratulations!

Good luck with the course! Just remember not to skip out on coursework just to do WaniKani! :stuck_out_tongue: It can be quite addictive in the mid-10s and 20s where you start picking up a lot of common kanji and can start reading more and more Japanese on signs and TV/Streams.

Tae Kim’s guide is one I want to go back and look at more. I’ve seen it mentioned around the forums, but haven’t had the spare mental energy for self study up till now.

Nice! My partner is half-Japanese, and while we do speak Japanese on occasion (and probably one of the reasons I didn’t lose more than I did after moving back to Aus), it’s all to easy to fall back into English as our main form of communication.

Yeah, one of the things I forgot to mention in my post, is how many of the later kanji that when I’ve asked about in my Japanese lessons, my teacher has basically gone… “yeah there is that kanji for it, but it’s not used much these days”. But he also stresses that with the advent of the internet and phones, that some kanji are making a come back, partially because people don’t have to remember how to write it to use it digitally, and for some more obscure kanji, people use them to seem smart (similar to how someone might use a lot of big complicated words in English, when they don’t really need to). 遥か was the one that hit me the most. It seemed normal enough, but when I brought up the kanji in the lesson (the word itself came up for other reasons), he went “Oh yeah, there is one… looks it up on his tablet… writes it on the board … I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written that kanji.” :sweat_smile:

Some of the stuff I’ve touched on in “The Mountain Ahead”, but the biggest one would be a more balanced approach to study. Due to a stop and start history in my Japanese, as well as time spent in Japan without actively studying, my overall skills are very skewed, my speaking (in being understood, I still make lots grammar mistakes though) and listening are a lot further ahead than my reading and grammar. So all in on WaniKani was my attempt at plugging at least one of those holes (reading). But now I essentially need to do the same thing for grammar. So I would focus more on grammar during the time, while going at a slower pace in WaniKani. I tried to do some self study, but it was too much on top of all the WaniKani and the 80 minute lesson a week I have.
Basically balance is the key I feel.
Oh and I’d spend more time on Pitch Accent, especially earlier on. As much as I’m keen to dive into it more, I’m also aware that I’m going to have a lot of trouble unlearning a lot of my habits and mistakes I’ve picked up over the years.

I actually passed N3 back towards the end of my University degree (before moving to Japan). I plan to take N2… hopefully in December (the last 3 in Australia have not been possible due to various Coronavirus reasons). I need to do a lot of grammar work for that still though, and work on my reading speed a bit.

N1 I’m not 100% sure on at the moment. It would be nice to have, but also would require a lot more grammar work on top of the N2 stuff. I’d like to look for work in Japan in the future, and N2 should be enough for that in most cases. So I think I might aim for N1 eventually, but not with the urgency of N2 at this point in time.

1 Like

おめでとうございます!

1 Like

Congrats :confetti_ball::balloon::champagne::smiley:

Hey you started around the same I did and we finished around the same time too. :smiley::+1:

My wife’s family is from Melbourne and my brother lives in Ballarat. It’s been tough over there, from brush fires to COVID.

Good job getting through.

Worth it. :wink: I took a day off on hitting 60 too. I mostly spent it writing my 60 post. lol

I’m in the same boat. I took 16 days to finish up the level 60 lessons so now I’m just cruising. I’m planning to spend the extra time reading more.

Best of luck on the rest of your journey. :smiley:

3 Likes

Congrats on reaching lv 60! :partying_face: :tada::tada: Please enjoy this cake!


3 Likes

Congratulations! Enjoy your cake while you ‘cool off’ after hitting the afterburners!

image

3 Likes

Congratulations!

2 Likes

Nice work!

1 Like

六十レベルおめでとう!

1 Like

Congrats! This is inspiring. Wishing you the best on your ongoing journey.

1 Like

Congratulations @Ozball!!!

Got a few questions if you don’t mind :slight_smile:

Do you also read the vocabulary examples or do you just focus on memorizing and understanding new radical/kanji/vocab?

I always find it reading and understanding the vocabulary examples.

Thank you in advance and again congratulations! :slight_smile:

1 Like

It depends on the vocab to be honest. For cases where I already knew the word but not the kanji (ie I’d heard it before and can recognise it) then I generally skip the examples. But for words I didn’t know, or I thought I did, but the meaning is ambiguous or slightly different to what I expected, then I definitely go through the examples. eg 快い (こころよい) and 快適 (かいてき) (both from level 30) have the primary meaning in WaniKani as “pleasant”. So I would look at the examples for them to see if I can figure out which word gets used for which situation. And then at level 55 you get 愉快 (ゆかい) which also means pleasant, so again vocabulary example time to see if I can figure out how it differs to the previous two.

However, it’s worth noting that it’s best not to get too hung up over the vocabulary examples, since at the end of the day stuff like context and uses for synonyms will be more easily understood by doing raw reading practice where those words appear, rather than the single sentence or so that WaniKani provides.

One final note: It’s not something I did very often, but reading the example sentences out loud can help cement the meaning of kanji in your brain. I often had/have words that when I see them in kanji, at first glance I don’t know the meaning, but when I sound it out, I realise that I do recognise the word verbally, and am able to recall the meaning from that.

1 Like

ありがとうございます @Ozball さん!

I really appreciate the response, the examples and the final note, these are all duly noted!

Good luck on your moving forward Journey, stay safe and see you around! :slight_smile:

1 Like