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 )!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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
WaniKani has been excellent for me, and has helped me a LOT with getting my kanji weakness under control.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These are a thing apparently? I wasn’t aware of them till about say the mid-40s 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? ) Good luck to all of you still on this climb!
Also I’m torn on the formatting of this post I want to make it easy to navigate, but putting everything in Details blocks makes it look quite empty… Anyone got any thoughts?