It happened. Yesterday, I finally reached level 60.
Even though I have not been very active in the forums, I have always been impressed by the quick and thorough answers I always get whenever I have had question to ask. So thanks to all of you!
In that same spirit, I thought I might share a few of my owns thoughts on reaching level 60.
Progress and pacing
I was so lucky as to stumble upon WaniKani within the very first weeks of my journey into learning Japanese in the early spring of 2019, after frantically googling various variations of “how will I ever learn all these kanji?!”. Ever since then, WaniKani has been my anchor throughout this journey, continually giving me confirmation that I actually had learned something, even when I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
As might be evident from my level graph above, my pacing was quite inconsistent until about level 28. Looking back, I think there were several reasons for this. First of all, I spent a lot of time in the beginning on all the non-kanji things related to learning basic japanese, like kana, basic grammar, pronunciation, and (very) basic listening/speaking. So WaniKani was mostly secondary for me at this point. During this time, my pacing was about 10-15 lessons a day. I tried to keep the apprentice items to a level where I would have a maximum of 100 reviews a day.
Secondly, I was so lucky to be able to go to Japan twice, around level 5 and again around level 25. On both these trips, I was learning in so many other ways, so I spent very limited time on WaniKani. The second trip was sadly cut short by the pandemic, but when I returned home it felt like I had finally gotten a good grasp on most of the basics, so I started to focus more on kanji. At this point, I increased my daily lesson number to 15-20, and I have stuck with that until now.
In terms of pacing, I think my advice is this:
Realize how learning kanji fits into the rest of your language learning activities (being honest with yourself), and set the pace accordingly. The famous advice of “being consistent” is equally important, but changing your pace throughout the levels depending on your focus can be a good thing, and should not feel like a failure.
Another thing that happened around level 25 was that I started improving my WaniKani toolkit. Up until then, I had exclusively been using the “vanilla” (i.e. no scripts) website, also on mobile. My mind was blown. First when I installed the Flaming Durtles app for Android, realizing that I could undo typos. Next, when I started using scripts for web.
I’m currently using these scripts on web:
Keisei Phonetic-Semantic Composition
Niai Similar Kanji
Show Specific SRS Level in Reviews
Real Score (for motivation)
I have used both Flaming Durtles and Jakeipuu extensively, and both are great. I think I’m currently leaning a bit towards Jakeipuu, since it offers a bit better overview of progress on the current level. Both are an improvement over the mobile version of the WaniKani website (which is, to be fair, actually quite good).
All of the above add a little something extra to the learning experience, and I would not want to be without them on WaniKani. It is so amazing to see how much time and effort you guys are putting into creating and maintaining these.
A great thank you to all of you creators out there!
After discovering WaniKani, I briefly thought that SRS was the holy grail of all learning, so I jumped onto Bunpro as well. However, I realized that learning grammar in this way was demotivating for me, so I cancelled my subscription again after a few months.
For my initial grammar studies I went through both Genki I and II. These books have been invaluable to me, and I still refer back to them from time to time when I forget the details on one the grammar points I learned from them. I would recommend Genki to everyone getting into Japanese.
After Genki, I dabbled in both Tobira and some JLPT targeted grammar books. However, I came to the conclusion that it would be much more valuable for me to get intimately familiar with the grammar I already knew, instead of continously piling more and more grammar points on top of a brittle foundation.
And this is basically what I am doing now. Through reading, watching movies and TV, listening to music, and interacting with native speakers online, I pick up new grammar points and vocabulary at something that feels like a natural pace. Needless to say, I find this to be much more fun than textbook grammar studies. Perhaps this is where I should add that I have no particular ambition of passing the JLPT at some level. Instead, I’m aiming for much more of a “working knowledge” of grammar.
My advice for grammar studies:
Once you feel like you have reached a certain level, ask yourself why you are actively studying grammar. Of course, if your ambition is to pass the JLPT, then direct grammar studies might still be very beneficial to you. But if your ambition is to just be able to “apply” it when reading/writing/speaking/listening, then maybe just try to do that and see where it takes you.
I remember being very surprised at how much grammar I already knew back when I really started reading adult-level native material 3-4 months ago (started with コンビニ人間, which I would definitely recommend).
More exposure to native “material”. Aside from reading novels, watching TV/movies and listening to music, my greatest “leap forward” recently has been from dedicating time every week to speak with native speakers via Italki. It really solidifies my grammar knowledge, and (sometimes painfully ) exposes the points where I need to improve. I continually attempt to use new words and grammar in conversations, and it’s all good fun.
Will I be burning every item on WaniKani?
My completionist brain tells me “yes”. My reasonable brain tells me “no”, since my time is probably better spent elsewhere.
But will I be able to just stop, after doing this (almost) every day for more than two years?
Thank you to the WaniKani team and to all of you for making this long journey conceivable for someone like me