Level 60 and finding the next goal(s)

Hi everyone!

I’ve not posted in the forums much, but I’ve enjoyed following the discussions here along the way. Back in about August 2021 I suddenly decided that I wanted to learn Japanese. Maybe it was that I had recently played some games with Japanese text in the background, maybe it was a bit of feeling a bit of stagnation during COVID, I’m not entirely sure. But I had absolutely no prior experience with it at all! So I picked up Tofugu’s guide to learning kana, spent about a week learning them, and I set off ready to read. I hopped onto Lingodeer, but after about a month or so I got frustrated that I kept seeing kanji and not knowing how to read or learn them. Finally in October 2021 I signed up for Wanikani, and now a bit under 2 years later I’m at level 60!

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Study Habits

The only thing I can say here is “consistency.” I didn’t use any scripts, just vanilla WK the entire way. After figuring things out for the first few levels, I found my routine: I clear all of my reviews when I wake up in the morning over coffee, and then again before going to bed at night. Usually it’s just the two sessions, though some days I’ll clear some reviews after getting home from work, especially if it’s a heavy review day. To date. I have only missed 1 day of reviews, and that was the first day after I caught COVID when I was miserable.

To keep the workload manageable, I kept my apprentice count under 100. As long as I had <90 apprentice items, I would do 10 lessons following my morning and evening review sessions. Sometimes I ran out of lessons, and sometimes I skipped lessons if I had a particularly heavy review day coming up. By sticking to this pattern, I typically have between 100-150 reviews/day, which I can usually get through in about 2 sessions of ~20 minutes.

I think what really helped my accuracy was “pre-reviewing” apprentice kanji and new vocabulary. Since my first reviews of new items would usually be 10-12 hours after the lesson. I got in the habit of reviewing newly-learned items once before going into the actual reviews. Initially I used the summary page that appeared before lessons (RIP), but lately I’ve used the extra study feature to do so (tip: don’t answer ALL of the extra study items; leave 1 undone so that your next session will only have that item + new lessons, not all 80+ that you’ve learned over the past 5 days). On top of that, before each review session I would quiz myself on all of my apprentice-level kanji on my current level. I think this really helped reinforce meanings and readings of the kanji, helping them to stick better once I had moved on to later levels.

As you can see from my accuracy ratings, readings were much easier than meanings for me, especially for vocabulary. So many times I could remember the general meaning, but not the exact term that WK wanted, especially as I got into the later levels, so I finally started adding user synonyms. I think my breaking point was getting marked wrong on 墓地 (or was it 墓場?) when I entered “cemetery” instead of “graveyard” (or vice-versa)!

Other Resources

As I mentioned above, I started out using Tofugu’s guide to kana and Lingodeer, but I stopped using Lingodeer shortly after starting Wanikani as it was just too much in the limited time I had available. Once I got to level 20 or so and had a decent base of kanji, I went through the N5 and N4 grammar points on Bunpro and started reading NHK Easy news and other articles through the Todai app. Around level 30 I picked up the first 3 Yotsuba manga, but they were a real struggle until I reread them around Level 45. There are still some panels I struggle to understand, especially when they are kana-heavy or are super casual, but it’s gotten much easier to parse and look up what I don’t know.

More recently, I’ve been using Satori Reader, which is really great. While I still sometimes miss the point of sentences, it’s usually due to missing a grammar point rather than encountering kanji that I don’t know. Knowing ~99% of the kanji I encounter makes it so much less frustrating to make progress on reading, and I can keep my focus on improving my grammar. It’s true that I could have done much more in-depth grammar studies earlier, but for me the frustration with so many unknown kanji would always stand in my way.

Finally, for the past 18 months or so I’ve been listening almost exclusively to Japanese music. I do this on my commutes and when working at my desk, but on the weekends I will usually queue up a youtube playlist and alternate between turning on Japanese captions and English ones. For new songs, I’ll usually listen in Japanese once without captions, then watch with Japanese captions, and then finally with English (or I’ll look up a translation). This helps me test my ability to hear and interpret, but it also really really helped with WK as I would associate vocabulary words with songs-- particularly the one-off kunyomi readings. My most recent example was the level 59 verb 紡ぐ which shows up in a line of “残酷な天使のテーゼ” – “人は愛をつむぎながら歴史をつくる” though it’s written in kana.

(Possibly) Unpopular opinions

As someone who came to WK with almost 0 Japanese knowledge, I’ve really appreciated the kana-only vocab. I wish they would have been there as I went through the levels rather than being added when I was already above level 55. Most of the words so far I had already picked up by now, though the latest batch today had a couple new ones for me (looking at you, バイキング: is that really a common term?!). I know there are other platforms for learning vocabulary, but I can only handle 1 SRS system at a time, so it’s nice to get a sprinkling of useful kana-only words along the way.

Also, while initially I really missed the summary page at the end of reviews, in the end I’m glad it’s gone. When I would have a bad review session (<95% for me), seeing the summary page with its percentage of correct items (usually <90 if the number during the review was <80%) would feel discouraging. I like that now at the end of a bad session I close out and don’t have to have a reminder of my struggles :joy: The “Recent Mistakes” extra study feature is enough for me.

Once my WK workload dies down a bit more, I will probably move to clearing reviews only once a day, or maybe every couple of days. I’ll then spend that time reading (more) native material, and I’ll probably start a new SRS system for grammar points and vocab that I encounter. I’d love to start trying to speak, though as of right now I don’t really have many opportunities to do so day-to-day. I do worry that without a specific goal (e.g., finishing WK), my consistency will lag. If you have recommendations for native content for a freshly-minted level 60, I’d be very interested! I’ve of course gotten some ideas from the forums already, but more are always appreciated.

My main goal with WK was learning how to read and mitigating my frustrating with encountering unknown kanji. In that regard it’s been a complete success: not only do I recognize the vast majority of kanji I see, I’m not intimidated by seeing unfamiliar ones anymore! I actually get a little excited about them. I will say though that the usefulness of WK will depend on your goals: if your main goal is production (speaking/writing), there’s no reason to rush headlong into WK. And if your goal is to get as much Japanese reading comprehension in as little time as possible, then probably around WK level 20 you should slow way down and focus on learning grammar. For me, though, I wasn’t in any hurry, and I was having fun learning kanji! Now, at level 60, my Japanese isn’t great yet, but I feel like I have a good base for reading native materials without getting overly frustrated and discouraged.

Many thanks to Koichi and the whole WK team for putting together this system! And thanks to the community for the active forums; I’ve really enjoyed following along.

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Congrats on making it to level 60!

I think it’s one of those domain-specific words: when I was living in Japan I picked it up pretty quickly, because as students we ate out in groups quite a bit, and if you’re looking at the various local restaurant offerings then one or two of them probably have a バイキング. But if you’re not in the habit of looking at restaurant and hotel websites and menus, you’ll run into it less frequently. jpdb.io reckons it appears in 6% of the novels in their database, so not super-common but not vanishingly rare in fiction either.

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congratulations on reaching level 60!

if you’re concentrating more on reading, then maybe https://learnnatively.com might be a useful resource? it allows you to track what you’re reading/have read, and also gives approximate difficulty levels for books and manga. plus it’s rounded off with a small forum for discussions on books etc.

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Congrats on level 60!! :tada: :tada: That’s some amazing accuracy too!

I agree with your (possibly) unpopular opinions btw :slight_smile:

I’ve seen it several times while reading (with the meaning “buffet”, not “Viking”). Granted, most if not all of those times were in the same series which has a lot of food/cooking terminology. So maybe it depends on what you’re reading. I’d say it’s common enough to be useful to SRS, especially since バイキング = buffet isn’t exactly intuitive, and then you won’t assume it means “biking” like I did originally :joy:

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Thanks, that looks like a great resource!

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おめでとうございます on making it to level 60! You started WaniKani right when I began working here! It’s really a big accomplishment to get to the top of kanji mountain. I hope the air is nice and crisp up there! :raised_hands:

You’re very welcome, but it was mostly your hard work that made it happen. We just laid out the red carpet!

Here is a karate chopped cake just for you!

cakechop

-Nick at WK

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