First off, I have enough false humility to keep it out of the title, but I won’t wait for someone no notice it in the screenshots. I accomplished this in 346 days. I’m proud of that fact and I will pat myself on the back for it.
Here’s my level up schedule and heat map for those who are interested:
Now that that’s out the way, here’s all the advice I have from my journey
- Keep a regular schedule. Mine was a seven day cycle. I did the same thing at the same time of the same day every week. This allowed me to go so far as to set weekly phone alarms to make sure I didn’t get into something and forget.
You may not be as masochistic as me on pacing. Maybe your schedule involves a ten day cycle or just spending X minutes a day 5 days a week. Whatever your schedule, make one and stick to it religiously. Make it such a strong habit that it feels wrong not to do it. I tried the do it when I feel like it with Bunpro and that lead to bursts of heavy work followed by burnout and stopping twice now. Regular schedules really are the way to go if your life can handle it.
- Mnemonics are the key to everything. When studying, make sure you work hard to develop mnemonics that work for you. I have a whole list just related to these.
- Whatever WaniKani tries to do, don’t use the same mnemonic for more than one pronunciation. For example don’t use the same word for both ほう and ほ or try to use gone for both ごん and がん. That way only leads to confusion and mistakes.
- Keep a list of all the pronunciations you’ve run into and what mnemonic keyword you used so you can try to re-use it. If you consistently use the same word than the common ones will instantly pop the right pronunciation into your mind no matter how weird the mnemonic.
- Always use a mnemonic! Don’t trust WaniKani when it says "you already learned these pronunciations so you should be able to read this. Even if it is the primary on’yomi reading of all kanji involved without a rendaku in sight, I make sure to include “simple” in the mnemonic I use for meaning to remind myself that the pronunciation has no tricks.
- For all those common reading tricks like rendaku or when かく become かっuse a consistent mnemonic to remind you of that. For example, I include separate in the mnemonic in the second case, change for rendaku, and completely change for a は to パ scenario.
- If words use secondary pronunciations or kun’yomi reading when it looks like it would normally use on’yomi, make a reminder for that in the mnemonic too.
- Tie similar kanji together in stories when possible. For example, I have the kanji 帥 continue the story from my 師 mnemonic while referencing the lack of ground in its mnemonic so I can more easily keep two similar kanji straight from each other.
- Try to think of how you’ll read the radicals in the kanji after months of not seeing it. If your mnemonic requires a strange ordering for reading and stretches the meaning of a radical or two, it may work when the kanji is still fresh in your memory, but you’re likely to blank come enlightened/burn. As much as possible try to build a mnemonic that follows your natural reading/parsing of the kanji.
Common advice, but they do know what they’re talking about when they tell you to read. You absolutely should spend as much time as you can spare reading in Japanese and reinforcing what you’ve learned.
For those who do want to push through on a once a week level like I did, my extra piece of advice just for you is to pre-study kanji before the lessons. Don’t do this with vocab as it will mess up SRS of the kanji it’s based on, but being able to breeze through all the kanji lessons is a huge help when you’re hit with a pile of lessons and mountain of reviews twice a week, especially when you get to fast levels.