Hurray! I’ve hit level 60! I guess making a little post here is tradition, so I’ll give it my best shot!
To start out, here’s my chart and basic stats as of hitting 60 today:
The last 10 or so levels were a total blur. I’m proud to be able to say I completed WK so quickly, but believe me I’ve still got plenty of leeches to hammer out and lots of learning and growing still to do. For anyone who may be interested, here’s a little story about what inspired me to begin learning Japanese and how my adventure has been so far:
My Story 🎉
Today also just about marks my 1 year anniversary of becoming a “serious” student of Japanese. Prior to this, I had never studied the language formally. I could read hiragana, I probably “knew” 30-40 kanji or less, and every word/grammatical structure I knew came from an anime or a video game. So, it’s definitely fair to say that I wasn’t starting from absolute scratch, but I had a very flimsy foundation in the language at best. So what made me finally hit the books? Enter the great pandemic of 2020.
The isolation and fear brought about by the pandemic hit me like a truck in late March of 2020. I had something of a nervous breakdown if I’m being completely honest. I majored in Biology in college, so I know way too much about the spread of communicable disease and I could see the disaster on the horizon even before it really began to affect the United States. For about 2 weeks, I couldn’t even bring myself to go to work (thankfully, we ended up sending everyone home shortly thereafter), and I was absolutely petrified with anxiety. I slowly started to come around as we moved into April, but I needed an outlet for my negative feelings.
I’ve always been a huge gamer, and it seemed as good a time as any to embrace escapism head on and dive into the comfort of video games. At this time, Shin Sakura Taisen was getting ready to release for the PS4. This is a series I’ve loved since the older brother of a dear friend of mine introduced me to it way back in middle school. I convinced my parents to buy me a Dreamcast and the complete set of games for Christmas back then, and I still have (and love) them to this day. The announcement of the new game made me really itch to play the old series again - so I dusted off my Dreamcast and dug out the translation guide I’d followed all those years ago. I began to play the first game, and about 10 minutes in, a thought struck me. This is really annoying. I hate having to look at a translation guide every few minutes and then back at the screen. My eyes have to constantly dart between the translated script and the on screen action, back and forth, back and forth, and it’s really disrupting my immersion. This quickly lead to the most natural conclusion. Why the heck have I never taken the time to learn Japanese?! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve now got the free time to do it along with a gaping hole in my life that needs to be filled in with something productive.
And so, in mid-May 2020, my adventure began. I ran to the internet to seek out the easiest and most efficient path to fluency. Of course, there really is no such thing, but I hadn’t figured this out just yet. Nonetheless, I found some really useful information along the way. Based on lots of recommendations, I started my new language learning saga with two tools that quickly became a core part of my life: Lingodeer and Wanikani.
LingoDeer was a wonderful app that took me from zero to N4 grammar in just a few short months. I doubt I’d be at the point I am now without LingoDeer‘s fun and easy lessons to pave the way.
As for WaniKani, it was a personal goal of mine the day I started to try and get through it as quickly as I possibly could. Why?
As I mentioned, my degree is in Biology, so memorizing large amounts of information in a short period of time has become something of a specialty of mine.
Again, I needed to fill up as much of my free time as possible with something more productive than video games. (Even though now I can now play all the Japanese games I want because it’s “studying” instead of “slacking”!)
I’m a gamer, so what can I say? I want to be the very best like no one ever was.
And so, here we are 356 days later as I proudly reach level 60.
What has WK done for me? 📚
So what has Wanikani done for me? It has completely laid the foundation for my reading ability (which has soared far beyond all of my other Japanese skills). Kanji just aren’t an issue anymore. They’re not the horribly intimidating barrier to Japanese literacy that they used to be. In fact, I quite like them now! Being able to dive into just about any native text I want without having to stop and look up every third kanji has enabled to me to really push myself and begin reading native material much earlier than a lot of Japanese learners do. As early as 3 months into my journey, I was already forcing myself to grapple with manga and Japanese video games. And now a year later, I’m reading real books! There’s still a ton of vocabulary out there that I don’t know, but when you can identify kanji, it makes the rest of the reading/learning process so much easier. Without WK’s gamification of the process (I’m heavily addicted to the idea of “leveling up” ), who knows how long it would have taken me to reach this point?
For those who want specifics, here’s what I’ve been able to read/play to completion in the past year:
Tokimeki Memorial 1 and 2
Angelique Special 1, 2, and Angelique Retour (the so-called “mother of otome games”)
Popolocrois Monogatari 1 and 2
Sakura Wars 1, 2, and 3
Paper Mario: Origami King (the first text-heavy game I ever completed and understood in Japanese)
Angel’s Feather (the first visual novel I ever completed and understood in Japanese)
Tales of Phantasia (Playing now - about 80% complete)
Sword Art Online 1 (75% complete; will finish in about 2-3 more weeks) (Note: This is a particularly hard read for my level and I’m very proud of myself for pushing through it. I’ve learned a TON.)
君の名は (60% complete; reading with the intermediate book club)
Fruits Basket (Complete)
Cardcaptor Sakura (Complete)
Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card (Complete up to date)
Thank You ❤️
Thank you to everyone on the forums for constantly sharing your inspirational stories, milestones on your language learning journey, jokes, advice, help, and even just random chatter. The community here is really fantastic, and even though I’m more of a lurker than an active poster, I’ve really enjoyed all the discussion here!
Apps and Textbooks I Used 🤓
Lingodeer: I recommend this 1000% to any beginner student of Japanese. In the same way that WK laid the foundation for my kanji knowledge and reading ability, Lingodeer absolutely laid the foundation for my grammatical knowledge and basic vocabulary. I would not be at the point I am in my studies if not for Lingodeer’s fun and easy lessons that took me from near-zero to N4 in just a few short months.
Wanikani: If you’ve already read this far, I certainly don’t need to describe my WK experience to you anymore!
BunPro: I love this site. It is, to some extent, the WK of grammar. I’ve completed all of the lessons through N3 and I plan to start the N2 content next month once I’ve given my brain some time to relax and absorb what I’ve learned this year.
JapanesePod101: A really nice site for listening practice. Due to time constraints, I haven’t used this as much as I would have liked. But if you like the podcast format and the idea of having things broken up into easily digestible 10 minute chunks, give it a go!
Satori Reader: This is a great app for someone who is a high beginner-low intermediate. I would ideally recommend it to someone who specifically has a strong desire to read (particularly books/light novels) but doesn’t have the confidence/patience/skill necessary to really start jumping into native material yet. Most of the stories here are a bit too easy for me now, but I got some really nice notes and insights from the articles I did read and they’re the kind of neat little tidbits you don’t find in most textbooks.
Tae Kim’s Guide: I still like this for a quick reference when I’ve forgotten something I already learned.
Genki I and II: Truth be told, I got most of the grammar taught in these books from LingoDeer, but I loved doing the exercises by hand and getting some practice handwriting Japanese (I’m still terrible at this). If you prefer books over apps, I highly recommend these (just like everyone else does).
Koohi Cafe: A true godsend and my #1 recommended site for anyone who is serious about reading Japanese and looking to step up their game. I live on this site lately and it will likely be in my future for months (if not years) to come.
Anki: A tried and true staple of my language learning routine from day 1. I’ve mined about 1500 sentences in the last year from a huge variety of books, manga, games, anime, drama, dictionaries, blogs, recipes, etc. etc… I do my Anki reviews everyday without fail and I definitely feel sentence mining has been essential to my success thus far.
If you actually read my obscenely lengthy post, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to being here for a long time - I particularly like the book clubs! So hopefully I’ll have a greater chance to interact with everyone here. I’m a bit of an introvert, but I’ll do my best!
Thank you WK and now my long journey continues…