Hello everyone, yesterday I reached level 60, so here is the post!
I am a 36 year old post doc. in astrophysics. I have been fascinated by/interested in Japanese since my early twenties, and have made some small efforts towards trying to learn. Various things that has happened in recent years have made me take things more seriously, and WaniKani is such a blessing for this - I had no idea how I would be able to tackle the seemingly unsurmountable kanji mountain without this. It has made it possible to have a process I can just repeat and know that some day I will have been exposed to and learned decently well most of the kanji I’ll meet in the wild.
My Wanikani routine
I ended up on a fairly straightforward routine:
- I would typically level up in the evening.
- The next morning I would spend ~3 hours learning the new kanji and vocabulary. This was possible because of flexible work hours. For the slow levels I typically went through the context sentences, but I was too stressed during the fast levels to do that.
- After four hours I would do the first reviews for those lessons.
- Then, for the next four days I would do all my reviews in the evening.
When the fast levels arrived, this would change a little (I would split my ‘new level’ lessons into two consecutive days, essentially, where I did radicals and kanji the first day and all vocab the next).
Towards the end, I used three scripts more or less actively:
- Wanikani heatmap kudos @Kumirei
- Wanikani item inspector kudos @prouleau
- Wanikani workload graph kudos @rwesterhof
I used the Flaming Durtles app @ejplugge great work and this app is what I would use for most my lessons (lying in bed). For the reviews I would typically use the computer. Towards the end, on the fast levels, I used the feature of Flaming Durtles to have radical and kanji lessons come first.
Stats and graphs
I generally spent more time on kanji mnemonics than vocabulary. In addition, I didn’t make use of the user synonym feature, which is responsible for at least a couple of percentage points in the vocab (“crushing failure/overwhelming defeat”, I am looking at you).
Towards the end, my accuracy really tanked. I don’t really know why this is, but I suspect it’s a combination of consistently high workload every day and thus a perpetual mind fatigue, and perhaps more abstract/difficult vocab towards the end? I guess also the end is where you have the highest accumulation of leeches.
That apprentice count was way too high in the final ten levels.
I managed a pretty consistent level-up schedule, though the fast levels were very sensitive to whether you got most of the kanji right so sometimes they would last a day or two longer.
I felt that sharp rise at the end. I don’t think I would have been able to maintain that for very long, so it was only because I knew the end was coming.
The early twenties were especially tricky, I suppose, and I expect the final levels to have similar error percentages once they reach burned status, though perhaps with the workload lessening it might not.
As you can see, there is a day for which I kick myself a little, which was my friend’s bachelor party. I could have just done a single review using my phone but for whatever reason it slipped my mind. Kind of annoying but, it is what it is.
- 作用, both the reading and meaning were tricky!
- 変わる - I had trouble with all of the “to be changed”, “to change”, “to transform”, “to intersect”, “to be mixed” type of verbs.
- 陥落 - Ugh. When is it “fall” and when is it “fallING”???
- 並 - classic case of “I should have used the synonyms”. What kind of decision making in Tofugu has made them only use a subset of “common, average, ordinary” for the various words that mean these things I will not understand.
- 追いかける - something about かける made me always think this meant to catch up to someone.
- 一生懸命 - again, when is it “with all one’s MIGHT” and when is it “with all one’s STRENGTH”???
- 議論 - all of the debate/argument/discussion/criticism vocabulary really confused me.
- 甲斐性 - “sei” vs “shou”
- 憶測 - all of the “estimation”, “prediction”, “guess”, etc etc words would make me stumble.
The only other resource I’ve really made use of so far is Cure Dolly’s videos. Yes, she’s unsettling, but she’s also explaining grammar in a way that was superior to what I saw in e.g. Tae Kim.
I started reading some books, but haven’t gotten too far.
I also played the PC game “Cultist simulator” in Japanese, which was a good way to learn a lot, since it’s a storyish game that you kind of need to understand the various texts to make sense of.
This community seems very good. I haven’t interacted with it as much as I would like, partially because I’ve been too busy. I did join a reading club initially, but quickly fell off.
In february I joined the Olympians XXXII thread. It was good to be held at least a little responsible.
I hope to become more active in the community now that I don’t have more lessons to worry about and can start consuming more media.
I went through Wanikani at a relatively high pace. Although I am happy I have been through it, I don’t recommend doing it this way, unless there’s some kind of window in which you have the possibility to do Wanikani which has a definite end. One could argue that the pandemic was such a window for me - I’m not certain how consistent I would have been able to be with more social interactions in the evening and so on.
But the downsides of rushing through are pretty evident for me at least: You end up doing more reviews, I think. Especially towards the end I noticed that a lot of the stuff was not really sticking, and the stress of knowing I had 300 reviews coming up every evening for the next couple of weeks was detrimental to learning. I firmly believe that anything worth doing is worth doing properly, and I can truly say that rushing through Wanikani is an example of me not doing it properly. In addition, it took so much attention that I was not able to focus on any other type of media consumption, which is a more ideal way of learning, I think. Towards the end, with the fast levels, the workload became almost unbearable, and sitting through 3-400 reviews every night gets demotivating, and affects all other aspects of your life. The final weeks especially became a kind of review-fog, not enjoyable at all. It really did become clear to me over time how true it is that this is a journey which you can enjoy if you want, not just a race which you’re supposed to check of your bucket list. Hopefully in this respect the wanikani experience has made me just a little wiser.
Use user synonyms! I decided early on to not use these, because I’m an idealist, and because I wasn’t confident that I knew the context well enough to know what would be an acceptable synonym, and stubbornly stuck to that. But there are some vocabulary that will just end up leeching because you forget the exact wording they’re going for, which in many cases is kind of arbitrary.
Wanikani mnemonics: In general, I think Wanikani is doing a good job on these. I consistently used the radical names provided by Wanikani, and eventually I would start forming my own mnemonics when I thought the one provided wasn’t really sticking for me.
When it comes to vocabulary, I think Wanikani has made some strange decisions when it comes to explaining vocab. I think they would have made things a bit easier for themselves by kind of explaining that certain kanji has meanings that are not the one we learn, and kind of use that meaning in the mnemonic instead. Like 管 - it means pipe, but it becomes clear over time that this also has to do with managing things, which would have made several vocabulary more easy to remember instead of thinking of managers with pipes all the time.
Furthermore, sometimes it seems the vocab mnemonics are more ‘unintuitive’ than they need to be. 軌道 for example, which has a pretty involved explanation (“A rut in the road is for some reason an orbit or trajectory. Maybe imagine a big ol’ rut in the road. You drive at it at very high speeds, hit it, and fly into the sky at a trajectory that will send you into orbit. Now you’re up in space, circling the earth, wishing you didn’t drive so fast.”). The kanji combo though, kind of intuitively suggests something a lot ‘easier’ than this. Something like a path that is fixed because it has been deeply “rutted”. I’m not saying this is a good alternative mnemonic Just saying that it seems in many cases there is an obvious (but perhaps not so easy to spell out in words) meaning that is discarded to make a more literal but very involved mnemonic. This was not the greatest example, but I hope it kind of shows the point.
All in all, I am very happy with the product that Tofugu has put out. Without it I would have struggled a lot more, and maybe even not been able, to learn kanji. Thank you so much!
Next steps are switching my username (when I chose it I didn’t realize the kind of poor connotations it gives if you misread it - it’s really just the name of a character from a book I loved!) And then I think I will try to join a book club once reviews are becoming manageable.
I am looking forward to interacting with all of you in the forums! Thank you to the community for being so great, it’s rare on the internet!