So here it is, level 60!
It’s great to have burned nearly 2500 items (over 300 radicals, nearly 600 kanji and over 1500 vocab) and have over 3000 waiting in enlightened (including a lot more kanji!)
I visited this “community” a few times just to lurk and found it pretty toxic at first, but recently have noticed it isn’t necessarily like that, so I’ve decided to join in and make a level 60 post, despite being one of the seemingly despised speed runners
I definitely don’t regret learning a huge number of kanji and vocab items as fast as I was able, and I can now understand so many words and concepts I see around Japan, compared to how little I could do just one year ago. It’s great when reading not to have many problems with kanji, and I can now focus on learning more grammar without that huge roadblock
What I did
- Make and stick to a weekly schedule: know which things are critical for levelling up and do them bang on schedule - the rest can slide, but obviously not so much that it affects you doing the new/“important” stuff on schedule.
Kept up with vocab and was at 0 lessons until levelling up, but will now start working off those new lessons until hitting 0 again, hopefully this time for good (unless there are any content additions before my subscription runs out). However, before today, 761 reviews were scheduled for today, and it’ll end up being much more than that because of learning and doing reviews for the new kanji for level 60 today too. I’ll admit it has definitely got taxing recently to churn through all of those reviews every day, but I’m getting better and better at recognising all of those items every day, and that’s what matters
I just churned through reviews as fast as possible without thinking too much – I figured they need to be lightning fast responses instead of taking time to think about it and recall. I have been lucky in a way to have a job where it’s often been possible to take a short break and do WK every hour, as well as some 3-hour commutes to play on the train - though it’s not always been possible, and I did slide a bit while on vacation last year
I used some scripts: one which gives you reviews in different fonts so you can get used to seeing kanji in their different looks, and I also used a stroke order diagram script to learn how to write the kanji (though these days, I’m using the amazing Ringotan app more for learning stroke order). I did strongly consider using a double-check script, but I decided I just couldn’t trust myself to use a script like that honestly and productively
Reorder buttons - I didn’t use these until the “fast levels” started at level 43, but I started using them out of necessity to ensure levelling up on time - but I didn’t let vocab lessons slip just because of using reordering and have kept up with the vocab reviews all the while.
What I did Outside WK
- I have often read NHK-Easy for reading practice - though my reading is still basic
- Minato courses: Marugoto A1 and A2: Katsudo and Rikai (free online courses!), as well as a few other free courses on Minato like the KC Yom Yom self-study basic reading course
- Ringotan, an amazing app for learning writing kanji and kana, particularly stroke order
- Watch some anime/TV/films, including Digimon on the Animelon site
- Played Pokemon in Japanese
- Used KaniWani/KameSame a few times - hoping to update them to reflect Level 60 now and use them more often again
- Transparent Language “word of the day” emails, which have an example sentence in each
- Studying for JLPT N5 (basic, I know) by working through a textbook - I’ve used the really good tailored Torii SRS system for it - that’s really useful for N5-specific vocab
- Some YouTube videos - I can recommend “Japanese Apple” channel for easy test practice
- I wanted to study for a Kanken test and finally looked into test dates but seen that I’ve only just missed the registration deadline this time and will now have to wait until October
- Ninchanese - a similar app for learning Chinese - I did this a lot before but am hoping to get back into this more now WK is at Level 60
Controversial things I did
Now for the controversial part. I looked up radicals and kanji until they just hit guru level, to get exposure to the items multiple times before then genuinely getting tested on them - then let them slide back to apprentice. I simply couldn’t remember items I’d only seen once before. By the point of having seen them numerous times up to guru level, only then did I find I could start to remember them. More importantly, by that point, you’ve unlocked the related vocab and are actually doing the useful stuff related to the kanji which really helped me learn the kanji. Until the point of starting learning the vocab, I found I had little hope of actually learning the readings. NB: I never looked up vocab to get them right because they weren’t critical for levelling up.
I also did a speed run on most lessons - I just looked at the kanji, meaning and pronunciation, then skipped straight to the SRS. Sitting and staring at the kanji for a long time just didn’t work for me anywhere near as well as repeated exposure did.
However I did spend time adding synonymns. This was for reinforcement and also because otherwise you keep getting things “wrong” despite actually knowing it. I always added the “-ing” form for kanji used in verbs, for example, because that often tripped me up early on. Since I know nothing about baseball, for every item about it, I also added the synonym “baseball term”
My typical Apprentice/Guru/Master/Enlightened was 200/1100/1100/2500 for the normal/slow levels; all of those numbers have increased a bit recently during the fast levels, but for some reason, master has gone down a little - maybe because of encountering some more leeches?
On the speed run, I found the fast pace motivating - I think I would have given up without having that fast-paced schedule and some kind of pressure to stick to it. Plus there has been the huge cost motivation to finish the subscription within 1 year. So now I can spend the next year, and the year after that etc. doing other stuff, e.g. Bunpro. But it’s a shame I’ll never get an opportunity to burn any of the items I’ve learned over something like the last 30+ levels (I haven’t calculated exactly) because of waiting for them to come up again. I didn’t even fully burn level 1, because of one vocabulary item which is queued for its burn review a few days after my subscription expires :’D
Ways I think WK could be improved
Synonyms - e.g. I write “cemetary” instead of “graveyard” or “each ~” instead of “every ~” and get it “wrong” then have to spend time adding synonyms and do a lot more unnecessary reviews to get the item back to where it previously was - it’s particularly annoying when it’s a burn review
Other examples are houses in a row / row of houses, embarking / embarkation, army general / general of the army, crushing defeat / crushing failure, sudden increase / sudden rise, working diligently / working earnestly, military ship / military vessel, in built / built in, good work / good piece of work, honourable visitor / noble visitor, free / free of charge, salary decrease / salary reduction, bath / bathtub, and the list goes on and on. It can be pretty Infuriating, especially when it happens multiple times for the same item, e.g. “general” and “army general” instead of “general of the army” - it wastes a load of time with items sliding back down through apprentice and having extra unnecessary reviews.
I know a native Japanese speaker who has told me that a lot of the words are plain wrong or not used in the way suggested - they actually tell me to quit using the app frequently because of all the misinformation. One recent example is the WK word for “oval face” - the Japanese person I asked had never heard of / seen that.
I would really like it if WK were to include not only “sample” words for each kanji, but actually the most useful words for each kanji, so let us practise vocab as an end in itself and put our kanji knowledge into more use
Perhaps include audio recognition of your pronunciation of words (as in Ninchanese)?
Teach kanji roughly in order of how common they are - since I don’t approve of their approach to radicals anyway. Incidentally, why on earth are we learning the radical for “three” in like level 38 when we already burned that months ago? It’s suboptimal, i.e. unnecessary. Especially when it’s a barrier to levelling up on time because WK thinks you don’t know something you actually learned months earlier, albeit with a different background colour (pink for kanji instead of blue for radical).
How about sending a certificate of achievement to Level 60 achievers and a special one for the amazing individuals who can burn everything (perhaps barring recent content additions), for you to frame and show to everyone regardless of their level of interest in Japanese or WK
Use colour coding more, e.g. colour code on’yomi and kun’yomi (e.g. in yellow and green respectively). I still have no idea which is which and frequently get them confused. It could be particularly helpful when the readings are mixed within in a single word, so you can visually see that. Perhaps use it for nouns and adjectives too because I often get those mixed up, even verbs and adverbs. Obviously there are only so many colours you can use, but I still think it could be used more.
Accept more different types of English e.g. plough vs. plow - as previously mentioned, I spend a lot of time adding many user synonyms for almost every item, but feel I shouldn’t have to, or at least not to this extent
Put the “cherry on the cake” kanji 鰐 and 蟹 in Level 60 instead of Level 50, so it isn’t an obvious “here are ten levels we stuck on the end later”!
Drawbacks of WaniKani
“Geoduck”. What on earth? Why am I learning something that … I can’t even put it in to words … WTF? Then there are explanations like the one for 都合, which starts with “This one makes no sense (sorry!).”
The whole “greenhouse” saga - I got very angry at that point that I seemed to be learning something about a kanji that is simply wrong. I genuinely considered quitting at that point because of not being taught honestly and it feels like someone at Tofugu is just having a laugh, possibly at our expense
Connected with that, Level 43 kanji “point” - I don’t know what it means - pointing at something? Like the tip of something? Or point as in “What’s the point…”
Linked to that, I feel I simply can’t trust the meaning explanations, so I pretty much ignore them - I never know whether it’s an honest explanation or just a dumb/immature/childish joke which is meant to somehow make you learn something but in fact only obfuscates and infuriates because it just seems to be taking the mick. As an example, “I will inherit at your consent. It’s not just given straight to me at birth, though it kind of is. I get succession, but only if people say it’s okay.” WTF. I have literally no clue what any of that means. I’ve found it’s often better just to ignore that kind of pointless stuff and find my own way through.
I can’t understand why everyone likes the “Level up emails” - it’s just “Hello, here’s a stupid meme, this level you’ll learn [insert random collection of kanji]. Bye. Ko- whatever that thing is called.” Anyway, if other people like them, I guess they’re doing something for them, so no harm done even if they’re not for me
Using WK on a phone: my phone autocorrects “ka” to “kaka”, “so” to “soso”, etc. in hiragana. It’s so frustrating and the sheer number of times I have forgotten to press backspace after typing “ka” or similar … I have looked for a way to turn off autocorrect on the Japanese keyboard I have, but no luck.
- I’m going to keep going with WK until my subscription runs out in a few weeks
- Bunpro - hoping to link it to WK Level 60 and get stuck into grammar now
- Satori Reader - looking fowards to starting the free material, then get a subscription after that
- Reading Pokemon and Dragonball manga I’ve bought, plus hopefully others after that
- Keep reading NHK-Easy
- Finishing off all of the A2 Marugoto courses (i.e. A2-2, A2-3 and A2-4 Katsudo and Rikai courses)
- The Genki 2 textbook
- Review my N5 textbook and do more test practice ahead of the N5 exam
- Start my N4 textbook and work towards that exam
- Start watching more anime, especially though Animelon again!
- Learn other languages!
- Maybe climb Tokyo Skytree on 22nd May for real?! (Having seen that thread on here).
I know it isn’t the end yet, but anyway, it’s great to reach this milesone with 鰐蟹