Hello everyone, I wanted to make yet another level 60 thread and share my thoughts on WaniKani. There are a couple of things I didn’t really like about WaniKani that I rarely see discussed on this forum, and I’d like to hear people’s thoughts.
First off, for those angered by the fact I dare make a level 60 post without actually being level 60 (and for those who like looking at graphs) here’s my progress.
I started February 10th last year, and I reached level 56 3 days ago, so there was enough time to actually reach level 60… if the reorder script didn’t stop working.
Also first off: I sort of cheated. I didn’t do any of the vocabulary reviews past level 28. Which leads me to my first criticism of WaniKani: vocabulary reviews.
I find vocabulary reviews to be an immense waste of time. Same could be said, in part, for vocabulary lessons. There are a lot of vocabulary items that have no reason to be taught at all. I’m talking about する verbs, or vocabs like 明朗. Bright + bright = bright. That’s a really tough vocab, better learn it with 5 reviews in 2 days and 5 other in the next 4 months.
As for the rest of the vocabs, it makes sense to learn those but I see no reason at all to review a vocab after having successfully answered the 2 days time step review (in other words, past Guru). If you know the kanji and you have the context to help you, you will be able to recall what the word means regardless of having burned the vocab after 4 months or not. If you don’t, you could make a card for that vocab in a SRS app of your choosing and re-learn it with the WaniKani steps. Rinse and repeat until you get it right.
Multiply this by x6000 since vocab reviews will take away the majority of the time you spend on reviews. I think people don’t realize it because most dilute their WaniKani journey over years, but you are spending a lot of time on vocab reviews. And I find that to be wasted time that could go into grammar/immersion/whatever suits your liking.
So how are you supposed to learn alternative kanji readings? How are you supposed to strengthen that kanji knowledge without vocabs?
What I did is I made Kanji cards in Anki, which have the reading WK teaches you in front + 1 vocab for each additional reading. That way you’ll review the kanji meaning and all the kanji sounds in one step instead of 1 kanji review + countless other vocabulary reviews. A lot of time saved, and I feel like it’s more efficient from a SRS point of view. Doing multiple vocabulary reviews in a short timespan sort of “cheats” the SRS for the kanji reviews for obvious reasons. All this leads me to my second WaniKani criticism: no versatility.
All items (radicals, kanji, vocabs) have the exact same review stages. No “Easy” reply, no way to skip the regular learning intervals for items you know you’ll be able to recall in 2 days without the need to review it 5 times in 2 days, which make up at least half of your daily review count (in my experience). No way to start the next level whenever you feel like, especially in the later levels, when you are stuck at 33 our of 34 kanji needed because of 1 radical that most of the time is actually a kanji you already learned.
I am aware of the (supposed) reason for this: WK doesn’t want you to overwhelm yourself since the SRS system can go out of hand really fast if you learn to much stuff. I get it. A warning would have been enough though, let me decide my own pace.
The only thing that can make WaniKani more versatile (and my opinion, a bearable experience) are scripts, which is something that I find ridiculous. The fact that a spelling mistake in a review can in some cases delay your level up is especially mind blowing to me. Again, I get the reason for this. I guess spelling the answer correctly helps you learn better than spelling wrong or not spelling at all? I suppose it does. But we should be given the choice to have no need to insert the answer at all. It’s a premium service we are paying here, I’d expect at least the reorder script to be implemented in the basic WK system (and a native dark theme!).
So we get to my third point: it feels to me like WK isn’t worth what you are paying for. WK is a honeypot for absolute beginner Japanese learners. It has a great UI and it has a system that actually makes you learn all the kanji you’ll need in a year with 0 effort on your part, other than the time you put in it. What’s not to like. I feel like the people behind WK noticed it was selling well as it was so there was no reason to improve the system (not blaming anyone here, these are just my impressions). I know there’s a whole thread about all the updates WK received in the past year or so, but I don’t feel like adding synonyms or a couple of kanji (that you find in absolute beginner books like GENKI) over years is nearly enough.
I feel like there’s more to say about WK but I don’t want to make the post too long. In the end I would not recommend WK, especially for full price, especially the life time subscription, unless you are someone who can’t use computers at all and/or doesn’t want to bother with learning how to use SRS apps like Anki (which is an invaluable skill in my opinion, in case you want to learn anything at all really).
I know I’m probably being too harsh here, so don’t hate on me for disliking WK I just wanted to share my (I hope constructive) negative feedback and hear everyone’s thoughts on this.