|(translator’s note: Yatta means やった )|
I realize I never did post an introduction, although frequenters of the forum will have picked up little bits about me here and there. Any section should be readable on its own.
I’m Dutch, living in the Netherlands and am currently 45 years old. I play the clarinet, love watching videos on YT (maybe a little too much) but I didn’t have a lot of hobbies besides that… because several years back I went though a burn-out.
Use of the term burn-out
You see the term burn-out used regularly on the forums, indicating a loss of motivation and the will to continue. I deem this a valid use of the term, though it’s not the only use of it. When I experienced burn-out after a prolonged period of stress at work, I didn’t specifically lose the will to go to work - my body just shut down. One morning I could suddenly barely get up - my limbs didn’t seem to want to obey my commands anymore. And I was soooo tired. (Granted, that feeling had been building for a while). When I initially took time off work, I slept about 18 hours a day, waking only to eat and use the bathroom. My memory turned to Swiss cheese and I lost pretty much all sense of what was going on around me.
First things to suffer are your hobbies and social contacts, which you gradually drop en route to burning out (trying desperately to create more space for the thing that’s giving you most stress - what a weird response it is, but it happens).
After recovering for the most part, it was almost like emerging from a bomb shelter after several years.
I vaguely remembered there were supposed to be Olympic Games, which I knew were coming but missed. Seconds later, to my horror I realized there should have been another Olympic Games since then (I had to look it up online - totally missed Rio). Music, movies, politics, world events - there was a 4 year gap in my knowledge of everything (which leads to quite the voyage of discovery). And reconnecting with family and friends was a shame-hurdle, although the reality of it is fine (One of my favorite quotes: Life always welcomes you back).
But after a while I realized I needed more time to fully recover and so I decided to quit my job and follow my interests instead. I discovered I like joining friends at a karaoke bar (we’re not great singers, but it’s a lot of fun). I started running (or tried to, darn shin splints, although I can now run 10k without stopping) and I wanted a learning challenge as well. Something requiring effort and promising satisfaction after hurdles were conquered.
When I tell people I’m learning Japanese there are a few question marks. Have you ever been to Japan? Nope. Do you read manga? Never have. Like anime? Tricky - I think I like it, but I didn’t really start watching any until I wanted to practice listening to Japanese. Do you know any people that speak Japanese? Well - I do now although technically we’ve never met. So why Japanese? It drew me. I considered Portuguese and Mandarin, but ended up going with Japanese. What are your plans for Japanese? To learn it? I still have no idea.
I started learning hiragana on Dec 28, 2019 via DuoLingo and found WK via the forums there. Reading through the Tofugu blog I decided to give WK a go and started on Jan 3, 2020, basically one week in. Yes, I struggled with nyuu vs niyuu (It’s burned but after 60 levels it’s still on my bleeding wall of shame). Two weeks later I started the 10k core deck via Torii. All this SRS-ing and the repetitive excersises turned out to be too much of the same. I dropped DuoLingo and after completing the N5 and N4 part of the Torii 10k deck I stopped doing lessons there as well. Originally it was because the N3 vocab used so many unknown kanji (I was around level 14 in WK at the time), but after two months of only reviews I got to the burning stage in WK and dropped Torii entirely (Although I always intended to come back to it - I haven’t yet). Instead I decided to supplement WK with other kinds of study. Grammar - via the Elementary Japanese books - and reading practice (graded readers, NHK easy news).
Plus a smattering of other resources that I mostly picked up from the forums here, but I have not yet followed consistently.
WK has really been the only true constant in my journey so far. For me the two strengths of WK: it keeps me coming back and it has helped me to overcome the initial terror of facing texts or webpages entirely in Japanese. I used to recoil when faced with a wall of Japanese text, but as you progress through the levels, you find that you recognize more and more of the writing and it’s less daunting.
During the first two levels I tried to establish a routine that felt right, and I ended up deciding to go for 2 sessions of WK a day 12 hours apart. I would do all my reviews, followed by 10 lessons for a total of 20 lessons a day. This seemed to work well… until I ran out of lessons while waiting to Guru items. This happened again on level 3 and by the time this happened on level 4 I decided to install Reorder Ultimate. The change to a constant influx of lessons at level 5 is clearly visible in my workload graph.
After two small deviations at the start, I did 20 lessons a day from Feb 23rd, 2020 until April 5th, 2021, finally running out of lessons on April 6th, but for real this time.
Strengths and weaknesses of this approach
Two sessions a day means that the Apprentice I interval is 12 hours in stead of 4, and Apprentice II is 12 hours in stead of 8. I started to feel this, especially the 12 hour App I interval, around level 8/9 and decided to adjust my approach. About 1-2 hours after doing lessons, I would come back to the lesson summary page and go over the items to see if the lessons had really sunk in. That’s sort of an App I review round, but without the actual review round itself. After this, the actual App I review was usually not much of a problem. (If you think about it, that would then in fact have been my App II review round, resulting in an App II.5 review round 12 hours later).
A constant stream of lessons also means a constant stream of reviews. Pretty much every review session for items after level 5 has consisted of 40 Apprentice items, 20 Guru items, 10 Master items and 10 Enlightened items, plus and minus a bunch of prior mistakes (stragglers). You always know what to expect from a review session, and they’re always roughly the same size. No tidal waves of reviews ever come in.
But this also has a downside. The pace can feel relentless. Sometimes you have an off-day, you’re not in the zone or simply not feeling it. Tough. 80+ items for the review session it is. At level 60 I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to institute a lesson-free day once per level, maybe starting around level 20 (I started burning at level 21). It only delays the road to level 60 by about 40 days and provides a little reprieve here and there by granting some lighter review sessions.
At level 15 I noticed that I was leveling every 8 days, rather than the 8.5 day level ups I had been doing before. Starting with level 14, there are fewer than 10 radicals to learn on each level, meaning I could do them all in a single session, which shaved half a day off the leveling time. Having read so much about vocab backlogs due to the script I was using, I decided to calculate the consequences of doing 160 lessons per level rather than 170. To my surprise I found that regardless, I was going to run out of lessons somewhere around level 28/29. This is due to the shrinking sizes of the levels. To ensure availability of the lessons I introduced a single extra review round per level, starting with level 26. This reduced my level ups to 7.5 days while in practice I didn’t really accelerate. I kept doing 20/day. I used Reorder Ultimate to review the Apprentice I radicals while ignoring any other potentially pending reviews (so as not to upset the steady sets of 10 too much). I had disabled Reorder for reviews previously, because the vanilla reviewing works fine for me.
When I hit the fast levels at 43, I decided to switch over from Reorder Ultimate to the Lesson Filter script. It’s better at delaying level ups, and by this time I was going for a nice flat level up graph. But for the basic strategy this wouldn’t have been necessary. I did find I was kind of spoilt by Reorder Ultimate. Because I had tweaked the script locally, it always sorted the lessons the way I wanted them by default. I was a set-and-forget type system, and with Lesson Filter I manually had to filter every time. But Lesson Filter is definitely more flexible.
I am neither the fastest nor the most accurate, but I’m fairly proud of the results. I took me 460 days to do all the lessons in WK (459 ago is 460 including both endpoints)
For those of you that struggle with memory issues due to depression, stress or burn-out, know that after recovering your capacity for memorization does come back. As always, Wkstats is quite benign when indicating accuracy.
Wkbuddy gives a more fair overview of accuracy per stage.
But even here my burn rate (Enlightened accuracy) is still decent due to the pleasant levels. My current burn rate struggles to reach 60%.
I don’t use Double check or Ignore scripts/buttons and this has led to some atrocious missed burns. A list that I’m still adding to regularly. I’ve also not added any user synonyms, but that’s mainly because I came into WK fresh, so I have no prior associations with words. I figured I might as well memorize the WK translations.
Burning is really the tough stage. Unless you’re exposed to kanji regularly, not seeing them for 4 months means there’s a good chance you forget them. I tried combatting this by refreshing the mnemonics for all kanji that I enlighten (from the review summary page). Did this work? I’ll have to let you know later. I started this with the level 39 kanji and I’m simply not there yet with my burns
You can see the hike in made errors once I start burning the levels.
The best way to combat this is by reading, which I started doing rather late into my journey, so the material I read now tends to be too simple to contain many of the kanji I’m supposed to be remembering. (Hint: start now if you haven’t yet).
The review workload was fairly even due to the 20/day strategy
So this is where I am now
Reorder Ultimate to change the order of the lessons by type, though I modified it locally and disabled it for reviews.
Lesson Filter to control level ups during the fast levels
Rendaku Information helped me tremendously because sometimes there is actually logic to it
Dashboard Level Progress Detail because I don’t need all the detail items on my dashboard and I like the quick overview the progress bars give me
Heatmap doh. Probably my most used dashboard script other than the framework!
Leaderboard I find it very motivating to see everybody leveling up and progressing!
And of course I used my own scripts
Dashboard Cockpit which contains a smattering of functionality from other scripts that I really enjoy (details in link)
Review Forecast Clock Style 24 hour clocks in the review forecast
Workload graph produces some of the pictures above
ReadingMeaning Text swaps text and bar colors during reviews to make it more apparent whether WK is asking for the reading or the meaning
So now what? Well, those last items are definitely not cemented yet, so I’ll be doing reviews for a while. I want at least a chance at burning the level 60 items, so that’s a minimum of 6 more months of reviews for me.
After that I’m not sure - I don’t have a specific need to burn all of WK, and I do want to spend time that frees up by going back to some of the other things I could be doing to learn Japanese. Grammar, listening practice, and or course reading. After a while I’ll slowly be moving to more immersion and less explicit study, in the hopes of actually tackling this language. After a year I still feel woefully inept.
That leaves me only the heartfelt desire to thank WK for providing an effective study method and all the people on the forums here. Whether it’s the scripters, the motivators, the people that help me procrastinate by posting memes, the people that complain so we can complain together, the bookclubbers and the people asking and answering questions so I get to learn answers to questions I sometimes never even realized I wanted to know! Thank you all and good luck with your studies!