Looking for motivation: I feel like I am losing it

Dear all, I started using WaniKani in October 2023. It was very easy at first, and I had a lot of fun.

I now have been stuck at level 14 for almost three weeks. I feel like I am unable to memorize a single new word or kanji. I am pushing the words to guru or to master, and then they keep falling back. I can’t seem to be able to keep my apprentices under 100 words. The enlightened group still grows a bit, but much slower than before. Words that I thought I know quite well suddenly I get mixed up with others. Intransitives and transitives dance in my head, and don’t even get me started on 交ぜる, 交じる and 交わる, after three months of attempts I don’t think that I will ever learn how to distinguish them.

What is more depressing - despite knowing many words quite well by sight and being able to translate them back to English, I never seem to be able to recall the Japanese word when I want to write even a simple sentence myself. Even words from the very first levels. It is all very frustrating.

I spend roughly an hour daily on WaniKani (while commuting) and I really can’t find more time. I know I should start properly learning Japanese, but it is not doable at the moment (I went through a book or two a while ago, basic grammar, nothing fancy, so I can follow at least some of the example sentences).

Do you have any advice, or encouragement? Is this normal? Will it get better? Here is how my queues look like at the moment: A: 122, G: 527; M: 646; E: 1057; B: 0 :frowning:

j.

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I think you need more contact with the language outside of wanikani. If you’re truly struggling that hard with daily reviews, put your wanikani on vacation mode and start listening to easy podcasts like Nihongo con Teppei for Beginners on your commute. Getting started with reading, even if it’s just easy graded readers, will help as well.

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I had the same experience in the teens. Transitive and intransitive verbs were hard to distinguish, plus the synonyms and homonyms started piling on around that time.

Absolutely, at least for me. Everyone learns different, but for me the “quantity over quality” method helped. I eventually stopped worrying about getting things wrong and focused on review speed. If I couldn’t get the answer in a couple seconds, I forced a wrong answer and moved on.

Eventually I saw patterns and made connections that made future reviews easier.

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I am not big on listening (I kind of tune out when listening to podcasts), but I was trying to find something to read that would work on my current level. The problem was too much choice. Do you have a personal favorite which you could recommend?

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Ah, yeah, I think I would still recommend a small amount of listening (5-10mins) per day since it really does help a lot with understanding the language and building those connections.

Not sure how much grammar knowledge you have, but Satori Reader is one of my personal favorite resources that I used for several months. It’s a paid site but an excellent resource with built in lookups and grammar explanations. There’s also an appreciation thread here on the forums that goes in more depth on how to use it, which series to read first, etc. There are easier series that you could start with and then work your way up.

There’s also an app and all the lookups are built in, so you could download them to read on your commute and not need to fiddle with a dictionary!

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I think this is normal. I just did 65 days on level 35. Taking lesson breaks helps me a lot. Just try to keep doing reviews and take a few weeks off lessons. Or until you feel like it again. It helps to see the queues drain down.

Sure you are going slower and that can suck but burning out and going to zero(quitting) is worse.

Also, it might keep getting harder to learn words if you cant use them. I also suggest learning grammar. If I were you I would stop lessons until you finish something like Genki 1(or any basic grammar book or site). You need a framework to store the words if you really want to use Japanese.

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I think you need to find your pace. Maybe you have been going too fast and need to slow down a bit.
It might also help to make your own custom mnemonics for kanji, like

受 – cleat, forhead, stoolaccept, you, fool!

or

黄 – Blackjack is the reason that the fins turned yellow

I’d also recommend trying to start reading. For example,

https://drdru.github.io/twc.html

or

or

There’s also a fantastic reading resource called

but unlike other resources, it’s not free. It’s well worth it though.

As for not being able to recall the words, well, you will be eventually. For now, I’d recommend to concentrate on recognition and reading.

In any case, best of luck with your studies! wricat

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Just as the others said, slow down or stop WK for some time. It already seems to be more of a chore to you and learning should never feel like a chore or you will eventually quit and it basically was all for nothing (things still stay in some way but most ppl don’t start again very soon).
Find something to do with the language that is a lot of fun to you, whether it’s reading, listening, playing games, it does not really matter as long as you interact with the language. You clearly need more exposure to make things stick, SRS can only do so much for your language learning.
And always remember: It is impossible to fail at language learning. If you put in time, you will learn!

tldr: Don’t give up if you still like the language, just find something fun to do even if you don’t understand everything. Most of the time it is valuable as long as you get the gist of it! :+1:

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You might find The definitive guide to wanikanis transitivity pairs helpful.

Can you spare 5-10 minutes a day out of your wanikani time doing something else, like Lingodeer? That way you’ll see the kanji you’ve learned in a more cheerful less punishing and more contextual environment.
My first time with wanikani reaching your level was quite overwhelming, tons of data that sometimes felt like it was going nowhere except for crushing me under it.
I don’t know what is your end goal, but maybe choosing a short time goal that makes you happy will help you survive this phase. Wanikani is better as a supplementary app not the main or the only one, even though some people choose to use it this way, it comes with a cost.

I would really recommend starting with graded readers to bring your motivation up, and see that what you’re doing leads to something practical (hey look I can read Japanese!), for me that was a great motivation booster. I started with white rabbit (nothing like a depressing sad story for motivation boost?) I really enjoyed the you can read Japanese bundle.
Wanikani is a very punishing system and if you use it solely it will get to you unless you’re able not to take it so seriously. It’s hard, and it got to me the first time around.
Id on’t know if it helps, but I think it’s important to know the gamification can do that, and it’s not just you.

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Guess what, I’ve just graduated to level 60 and the only one I’m sure of the meaning here is 交じる. Regularly I look up words I don’t recognize in the stuff that I read, only to realize that I burned them on wanikani 6 months ago.

My hot take: if you fail the same word over and over again, just cheat with undo scripts and get them out of the way. It doesn’t matter. The definition of insanity and all that. I’m sure you’d rather learn new kanji over drilling transitivity pairs.

You’ll have plenty of time to work on that stuff later when you’re reading real Japanese.

Oh you answered “sadness” but it was “regret”? Close enough, undo. You said it was じん but it’s actually しん? Eh, you’ll probably remember it next time, maybe, undo. Oh I completely forgot this kanji, but also I have a bunch of vocab in the pipeline that uses it anyway so I’ll have other opportunities to practice it? You guessed it, undo.

I’ve abused undo scripts heavily through my WaniKani journey and now I can (somewhat) read Japanese. I regret nothing.

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This is pretty normal - our ability to passively recognize words outpaces our ability to actively produce them. With enough time spent on speaking and writing you’ll find words move from recognition only to being ones you can use yourself (and you’ll learn more new words that start out as recognition only, so the process continues).

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Absolutely true, and especially with systems like WaniKani that basically only train recognition.

On top of that I found that learning vocab through kanji, while great for boosting reading ability, is kinda horrendous for spoken Japanese because, well, people don’t speak in Kanji.

It’s very common that I will hear somebody say something in Japanese, think “uh, that does sound familiar” but I’m completely unable to fetch the actual word in memory. Then I type it on my IME and as soon as the kanji pops up I’m like, “oh, right, 日本”.

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Do you have any advice, or encouragement? Is this normal? Will it get better?

I also have quite a lot of those annoying words that just get mixed in my head and I can’t seem to remember them for a long time. However, as you memorize the easier ones, they will appear less often, and they will be effortless for you - that’s when you’ll start doing better with the harder ones since you’ll have more space in your head for them. They will keep coming back but you will eventually fight them off. The reason you struggle is that they are mixed in a 100 of others and you keep getting huge batches of words you don’t know too well as well as the troublesome ones. I bet you’d distinguish 交ぜる , 交じる and 交わる easily if you were hammered with just those three every day.

Also the more Japanese you know, the more patterns you’ll recognize e.g. you will know more radicals that will hint at the meaning of a Kanji even if you don’t know it perfectly.

As others pointed out, doing just WK actually does quite little to raise your Japanese level on its own. Especially given that Japanese is a heavily contextual language and learning just words can lead to confusion. Be sure to always study the context sentences and the best thing is to learn Japanese in parallel as well (adjusted to your current level). WK is great as a complement to your studies but keep in mind it’s centered around learning Kanji and not Japanese overall.

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Yeah, it’s normal to have periods when nothing seems to stick, and the more stressed you are about it the harder it will be to get over it. Japanese has a steep initial learning curve, and tools like WK are just efficiency aids, you still need to pace your climb. Bear in mind that learning a language takes years, so a week here and there isn’t really important.

Anyway, slow down or stop the lessons to give your head a break, keep up the reviews, spend the time you would have spent on the lessons listening to a Japanese podcast / watching a YouTube video / reading NHK / even learning to write a few Kanji or kana or something. At this early stage pretty much any involvement with the language is useful.

Ultimately, a word reading based SRS is a terrible way to learn to speak. Barring a Japanese speaker to spend time with, you need to listen lots, shadow, and then talk, even just to yourself…

「シャワーを浴びたいけど、疲れている。 まああ、寝るかな。」

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If you don’t like podcasts, Youtube is also an option. I find it’s harder to get distracted when both your eyes and ears are being stimulated.

For recall, try Kamesame or Kaniwani.

Spend less time on WK, and more time consuming the language. Once you start watching movies, reading books, and playing games, you discover that actually using the language is a lot more fun than learning it.

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I’m about to be level 13, and started in September. To be fair, I did spend about a month procrastinating actually starting the grind, but you’re going at about the same pace I am.

I think you need to slow down a little. If you’re doing a level every 12ish days like I did for the past few levels, you’re probably going too quickly. Don’t be afraid to take a few days to get some items further down in your review pile. Part of my problem is the stupid small tsu, which I, literally 10 minutes ago, looked up, and it instantly made sense how it works. That stupid small tsu was making me miss many vocab words for no reason. maybe there’s a similar thing for you? Unsure.

The advice others are giving is somewhat helpful, I would say. I did pick up literally hundreds of words and the meaning of many, many phrases from just watching subbed anime over the years even well before I bothered actually trying to learn japanese, and I’ve definitely picked up a lot from both lewd and non lewd(it helps me sleep) JASMR. Watching all the hololive vtuber clips I can definitely helps quite a lot too, I’ll say.

That being said here are definitely things on wanikani you’ll literally never hear used. the “whisper in ear” vocab phrase is particularly useless: the one place you’d think you’d hear that(japanese ASMR), I’ve not heard it.

I think WK will get more rough as the daily reviews pile higher and higher, and I definitely don’t think 12 days per level is really sustainable(even now, I’m starting to see the cracks, this level took me 14 days). I’m of the mind that it’s okay to miss some vocab words right now, especially dumb things like transitive/intransitive(shoutouts to you, bakasu, bakeru, etc. etc.). I figure I’ll eventually start burning some things(I’m still at 0 burned like you), and once those verbs are what’s left, I’ll put effort towards memorizing them.

To be fair, I’ve not even touched grammar at all yet, I’ll probably hit bunpro for that at some point, but I feel there’s better value right now from just getting more vocab words under my belt. It will probably be a little easier to remember those verbs once I’ve actually conjugated them and such too.

If you’re looking for content to consume that matches your WK level, I would recommend https://jpdb.io/ for sure. it’s got lots of premade decks for many types of media, including anime, games, visual novels, movies, etc. etc. In the settings, you can set your WK level, so it won’t show you things you’ll learn through WK and such. You can even make your own decks by pasting in text. at some point when I’m closer to finishing WK, I’ll make heavy use of this feature to learn things like song lyrics. I’ve even toyed with the idea of pulling all the youtube chat from a vtuber’s stream, then using that as a proxy to see if it’ll help me understand what the vtuber themself is talking about. Unsure if that will really work, but I’ll get new kanji and vocab words out of it regardless, so it’ll be fine in the end!

hope my rambling was a little helpful for you, as a fellow relatively new WK user.

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Do keep in mind that many of the earlier levels (e.g. 4-6 and 8-13) are particularly stacked in terms of the number of items relative to most other levels that come later. They have ~20-25+ more items. It probably isn’t all that noticeable for levels 4-6 since the enlightened reviews typically aren’t coming in yet at that point. However, they are starting to roll in around level 9+ which makes it all the more noticeable.

The point being, if you maintain the same pace, it’ll go back down to ~11 days after those particularly stacked levels.

Concretely:

Level Number of Items Above Average Num Items?
1 80
2 150
3 127
4 183 x
5 202 x
6 197 x
7 168
8 184 x
9 190 x
10 193 x
11 192 x
12 194 x
13 186 x
14 161
15 165
16 157
17 178 x
18 166
19 162
20 156
21 155
22 158
23 153
24 165
25 156
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I recommend handwriting. Find example sentences that you can understand using the word you are learning, and write them. Just “looking” at kanji was never really enough for me.
Something I did was pack it all up in custom anki decks I made, and enabling the doodling/writing option in the app. I would put the english word or phrase in the front of the card, then write down the Japanese for it. Flip and check. It was very, very effective.

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wk has no leech manager STILL (and it gets BAD)
lots of issues with the system overall
many promises of improvements but most have not been realized for years and years.

if you are having difficulty now it just gets worse.
looks like you haven’t paid for lifetime, so it’s up to you

but if i were in your shoes right now and knew what i know now back when i was level 14, things would be very different.

may want to consider jumping ship to free options like anki or renshuu.org or other paid options like marumori.org. Many better ways than to struggle with this older srs system that really isn’t being actively improved like other systems.

all up to u what’s going to work best, but you aren’t in too deep yet with wk and it’s a good time to jump ship to something that’s going to work better, there are sooooooo many better free and paid options to learn kanji.

you can still use the forums and bookclub threads w/o paying monthly for wk as well.
just my opinion (not always the popular one but it’s mine) best of luck to you

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Specific to the point above:

You are using WK for recognition, seeing something in Japanese and knowing what the reading/spelling is or what it is in English. You also need to go in the other direction - producing Japanese. Given an English word, produce the Japanese word.

A free application you can use for this is KaniWani (KW). It syncs with your WK account and drills you in reverse.

KameSame is another that can do the same (can sync with your WK account), but also allows you to add content from other sources and also does drilling in both directions, if desired.

One key difference between the two applications specific to drilling you on producing the Japanese given the English is that there are a lot of items in WK where the English meaning as provided in WK does not make it clear which of the possible multiple answers it might be. E.g. you will be prompted with “Mother” as that is what the English meaning given in WK is, but it could be 母 or お母さん or 母親. If you are wrong, KW will mark it wrong and fail it. KameSame has a decent built in system of catching these, telling you “Yeah, while that is a right/close answer, it is not the one we are looking for here, please try again” and does not mark it wrong. If you use KW, you can help with this by adding user synonyms in WK which will show up in KW. E.g. “Mother when talking about your own mother”.

https://www.kaniwani.com/

https://www.kamesame.com

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