Looking for motivation: I feel like I am losing it

What is more depressing - despite knowing many words quite well by sight and being able to translate them back to English,

To be expected.
In case no one posted it yet:
Use this site in conjunction with WaniKani: https://kaniwani.com/

It basically questions you in reverse. Sometimes a bit fiddly with the synonyms but very valuable to reinforce what you learn on WK.

As for writing sentences: you need to join an actual course and get a teacher. Dumping a few Kanji and Vocab into your brain is not enough, you also need to learn grammar and learn it correctly.

I recommend handwriting.

I use WaniKani to write the Kanji, I also write the word in Hiragana or Katakana next to it when I do reviews.

Slows things down for sure but I have a general retention quota of > 90%. Also it’s imperative to know you own limits. There is no point in doing 20 lessons per day, if your retention quota goes into the crapper and you overburden yourself. Take it as slow as you need it to be. We are here to learn Japanese, not impress strangers on the Internet.

Some words though JUST WON’T STICK, no matter what I do. I still remember the same problem from School way back when (cough old fart here) I learned English as a kiddo.

My experience: these words only really stick once you actually start using the language outside of a study environment.


Seconding this. Any time I go more gungho on the studious side of learning the language, I end up coming out of it with a much looser grip on it. To a point I get frustrated because I feel like I’m regressing instead of advancing.

Spending more time with native media, or just finding people to talk with, helps settle and sort everything mentally. Practical use and output is equally important to studying. You need both at the right ratio to progress without stagnating in one form or another.

But also, for as much of an emphasis on grammar and context sentences there are here on Wanikani. This is not a whole language learning app. This is a kanji learning app, and the other aspects of the site are only there to reinforce that. You need to strengthen those other language related muscles and flex those elsewhere. And what works is going to be different for everyone.


Lots of people are saying this in different ways, but

Yes, feeling frustrated is normal. This won’t be the last time.

When I feel frustrated I switch it up. Watch a show, read a graded reader, listen to music, do literally anything in Japanese besides wanikani. The only requirement is that you enjoy it.

If you want to, keep doing reviews, but no lessons, or just put WK on vacation mode for a while.

Doing something you enjoy will raise your motivation again, and then you can come back to wanikani when you want to.

I know someone said this already but I will repeat: There is no way to fail at learning Japanese as long as you enjoy it and continue to expose yourself to the language.
So find something you enjoy!


Here’s the meme version as well for double the motivation:


I’ve nothing against kaniwani, I’ve used it myself, but I’m going to disagree a bit on two grounds.

Firstly, if you’re in a bit of a slump with one SRS, adding another is probably not going to make things better.

Secondly, fundamentally you get what you practice. Speaking isn’t about word recall, it’s about sentence recall (in the same way that reading isn’t about kanji recall but word recall) so if you are going to use SRS / flashcards for learning to speak, they would ideally be sentence based with native/human audio you can shadow. Learning the words comes naturally with learning the sentences, it also helps with grammar and accent.

This is the point where I recommend an anki deck, but I can’t find it on ankiweb anymore…


I’m coming up on two years doing this and I still mix up (hahah) the transitive/intransitive. Exactly the ones you mentioned. I am studying Japanese because I would like to visit Japan again, as a tourist for once (been there 13 times over the past 30+ years on business), and also just for brain exercise. I have started to put more effort into reading the context examples, although at the lower levels most of them are so far over my head I wasn’t getting much out of it.

I do the JLPT N5 online tests every now and then. I’m getting to about 85% there. That is an example of something where it’s all at about the same level. I don’t have any magical suggestion because I suffer some of the same issues. When old stuff comes up I think OMG what IS that!!! And when I’m first learning stuff it seems ridiculous. OK I just looked at that 5 seconds ago and I can’t remember!!!

Overall, I guess I would just say not to worry too much about it and try to flesh it out with some other things that approach Japanese from a different angle.

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Of course, you can’t expect to learn the entire language just from some SRS that drills Kanji /random vocab into your head. chuckles

Perhaps you missed that part because you jumped on the first sentence you saw but I explicitly said that you need an actual language course including a teacher if you want to really learn any language. A teacher is vital because it is extremely easy to form bad/incorrect habits during self-study that any competent teacher can spot and eliminate in their infancy before they are ingrained and much, much harder to un-learn.

Fact is through, doing what WK does in reverse by using KW is the easiest way to better remember vocab/kanji than just doing WK. The OP was frustrated because he had problems with retention. Using KW in conjunction addresses that quite nicely because it forces your brain to think the other way around.

Frankly put: WK should ask both directions by itself just like any vocab trainer would do but I guess their only goal is for people to recognize Kanji, not be able to write them.

Yeah it’s an annoying concept (“self move” vs “other move” verb, as cure dolly puts it) Doesn’t help that them Japanese play hard and fast with any rules and there are like a gazillion exceptions + all them “gerus” and “karus” “rerus” and “warus” ultimately start sounding so similar that they blend together in a giant mess. :'D

I think this too is an area where you need to put language into practice and step away from SRS based isolated vocab study to really get the hang of it.

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Try installing the script Shin Wanikani leech trainer or making your own example sentences at your level for the words you have trouble with and make the example sentence super memorable (using fictional characters you like, etc). Or make a mnemonic specifically focusing on distinguishing them. The userscript anime context sentences also helps a lot for me.
To install userscripts on mobile, for ios at least, there is a free app called Userscripts.

What helped me make things stick better was also having a notebook and pencil out when doing wanikani and actually doing it at a computer and not on my phone and taking physical notes.


Yes, this is the bit I am somewhat disagreeing with. It is a way to better remember words, but I don’t think it’s a particularly efficient one unless you’re practicing for a test where you have to do exactly that sort of recall.

Reading, listening, and then using words in context (absolutely with the help of some sort of course and/or teacher) is a better use of time overall than adding even more SRS for word recall - those words that never seem to stick will suddenly be there in the sentence anyway…

Q. What’s “To Bathe In” in Japanese?
A. :person_shrugging: わからない

Q. How do you say “Sorry, I was taking a shower” in casual Japanese?
A. ごめん、シャワーを浴びていたんだ

…and you’ll also be learning grammar and internalizing what the words really mean as well.


It’s okay to go slow when you only have so much time! I am part of the durtles, the people who just take it slow… Because the goal is to keep learning and having fun! I am personally not able to have more than 40 items in the apprentice section, and I rarely do more than 20 lessons per week. Everyone works different.
I also struggle with motivation, especially when efforts are produced in one direction but the others don’t seem to change. And there’s so many different aspects of learning a language, it’s impossible to prevent that from happening I believe…

When I feel that way, there’s two paths:

  1. Take the time to look at what I actually learned, and how much I know now that I didn’t know before. Congratulate yourself for your efforts and allow yourself to be proud of that!
  2. Think of what’s motivating you initially, and what would motivate you more. Maybe you need to diversify your efforts and start writing, listening, speaking or reading more than just learning kanji?
    I personally like to re-watch an anime easy enough and realize I understand better than last time.



I am also level 14, and tomorrow morning (so long as I don’t miss any) I will go to level 15. So I totally understand where you are at. I can’t speak for everyone but WaniKani has been doing wonders for me, and I recommend it highly to everyone who wants to learn Japanese in any capacity. I had an N3-N2 level going into WaniKani when I actually started late last year (I was level 1 for like 3 years or something lol). I also am living in Japan so I am getting daily listening, speaking, reading, etc practice. It’s been super helpful reading Kanji everyday on signs, restaurants, etc, but I also read novels (Grade 5ish) to also reinforce my Kanji, grammar, and so on. I plan on taking the N2 this December so I am really spending as much time as possible really diving into Japanese.

Why do I bring all this personal experience up? Well I think it’s super important to understand your goals and what you can do vs what you have to do to achieve them. If you can’t find more time to read, listen, or just immerse yourself in Japanese, I wouldn’t say you should stop WaniKani but perhaps change your goals, timeline, or if you’re really brave just keep going as is and hope for the best lol. Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn for Native English speakers and if you even want to become conversational it’s going to be a long journey. It took me three years, even having a Japanese partner, before I felt comfortable to be able to hang out with Japanese friends without feeling left out because I couldn’t understand enough of the language.

I still have words that just stump me for some weird reason, so don’t worry too much about that. Being stuck on Level 14 for three weeks though does sound troublesome. So why not take a step back, figure out your goals for Japanese, and create a rough outline on how you plan on achieving that. The only person who will have a real solution to your problem is you after all. For me that did wonders, and really it was not until last July I had started putting in the hours studying Japanese. The past three years turned out to be me just laying the foundation. Putting in major study time makes a huge difference, so if you are very busy in life right now, maybe you should focus on laying the foundation and don’t worry so much about getting to the finish line.


How the hell can I read JP when I can’t remember the Kanji or even words in the first place?

That’s putting the carriage before the horse. Even in School you do dedicated Vocab training. That’s what the SRS’ are for. Obviously that’s only one small step on the way to learning the actual language but every vocab test I ever took randomly asked me in BOTH directions, not just e.g.: English->German.

Why? Because teachers know that when you sit there and want to write an English sentence, you do not think in English, you think in German (in my case) and then try to translate that into English words. So you need to practice the connection w/o seeing the English word at all.

When I always see the 浴びる, remembering “to bathe” is easy. When I am asked to translate “to bathe” into JP… yah that is suddenly hard because my brain is used to the opposite direction only. Especially if I am supposed to write the Kanji instead of just using IME on a computer.

Don’t get me started on listening to Japanese w/o subtitles, as a beginner.
I have no idea how the locals even cope when half the words sound literally the same. “はいしゃ” … is he talking about a dentist or a loser? Allocation of cars? Decommissioned vehicle? Abandoned Shinto Shrine! :'D

Before you tear me apart: this is a joke … sort of. I do admit that “sounds same has 9876 meanings” seems really, really excessive in JP. I’m starting to get why they can’t really ditch the Kanji like the Koreans have.

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This one is a bit easier to answer than the rest of your stuff - words are used in contexts, and people more easily recognise contexts even from smaller context clues. If you’re talking generally about toothy stuff or even just health generally, you’re probably talking about a dentist (though it is conceivable you’re talking about a loser, or even a decommissioned car). And so on.

Personally I do put the carriage before the horse - if I waited to learn 100% of the vocabulary before reading anything, I’d never get anything read. That said, you’re right though that learners do need a base before challenging reading, because having to look up multiple words per sentence is exhausting.


Well, this is part of the steep initial learning curve of languages and especially Japanese. I’m only disagreeing with you here because I think this is a trap that lots of language learners fall into at first, because (like, say, Duolingo) drilling via SRS is a low effort task which makes you feel like you’ve learned a lot.

Anyway, as for what sort of thing would be better…

Sentence from a level 0 graded reader “The Hare and the Tortoise”:


(It has furigana in the book, and it comes with audio of someone reading it)

At level 14 you should be able to recognise or look up every word in there.

By reading and re-reading the book, those words in context will stick in your mind. By listening to the audio while reading, the sounds of those words will be linked to the written form. By speaking along with the audio, you will learn to speak those sentences. With enough of this (and other things) in increasing complexity your brain will learn to generalize Japanese sentence structures and learn a bunch of words and grammar.

This starts off being hard work, much harder than anki vocab drilling, because you’re learning to read and listen and speak (and thus write). But… it is much easier to remember the words for ‘run’ & ‘rabbit’ in the context of a sentence where a rabbit is running. And… once you have that sentence, you can swap out the nouns and verbs to make other sentences.

There you go “Vocab Test”. If you want to pass a vocab test like this then yes, you’ll have to do the both directions memorization. What I’m saying is that IMO this is a low return task for the time it takes. Much better to learn it in one direction, and then use it in meaningful sentences (with SRS if you want). It’s also easier to remember the intransitive / transitive pairs by putting them into が / を sentences:


Yep, and the best way to to this is use the words in context, not learn lists of not-quite-right en/jp translations.

Yes, remembering 浴びる out of context is hard, much easier to remember it in the context of sentences, and with that context the real meaning of the word will also be clearer. I might want to say “Look, that wheat field is bathed in sunlight”, but I would be surprised if a random person in Hokkaido leapt out at me and asked what the word for “bathed” is.

[ Erm… 見て!その小麦畑が日を浴びている maybe… ]

Yeah, at the start listening is very, very hard. That’s why I’d recommend watching (rather than just listening) with your-native-language subs first, then with Japanese subs, then no subs (i.e. same thing three times). There are whole YouTube channels dedicated to the AV equivalent of first readers which can get beggingers started.


I always think of this David Bowie quote. It’s aimed at creatives, but I think it applies to things like language learning, or any skill you’re trying to obtain.

You should always push a little further than you or, or else you’ll never end up moving forward.


That was my point, yes. Once you reach a critical mass of knowledge in both grammar and vocab, learning really takes off by tackling native stuff, while classic lesson / textbook exercises take a back seat.

It’s getting that critical mass that is most cumbersome and frustrating, since Kanji are much more annoying to deal with than e.g.: English words you don’t know, especially since for whatever weird reasons them Japanese do not use spaces between words.

Learning particles/verb forms is crucial to be able to spot when a word starts and ends.

Of the top of my head I see 3 Kanji That I didn’t have yet:
提 is level 22
案 is level 22
遅 is level 35

On top of that, I see the ましょう form of a verb (I think it means “lets run to the top of the mountain”?)

I am not familiar with putting と in front of a verb, so I’d have to look that up, I have only seen it as person + person in the context of “with/and”.

Had too look up 5 new words and would have had to look up one that I had forgotten knew that I knew the Kanji but “run” was a long time ago.

So here is what I understand from the sentence after doing the legwork:
One day a hare said to a tortoise “My legs feel sluggish.” The tortoise made the suggestion: “Let us run up to the top of the mountain!”

My confidence in this translation is ~20%. You may now proceed to laugh at me. :'D

I already have done some grammar on another site, can read Katakana/Hiragana and am KW level 19. Imagine a beginner trying to do this with 0 Kanji knowledge who is still struggling with Kana.

I don’t think brute-force reading while translating every word you see and having 0 clue about the grammar behind it is a prudent approach to learning. That’s not like climbing a mountain, that’s like driving into a frikkin cliff at 160 Km/h. :axe:

You need at least some foundation to tackle reading and as you can see, even at WK level 19 I’m hard pressed to cope with Lv 0 graded reading material wo running to Jisho for every 3rd word.

My suggestion of KW wasn’t a “cure for all” it was merely meant as an avenue for better retention to build a necessary base, so beginning to read isn’t such a frustrating experience. Also, you don’t “add” another SRS since it questions you the same items you have already learned just in a different way.

It feels much nicer if you look at a sentence and already know half the words. Also keep in mind: people learn in different ways. I for one can’t learn effectively through mere reading. Never could even back in School. My brain discards such data far too quickly. Especially if it’s some dorky children’s story. I need to write for stuff to stick, preferably in a context that interests me.

I agree with you that you cannot wait to read until you understand everything. You’d basically never start reading, aye.

I play Genshin Impact / Honkai Star Rail with JP audio and EN subtitles. While it is fun to snipe words the current success quota is disgustingly low. I think I need easier source material. :'D


Level 13-15 are often the breaking point. It was hard for me too, and I saw many thread and comments on this.
If I remember correctly, there is suddenly a surge of abstract meaning, confusely close kanji (their meaning or visually).
It may be worth to investigate more closely by the WK content team to stage these few levels better @mods.

That said, it is ok to give up. Sometimes a break is the best thing to do. Don’t pressure yourself.


Really? :cold_sweat:

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