Minimum time to invest daily as absolute beginner?

Hello community,

I am just starting out with Japanese with zero previous knowledge. I just unlocked Level 2 and I am already FULL of review items. The meanings are OK. The readings seem overwhelming. The question is: based on experience, how much time does an absolute beginner need to invest a day into Wanikani to make reasonable progress? Reasonable progress means really learn at least 80-90% of material (including readings) without cheating and keep moving forward.

Thank you!

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I’ve just got onto level 5 and I know exactly what you mean by the readings being overwhelming. I felt the same way, but honestly, with continued pratice you almost forget about the readings and on’yomi/kun’yomi. All of a sudden it begins to make sense in your brain without having to really really overthink. Then, when mistakes are made it’s kinda obvious what they are.

Don’t cheat. I had the same urge because I was worried about making those mistakes. But the mistakes are what makes you ultimately retain the information.

I try to do my reviews each day. I made the mistake of doing too many lessons in level 5 so now when I get reviews I have 30-60 at a time.

Reasonable progress would be just doing some a day, maybe a couple of times if you can fit it in, and not missing a day. I go at a steady pace that works for me. I doubt there’s a right or wrong way.

I think the most important thing is just to persevere.

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That really depends on the person and will come down to trial and error and how used to the language you are at the time. At the absolute beginning, even memorizing a list of 10 words is a lot but once you start to get used to how the kanji work and see some of the patterns in them, it starts getting a little easier. For now you’ll just need to jump in and find out about how many new things you can handle at once before your accuracy starts dropping.

Perseverance is indeed key here. When you’re burnt out/brain overloaded on learning new information, you should still do your reviews and solidify what’s already there. Breaks are important for learning, but don’t let breaks turn into laziness.

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Even starting WK myself as an advanced learner I feel that WK addresses the core issue of multiple readings, I have found some of the vocab somewhat tricky, so I can sympathise with any new learners going straight in. For me, especially having to review kanji and vocab meanings I often get wrong independently, but when reading material, I generally just seem to know after hearing/studying it so many times. I think the multiple readings is one of the most challenging parts of the language

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I think that what @acraney mentions regarding lessons is key: I do not have too much time to do WK each day, but I found that pacing the lessons helps keep things at a manageable state.

I now do all my reviews each morning (trying to do it each day is also important to not have reviews pile up), and do up to 10 lessons a day if I have any available. That way, you do not get a day where you are super motivated, do 50 lessons, and then every few days get a day with 150 reviews.

Do know that the number of reviews will go up over time, but at that point you will know some kanji/vocab really well, and so the reviews will be faster. Good luck!

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I’m not yet much further on than you in WaniKani but, based on my past experience of SRS, keep doing lessons as they become available until the number of reviews you are getting per day feels ‘comfortable’ such that you feel like you are achieving something without feeling too exasperated. If the quantity of reviews starts wearing you down then dial back the rate you are doing lessons (or even temporarily pause them) until the number of reviews becomes comfortable again.

In my view, whatever pace you choose, the most import things are:

  • Do your reviews everyday no matter what
  • Don’t push too far ahead too quickly and burnout
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I remember when I first started Japanese at university. Our teacher started with katakana (yeah, no idea why… but luckily I never ended up having problems with as many others do), kanji and only then switched to hiragana and kanji.

He showed us some foreign words written in katakana so that we would lose the fear or the language. I remember sitting on the bus back to the dorm and fighting with tears, because I was so - angry - how little I understood… just everything looked the same and then he started with kanji immediately.

For days I was frustrated - and so was my friend. We both thought about giving up and indeed the next class, only half of the people were there. After that one, again only half of the people were there and so on. They all gave up before the breaking point… when all of a sudden it just clicks. I still hit those walls, even know, with a looot of previous kanji knowledge and a lot of grammar knowledge.

Stick with it. Suddenly it will click. And also, do not push yourself too much. I know when one is frustrated it seems that studying MORE would make more sense. My brain just shuts down then and I get nothing done.

If you are comfortable with 30 minutes a day, maybe twice, go for it. But not more. It should always be fun.

Also there is no meaning to it if you study 5 hours a day now and after a month you quit out of frustration. So study as long as it is fun to you and as long as you can concentrate. I would focus on the reviews daily, get a routine and then you’ll see the progress.

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I find all of the comments extremely valuable and I thank everyone who shared their experience.
@epyon_10 @acraney @dispense @Grungi @Viridithon @oagak78, thank you!
It is my first post here and I am impressed by the level of support and profound understanding of language acquisition.
I will change my tactics based on your advice and take my time and concentrate on having fun and learning properly even if it means going slower.

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Just wanted to add: Grammar is key (as well as vocabulary!)! There’s a lot of resources you can find linked here on that’ll get you on your feet, whether you prefer for SRS styled things or the traditional textbook, or watching a video series on YouTube. How much time you invest is up to you and how much you feel like you can handle in a day.

I also recommend getting some userscripts to help you plan out your studying. A popular one on here is the Ultimate Timeline. It’ll help you see when your next reviews are coming up much farther into the future than vanilla WaniKani does. I don’t always do all of my lessons/reviews all at once, and having this helps me to plot out the best times that I can fit doing my studying into the day, plus see where I might have more reviews than usual and plan whether or not I can handle adding new lessons to that pile.

Welcome to the community and good luck!

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I’m sure many would disagree but I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t spend anymore time other than the time you spend on reviews and lessons, as doing so would be contrary to what a SRS like Wanikani is supposed to do. So for me:

  1. Do my lessons
  2. Do my reviews
  3. Leave.

Of course reviewing items outside of the allotted review time would lead to a higher percentage success rate while doing reviews and hence faster progression in the WK system, but I’m of the mind that it is more efficient to use that time on Japanese immersion (mainly watching Japanese media without subs at this point for me since I’m also a beginner), learning grammar and even a little bit of time spent on writing.

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Welcome @Alex_Voloza! So far what is working for me is 10 lessons a day (unless radicals, I do all radicals when I get them). Doing the reviews as soon as possible once they are available is important since that’s how the SRS works.

Just don’t get burnt out or be too hard on yourself. Don’t cheat or be afraid of making mistakes. It can be discouraging or humbling sometimes, but stick with it and I think you won’t regret it. Have fun!

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Welcome to the community!

If you are just starting with Japanese and readings seem overwhelming I’d recommend listening to Japanese speech as often as possible. In my experience even watching YouTube, anime, or dramas with English subtitles helps. It’s best to start from content focusing on contemporary daily conversations.

You will get used to the sounds and the flow of the language. I’e recommended to do this for 15-30 mins daily.

In addition, start learning basic grammar. About twice a week should be good for a start.

And as for WK, do the reviews at least 2 times every day. If you keep forgetting items it’s fine. Don’t do more lessons, and focus on mnemonics.

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Yikes no, don’t do that! That’s a common pitfall in the beginning.

Until all the loops in your review engine are up and running (Apprentice, Guru, Master, Enlightened), you want to feel like you’re doing something, but definitely like you still have capacity for more. If you’re maxing out your capacity in the beginning, it’s going to be too much. Hence all the “wanikani is too slow posts” getting answers like “yes, that’s intentional.”

My advice is, pick a number of lessons to do a day, somewhere around 20 is probably good, and then stick to it until you start getting burns. Then evaluate whether you could speed up or slow down. Combine that with two other rules: do reviews every day, and never do lessons if there are reviews to do.

If it feels a bit too slow at first, that’s a good sign.

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I’ve used SRS for a lot of things in the past and have always found the key to be identifying a ‘comfortable’ level of reviews per day and sticking to it by moderating the rate at which you expose yourself to new items.

Absolutely agree that you need to consider the impact of upcoming reviews from other levels (I should have mentioned this) but you can get a pretty good estimate of this based on number of items done, frequency of activity, and mean accuracy. Most SRS platforms have tools to help with this, I haven’t looked for something to do this on WaniKani yet but assume there will be a user-script or similar.

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Thanks again to all posters!
@oagak78 @ctmf I think both of you are right in a way. My biggest takeaway is pacing yourself and observing how it feels, learning to observe yourself and adjusting the pace having coming reviews in mind, i.e. not taking new classes with many reviews still in the queue.
When I wrote, I had 80 items in the review queue due to some overly optimistic decisions and obviously felt overwhelmed. So, I just accepted that I will not cheat and admit to the system that I do not remember most of them and take as many attempts as necessary to learn. Now the queue looks a lot better. I will learn my lesson and pace myself better in the future to try to work out a ballpark figure of lessons per day to go through.
Thank you for your insights!

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Thanks for the tips everyone. Just started a couple days ago and still working through to master the radicals; just one pesky radical keeps eluding me, and there’s a handful of kanji from the first set that are tripping me up as well.

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@auruille, thank you for valuable info! I installed several scripts, they are really helpful. I am also discovering the resources you linked, it is a wealth of information.

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