My first and last reason to quit WaniKani (not 河豚)

Hello everyone,

I have been around WaniKani for more than one year now; I have occasionally read the forums too but never taken part in discussions as I know from experience that forum activity can become heavily time consuming once you allow it to.

I had been happy to have found something like WK to distract myself from other things occasinally and getting the benefit of learning something from it that I had always been interested in.

Yet it seems I have reached the point where quitting seems the obvious choice for me, tempting as it might have been to go all the way to level 60, just for the sake of completion. And no, my personal reason to quit is not 河豚, obviously: I’ve learned that many levels ago and actually sort of liked it.

My first reason is rather the fact that, with completion of level 51, I have seen all kanji up to JLPT2 (and all of the 1,000 most used kanji in newspapers) plus many rarer ones, and recalled them at least a few times correctly. Considering that even all of the remaining WK levels will not have taught me all JLPT1 kanji upon completion, I see no point in going further for quite some time, as it’s also obvious that I should look way more into grammar now, which hadn’t gotten the same attention so far, before it would make any sense for me to learn rarer, more specific kanji.

Another issue, however, is that, from my point of view, WK gets harder and harder to bear with as levels increase, which is not only due to the kanji’s increasing complexity. The radical system, helpful as it is in the early levels, becomes less and less useful, as mnemonics in the style of “a jet out the window with fins in its mouth is very honorable” or whatever (yes I am making this up right now, and sorry for being a bit polemic here) are way too abstract to be helpful. (“what is the most honorable thing about the jet? its shoes (しゅう).” :smirk:)

My main reason for quitting though is that a vast amount of late level vocabulary seems not only very abstract but also highly useless, if not frustrating. I dare think that my English is quite decent, but never before have I come across words like, for example, “rousing” or “stirring”, particularly in this standalone participle form. (I’ve tried to look them up in dictionaries, I still have no real clue what they mean in my native language.)
Also, lacking synonyms to cover the entire meaning of a particular vocabulary word become quite a big deal in the later levels and are quite apt to cause frustration at some point. This includes, for example:

  • a lot of words that can be either noun or adjective in Japanese, but for which WK will only accept either as an answer
  • vocab deriving from a particular kanji, for which WK will not accept the meaning taught for that kanji, even though jisho lists it, or vice versa (this is not always covered by the “shake animation”)
  • several vocab for which it’s hard to infer how the answer is to be given, even if the meaning is actually correctly remembered
  • also, distinctions in translation like, for example, “eddy” (淀) vs. “whirlpool/eddy/vortex” (渦) don’t seem to make sense to me if the distinguishing nuances aren’t very thoroughly explained.

So, I guess I have to thank WK and its staff for an interesting year with a lot I have learned.

I’d be interested in the community’s thoughts though: Do you get my points? To you think it is wise to quit now? (I won’t be too likely to reply though. :sunglasses:)

All the best and good look with your studies, everyone!

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I wholeheartedly agree with all your points! And yes, I‘m also planning to take a looong break after level 53 or so (whenever I feel the kanji aren’t that useful to me right now any more).

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Yeah, some of the later vocab is far too abstract to actually hammer any points home. For example, 覇権はけん, meaning “hegemony”, is used to illustrate the kanji 覇, defined as “leadership”. When am I ever gonna use “hegemony”? The last time I even used the word in English was the last time I read Ender’s Game. The kanji and its reading went in one ear and out the other.

However, if WaniKani pointed out that it’s used in 那覇なは, the capital of Okinawa? Instant recall.

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There’s another thread about why doesn’t WK go past level 60 and I think the reason is what you’re describing. At some point you’re able to read enough that you can engage with native material and learn vocab that comes up in context of the things you enjoy.

I like JPOP and videogames and come across and learn vocabulary used in those contexts that I haven’t learned in WK yet and may or may not for some time. I still wouldn’t have gotten to the point where I knew all but a couple words without it though.

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Unrelated to the topic, but… Hahaha, nice first post xD Hope you stick around anyway, there’s plenty of book clubs you can join after all :wink:

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Your points make sense and I definitely agree that there comes a time (probably much earlier than level 50) where study time could be better-spent elsewhere, but I will say that even at level 54 I’m still finding that over half the unknown kanji I encounter are included in the last few WK levels. Honestly my biggest motivation for continuing WK at this point is looking up kanji/vocab on Jisho as I read and seeing that “wanikani level 5~” tag. Also, vocabulary is still far and away the biggest obstacle to my reading and at this point it’s rare that I encounter an unknown word that really seems “common”, so I’ve resigned myself to continue to plow through the thousands upon thousands of “uncommon” words.

I don’t know specifically what you mean by quitting, but I would at least recommend sticking around to stay on top of and whittle down reviews so that when it does make sense to come back you don’t find you need to reset several levels.

Edit:

Honestly thought this was an actual WK mnemonic for a second :joy:. It’s certainly not too far off. Also, polemic is an excellent word that I would consider much less common than either rousing or stirring from my experience. Your English is top notch!

To Belthazar

It’s funny, you seem to be much more attuned to place names than I am. It must be all that Yuru Camp research! For me seeing kanji in a place name does very little to help me remember it because it’s tough to relate the meaning to the place. Like does 淀川 have more rivers with eddies than other places? Even if it did I don’t know enough about Japanese geography for this to stand out.

Meanwhile I found 覇権 very easy to remember particularly because of Ender’s Game :laughing:

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I think it’s fair to say that reaching lv 50 is plenty. That puts you in a good position to get through much Japanese media.

Though, my end goals is to just keep on learning more and more kanji, not to ever stop really. Of course, that’s possible to do outside of WK as well, so it’s a matter of wanting to do it using WK or not. As you say, it’s easy to fall behind on other things, like grammar, as WK can take up quite a bit of your studying time.

There is also the option of stopping for now. And IF you think it’s worth the money, to continue in a couple of years time for those final levels.

I’m not sure about the description of the last levels as increasingly abstract.

The opposite seems true to me. Kanji get increasingly specific. So, there are plenty of kanji that you might have already encountered, but they might not see much use outside of their primary meaning. So, less useful compared to kanji like 題 (title, subject, theme, topic), appearing in many words. Just generally speaking.

Regardless, they seem plenty useful overall, as it’s simply a relief to not having to look up as many kanji when reading. You only get there from learning even more kanji. :sweat_smile:

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Fair enough. The point on vocab, I agree. But well the words rare as they are, they help you remember the kanji. I think you have solid points but I would like to suggest that staying all the way till level 60 is useful because of the kanji. Yes, more kanji! All the jouyou kanji or all up to JLPT 1 is nice… but not enough. There are still a couple more of hundreds of kanji out there. Maybe more than a thousand? I keep learning, so…
By the way, have you really not come across the words stir and rouse in English? I have… several times. Well, whatever you decide, godspeed!

I forgot to add: radicals are you best friends. The have helped me so much. I have like 500 Kanji in my anki deck that are not on WK.

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While I am far from level 50 still, I can relate to many of the points you mentioned. It does feel like the further in levels you go, the more noticeable some of the minor frustrations become. Regarding radicals, I think they should reach only Guru or at most Master stage and disappear from reviews, because they’re bothersome and not helpful beyond grasping their initial meaning. Once you know what a radical means, trying to guess that one answer that fits from a myriad of valid synonyms is painful :frowning: .

Also, some abstract names for radicals actually detract from using them in a native context. What if one finds a rare kanji or a kanji they didn’t remember well in a novel and “mohawk” suddenly doesn’t make sense as a radical in its context?

I’m surprised you didn’t mention phonetic mnemonics as a pain point. I have yet to figure out which English pronunciation they rely on, because sometimes “you” leads to う and sometimes to ゆ.

I still haven’t encountered a level where I would see only unfamiliar or extremely complex kanji so I’ll stick around longer. Maybe until level 50 as well :slight_smile: .

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I don’t think that’s possible, you can contrive any meaning into a mnemonic. The only limit is your imagination

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I still disagree that there’s such a thing as “useless” words – to your example someone giving a “rousing speech” is a pretty common expression in English. But even if it wasn’t, it’s not safe to assume that because the english gloss is uncommon that the japanese word is also uncommon or useless.

That said I totally agree with the rest of your critcisms. I’m planning on sticking it out to 60 but I can see why you’d decide at your level that it’s better to build your vocabulary through other means.

Personally I deal with all of that by using the doublecheck script, without which wanikani would be insufferable. Just today I got a review for 求職 and had to try about four different ways of saying “looking for a job” before I stumbled on one that WK accepted; if I had to just get it wrong even though I clearly understand the word I’d be infuriated.

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wait how did you get lvl52 after joining on September 2020

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That’s just the day they joined the forum :slight_smile: According to their WaniKani profile it says they signed up during April 2020.

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Totally agree! Not only lvl 50+ felt frustrating I also forgot almost all of the items from those levels already. So looking back at it it wasn’t worth it. I am relearning the kanji and vocab again after I started reading regularly.

There are many other non-WK kanji that encounter in the wild, although most rare kanji tend to have furigana, so I don’t even think it’s necessary to learn them. If I encounter them often I think I’ll remember anyway.

Lvl 51-60 really feel like an afterthought. The content is far less thought through and polished.

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That and I think Asimov’s Foundation series are the main places I’ve seen it too. Seems to have fallen out of favor in fiction since then.

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Yes, but if it’s a kanji you haven’t seen before, you need to first understand it to create a mnemonic, right? :slight_smile: And if you know the correct name of the radical, you might be able to figure out the meaning of the kanji from its parts.

I very much agree with this. If a word exists, it definitely has its uses and if it’s not used too often, one can probably be creative enough to put it to good use :wink: . “hegemony” being one of them. I think the other problem here is that a not-so-common translation was picked for a word which has a more common meaning.

The only time I was wondering about the usefulness of a WaniKani item was when I had to learn the kanji 藤. I would understand it appearing at much higher levels, but at level 22 that’s a bit of a shocker :smiley: .

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  • vocab deriving from a particular kanji, for which WK will not accept the meaning taught for that kanji, even though jisho lists it, or vice versa (this is not always covered by the “shake animation”)

do you ever use user synonyms? WK’ing got a lot more fun after I started using this feature. given my goals, there are ‘close enough meanings’ where I don’t feel I have to know the exact difference.

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I agree with a lot of your points. When I reached level 20 or so and there was only one example sentence, it really made it more difficult. Sometimes I wish there was furigana for words I don’t know/haven’t learned yet in example sentences too.

The mnemonics get sillier and sillier as you go on, but there are addons for that for like kanji damage. I wish they’d just follow the official radical names sometimes, but oh well.

As for words you don’t know in English, I don’t really agree with it. At some point, kanji becomes more complex and that meaning may not fit perfectly in common English words or it may not even have a good translation in English. You can’t really fault WK when the closest translation is that obscure word you rarely use.

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Is it that common that you can figure out the meaning of the kanji from the radicals though? I imagine most of the time you’d work it out from context or more likely just look it up, then you could come up with a mnemonic

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Not from my experience. Often one part of a kanji contributes to its meaning (e.g. 火 for fire-related meanings, 月 for a body part), but I don’t think you can figure out the entire meaning of a kanji from its parts very often.

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