My Journey of 368 days (+ The Ultimate Guide for WK 📖 )

I’m back to complete your 一月 challenge, or 二月 in my case. It got longwinded. Sorry about that. The experience of learning this language has been very passionate and emotional for me. It’s essentially the first time in my life that I’ve ever wanted to achieve a goal of any significance. Anyway:

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This is the most important thing anyone has told me about Japanese. Kanji and the hype around them create the facade of this insurmountable barrier to the language. I was already dealing with so many barriers and so much doubt. I’ve never learned a second language to fluency, and I’ve never tried to teach myself a language before. I was overwhelmed and just wanted to know which resources to trust, what approach to use. And I can’t even use native reading materials for so long because I’ll be hit with a wall of illegible scribble characters until I put in thousands of hours of study just to read basic material (so I thought). The first month hit me with a series of reality bombs as I came to understand the extent of what this undertaking demands, and I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have given up without those words from you.

But it’s actually soooo much better than just that. I knew that WaniKani orders Kanji based on visual complexity, and assumed that somewhat implies a continuous rise in difficulty as well; like it’s some progressively harder gauntlet which culminates in the final boss of the last 10 levels. But actually it seems like “kanji difficulty” essentially reaches its peak by level 10. I’m still writing my answers by hand for every recognition review and it’s really paid off. 88% of Kanji by level 30 is great, but what’s soooooo much more important is that at this point I’m level 9 and I seem to recognize ~100% of strokes.

I decided to learn Japanese now, rather than any language that doesn’t use Chinese characters, eventually because of 潤羽るしあ. When I started, her name may as well have been written in Klingon for all I knew. Yet today I looked again at 潤 and realized that in addition to recognizing every component in it, I also knew, not guessed but intuitively knew the stroke order just by looking at it. That’s a level 51 item and it’s no more difficult to learn than a level 9 item. I also encountered 魘 which has so many strokes it’s barely legible at this font size. Hang on… hnnngggg
image much better.
This has 24 strokes, which to my understanding is close to the limit for Kanji. I looked at this and also knew the correct stroke order before looking it up to double check. I also recognize and have already written every stroke here dozens or hundreds of times when writing other Kanji, and actually learned 3 of it’s Kanji components from WK at level 2

So to my point, I thought I would need a year minimum to even get close to beginning to actually read this language, and that trying to skip ahead and learn new words which use Kanji “beyond my level” would just be an insurmountable, inefficient, pointless use of time. In fact at the very beginning I actually thought I would need to finish the 60 level quest before it would be worth even trying to read anything… or you know, learn and practice any grammar. But on the contrary, I feel like in less than 2 months, I’ve already progressed to a point where the difficulty of the memorization aspect for all new Kanji is exactly the same as, nay even less than the difficulty afforded by 口 on day 1. And I’m free to toss anything I want into my vocabulary SRS tools, and direct my learning wherever it naturally takes me, just as I could in any language which uses a purely phonetic writing system.

So basically I since you asked for feedback. TLDR
1. Langauge learning has a high dropout rate as it is, and notoriously Japanese even moreso. The difficulty of Kanji is way overhyped which exacerbates this.
2. I bought into that hype, got intimidated and felt hopeless to the point of wanting to give up (several times over several different things but always with this looming predominantly overhead.)
3. I learned that this was just a fantasy, a BIG OL’ LIE, and Kanji cease to be a major barrier in less than 2 months. In fact I’ve come to love them. They’re my my best friends besides るしあ and they’ve begun to make learning this language easier rather than harder albeit slightly more time consuming but only slightly somehow. So basically…
The Actual Feedback: I think you should mention this :arrow_up_small:. By level 10 you’ll be ready for all the visual complexity the script has to offer, and don’t need to tiptoe around Kanji to facilitate learning. Kanji aren’t going to put a years long roadblock between a beginner and the start of their actual learning, and they’re not some insane 5D chess game preventing anyone who can’t already speak Japanese from learning to read it. I feel like it’s within the scope of your guide because this misconception seriously warped my understanding of the role WaniKani would play in my Japanese learning process. I wouldn’t want anyone to potentially give up based on a falsehood.

TIL my browser’s spellcheck recognizes Klingon but not facade. :thinking:

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question: if you go as fast as possible, would it be possible to not get an overnight review?
like:
monday 9 am lesson
monday 1 pm review
monday 9 pm review
tuesday 9 pm review
thursday 9 pm review
friday 1 am review
so if you go as fast as possible theres gonna be a 16 hour gap between when you start.
was wondering if any of you have any way to get a [fast as possible] schedule while not going over 10:30 pm and starting 7:30 or later

Good luck trying to beat out Ronaldo! Though you’re at least more famous than him on these forums, at least :stuck_out_tongue: !

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Working all the way up to the absolute fastest speed technically possible will not allow you to do so on a stable 24-hour sleep cycle no, but the potential speed gain from that would be less than 1 month total for all 60 levels so it’s really not important.

My typical level up speed is 7 days,12 hours, and I now have 200+ reviews daily despite ~97% accuracy. EN->JP reviews in a separate app more than double that workload. What I’m trying to say is basically, 7 day level up speed is plenty fast and after the early levels it keeps you very busy. (There’s way more to learn than just Kanji after all.) If this felt like it was too slow I’d just switch to using a different SRS method than WaniKani, but isn’t at all.

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a possible way to get 7 days per level:

mon 8 am lessons (radicals)
mon noon 1st review
mon 8pm 2nd review
tue 8pm 3rd review
thu 8pm 4th review/guru
thu 8pm lessons (second bunch of kanji)
thu midnight 1st review
fri 8am 2nd review
sat 8am 3rd review
mon 8am 4th review/guru/level-up/new lessons

(the lessons marked are the radicals and the second bunch of kanji, you of course have to fit in the first set of kanji and the vocab too)

with that plan you’d still have 8 hours rest overnight from thursday to friday, so it shouldn’t impact most people’s sleep schedule too much.

in theory you can go 4 hours faster per level, but then you’d have level-up and new lessons at 4am on monday (with that plan), which is problematic for most people. if you want to attempt going that fast, i recommend reading this MegaZeroX’s post.

personally i’m quite happy with just doing my lessons in the morning and aiming for 8-day levels ^^

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Since App3->App4 is actually 23 hours and App4->Gur1 is 47 hours, you don’t necessarily need to go to midnight.

mon 8 am lessons (radicals)
mon noon 1st review
mon 8pm 2nd review
tue 7pm 3rd review
thu 6pm 4th review/guru
thu 6pm lessons (second bunch of kanji)
thu 10pm 1st review
fri 6am (but just do 8am) 2nd review
sat 5am (but just do 8am) 3rd review
mon 4am (but just do 8am) 4th review/guru/level-up/new lessons

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Hey, it’s me again! ^^

It’s now been a little over seven months since I last posted here. I know this isn’t supposed to be a blog for people to post their progress or anything, but I still like the idea of keeping track of my journey every few months, so I’ll just do that here. Maybe it can be of help to some people reading it.

Last time I gave an update on my progress here I was level 6. Since then I’ve climbed quite a bit. I am still on schedule with my plan to finish it all within 2 years, which feels pretty amazing. I don’t think I have ever made a commitment over that big of a timespan and actually pulled through with it for that long. That said, I am not so sure anymore if I actually wanna go with the 2-Year plan or not. The thing is, you learn like 90% of the most commonly used kanji within the first 30 Levels (You even mentioned that in your Guide). I am now at a point where I recognize most Kanji when trying to read or even recognize some words while watching japanese media (sounds better than “Anime”, right?) even though I am only Level 24. 20 lessons per day are very manageable at the moment, but that might not be the case once the world opens up again and I actually have to leave my house more than once or twice a week. Should I feel overwhelmed by then, or notice that I lose more and more motivation doing my lessons and reviews at that point, I will probably either go with a 10-lessons-per-day schedule or just stop doing lessons every day.

I would also like to put more time and energy into learning grammar and actually reading stuff. I have started with Grammar (I’m using Tae Kim’s Guide and am about halfway through now) but I do almost no reading apart from the occasional Tweet I’ll try to decipher. I have joined the “absolute beginner book club” here on WK (thanks for your recommendation btw), but even their really slow schedule is still too fast for me and there is a lot of grammar stuff and conjugations I just don’t get yet. For a single page, I usually take a whole hour, and it’s not smooth sailing but actually very exhausting. Apart from that, there are so many words that are written in Kana and not in Kanji, that’s especially the case for Children’s books. I am able to read a lot of Kanji by now, but Vocab that I technically know but that is written in Hiragana is so hard to decipher without looking it up in a dictionary. I know that this gets a lot easier as time goes on, but that requires me doing much more reading and right now I just don’t have the time and motivation to do that every day while also keeping up with my lessons and reviews.

But yeah, enough of my plans and worries for the future. I also wanna report back on these last 7 Months. Luckily, thanks to the recommendations of ‘jprspereira’, I have some very convenient scripts that track all my progress, so let me share a few screenshots of those.

So this is a map of my Lessons. With my current schedule, I actually run out of lessons sometimes so that’s most of the single grey spots you see in between. I also don’t really do lessons when I have to work, so that is the reason for most of the bigger grey gaps. Over Christmas and New-Years I made a pretty long lesson-break, partly because I just had too many stuck words but also because I just felt like doing a break over the holidays. With me taking 10 days on average to level up, I have a lot of room to do 2 or 3 of these breaks while still managing to finish within 2 years, so it wasn’t really a problem. Taking a little longer but getting a mental reset is better than just forcing it with the risk of losing motivation entirely or burning out, so I’ll do that again should I ever feel the need. Apart from that, I am pretty happy with how it looks.

Not much to say about my reviews. I am obviously doing them every day, but you’re also kind of forced to do that if you don’t wanna get overwhelmed (which is actually a pretty good thing). I don’t think I’ll ever do a review break, I feel like that would just defeat the point of Wanikani. Should I go on vacation, I’ll just do a lesson break and still do a review session in the evening or something. I am sure I can always find a quiet moment during the day to do that.

I usually try to keep my apprentice items around 100 and then have the other levels steadily increase. Usually, that works pretty well. I sometimes do have problems with Guru and Master, and even right now those two numbers are a little too close for my liking, but as long as I can keep the “Ledder” alive, I should be fine.

I’ll also include this because it shows my level-up time better than the review map from before. Like I said, I am happy with my average of ~10 Days. The only real deviation is level 14, and I don’t wanna flex but that was the month the PS5 came out and I actually got one on release-day, so I think that short break is kinda justified :P.

image

Finally, a few more stats from wkstats.com that are very neat. I am pretty content with my accuracy. During reviews I usually try to stay at 90%. Sometimes that works well, sometimes it doesn’t. I think everyone here knows these bad days you sometimes have where your accuracy just goes down bad. I must say, I am a little surprised with the distribution of accuracies. I feel like my meaning accuracy for particles should be higher than for kanji readings, the same goes for vocab and kanji reading, but I guess that’s just a misperception.

Alright, so that’s basically it. Once again, this turned out to be way longer than I originally intended it to. I am probably gonna do another one in a few months, giving an update on how I’ve done and if I actually changed my schedule or not. Until then, stay safe and thanks for reading :smile:.

-Mike

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I didn’t set up an alarm for the #MessageMe in 1-month challenge because I thought I wasn’t going to have anything important to tell or to see in my progress. I had read just some parts of the guide and didn’t focus on accomplishing anything of what it says, because my main goal isn’t to go fast (I prefer to take it slow and don’t burn out on the way). But at one moment I realized I started changing my schedule almost without noticing and reviewing three times per day, because I subconsciously thought about it and it makes much more sense than what I was doing before (reviewing and doing lessons at any moment). This way I get a higher success rate when reviewing, because I respect more the SRS system, and once I noticed that, I was amazed. It feels as if I’m going faster but with less effort.

Tomorrow I should be achieving level 17 and only 9 days will have passed since I leveled up to 16. That’s the faster I’ve ever leveled up since level 4 :scream:

So right now I saw that and I came to this guide to read some things again and I realized that probably about 1 month has happened since I read it for the first time. So here I am, writing that #MessageMe message I thought I wouldn’t write. Thank you for this amazing guide!

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Thank you so much for writing this, honestly :grin: I can feel the emotion that you’ve put into it, so it made me passionate with your journey and with the issue of kanji being seen as something impossible to learn :slight_smile:

Honestly, I believe in you, but I would also add something else to it: Kanji is hard to learn using traditional methods. A lot of people graduating from Japanese struggle with kanji. I checked my Uni a few years ago, and their program would only start introducing kanji 3 semesters later. It is a big problem within those not using amazing tools like Wanikani.

I do agree that I can reinforce the idea to people that they’re in the right place to learn kanji and that Wanikani is exactly what they need to succeed, so thank you for the feedback :slight_smile:

Going back to what you wrote, yup you can start doing grammar pretty much right at the beginning. A lot of people suggest right after hiragana/katakana. My suggestion would be after hiragana/katakana/one week or two into WK.

How’s your learning going when it comes to watching 潤羽るしあ? Do you feel like you’re starting to understand some of her stuff? :grin:

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Gotta start somewhere, right :grin: :smiley: :slight_smile: :confused: :slightly_frowning_face: :frowning_face: :sob:

:heart:

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You would have to if you want to do 6 days and 20 hours. Honestly, I would just not do it and go for 7 days and 0 hours per level. There have been already people going 6d20 throughout WK just to be the fastest person to reach level 60. Plus, it won’t save you that much time, just around 5 days in 1 year.

I’d rather have the routine of doing lessons always at the same time and not having to wake up during the middle of the night over reaching level 60 5 days earlier :slight_smile:

How’s Wanikani going for you?

Rightt?! I do try my best to make sure that my guide isn’t just about “going full speed”, because the later is just literally 1 chapter of it. Everything else is about making your Wanikani journey easier and more pleasant. The speed increase that most people obtain is just a natural consequence of them using Wanikani in the best way possible :slight_smile: I’m very happy to see that you’re getting great results out of it :grin: And honestly 9 days is pretty amazing. I’m sure your brain is loving all this new info :stuck_out_tongue:

One question if you don’t mind, do you think that the guide could be improved to make sure it’s not just about speed? I think it’s missing a way to teach how to better plan to level up every let’s say 10 or 14 days (over just teaching the full speed of 7 days per level).

Appreciate you leaving a comment :heart: Let me know if I can help out with anything else!

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I think that the moment I reached level 40 was when I realized that I had kanji pretty much mastered (as in kanji was no longer a problem while reading). My suggestion is to slow down to 10 lessons/day and focus on grammar and then reading.

I’d say finishing Tae Kim’s guide will put you in a nice position to start reading on book clubs. Until then, you might want to give yourself a try to easy NHK news. The Book Clubs might say “Beginner” or “Ultimate Beginner”, but all that means is to be a beginner at reading, not in Japanese.

If you’re up to give another try to Book Clubs, I’d suggest this one that’s starting soon:

I’ve read the manga, and the grammar is pretty much N4 level, vocabulary is relatively simple and uses kanji (which is good for someone that’s learning through Wanikani).

How many lessons are you doing every day? Because 20 lessons a day has you reach level 60 in around 1 year. 10 lessons/day should put you around the 2 year mark, which would still allow you to reach level 60 before your 2 year deadline :slight_smile:

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I’d say finishing Tae Kim’s guide will put you in a nice position to start reading on book clubs. Until then, you might want to give yourself a try to easy NHK news.

That actually sounds pretty good and helpful. I took a quick look at NHK easy news and pretty much the only “problem” I have with it is the furigana. I mean, generally furigana is pretty helpful for kanji you don’t know yet, but I feel like it hurts more than it helps for people learning through WaniKani or Anki. Most of the time, when I try to read stuff with furigana my eyes just wander to the furigana instead of looking at the kanji itself to then think about what the reading is. It feels like doing a test with the answers already filled in. That’s also why I actually kinda prefer reading actual manga or japanese text (like tweets or internet articles) because they usually don’t have furigana and it feels like better practice, even if I don’t get all of the grammar or have to look up some words.

But yeah, I will definitely bookmark it and look by then and again. I didn’t even know an “easy version” of NHK exists so that’s pretty neat. Thanks ^^

How many lessons are you doing every day? Because 20 lessons a day has you reach level 60 in around 1 year. 10 lessons/day should put you around the 2-year mark, which would still allow you to reach level 60 before your 2-year deadline :slight_smile:

Like I said, I’m usually doing 20 Lessons. As you can see on the screenshot of my Lesson-map (the green one), I’m not actually doing them every day for reasons mentioned there, but when I do them I usually do 20. That means I am taking around 10 days, if I am fast around 7 or 8 even. WIth 10 days/lvlup I’d take 600 days to complete it all, but since I am probably gonna take one or two more bigger lesson breaks (like I did around New-Years) it’ll very likely take a little longer should I go through with this schedule. That’s not really a problem though as long as I can finish in 730 Days or less.

You can turn off the furigana if that helps:

There was a reading news’ app called Tangoristo that would display furigana depending on your Wanikani level, but the app is no longer available. There are some apps like Manabi Reader (iOS only), Todai Easy Japanese News, and Jareads which seem to be popular, so you could check them out.

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@MeisterMike
There’s also a userscript which hides furigana based on your Wanikani level.

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@jprspereira
Oh damn, that’s both very helpful. I’ll look into it!

Thanks Guys ^^

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I think that most of the people who come to this guide for the first time, probably think it’s just about going faster, because of the reputation you have. But once they start reading the guide, they’ll see it’s more about efficiency (although it actually took me a while to realize that, but don’t mind me… xD). In my case, knowing you as “the guy that got to level 60 in 368 days”, my brain couldn’t process that you weren’t actually talking about speed. And I was reading your guide out of mere curiosity, but then it was like “yeah this makes a lot of sense”. Now that I read it again I can see you make much more emphasis on the efficiency than on the speed, and you don’t even encourage to go faster. So the only thing I could recommend is maybe trying to present it more as an efficiency guide, with a disclaimer in the beginning or something like that (???). Because I find that the content is indeed very well explained and once you read it you realize you can get advantage of it even if you don’t care about speed at all. But for that, it needs to be read first.

If you have ideas about introducing a plan for leveling up in 10 or 14 days as you said, it could be great to have that too. Your guide is already extraordinary tho, and almost everything you explain is also applicable for people that go slower. I think they just have to do the work of extrapolating data.
What I’m trying to say is: I think it would be great if you’d incorporate tips (maybe for people going slower) that are not already on the guide. If your concern is about presenting the same information but in a different way, I’d say not to worry too much about that. For me, it was just the general idea I had of this guide in the beginning that made me think it was only about speed.

I can only talk from my experience so I don’t know. I hope everything I said makes sense and that what I tried to explain is understandable xD. I’d say: go modify the guide if you feel like it. If not, it already is an amazing resource. I guess you’ll always feel like you could go deeper in some parts but it’s also fine if you don’t. To explain everything really deeply you would need to write a 500-pages book.

And also, thank you for your response! Reading your kind words helped me get more motivated :heart:

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That. I did that for a long time and it was perfect. I knew every time when kanji would appear. The downside was that I missed one particle or kanji one time and my entire schedule has gone down the drain. That was really unpleasant.

Yeah, I tried 3 other things before finding WK. None of them worked. Wani Kani was what propelled my learning forward in a great leap. It’s always scaring me when Japanese teachers do not introduce Kanji at the beginning. It’s so long to get them all that starting late is a huge waste of time. I mean they are vital to a good understand and need to be learned at a regular pace for a long time why only at the end? You slowly incorporate kanji so that they get used to it and not just cram them all at the end. Even in Japan, I believe they learn them for 9 years or so. If you used only Kana for three years then it will be hard to get used to kanji. Imagine learning vocab without kanji then after a few years relearning everything but this time with kanji. This would be a run killer for me.

I just ranted again.
Edit: Just thinking a text in Japanese without kanji seem like purgatory. I hate it when some kanji are missing, one because it’s harder to understand and read, and two because it’s better to have the kanji. It exists for a reason.

Good luck with your… ambitious project

The most pleasantly shocking part of this journey has been listening comprehension! I only recently started grammar, and plan to start reading very soon, yet despite this I’ve experienced a noticeable and extremely consistent rise in comprehension. Every week I notice that I’m understanding more than I could the week before. It’s been just individual words here and there, but I recognized level 1’s 入り口 and level 2’s 月 within a week of learning them. I’d like to give a shoutout to 電波 for being the first WK word that I heard Rushia use the same day that I learned it.

I finally started learning grammar in earnest. I figured there are plenty of words that I’m missing because I only recognize their base forms. Surely enough, after learning how to use negatives yesterday I opened her stream today and within 10 seconds heard 怖くない、which I definitely wouldn’t have recognized a day earlier. I think I’m on the cusp of comprehending entire thoughts and sentences with the frequency that I could spot individual words in the first few weeks.

I think it’s helped that I watch at least little bit of Rushia every day due to the fact that I can’t sleep without doing so. I had really bad insomnia for almost 10 years which I guess was anxiety-induced, because watching her stream before bed completely cures it. As I ramp up my immersion regiment I’ll need to diversify beyond the pool of Vtubers that currently monopolize it, but I’d say being denied the option to skip even one day of listening practice has really done me a lot of favors.

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