My retention seems to be getting worse

I’ve been using WaniKani daily for the past 10 months or so and I’m currently on level 12. I try to do 10 new lessons per day and all the reviews. I mostly manage to do that, unless I’m sick or feeling bad, then I might skip new lessons and do just the reviews.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that from around lvl 10 and upwards, my retention of new items is getting much worse. I used to be able to recall majority of new items at the next review. Now, I feel like I can hardly remember anything I’ve learned in the morning and it takes a couple of failed attempts before it’s starting to stick.

Is this normal? My progress hasn’t been that fast as it is, I don’t want to slow it down even more by having to fail most new items all the time. Did I reach a point of oversaturation?


Have you been doing anything else with the language besides wanikani? Learning grammar, reading, watching youtube, shows, etc?


Are you doing the reviews once per day, or multiple times a day?

I’ve started Bunpro about 2 months ago, but I’m only doing one new item per day there, sometimes not even that.

Other than occasional easy reading/anime, I’m not doing anything else besides WaniKani.

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Typically once in the morning and then once in the afternoon. If I have time, I do a few in between as well, but most days it’s twice a day.

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Is the issue potentially struggling mostly during the first review cycle after your lessons? If so, I’d recommend doing a quiz 15-30 minutes after your initial lessons. I use the self-study script to ensure I just do the most recent lessons. I’ve found this really solidifies my initial memory before I do my first review. Before I did this, it might have taken 2-3 reviews at Apprentice 1 before it finally sunk in.

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I think scaling up your time spent on non-wanikani things would help. Maybe a daily reading habit? Words stick much better when you see them in context.


Yeah, the first review is giving me the most troubles since I can’t seem to remember much. As soon as I see the correct answer it seems so obvious to me, but I usually fail on my first try.

That’s very clever with the self-study script, thanks!

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That doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Is there anything out there that would keep the reading in my scope, i.e. not too many words from outside of what I’ve learned?

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Sure. You’ll always have unknown words since wanikani doesn’t cover everything, but you’ll know a lot of useful stuff too.

Tadoku graded readers free to read online.

The Absolute Beginner Book Club here on the forum reads easy manga volumes. All choices have furigana so no kanji knowledge needed, and there are vocab sheets as well. You can also ask questions in old threads and users will still answer them if you have any grammar questions. The easiest past books are 小さな森のオオカミちゃん、ハピネス、and レンタルおにいちゃん

Satori Reader is 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.

Happy reading! :slightly_smiling_face:


I think it’s probably fairly normal. I noticed I have required a little more study time while working my way through level 10 as well. Specifically in terms of going from EN → JP via KaniWani since I do that too, which incidentally makes the WK recognition side significantly easier. As a result, my WK side is going the same as always, but given the reduced accuracy I’ve experience on the KW side, I’d very likely have a reduced accuracy on WK without that.

As for the reasons, for me, I think it’s probably because level 9 and 10 are the point when the complexity and abstractness of the kanji noticeably increase as well as the introduction of more words that are rather similar and easy to confuse

For example, previously, there is a lot of kanji like 入, 木, 口, 大, 山, 日, 母, etc. Then, level 9/10 starts having a lot more kanji/vocab along the lines of 路, 算, 開, etc.

Then in terms of similar words, by level 10, there are a bunch of things like two different fronts (前 and 表), two different soons (近日 and 間もなく), as soon as (早々), in the near future (近々), two different the other days (先日 and この前), recent years (近年), recent (最近), etc.

Having similar related things all introduced so closely to each other like that is well known to cause memory confusion.

That said, on the bright side, I have noticed I’m starting to adapt to the increased complexity after a couple of weeks now, so if you just keep plugging away at it, you’ll almost positively adapt and get over the hurdle.


I’ve noticed similar “ups and downs” in my perceived performance between levels. For instance I just started level 59 and I actually feel like I’m doing pretty awfully compared to the past couple of levels, I actually struggle to remember a good chunk of the kanji. And as you can imagine my routine is pretty well honed by now so I’m probably not “doing it wrong”…

I think that there are many factors at play but at any rate I don’t tend to pay too much attention to these short term trends, if in a few weeks you still feel like you’re not performing well enough then you may need to adjust something, but in the meantime don’t pay too much attention to this and just keep on pushing.

Sounds fine to me. You’ll probably want to diversify more as you get into the 20’s on WaniKani. Getting to N3 on bunpro and around level 35 on WaniKani was when I felt like I could seriously engage with Japanese content without taking two minutes to decode every sentence.

EDIT: oh also, something possibly important: around level 15 I started seriously doing kanji writing practice and it did help with retention and distinguishing similar kanji. It’s a bit time commitment though if you want to do it thoroughly.


I recommend making a habit of watching shows with Japanese subtitles or reading Japanese manga. Your knowledge is just sitting there until your next reviews and it’s gonna find it less and less useful as you go.


You may already do this but alongside others’ recommendations of reading manga/subtitles, I also recommend every time you get new kanji, take the time to write them down into a physical notebook too. Even if it’s only writing the kanji, the onyomi and reading in English once, it helps me a lot.


I have no idea as to how you are actually doing the lesson/initial study part so this may not apply, but just in case…

How are you doing the lessons? Are you in hurry and trying to get through them quickly or are you taking time on each new lesson and really looking at it and taking it all in and making sure it is sinking in. For kanji, really looking at the radicals used. Actively visually picking those out of the kanji. Reading the explanation a second time. Noting if it is similar to one you already know and then finding what about this new one is different that you can easily cue on so that it is clear to you. Reading the reading out loud a couple of times. For vocab, thinking about what the kanji (or kanjis) mean and how they relate to that vocab (or do not in some cases - 人参 I am looking at you). Playing the audio a couple times for vocab and reading them out load.

I would speculate that if you are missing a lot on the first 1 or 2 times they come around, you are not spending enough time on the initial lesson to let it sink in and it is taking a couple more times to get there. And there is noting wrong with that approach as well. Just let SRS eventually get you there, but recognizing that initial accuracy will be lower on the first couple of attempts.

As others have said, writing it out by hand has been proven in many studies to be very effective. The process of going through the motor movements to write things has a noticeable impact on solidifying whatever those neurons and connections are doing in the brain to get something into memory. Full disclosure, I very rarely do this but I know that I could/should and it would help.


Those are some excellent recommendations, thank you so much!

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Yeah, you’re right that the kanji are becoming more complex now. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do find myself making errors with items that have a similar meaning.

I’m also doing KaniWani occasionally, although it’s hard to do regularly since I only have so much time.

Anyway, thank you for your input, I really appreciate it.

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That’s actually an excellent idea. There aren’t that many new kanji at each level, writing them down at least once would probably help a lot!

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You’ve probably hit a lot of reasons why I’m struggling lately - I do have to rush some of the lessons because there’s a big change happening in my life right now. I know it’s obvious once I write it out like that, but sometimes weeks just fly by before I even realize it.

I’ll definitely start writing out new kanji, as someone else has also recommended. That helped a lot when I was first learning hiragana, I’m sure it will work wonders here as well. It’s probably best if I also skip a day with new lessons when I feel I’m in a rush. Better to learn nothing than being quick about it and forgetting it an hour later.

Thank you!

Not read every post so this has probably been mentioned.

First off, I think ups and downs are normal.
When I have “down periods” I stop pushing forward with new lessons and focus on solidifying where I am.
If you’re just doing Japanese casually, don’t try to speedrun it.

For me what helps a lot is finding resources where the kanji is in actual context.
I don’t mean reading books or watching subtitled shows for hours praying the kanji will pop up if you’re level <20
I simply google the target vocab and read whatever sentences pop up with the word in.

Writing out kanji by hand while thinking about each radical and the meaning of the kanji helps me a lot. But I only do this for real problem cases because it takes so long.
Again, putting it in actual context works best for me.
Writing a problem kanji out 100 times does nothing.

If you want a break from Wanikani then slap that vacation mode on for a few days a month.