Hiya. I’m Clicky Steve, from Glasgow, Scotland.
When I first started looking through the forums and trying out WaniKani, I saw a few ongoing progress diaries that I found quite helpful, and wanted to share my own - partly for posterity, but also partly as a kind of self-accountability. I’m only on level four so far, but will update the original post below each time I level up… Hopefully to 60!
For a bit of background… Previously the only language I really had experience of outside of English (Scots) was Greek, as I have family out there. I got to a semi-intermediate level of Greek before hitting a fairly bad wall, as there were very few decent resources available at that time for somebody trying to progress in what is a relatively obscure language. With Japanese, there are so many more resources available, and I am really enjoying exploring them.
Anyway, here’s my progress entries so far, which I’ll update as I go.
April 2019: False start.
After visiting Japan for the second time, and spending a month there (almost two months over two trips), I realised how much I loved the place, and wanted to understand some of the language. I had started learning bits and pieces on DuoLingo, but I knew very little Hiragana or looked at any other resources. I signed up for WaniKani, but got confused by the term radicals and didn’t really do much again until…
2nd January 2020: Starting again (About 6 days to complete).
By now I have confirmed my third trip to Japan for October 2020, and decided to finally take learning Japanese seriously. I have gotten a good knowledge of hiragana and katana through tofugu, and decided to take the next logical step of learning Kanji with WaniKani. Alongside this, I am continuing to work on duolingo, and learning grammar using YouTube (Japanese Ammo!) and bunpro.jp.
8th January 2020: Reached level two in WK (About 6 days to complete). Completed stage 1 of duolingo.
Decided to take advantage of the winter sale and purchase lifetime, to force myself to keep this up. Some days I have been checking in just once, and other days checking in constantly, spending hours at a time - mostly on my phone so I can type the characters directly without Romanji. Finding that I can recall radicals very easily, but some other things just don’t stick at all. Based on the completion time of about 1 level a week, I am aiming to be at level 30 or higher before my trip at the end of October. Only time will tell whether this is realistic or not!
14th January 2020: Reached level three in WK (About 6 days to complete).
I initially found myself doing more WK and less of duolingo and other grammar resources, as doing all of the reviews and lessons can take up quite a bit of time. I’ve found it harder on days where I’ve been busy, and the reviews pile up past 30 at a time - but realised that if I switch to my computer for those times, I can go much faster. I am still switching between my phone and laptop though, to test the different writing skills.
There were a few days where I just couldn’t remember anything, and kept getting the reviews wrong, hitting like 30-40%, which was quite demotivating. But then you get days where all of a sudden you just remember everything, and are suddenly getting 90% and above. It’s especially cool when something just clicks and answers to things just pop into your head from somewhere in your subconscious.
Near the end of level 2 I started to explore other sources. I’ve been trying out http://delvinlanguage.com/ for listening and vocabulary. I picked up a Genki I textbook and workbook, as well as Japanese: the Manga Way. My plan is to try lots of different things for a while, and see which stick naturally to aid learning. Have slowed down on bunpro.jp as I don’t love the ‘teaching’ portion, but will come back to it when I have a better understanding. Currently sinking in a significant amount of free time into Japanese, but I would just be watching TV or something else anyway.
2nd February 2020: Reached level four in WK. (About 18 days to complete).
To get to level four, I experimented with re-ordering the lessons so I am doing all the radicals first, then the kanji, then the vocab. This is because I suspect I can remember things better in this order, from simpler to more complicated. It has also helped with reviews when I end up with a lot of them to do at once. My accuracy has also been improving.
I’ve also realised that sometimes the mnemonics just don’t stick in my brain, and I struggle coming up with alternatives, so in these cases I’ve been referring to ‘PictoGraphix’ by Michael Rowley - a Kanji book which has lots of accompanying pictures. These stick in my head more, and have helped when I get stuck.
In terms of other resources… I have still been plugging away at duolingo, but also really been enjoying “Japanese: the Manga Way” book. It is laid out in a really clear and interesting way - and has helped my understanding a whole lot. I’ve also been making use of KaniWani to supplement WK and help with recall - about once a day. I find that I can often remember the kanji and how to say them, but can’t always type them properly yet - which is annoying. That’s another (!) thing to work on.
I took a bit longer to get to level four than I would have liked, as I had about a week ‘off’ where I was travelling for work and couldn’t dedicate the time to doing my daily reviews. This threw me, and stalled my progress (which was pretty de-motivating), but after a day or so I managed to get back on the horse, so to speak.
13th February 2020: Reached level five in WK. (About 11 days to complete).
WK: I’ve installed the leech userscript to try knock out some of the stubborn vocab/kanji I just can’t get into my head. It’s been helpful for identifying the ones I need to work on - which isn’t always obvious to me when just working through Reviews. I’ve found that when there are very different words for vocab and kanji that look the same, that tends to throw me. I’ve also realised that I’ve been lagging behind with the vocab lessons since using the reorder script, so I’ve been doing at least a few vocab lessons every day (rather than focussing on reviews and keeping my review pile under 100).
I’ve also read a book on learning recently which says that ‘block learning’ where you do many things of the same type helps you feel better about your progress in the short term, but that in the long term it is actually far less valuable than ‘interleaving’ learning, where you do different kinds of reviews. In other words, re-ordering my reviews so that I’m blocking the vocabulary etc together might seem like it’s helpful, but in the longer term it will mean I remember things less effectively - so I’m going to stop doing that.
Japanese generally: I’ve realised that I have been mostly relying on WaniKani for my daily Japanese studies, with a sprinkling of duolingo - and that it isn’t enough for what I want. Because of that I got a small cheap phrase book which has been helpful. I changed my approach to DuoLingo too. Beforehand I was trying to understand everything and be able to read it all etc on each lesson, but I’ve realised that isn’t quite how the app is set up. It’s okay to guess and work things out from context - because each level builds on things in a way that should theoretically mean you learn. So I am trying to be more relaxed about it and just do a bunch of lessons regularly.
One thing I’ve noticed that is cool is that I looked over some old photos from my first trip to Japan the other day, and realised that I am able to understand some words from signs in the background, like 中古 and 入口.
7th March 2020: Reached level six in WK. (About 22 days to complete).
WK: I was beginning to end up a couple of levels behind with my vocabulary due to the reorder script, so made a conscious effort to turn that around. I can still level up at a similar pace, I just need to do a lot more lessons and reviews, which was fine. I struggled this month, as the time taken to complete shows. I’m not 100% sure why, but I found things hard to remember, and began to lose motivation. I’m hoping I can do much better with level 7.
Japanese generally: Ran out of my free bunpro.jp trial so signed up for the monthly sub. I had abandoned it as it felt way too difficult a few weeks ago, but now I am starting to get a hang of things a bit better which is good. Went to see a Japanese film and couldn’t understand anything at first, but by the end I was surprised at how many characters I could recognise and vocabulary I picked out from the dialogue. Even managed to spot some omissions/oddities in the English subtitles. I lost a bit of motivation because of how slow I was going with WK, so need to try pick that up.
25th March: Reached level seven in WK. (About 18 days to complete).
WK: I started out on level six feeling quite despondent, as at the end of level five I felt like I was treading water; not really retaining things properly, and my motivation was plummeting as a result. However, I reached out for some advice in the forums, and got a load of help. It’s about now that I really began to appreciate the WK community. As well as some great tips on changing perspective, I found some other practical threads. One was this which helped differentiate between ‘cow’ and ‘noon’ - which I kept getting mixed up.
Another thing I did was to set my lesson sets to three at a time, rather than the default 5. I read somewhere that @sharpevil said that doing three meant that the lessons were like ‘popcorn’, which I liked, and resonate with. The prospect of doing lessons became far less daunting, went by much quicker, and I actually wound up doing a lot more as a result. “Oh go on, I’ll just do three more…”.
Some misc thoughts: The best feeling is still when you can’t remember something and all of a sudden it pops into your head. I could have levelled up a few days earlier, but I had a couple of days off from reviews due to virus related drama. I like the new Dashboard. It makes things easier to keep track of. I am still a few levels behind on vocab, but doing my best to catch that up.
Japanese elsewhere: Been doing Duolingo mostly. Started the Genki textbook which is really helpful for explaining things that I wasn’t aware of or didn’t quite understand. Rather than try and do a wee bit of everything a day, I am now going to try and focus on one source aside from WK. Finding the time is the hardest!