The headline sure sums up all my expressions I got in the process of loading 2074 kanji AND 6501 Japanese words into my poor brain. It all started with a simple meeting of a soon-to-becoming online friend who suggested, learning Japanese. Since I was already intrigued by Japanese’s game and manga-world, it only took this little suggestion to carry me through a whole year of scheduling workloads of 100 to 500 reviews daily…
I’ll get straight to the point. Learning Japanese will come with thousands of doubts and the ever-rising urge to give up. There may be rewarding moments when one achieves level-ups and learns through 100+ lessons per week (or per half a week, which I will mention later). In this context I also have to mention the effectiveness of implying pressure on oneself with this level-system of WaniKani. As Kouchi inclines at the beginning of the journey: you should go at your own pace, everyone learns differently and has different situations. But I think pressuring oneself just before you reach your limit is the only effective way of learning Japanese in the beginning. It took me quite a long time to start having this mind-set, visible through my level-up time for level three (ehem). The first three levels are meant to give one a first impression on the system’s way of working. I was overwhelmed at first which was due to poor management. That’s why I would like to stress on this one point: you should know your limits.
WaniKani’s level-up system – management
WaniKani works based on SRS (space-repetition-system). It means repeating a to be learned word at specific times to ensure it’s not forgotten. For instance, WaniKani gives you access to a vocabulary. It has a meaning and a reading. After it is learned, you’ll have to repeat the word after 4h, then 8h, then 24h, 2 days etc. You’ll be learning radicals (shapes that helps you memorize kanji), kanji (consisting of radicals that make up the actual writing-system) and vocabulary (words consisting of kanji, hiragana and katakana).
A level-up occurs after the radicals and kanjis of one level are repeated four times (You get lessons that show you the items, afterwards you are able to review it in time-intervals of 4h, 8h, 24h and 48h). Main goal will be going from “Apprentice” to “Guru”. These are the labels WaniKani uses, based on how many repetitions have been made and is followed by „Master”, “Enlightenment” and the last stage “Burned”. The burned items won’t be reviewed anymore but it takes about 6 months to reach this stage.
Reaching “Guru” unlocks vocabulary that consists of the acquired Kanji (which don’t influence the level-ups). This system will follow you till the end. You can customize your SRS by postponing workloads and doing reviews at specific times.
Whether you type in the correct answers or not, makes the radical/kanji/vocabulary ascend or descend a level. The fastest way to level-up, hence unlocking new levels, is of course getting the kanjis correctly in one sitting of 4-times-repetition, therefore reaching “Guru”. Normally it takes 7 days to level up. Nigh the end of the journey, WaniKani also provides the possibility to level-up after 3,5 days for all levels, starting with level 43 (excluding level 45 and 48).
I’ll be blunt. There are words you’ll learn on this site that definitely won’t fit in everyday conversations. Since English isn’t my primary language, I even learned new English vocabulary I couldn’t imagine existed… Starting off with the word in my headline or for instance, protuberance, scrutiny and whatnot. Additionally, there are many words that consists of kanjis - which are supposed to give a meaning to a word - without any relation to the actual word. “Sleep paralysis” e.g., is written with the kanji “gold” 金 and “bind “ 縛. Irregular readings also make the path to learning words rather troublesome and tiring.
On the contrary it gives a sense of fulfilment to memorize these words. Speaking from experience, you’ll be able to write down the answers to certain words swiftly and tell the meaning at first glance which was a surprise for me as well.
My daily life with WaniKani
I’m still a student in high school which made balancing my workloads and sleeping-time an everyday challenge. There were days that needed my full attention to WaniKani, or at least I had the feeling and urge to level-up as fast as possible, making revising school-related matters a side-matter sometimes.
My focus that was lying solely on school was shifted between WaniKani and school-life. If I have to be honest to myself, it was a rewarding and fruit-bearing but also tiring challenge to balance my free-time, WaniKani and school (not counting in my sleeping-time which became a mess lol). Revising school-topics also got way easier since I also started using the SRS for certain subjects and started working more effectively to spare time for both my indoor-hobbies and WaniKani. Friends that called me a workaholic would agree that I balanced those three things quite well (not counting in the mental breakdowns that seemed to lurk nearby anytime I saw 300 reviews piling up when I made time to play. To sum up the effects WaniKani left behind:
PTSD better ability to deal with stress
• structured daily life
• better management of time and workloads
awakening of an unhealthy workaholic life-style better ability to work continuously on one thing
weird sense of duty towards Kouichi and the Crabigator interest and diligence for learning new things
• and most importantly: ability to read simple manga (firstly I was only able to read oneshots but gradually after level 30, I could read simple stories and some Japanese news too) / watch anime partially or entirely without subtitles
Learning is a path of continuous acquiring. As such, WaniKani should only be considered a stepping-stone towards the fulfilment of actual understanding of Japanese. My personal goal is accumulating enough knowledge to read all manga and watch Anime entirely without subtitles.
I sincerely send out my gratitude to this platform and good luck to everyone, following the same path.