Overwhelmed newbie

Hi all, I have a problem that I’m hoping the community can help out with! I want to learn Japanese and I love WaniKani, but I have limited time to invest on a daily basis. Right now, I’m overwhelmed by all the reviews, new lessons, etc etc. I’ve made it to level 5, but I’m currently buried under a mountain of endless reviews that I just can’t seem emerge from so as to progress further. I’ve found that I’ve back-slid somewhat, and I’ve forgotten a few of the newer kanji and vocab that were covered in earlier levels.

The community here seems so strong, so I’m hoping y’all can share some tricks and tips as to balancing reviews and new lessons. How do you keep progressing while also building a solid linguistic foundation through regular review?

Right now, life is really busy, so all I can fully commit to is 15 minutes/day. I don’t care how long it takes me to learn the language – I’m learning it because it’s fun, I really love sumo, and I would love to someday be able to read books and watch shows without subtitles.

Any help would be really appreciated! Thanks so much in advance all! <3 <3 <3 <3


learning is a journey, and you don’t have to rush it. If you need to, reset the current level, or reset to lvl 1 or 2.

As for managing the pace, what I try to do, is limit myself to a number of lessons per day, or a number of review items at a certain level. If you are only doing things once a day, I would suggest limiting yourself to 200-400 items in the apprentice and guru groups combined, that way you don’t get too many reviews each day. Play around with the numbers, till it feels good for you. when your number drops lower, do some more lessons, when they spike up, slow down a bit.

Lastly, Let’s work hard together to achieve our goals!


Your review pile is a direct function of how many lessons you do. Stop doing new lessons until your review pile feels like it’s under control. Then start doing 5-10 new lessons every day, until you find the pace you are comfortable with.


Thank you both for the quick replies!

Although intellectually I understand it’s not a race, when the Tsurukame app keeps reporting no progress on a level every time I check in (i.e. it’s still 6 days and 23 hours), it’s natural to feel a little anxious that I’m not doing things the “right” way.

@lucon1 & @Tenugui – thank you both for the advice! Really appreciated. I def try to limit myself and not complete new lessons unless I feel like I’ve really nailed the material (i.e. progressed beyond novice/guru). I’m definitely taking the “durtle” route.

Peace and ganbatte! :pray:t3::pray:t3::pray:t3:


Taking into account your 15 minutes, I’d suggest stop doing your lessons completely, spend those 15 minutes doing your reviews, 15 is quite short though, hopefully you can try and do 15 in the morning and 15 before bed at the very least. But if you can’t that’s okay too.

Just spend the time doing reviews everyday, eventually you’ll reach a point where you’ll be getting next to no reviews everyday. When you reach that point, the point where you complete all your reviews and have plenty of time within the 15 minutes to spare, do 3 lessons or more if you can (You can edit the lesson amount in your App settings so it’s not always 5).

Once you’ve done the most lessons you feel comfortable with, repeat the process of doing your reviews like above daily and so on.


I guess, I would say to really reevaluate your day and how you study. If you really enjoy studying japanese like you say you do and want to be able to read books and watch shows, 15 minutes a day doesn’t seem like where you should be at.

Maybe chilling out on wanikani lessons and finding other ways of study that you can fit in during your day would be better. I know you say you don’t care about how fast you learn, but at 15 minutes a day being able to read the books you want on your own may not be achievable even in your lifetime, yknow.


I think the key thing with WK is consistency. As long as you show up and do your reviews on a regular basis, you should be fine. However, you will still be overwhelmed as you progress to higher levels. When it all gets a bit too much, ‘Vacation Mode’ is your best friend. Don’t let the reviews pile up, trust me.

As for building a solid linguistic foundation, you will need to source that out to conventional textbooks. There’s plenty out there so it’s just a matter of finding that one you vibe with the most. Good luck on your journey!

honestly, the first 9 levels were challening for me in WK. Then on lvl 10 and on I got the idea how to organize my day in batches of reviews and doing self study quiz.

Otherwise, I guess it would only pile up the frustration and hell levels would be way harder.

I spend 1h per day max on WK, with lessons and reviews, and 20min on bunpro.

Welcome to wanikani and I’m super glad you’re having a nice time, even though you’re rushed and feeling slightly in the deep end at the moment. There’s some great advice on here already, I’d echo the useful stuff of going super slow on the lessons and prioritising consistency. Other things you could try:

  • Make a pledge to do a minimum 15 minutes of Japanese every single day. Keep this really religiously (the time adds up to a lot over a year!). Pat yourself on the back every day for doing that 15 minutes, you’re building a great foundation at a sustainable pace, your future self will thank you.

But as Vanilla says, 15 minutes isn’t not enough to do more than build a really basic foundation.
So …

  • combine this minimum with a written list of about 5 things that you want to do on the days when you have more than 15 minutes to spend on Japanese (even if these days don’t happen all the time).

There’s plenty of advice on other parts of the forum on what to do (and you might have ideas/other things you’re doing already), some of my ideas include:

  1. translating a line or two of Japanese via https://sakubun.herokuapp.com/ (scales up to your current kanji level, nicely bite sized, even if you have to look up every word and all the grammar to start with).
  2. watching a youtube video on grammar (I like cure dolly, but there’s plenty of other options out there to suit all tastes)
  3. Trying out something like Lingodeer (costs money, but there’s a free trial, you can see if you like it)
  4. working through an exercise in a textbook, etc etc.

On the days where you’ve done your 15 minutes and have more gas in the tank, do the next thing on your list, then cross it off and add a new thing to the bottom of your list as you finish that thing. The key here is to always know what the next thing on your list is, so you don’t have to spend your scarce time deciding what to study, you’ll always have a bite-sized module ready to go if you decide that today is a day when you have a little more than 15 minutes to give.

The other issue you’re likely to find in the medium-term is that wanikani becomes less useful for you. If it’s literally your only Japanese learning resource (because you have too few days when you can’t do anything other than your minimum 15 minutes) then you’re going to reach a point, maybe as early as level 10 or so, when you have mastered all the ‘beginner’ kanji and doing more than that isn’t the most sensible use of your time, since you won’t have any grammar, context or non-kanji vocab to really make it worth your while. Different people will have different views on when this point is, but the trend towards less usefulness is a clear one, wanikani isn’t a resource designed to be used on its own.

But you can make new plans at that point, really hope you enjoy the journey there!

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As others have said already, go at your own pace. I know most keep 100 Apprentice items. It was too much for me. I was struggling so hard in the 20-levels, I got frustrated so much and for some time I thought I should quit. Then I slowed down. Earlier I did a level in 8 days. Then one level took me… I don’t even remember. 90 days? Because I had to sort myself, keep doing reviews and not any lessons, until I was comfortable. Now it might be 20 days, maybe 40 days. I am not checking really, it doesn’t bother me.

What I do now is, whenever I have above 85% accurancy and am below 50 Apprentice, I do a lesson. It will take me much longer, yes, but I can live with this workload. And every small step is a step. I never think, “Oh damn, I still have reviews to do”, but I am eager to do them. It keeps me motivated, not stressed.

If you only have 15 minutes a day, stick with them. You will make progress. Much slower, yes, but this is not a race.

When you have a solid foundation, you might have more time and energy at this point, so that you maybe will study 15 minutes in the morning, and in the evening start reading easy Japanese material, like children books. I do read a lot these days. It doesn’t really feel like studying, but it is. And once you are ready to read, a lot of new ways of studying will open up to you. Especially if you are interested in the material you want to read, it will be easier. But you need to get there first. Also you said you want to watch without subtitles. Do watch it with subtitles now, but try to focus if you can understand anything. It will help you on the long run. If you do not watch leisurely, but focused, it’s also studying.

Just don’t let frustration win you over for being slower than the average user. I tried to keep up the pace and it nearly burnt me out. Now that I go at my own pace, I feel much more comfortable - and I am making progress!


Welcome to the community! :crabigator:

I won’t repeat what everyone else has already said (all good advice btw), but I will take this opportunity to mention one of my favorite terms: :sparkles: :confetti_ball: time confetti! :confetti_ball: :sparkles:

Basically, everyone has small bits of time sprinkled throughout our days in which we’re just… waiting for things. Waiting for the microwave to heat up your lunch? You’ve got a few minutes right there, see how many reviews you can squeeze in till it’s done. Someone running late to meet with you? Pull out your phone and get a handful of reviews done! Meeting/class/etc ended early? Reviews! Got to work/class/etc a couple minutes earlier than expected? Reviews time. Waiting for your Starbucks order? Guess what :slight_smile:
Every single one you get done counts toward chipping away at that pile, and the smaller it is the less overwhelming it will feel. Even getting a single review done is better than none.
I frequently even do reviews when I’m walking (in an area that I know well and in which it is safe to do so).

Finally, I will say that I was exactly where you are–just hit level 5, overwhelmed with reviews–and I reset back to level 4. It was annoying to go back and have to re-guru all the terms I realized I knew, but seeing that review pile split in half was a huge relief and gave me the kick I needed to start getting the reviews done again.

Best of luck, and gannbatte!!


Since you’re a self-proclaimed newbie, I highly recommend you read This Ultimate Guide to Wanikani. It’s written by a previous user who made it to level 60 and shared his insight about what he had learned along the way.

There’s information about how to setup your schedule to be most effective for you, scripts, and just general information about how wanikani functions. I found that having a better grasp of how the system worked really benefitted my progress.

I also want to give you some perspective about language learning. Consider a 5 year old child learning their first language. Do you know how much time that child has spent learning their language by the time they turn 5? Even if we say that the child is only awake for 12 hours a day over that 5 year period, they have still gotten 21,912 hours of input in their entire life. (by input I mean they are hearing the language from the people around them, media, etc.)

Now consider that 5 year old children regularly have trouble expressing themselves, despite all that time.

Now you are an adult (I assume), so you can obviously learn much more quickly than young children can, but the point is that learning a language takes a massive amount of time. At 15 minutes a day, you should expect your progress to be slow. Find a pace that works for you and do your best to be consistent. Wanikani is a marathon, not a sprint!