People on higher levels of kanji study - I have a question about your experience retaining Kanji, and beginning to read actual texts

Ive only recently joined Wanikani (i just became level 2 a few hours ago), and while in general i enjoy the process and feel like im learning well, i have some question/concern regarding retaining the vocabulary that we learn & actually using it.

So these are questions for people who are much further along than me - ideally people who are at a level where they started to read unrelated texts, such as newspapers, books etc.

  1. Did you do any wanikani related study outside of wanikani? I.e. have you ever inputted things you learned in wanikani into Anki, or have you done self-study with Wanikani material? If so, what/how/etc?

  2. How is your recognition outside of tests? Its one thing to see a kanji and type the answer, its another when you’re actually out in the “big world” and seeing kanji on some forum / stream / etc. Have you had any difficulty transitioning to that type of content? How did you deal with it?

  3. At what level of Wanikani do you feel you reached a point where you could start actually reading instead of just recognising a word here or there?

  4. Do you still read Kanji in a “see structure, try to recognise it, translate it” way that new language learners do, or has it become easier for you to process it?

  5. How is your experience with audio recognition? Are you able to absorb similar amount of information from listening as you would from reading?

  6. Since we need to use other sources to study grammar, what is your overall schedule? Do you focus on just WaniKani until certain level, and then st art working on grammar? Or do you do both at same time? Does having additional vocab etc in grammar books (i.e. genki) confuse you or increase your “brain load”?

Thanks in advance for your input, folks.

EDIT: One more question. How is your experience with reverse recall? Wanikani teaches “See japanese, understand”. What about “I want to say X, how do i say that in Japanese” - or “How do i write X in japanese”? Wani doesnt teach stroke order, and it seems it doesnt do reverse revision either. Did you have to study that on your own?What is your experience?

  1. The only thing I’ve done outside of WK is the N4/N5 track on Bunpro.

  2. It’s really good but there is going to be a struggle in the beginning as you’re not used to seeing words in context. Once you get past that you’re fine. The only other issue is that you’re more wary of Kanji you think you recognize. Out in the real world, it’s entirely possible to hit a Kanji with one stroke difference from one you learned on WK, but this is a minor concern.

  3. For me it was around the mid-30’s with the caveat that you also need at least N4/N5 grammar.

  4. No, I process Kanji completely differently now based on the overall shape. I can often infer a reading for brand new Kanji and sometimes the meaning. And I no longer see Jukugo words as individual Kanji. For most of them, I now just read them as a whole.

  5. This is completely divorced from WK. Audio recognition is something you’ll have to work on separately. Being able to read at speed helps, but it’s not the same. My listening comprehension lags behind my reading comprehension right now, but I’ve put much less time into the former.

  6. Just WK for me since I don’t have time to devote to much else other than that quick run through of Bunpro I mentioned earlier. Once I hit 60 and stop doing lessons I’ll add more grammar study in.

One important thing to note is that WK prepares you quite well for reading, but it doesn’t substitute for it at all. You still have to go out and actually read for any kind of long term retention.


Well the main reason im learning Japanese is for reading. I love reading and i want to read a lot of light novels, manga etc. So once i reach point where i can read, you can be sure that i’ll be doing a lot of that haha.

Interesting, thank you. Any more tips you can give based on your experience?


Embrace the suck. :wink:

It’s going to be difficult and annoying at first and if you just accept that and keep trucking it gets better. :smiley:


Hello! I self studied for about 3 years prior to starting WK, and right now i have been living in Japan for about a year and a half.

  1. Yes. Of course WK is a kanji recognition app. It helps immensely with reading, but does little for grammar and active skills. You need to supplement WK.

  2. I live in Japan so I see kanji everywhere. Thanks to WK, I immediately start noticing kanji/vocab pretty quickly in the real world once I learn them.

  3. Can’t answer this because my personal level was all over the place before starting WK.

  4. After a few years, I can successfully take a quick glance at most kanji and vocab and infer the meaning without having to translate it.

  5. Audio recognition requires A LOT of work outside of WK. Watching anime and talking to Japanese friends is essential. I feel that my reading and writing level is quite high, but listening to native speakers here is a whole new challenge.

  6. I personally studied just about the entirety of grammar (1-2 hours per day for about a 2 years) before diving deep into vocabulary acquisition. It is entirely possible to master grammar before expanding your vocabulary, although I can’t affirm that what I did was the best course of action.

Do your best!


I use Anki for words I find out in the wild that seem important to me or if I’ve seen them be used a lot.

If you do a lot of immersing, a lot of it can be read pretty much instantly, especially the kanji that come up a lot. But it takes a while to get to that, I read very very slow for a few months before I started getting better.

For me I started at level 10, but the earlier you hop into it the better. It’s gonna be really hard at first no matter where you start so you just have to put enough time into it until it starts to feel normal, also you will get used to not knowing every part in a sentence.

I only do this if I learned it very recently, other than that it just processes to its raw meaning and for the most part I skip over thinking of it’s English equivalent.

For me personally I think my listening skills are like 15~20% worse than my reading, since I practice my reading more. I still practice listening but reading makes it easier to learn new words and structures.

I recommend reading tae kims grammar guide and or cure dolly’s guide. Just get down all of the basics and don’t waste your time studying the advanced parts, since you will just learn all that through immersion. Once you really got down the basics of grammar you won’t really need to study it again unless you forget something. You should do this on level 10 or before.

The bottom line is that you should really look into immersing in Japanese native content soon without English, and using Japanese subtitles. There’s plenty of websites that offer this so it should be easy to find :slight_smile: . I’ve been learning for about 6 months now and I think this approach has been doing me very good

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I focused on reading (almost exclusively) and can read pretty much anything fairly comfortably (i.e. slowly and with plenty of word lookups, but enjoyably). I had zero Japanese experience (other than writing down kana off of wikipedia a bunch) pre-wanikani. I don’t live in Japan but I do have access to a lot of study resources and books.

  1. I never studied any material in wanikani outside of wanikani, but since reaching level 60 in wanikani I do maintain my own voluminous anki deck of words and things I’ve encountered and anything I feel like studying, and some wanikani words I want to reinforce / have forgotten have ended up there.

  2. I haven’t taken any tests! Unless you count SRS I guess. Coming across items in the “real world” can feel different but you get better at it through practice. I like to say that SRS doesn’t teach you anything, it just helps you remember it. So a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like I’ve “really” learned a word until I’ve encountered it a couple times in books or what have you and gotten used to it in my word list.
    For example, there’s a lot of Wanikani vocabulary words I haven’t seen in other contexts that I’m very foggy on the nuances of, because SRS is especially bad at nuance. But if/when I encounter them naturally they can “click” in a way.

  3. I don’t think it’s really a matter of level, more a matter of practice. I started with graded readers, “NHK news web easy,” Yotsuba and that kind of thing which provided a (relatively) painless on-ramp. There’s lots of resources you can learn about on these forums to find something satisfying to read at pretty much any level.

  4. Nope! I can pretty accurately immediately recognize kanji and vocabulary I don’t know/haven’t studied, and I don’t need to pick apart radicals to distinguish them very often. I’m not sure when this developed… I think just over a long period of time naturally, with a lot of study, reading, and looking stuff up.

  5. I absolutely cannot absorb as much information through listening as I can through reading, but I do feel it improving over time. Wanikani doesn’t have much at all to do with this aspect.

  6. Honestly I just went with a total mish-mash approach. No reason to not start grammar whenever you feel like! I avoided super intensely focusing very heavily on kanji / kanji-heavy-vocabulary while doing Wanikani though. You can still learn a lot without feeling like you have to bank every detail in Genki or whatever.

7. You definitely have to study reverse recollection on your own, and I have not, so I’m terrible at it. That’s where speaking and writing practice would do wonders, but that’s trickier to do on your own…
If interested, there’s an app that takes Wanikani and “reverses” it for you so to speak… I’m sure someone will have more details than me. I used it briefly but stopped because Wanikani was enough for me at the time and I have no active plans to speak or write Japanese in any meaningful sense for the foreseeable future, so recognition is more or less ok for me right now.


I think reading ability depends more on grammar knowledge than on WK level. When I reached lvl 60, reading was extremely painful but with every new grammar point learnt, it started to become enjoyable,


Thank you all

I added one more question to the original post - regarding reverse recollection.

Unfortujnately i have to go sleep now, as im quite tired - but i will check all your replies in the morning!


  1. I tried using the Self Study script a handful of times, but I never had the patience to do even more WaniKani stuff. So let’s say “no”.
  2. I can read stuff, so I’d say my recognition is fine. I do run into things that I learned on WaniKani and completely forgot, where I’m not even sure that I’ve ever seen it before. But that’s bound to happen no matter what. As for the transition process, it’s painful and difficult. I dealt with it by using a dictionary a lot and by getting a ton of help from people on these forums by joining (and occasionally running) book clubs.
  3. I started joining book clubs around level 35. Others have started earlier. It depends on your grammar level and your tolerance for pain as much as it depends on your WaniKani level. When did it become easier? Around level 50. But I also had a lot more practice then.
  4. Definitely not. Most of the time I just read without translating, except when I run into a word I don’t know that’s really important to the meaning of the sentence. Then I’ll look it up to help figure out what’s going on. It’s important to note that I really see words, not kanji. So whether I know a kanji or not is less important than whether I know a word or not.
  5. I don’t do much listening or speaking, so my audio recognition isn’t great. Kanji provides great visual cues for what something means, and you don’t get those visual cues when listening. If you spend most of your time learning kanji and reading, it’s natural that you’ll have a harder time recognizing spoken Japanese.
  6. I’ve never really been one to keep a strict schedule. I certainly had more of a routine earlier on. I used Japanese From Zero for about a year to learn basic grammar and vocab. Then I joined WaniKani and did that for close to a year on its own. Then I started mixing in grammar (again) and reading along with WaniKani. Other than keeping up with WaniKani and whatever SRS I was using at the time, I didn’t keep a schedule. I think it’s very beneficial to learn kanji and grammar at the same time, as you need both in order to read. It’s fine to spend more time on one than the other, as you don’t want to get overwhelmed, but don’t neglect either one entirely.

I can’t speak to most of this since my spoken Japanese is not great, but basically in my experience, your ability to get an item right on WaniKani is a pretty different thing from being able to use it practically. It can definitely be harder to understand something when it’s outside of this context. Even to the point of not being able to understand different fonts.

This is the kind of thing that’s fixed not by re-memorizing each item in a different context, but by training the skill of using that knowledge elsewhere. For example, I downloaded a script that randomizes the font WK shows me. When I first got it, my accuracy dropped immediately and it was impossible to recognize things I knew in the normal font. After a few weeks, it was just as easy to understand, even for kanji I’d never seen in that font before.

I think the biggest issue we encounter by studying solely by recognition/forward recall is going the other way, as you were mentioning at the end of your post. You can prevent that from being an issue by using KaniWani or KameSame, 3rd party apps that based off your SRS data give you items you’ve learned on WK in English and ask you to spit it back in Japanese. Best time to start is now, since you don’t have a few dozen levels of items to catch up (like me) on and can go at the same pace as WK. Of course this will add to your daily grind. Completely optional, but will certainly be an asset to you. I’m planning on diving into it once my reviews drop off in a couple months.

  1. Yes, but for lessons only. I used to make a sheet containing new kanji learned with readings and writing out my own mnemonics. I found that the time I spent being creative during lessons paid for itself many times over afterwards.

  2. That recognition is just as good in the wild for the vast majority.

  3. It was somewhere in level 30-40 I guess when unknown kanji became less bothersome.

  4. Not at all. Sometimes I’ll stare at kanji and think “Oh come on, I knew that at some point!” but common kanji, like hiragana, becomes second nature.

  5. Listening is a different experience altogether. One thing that people might find hard to grasp initially is that kanji can actually become a crutch. Just by looking at 食 (eat / food) you know that it’s related to food somehow and you don’t even have to remember which reading to use when you’re just reading if you’re lazy. It’s just a symbol that you know and you can make educated guesses. I would recommend turning on automatic speech in the settings so that it speaks the answer out automatically when you get it right. Also, if you have the personal space, speak the answer out first before you press enter. The voice will reinforce you.

  6. I don’t have a schedule as such. I didn’t learn kanji from the start and I didn’t understand how on earth I would do so at the time and it was intimidating. Some people say to do WK until about level 10 and then start grammar because you’ll know most kanji used in lessons (and also hiragana) already by that point. I’d start as soon as possible to be honest as a lot of beginner material assumes you don’t know kanji anyway.


No but i am doing kamesame (could say reverse wanikani eng->JP ) and sometimes i found items i already studied on wanikani.

I guess you could mean outside of reviews. Let’s see it was tough even for some items i already burned but i think even though i didn’t recognize it right away. you will take easier time to master it in my opinion. Reading more and encountering more should be enough in my opinion.

I just only begun to read at level 30. I mostly read manga with furigana i think it is mostly depended on grammar i believe.

No i mostly “is this X” quickly check/ “OH it is omg this amazing” kinda feeling
For newer kanjis mostly no problems with earlier level kanjis. Sometimes even kanjis i haven’t studied yet (欲しい(ほしい))

As opposite to most people who responded here i practiced listening outside of wanikani well more than i ever did for reading(started reading last month lol). My reading is still kinda struggle but it is still way better than when i first started.

I only study grammar from bunpro, i did other resources at first but now only bunpro some might argue it is not main grammar resource but i didn’t like or i am interested in grammar text book so this better than nothing IMO. In bunpro i sometimes encounter words i have never seen. I mostly skip over it or read around it.
My overall routine wanikani,kamesame,bunpro everyday japanese podcast(nihongo con teppei)
Try and read(if i felt like it) my main focus in wanikani though i only do the other two as much as to not interfere with wanikani.

I think reverse recall is awesome i learned many words through kamesame that i later on learned in wanikani messing it up first there lessened the time it took here. Even for words not in wanikani at all i still think it is quite helpful. Yet i haven’t finished N5 yet on there so my experience could be shallow but neither the less i still recommend it if you can.

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