Picking myself up again and making it to level 60 in 470 days despite the odds

My post surpassed the maximum character limit which is why the remaining parts are added here:

8. Some grievances I had with WaniKani

Wanikani has helped me a great deal in finally being able to memorise a great number of Kanji more reliably and I consider it a very useful resource. Yet, the service is not safe from criticism in my opinion and will add my main points of criticism here but not mention further nit-picks.

I’ll start with the radicals which I have some issues with, mainly that there may be too many of them. The commonly accepted Kangxi radical system has 214 Kanji radicals, whereas WaniKani has more than double the amount (485?).
While I can understand that the team doesn’t wish to overwhelm people with complex radicals and tries teaching things by ascending complexity, especially in the earlier levels, I still think that it would have been the more efficient to keep the majority of the Kangxi radicals intact and only split up a minority of them into several radicals.

The many radicals in WaniKani are not irritating for the first 20 levels in my opinion, but later on, when the Kanji become more complex, this leads to the mnemonics having to use anything between 2 to 5 WK-radicals to construct a Kanji. Having that many components consequently leads to more components one needs to memorise which might take away from the two actual most important things WaniKani is trying to convey: the Kanji meaning and the Kanji reading.

I had several cases where I was so hung up memorising the mnemonics or making sense of WaniKani’s way of constructing that one Kanji that I ended up remembering one of the radical components over the actual Kanji meanings at the first Apprentice stages because I couldn’t immediately recall the main aspect of the Kanji since I had half a dozen different components floating around in my mind.
Having only two or three radicals, usually the semantic and the phonetic component(s) instead, might have ironically made memorising more complex Kanji easier – for me, at least – and drawn more attention to the systematic building method of Kanji components.

My second point are the example sentences. To me they were not as helpful as they could be, especially in early levels because the sentences do not follow an ascending difficulty approach (n+1) but instead tend to use complex structures and unknown words (depending on the user’s prior knowledge) from the very beginning.
Unless I’m misremembering, I think I read about the WaniKani team having begun adjusting some sentences this August and making them easier in the first 10? levels in an update somewhere. If that is the case, I appreciate it even though I won’t be able to profit from this change anymore.

All in all, a complete reworking of all sentences would be desirable but not a huge priority in my eyes because it might be too much of an undertaking and probably not worth the personnel and resources it would take when these could be used for other matters like item entry additions, interface improvements and the like. This is why I kept this point short.

The final point is the biggest grievance I have: it’s the lack of customisation options when it comes to one’s study methods using Wanikani as well as the lack of some features in general.

I have already touched upon a few features that I wish WaniKani had to begin with in my “scripts” section and I wish that the base product allowed for more flexibility in doing one’s lessons in terms of lesson size and item types as well as allow more specific item ordering during reviews. The former seems to be in the works as the team has confirmed to be working on a lesson picker feature, thus one of my wishes might be fulfilled soon.
I also stand by my comment that I wish that WaniKani had built-in features that can show similar words or Kanji during reviews when making mistakes or in the item pages. A reworking of most Kanji entries to feature comments consistently pointing out the Kanji using the same readings due to component XY when you do new Kanji lessons would be desirable as well.

And lastly, the elephant in the room: the changes that have been made to Wanikani from early 2023 up to now and the aftermath. While this makes me sad to talk about, I consider the way things have been handled to be unsatisfactory and it has negatively impacted the trust I have in this service despite still feeling positive on it overall.

At the time of the first big update to lessons, reviews and extra study on March 27th 2023, I was in the “wait and see”-camp as I had faith in the team but was also ready to be disappointed. Unfortunately, the latter won over.

It is perfectly fine and in the right of WaniKani to make changes within their service just as communicated in their terms of service page. And the team has made some noticeable changes from March 27th 2023 and onwards (big review/lesson update in March, Kana only vocabulary, recent mistakes feature etc). While the changes have been either hit or miss or both for people, I won’t talk about my opinions on all these features as I don’t want to take away from my main criticism which is the severe lack of communication after any of these changes were implemented. Personally, I regard transparency over changes and goals as one of the most important aspects in a service – especially for a paid service – that is bound to get changes over time.

Regarding the summary page, the team only acknowledged that a number of users wished to have it back and said that they were working on a replacement. Unless the Recent Mistakes feature that was released in August only after months of radio silence since April is intended to be the summary page replacement, there still hasn’t been any update on an actual replacement in the works by WaniKani (currently existing replacement script for a summary page aside).

Despite there being complaints about the Kana only vocabulary launched in summer, there have been people who wish for more words to be added after the first 60 words were published. For the people belonging to the latter group, there has been no statement if more Kana only vocabulary is still to be added whereas the Kana vocabulary announcement implied that there would be much more to come

, unless I interpreted it incorrectly.

For the people belonging to the former group, there is still no guarantee of an opt-out feature being in the works in case they do decide to add many more Kana batches in the future.

These are just two examples for which the current status is unknown even after months have passed by now and this is exactly the kind of lack of communication I am disheartened about.
On the forum, you have team members replying to almost anything quickly as usual – which is great by the way – but at the same time ignoring any questions over the more controversial updates, with the exception of tofugu-scott who occasionally replies to script writers. This is something I can only assume is done purpose. However, it does not elicit any trust in the team in my opinion even if deliberately ignoring criticism or requests for status updates means that they keep themselves from saying anything damning.

So, it seems that the only chance one might have to receiving any kind of information or confirmation on things being amended after an unsatisfactory response or things that were promised still being in development is by directly e-mailing WaniKani. And if that doesn’t lead to an answer either, it creates the impression of not being heard at all because anything related to updates barely gets acknowledged in the forums and there are no WaniKani related feedback possibilities in terms of official surveys or polls hosted on the forums or on social media or notification by e-mail when it comes recently implemented or planned changes.

On the whole, I cannot overlook this reluctance for communication, especially when it comes to adjustments after launching updates or updates about promised features, which is why I can’t recommend WaniKani in good faith to others anymore without a big grain of salt as in “feel free to use the service, it’s a great (Kanji) learning resource, but be prepared that things will change, sometimes without announcements or beta testing, seemingly out of the blue – followed by a long radio silence”.
And that is quite a pity because I think that WaniKani has plenty of potential still and has helped a good number of people overcoming the Kanji knowledge hurdle.

9. What I like and appreciate about WaniKani

I don’t want to leave my thoughts on WaniKani on a bad taste which is why I wish to talk about the things I enjoy(ed) about it as well.

Apart from me lamenting the lack of a native dark mode in WaniKani, I like the overall design of the WaniKani dashboard, lessons, review and item pages. The keywords for the meanings, readings and radical composition being highlighted in lessons and entries is very handy.

The SRS seems to be working quite well for most people and it worked fine for me as well.

Regarding the mnemonics, I understand that they can be a hit or miss and won’t work well for everyone. For me, however, they were helpful and memorable most of the time even though they became a bit too complex and counterintuitive due to the number of radicals used to build them in the later levels. That aside, I love how absurd they are – my two favourite ones are the entry for 日 with the sun having quite the vendetta against Friedrich Nietzsche and 脅 for having a Majora’s Mask reference.

I’m absolutely delighted that there is an audio file for (almost) every entry and that these are audio recordings with actual human voices because computer generated ones can sound a bit uncanny at times.
Having those sound files played every single time when seeing the corresponding word in lessons and reviews helped me get a feeling for the pronunciation, the pitch and therefore recognise words a bit more reliably when heard in the wild. When I played through some games, especially visual novels, last and this year with Japanese audio, I had a few aha-moments where I managed to pick out some words I had previously, and sometimes very recently, learned in WaniKani and it made me appreciate this inclusion of recordings even more.

The next point is probably more controversial and at first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it: it’s WaniKani’s decision to teach the common reading first, and the secondary or other readings through vocabulary while still making use of mnemonics.
I came to like this approach and found it helpful in making learning Kanji easier as I was drip fed the possible readings over time compared to having both readings or all 2+ readings right at the start, turning everything to mush.
When I tried making my own Anki Kanji deck years ago, my perfectionist tendency and my penchant for trying to optimise things took over and I got hung up over any possible readings, trying to implement all of them for each Kanji right at the beginning. I spent too much time checking and adding things that would have been probably been acquired during reading when encountering irregular readings occasionally anyways.
This is why I found it useful that WaniKani broke things down in digestible chunks instead of overwhelming me. It forced me to sit down and look at the most important reading instead of fussing over rare readings.

The gamification of the level up system is another aspect I like about WaniKani. Thinking of Kanji learning units as levels and focussing on levelling up step by step instead of glancing over at all the work, all the hundreds of Kanji and thousands of vocabulary items that still await me in the mid to late levels made the experience less dreadful.
Naturally, level ups also helped with keeping a sense of motivation and satisfaction over making it through yet another step towards the end and I also loved the level up e-mails I received. The latter literally served as a marker that another small milestone had been reached and on top of that was a source of extra silliness that I regarded as a reward for levelling up as well.

Although I only contacted the WaniKani team once by email, the support I received was quick, friendly and helpful which is appreciated a lot.
Besides that, the adjustments to item order, item entries and additions of accepted meanings are quick too and done on a regular basis which I’m grateful for. When notifying the mods about typos or block list candidates, these instances get looked at and amended in a short amount of time as well.
Basically, any specific improvements over entries happens quickly and reliably which is commendable and much appreciated. :slight_smile:

And, of course, I have to mention that I am thankful for WaniKani having a forum for its users: the community is simply great. :blush: I don’t think I’m understating it when I say that the community is one of the main driving factors that helped me stay on track because it is filled with helpful advice, supportive people and because it gives a sense of not being alone in one’s Japanese (free time) studies.

10. Thanks

I would like to thank the WaniKani team, current as well as former members, for providing this service that has had a lot of work put into it and for including a community forum where people can ask questions or simply talk about a myriad of topics.

I remember reading in a level 60 post that there seems to be a cap on how many @-mentions a post can contain. I think it was fallynleaf’s post(?)
As I would have had to list several dozen community members whom I’ve interacted with in any form or capacity and another dozen script authors if I wanted to have a somewhat complete list of people to thank, I fear it might be better to try a different approach:

To everyone who interacted with me in my or your study log and/or encouraged me, please accept my deepest thanks. I would like you to know that I’m very grateful for your support and that I found it very touching. :smiling_face:

I also want to give many thanks to everyone who interacted with me, showed me kindness or liked my shenanigans in other Campfire posts. And to everyone who participated in the reading challenge thread back in autumn/winter 2022/2023 and inspired and/or supported me when I was reading native material for the first time, I am grateful to you. :slightly_smiling_face:

I really appreciate this community for being almost exclusively welcoming and helpful and I’m thankful to everyone who is doing their part to keep it a peaceful, warm and fuzzy ( – and sometimes silly) place.

Last but not least, I want to give another big thank you to the aforementioned scriptwriters whose scripts I used as well as thank you for your aid in helping me troubleshoot when some of the scripts broke. All of you have made the process much more streamlined, informative and easier to deal with – I can’t thank you enough! :grinning:

11. Cake

My cake isn’t one of those visual masterpieces, I’m afraid. This is due to me not being too fond of the taste of “fancy” cakes with several layers, frostings, artistic looking fondant coatings etc. – no disrespect for anyone who likes them, though!

The cake I made (and ate) was one of my favourites: a simple chocolate cake (with a “sweet” drawing of the Crabigator!)