Plateaued at Level 9?

Just wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences. Granted, I was probably somewhere between JLPT5 and JLPT4 when it came to kanji before I started WaniKani so a lot of things are kanji and vocab that I already knew. However, I feel like I was doing a great job even on unfamiliar stuff. I had consistently been getting around 95% (often 100%) on my reviews even for kanji and vocab that were brand new. I just levelled up to 9, and the last two days I am having reviews where I am only getting 60-70% correct, and I am often missing kanji that I knew before starting the course.
I have been doing this round of the Absolute Beginner’s Book Club, thinking it would help, but now I am not sure if the looking up of other vocab (and all the new grammar I am learning) when trying to read is getting in the way of my reviews. If the answer is to just slow down, I am okay with that, I am more interesting in learning Japanese well than learning it ASAP.
My plan is to stop doing new lessons for a couple of days (I do anywhere from 10-20 new lessons each day depending on the content) and clear out my Apprentice Level to see if stuff starts sticking again, but mostly I just wanted to know if other people have been through the same thing.

6 Likes

I’d say 95%+ isn’t normal without a good amount of extra effort behind it (prior knowledge, reading frequently outside of WK, extra reviews, ect.) That said, <70% on a consistent basis is just going to lead to a big bloat of immature items.

For around level 9 I’d expect that to be normal. Somewhat early on users have to transition from trivial complexity kanji to things with a lot of strokes, shared radicals, similar appearances, similar readings, similar meanings… it leads to a lot of close but not quite there situations that everyone is going to have to diagnose sooner or later.

The why is way more important than the how fast. Slowing down won’t solve problems unless you’re cramming or too busy to do all of your reviews on a good schedule. It also won’t help if the problem is just being inattentive to the differences are causing the problems. Don’t just slow down, because that’s an oversimplification that people parrot here while glossing over how that actually leads to improvements.

However, pausing lessons to catch up is usually a great idea. Just keep at it and try to figure out what’s causing you pain. If you can make it through the next few levels you’ll have all the tools to do the rest of WK. Good luck with your studies!

13 Likes

Thank for the reply. I am trying to figure out why I am missing stuff. I thought I had gotten into a really good routine doing lessons at 9am and then reviews at 1pm and 9pm each day. I started that system around level 5 or 6. It really felt like it was working great for the six or so weeks I have been doing until this week.
I am currently trying to look at the things that I have been getting wrong the last few days. I would say my biggest struggles have been with vocabulary that have slightly less common readings. I missed multiple words with 人 being じん or にん in a given compound. The other thing that I find myself stumbling on is whether or not rendaku applies in a given word.

5 Likes

I wouldn’t worry about it. I started wanikani knowing a few kanji myself (around 150 maybe?), and in the beginning breezed through them without a second thought, barely looking at the mnemonics of the kanji I knew. But in the meantime my mind was trying to find a way to store all the new information, and at some point (I don’t remember around what level that was, unfortunately) the already known kanji got also filed under the new system, and I started trying to recall them using mnemonics. Of course I drew a blank, because those kanji weren’t connected to any mnemonics in my head. Add to this that I started coming across many similar looking kanji, and it suddenly all felt unmanageable for a short while. It is a self-correcting problem, however. Take the time to compare similar looking kanji you confuse, or have a quick look at the mnemonics for the kanji you already knew but “forgot”, and very soon you’ll notice a significant increase in your accuracy again. I think it’s a necessary short stage in the process if you came in with prior knowledge, and only a minor hurdle. At least that’s how it was for me.

9 Likes

Are you missing the English meaning or meaning + reading? Or is it a kun’yomi vs on’yomi problem? Probably worth looking into this specifically.

95-100% seems oddly high so it might be that you knew those items very well before.

That really depends. On one hand it might if you’re learning different English glosses than the ones WaniKani favors, but also not necessarily, since WaniKani kanji are not arranged in terms of language progression.

It might be worth looking into the drop to 60-70%, though.

3 Likes

These kinds of mistakes often boil down to three categories.

  • Rendaku
  • Multiple readings
  • Synonyms

At level 9 you probably haven’t built a good sense of when to use rendaku yet. This will come with experience, but it is painful at first. After encountering it enough you’ll begin to naturally understand when rendaku makes sense, to the point that you’ll usually be able to guess the rendaku’d reading as soon as you see kanji for a new word.

Multiple readings are a pain, and you will eventually get an okay sense of which scenarios use each reading, but it’s a bit less reliable than figuring out rendaku IMO. 人 will always be the worst offender here, and perhaps searching for vocab using that character and trying to find similarities and differences will help solidify a pattern into your mind.

The synonyms are the easy one. WK is fairly strict about what answers it accepts, and IMO it’s critical to have a script that lets you retry an answer. Failing an item because you said an unaccepted but synonymous word is all too common, and you should really cut yourself some slack here. Sometimes there are subtle nuances that would translate a tiny bit differently if you’re being very strict, but as long as you understand the concept of the word that’s enough. The nuances will get refined as you begin to read more.

I’d slow down on new lessons for a bit, try to drill some of the pain points you’re experiencing, and perhaps look towards reading some beginner material.

8 Likes

Wow! You really nailed. I have been going through the things I have missed the last few days, and they pretty all fall into those three categories. I actually had a slightly different issue with synonyms. My problem is actually with the words that are synonyms I missed 研究 when it came up because it was a couple after 究明, and I thought to myself that can’t be investigation because I just had that.

1 Like

Regarding synonyms, it’s a good idea to double-check them in a dictionary when in doubt. 研究 and 究明 have slightly different meanings :slight_smile:

研究(する) - to do research (like in a lab), but also to study specific fields of life sciences like chemistry, etc. (化学を研究する)
究明(する)- to investigate something scientifically, like a topic, etc.

2 Likes

Regarding the rendaku thing, if you are having issues with it Tofugu has a pretty big article on it.

There’s also a script that can help explain in reviews

じん and にん are just kind of a pita. I think there was a trick involving occupations or something for some of them, but I really can’t remember it.

5 Likes

I do wish that there would be a bit more of an explanation on the subtle differences in these sort of words. There a couple of words where I added synonyms in WaniKani to help me with that sort of thing (although for some reason, right now I am drawing a blank on it). I also don’t understand why for some words like 自決 the “primary” definition seems to be the less common one. For other words, and again I apologize because I cannot think of example right now, common meanings are not even listed as options.

1 Like

Yes, that’s unfortunately one of my bigger gripes with WaniKani’s English glosses (main gloss is misleading or points to a secondary meaning), and I think someone mentioned in a thread on the forums here that 自決 is rarely used in reference to “suicide”, since 自殺 is more common.

2 Likes

I can relate. My way of coping with this topic (kanji and sometimes also vocab) was “vetting” the English language terms used for every kanji and vocab before learning it. I looked each of them up on jisho.org or went into my paper jisho or, later, mono-language resources to see if there were additional meanings not covered in WK. For the kanji, there were almost always differences. These I added as synonyms to the kanji and learned those that were closer to the meaning I found everywhere else. I sometimes wrote the WK team a direct message about what I had found, citing sources and asking them to look into them again if possible. This helped me strengthen my grasp of the concept of the kanji better, which now, as I am spending most time reading or do grammar studies, has helped me when coming across new vocab to extrapolate their meaning before looking them up, when I felt the need to do so.

Here’s what my kanji/vocab books look like. Others have done the same, sometimes much more elaborate and those are truly works of art. Might be worth to search for them in the forum, I believe there was/is a thread for that sort of thing. :slight_smile: (underlined are the “official” WK readings, the others are my additions)
.

3 Likes

Kind of like when you would take a multiple choice test in school and after choosing “C” six times in a row, it’s tricky to ignore that past record and select yet another “C”, and everyone has psyched themselves out of a correct answer like that many times before. It doesn’t matter that you may have already reviewed a similar kanji, and ignoring prior answers is something that you’ll need to actively work on for a while.

I highly recommend using Yomichan if you do reviews in the browser. Just hold shift, mouse over the word, and you’ll get a bunch of additional context. It helps a lot with similar words in my experience.

For example [edit: lmao terrible example, I happened to pick a word with no additional context…]:
image

Early on it’s easy to fall into the mindset that WK will give you mostly unique words, but you’re going to get used to seeing synonyms very, very quickly. I also fell into the trap of “it couldn’t be x because I already used x a few reviews ago”, and that’s just not a feasible way to reason through it. Try to ignore prior reviews and just focus on whether the phonetic reading jogs your memory, as well as whether the kanji helps recall.

Maybe you see 研究 and the kanji combination doesn’t instantly jump out at you, but as soon as you figure out the reading けんきゅう, you recognize that as being “research”. Or alternatively, maybe you see 究明 and gather that it is probably read as きゅうめい. That doesn’t ring any bells, but the kanji “research” and “bright” make you remember “How do you make your research brighter? By furthering your investigation”. Even if you didn’t land exactly on the word “investigate”, but rather the concept of “researching something to make it more clear”, that’s enough of an understanding to know the word when you read it. Anchoring to an exact English counterpart is not required.

6 Likes

I love the notebook idea!

When I first started I was taking notes, and then I found myself not referring. I think I am going to start at the very least making a notebook of anything I get wrong so I can do a better job of tracking what I am struggling with.

Thanks!!!

1 Like

It’s unfortunate that word was a bad example, but another trick worth mentioning for more advanced learners is that you can configure the profiles in yomichan to display a J → J entry and set a second profile to show J → E dictionaries on the next popup level. Someone mentioned mono-language dictionaries earlier and this is really nice bridge for giving better context without having to tab out all the time.

image

2 Likes

Thanks, I tried installing Yomichan forever ago, but for some reason had mixed results trying to use it (this was before I start WaniKani). I will give it another try!

1 Like

I’m just going to say 人 sucks and I still hate it (but am actually getting more consistently right about which reading it is in compounds, for some, unknown reason).

And as you go up in levels, you’re going to psych yourself out a lot with ‘but didn’t that other word mean…’ - there are so many words that gloss the same in WK, but are subtly different (I’m looking at you, all of the words that gloss as ‘judge’ that I keep screwing up). It’s okay - it’s part of learning - as you see those words in context, it does get better, and you do get more confident about what they mean. Learning the word decidedly doesn’t end with WK - but the WK gloss is (usually) a reasonable jumping off point - kind of like knowing ‘miniscule’ means ‘small’ - true and good enough to get a rough sense of a sentence that contains the word, but not complete.

2 Likes

Relating to the Yomichan part of this conversation. Here’s a great resource:

It took about 5 minutes to setup Yomichan on chrome, installed the default dictionaries from the Yomichan site, and installed necessary Anki plugins to be able to 1-click add words to Anki deck. What’s also nice is that the generated anki cards are also editable in review mode.