Problem words in big catchup review sessions

I stepped away from WK for what felt like a hot minute (read: several months), and now I’m catching up from 700+ reviews.

It’s going fine, except I notice there are certain words I get wrong, and then wrong again, and again, and again… and again…

I know I’m getting them wrong because I never really learned them well in the first place. It’s probably around 50 items, so nothing to terrible.

But the frustrating part is that I just don’t seem to have the heart to learn them properly.

Maybe it’s fatigue because I’m trying to smash through so many reviews at once, and I’d rather get all these reviews done and focus on the hard stuff later. Or maybe it’s because once I look at the answer I’m like, “Oh, yeah, of course—I sorta knew this,” and my brain doesn’t seem to go the extra mile to cement the knowledge. Or, my secret fear, maybe this is the first numbness of burnout and I need to revitalize my study habits.

Not sure if you guys have advice or maybe common experiences + gifs to raise my spirits :wink:

If you’re in a real bad backlog, you might consider the reorder script to arrange your reviews by level until you’re caught up; that way it can feel like you’re making some progress as you “fix” up the earlier levels first.

I find if I’m having bad reviews, if I do more than about 50 in a go, I won’t retain any that I miss.

If you’ve got some time, you could try copy/pasting reviews that you fail into a text editor or something, just so you can give those few problem ones a few minutes study time after your session so you can cement those.


You can email WaniKani team to lower you level a little bit, if you keep messing up a lot of kanji. This way your reviews will be more spaced and you wont need to dig yourself up from this monstrous pile.

Or you can simply try to berserk through it with earth shattering 気合 :wink: If you do this, try spacing the reviews - no human brain can go through 700 of them and retain all knowledge. And do focus on the reviews, seriously!

These are great ideas! Thanks @chezmax and @Inaetia.

Tackling the review pile hasn’t really been the problem. Now I’m down to about 200, which is manageable. But those problem words…

I particularly love the reorder-by-level idea. At first I was hesitant to copy/paste repeatedly failed words to study outside the WK SRS system, but since I’m at apprentice on all these items and get them wrong almost every time, I guess I’m not “messing up” any SRS master plan.

I’m reticent to drop my level because I’m almost through with these reviews! But maybe it’s something I’ll consider in the future. I do resurrect items quite liberally, too.

For troublesome words, maybe try a different method to learn them eg. an audio method or look for other words which use the same kanji. This can be powerful to see the connections.

I have come across plenty of words which seem silly to learn, but then I see the word on TV or spoken by a Japanese colleague and suddenly I realize how important it is!

I agree with @bynars99. If it’s not working, change something. Maybe even just open up the specific pages in WaniKani for the items that you keep missing. I know I have done this many times before with graphically similar kanji that I kept confusing. And if the exhaustion keeps you from getting much done with it, then just bookmark them or keep the tabs open until early the next day when you’ll work on them. In theory, that will slightly alter the SRS’s ability to work properly, but since it already isn’t working properly in these instances, I think that if it enables you to start remembering them, it would be worth it.

I agree with copy/pasting items you keep getting wrong. I keep a document of ‘problem items’ - a lot of these are groups of items that are quite similar to each other (警視庁 and 警察庁 were a classic example, as are things like, 活動、躍動、or at the moment I’m having real trouble with 成功、功績、成績). I haven’t put a lot of effort yet into nailing these down to be honest, as my approach at the moment is that the trouble items will stick around and once I complete lvl 60 then eventually they’ll be all that’s left at Apprentice/Guru level and I’ll tackle them then.

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Jot down, not cp your problem words. Then, write them out as part of example sentences a few times. You won’t be disappointed.

You could type them out if you can’t write for some reason but seeing them in a different context is nice.

@kozuko - I disappeared for about 6 months. When I came back I had 950+ reviews. I too ran into words like that!

First of all - don’t fret! You will get those eventually. Secondly, when you check what the correct reading and/or meaning is, say the reading, then meaning out loud. I say the reading followed by the meaning every time I see a kanji or vocab word - whether it’s the reading or meaning card popping up (while staring at it). This helps to reinforce it (the reading especially), and makes a different kind of link by it being in Japanese first. (I think I read somewhere previously, possibly something Breadstickーさん said, that this helps you to think in Japanese or make the transition to thinking in Japanese easier/more natural… in any case, there were reasons why this is better, sadly I don’t recall them for certain, but it’s been working great for me!)

Next, you’ll want to double-check the mnemonic on the item’s page if you’re really struggling with it (and if you’re like me and either don’t use/make up your own mnemonics, either check your own notes, or read the mnemonic for the first time, or make your own mnemonic). If you’re confusing it with something similar (a different vocab word with a same/similar meaning, or any reason at all), compare the two items back and forth/side by side by searching both their item pages, and looking for the differences. Write down the differences, even. Also before even going to the item page, when still on the Review Summary, I let my cursor over each and every one of the item’s I’ve gotten wrong, and say them (Japanese then English) 1-5 times each, while looking at the item. This is to reinforce the correct reading/meaning, rather than what I confused it as during the review.

Mostly… eat before reviews. It helps!

Relax… eventually it will sink in and come back to you.

I came back from worse, you can come back from this.

And since you asked for it…here is your friendly penguin:

One thing I do as a student is what I have all my own language students do, make a note. I write down every kanji and vocal word that is on my list. It takes a little time, but it is also good to get the writing in as well. There have been studies about how the act of writing will better trigger your mind to remember as there is a visceral experience connected to the language you are trying to retain.

Gonna be honest and say it - some of the descriptions given are too outlandish or too repetitive to work. That’s a big reason that things don’t stick with me. There’s very few that this is the case for, but usually it’s the ones that either involve “think of a person you known named X” or Charlie sheen or ones that generally don’t apply. For example - 表 with the description of the reading being “someone comes up to you and says 'hey-yo”, took forever to stick because as is even acknowledged in the description it sounds ridiculous. The only way I’ve found to get around it is to come up with my own mnemonics that DO stick. This takes time but usually the extra time dedication to doing this works.

Luckily, most of them aren’t so outlandish or march up well enough to the radicals.