IntroductionThis topic was inspired by two questions that gets thrown around on the forum once in a while:
I am an advanced learner, is there any point for me to use WK?
How long will it take me to get to the part where I actually learn something?
Yes, Discourse, I know that this topic is similar to a bunch of others. That’s the point.
The tl;dr version: Yes, there’s a point in using WK, especially as an advanced learner. However, it will take an infuriatingly long amount of time to get there. You should still do it, though.
Yes, here you go, a level 60 actually said in an unironic way that WK is too slow. Well, I don’t mean it in the way level 1-3 mean it, though.
I first joined WK back in August 2012, a bit more than 6 years ago. I was at the N3 level at the time, trying to find ways to prepare for the N2 in December. I tried WK (among many other things), but quickly gave up due to it being way too slow™.
Fast forward 5 years. I now had a N1 in the bag, but I realized that my kanji knowledge was shaky at best. Since I was mostly focusing on immersion, I had no problem understanding words, but I could not remember their reading for the life of me. I first thought of preparing for the 漢字検定 test to force myself to sit down and properly review everything… but that didn’t go so well. It’s really easy (for me) to fall in the trap of checking the answer, “oops, not quite, but pssh yeah, I totally knew it” or “oh, okay, no I was wrong, I’ll definitely remember it now” (pro tip: I didn’t).
While I was wondering about what to do about that, I received an email from the WK team telling me about the annual sale on lifetime. I decided to give it another shot, it’s not like I had any better idea. Logged in, did my reviews, which immediately put me at level 2 (damn, I was just one review session away when I gave up…). Then I headed over to the forum to basically ask the questions in the introduction of this very topic. People (especially @gojarappe) were very nice and friendly, and convinced me to give it a shot. I don’t regret it.
Why you should use WK
The strongest point of WK is that it relies on user input. No more “I totally knew that”.
That helped me a lot to figure out where my problem were.
Better yet: WK remembers all the mistakes you ever made! I am now sitting on an amazing database of everything that I ever got wrong, so that I can come back later and check those once in a while. (Yeah, even those I burned, because that probably wasn’t enough).
The second strong point of WK is that they teach you vocab using the kanji you just learned straight away. It helps a lot to consolidate the knowledge you just got. While that might not sound necessary at first, I really felt it working when I got to level 50+ (i.e., the part where I was actually learning new kanji).
Finally, the “radicals”. Those are actually kanji parts rather than “real” radicals (in the sense of standard kanji composition), and I hear a lot a people mentioning that advanced learners might not need them (thus should skip WK altogether). I disagree with that statement. While you certainly do not need the mnemonics used on the site, giving names to those kanji parts has been instrumental in helping me pass the 漢字検定 (well, only level 5, but still). It’s a lot easier to remember a few words (especially with a mnemonic of your own) than a bunch of strokes; thus learning the WK radicals has helped me a lot to remember how to write kanji.
How fast can you make it to the good part?
The standard answer I see thrown around is “you’ll just breeze until you get there”.
Well, no. You won’t. Sure, the first 10~20 won’t feel like much. When I was going through them, I had plenty of time, and doing reviews still felt fun. But after that, you eventually get your enlightened items coming back, that is, the full amount of daily reviews. Assuming you have been going full speed so far, that will mean somewhere between 160 and 200 reviews per day.
(Side note: I won’t explain how to go full speed here. You should take a look at the guide from @jprspereira)
At that point, I’m not going to lie, it starts to get hard. Not that the kanji or vocab are hard, but the novelty has faded away, doing reviews is a lot of work, even if you know the answers readily, and it’s easy to wonder if there’s really a point after all.
Without further ado, the time it took me:
This is technically obsolete, since the recent kanji overhaul changed which level are fast.
But, overall, I would say it will take you about 10 months getting to the part that is most interesting for an advanced learner.
And that brings me to:
Why WK is too damn slow
So, first, I want to mention that this isn’t about the time between reviews (the usual complaint at level 1~3). You get plenty of reviews, that’s fine for me. I think the current setup works pretty well, actually.
What I would need, though, is for every level to be a fast level, i.e. a level where >90% of the kanjis are unlocked from the start. That’s easily achievable by moving radicals up one level. Sure, that means that level 1 gets a lot of radicals, but there isn’t much going on at level 1 anyway, so that’s probably fine. Alternatively, excess radicals could be spread among level 1~3.
Doing so would make WK almost twice as fast. Now, that would also mean that people are in a position to burn themselves out like crazy, but it also give user more flexibility. Going through WK, my main problem was that 7 days level felt really slow, and 10 months to get to the part I want to learn is also difficult to swallow. If I had been free to choose, I would have gone for 4 to 5 days levels. That would have allowed me to get there during the period of the year where I am free enough to go through that amount of reviews, then slow down drastically during the part where I actually need to learn.
Obviously, I found ways to keep busy instead, by joining some of the book clubs on the forum or using other tools like floflo, and I also recommend that to anyone.
That part sounded negative, I know, but as I mentioned I do like WK a lot overall. Plus, there are mane:
Advantages of being an advanced learner
- Obviously, you already know most of the kanjis and words on the site, which means less time spent on lessons, a higher accuracy score, which in turn means less review. So you are overall spending way less time on the site that a beginner.
- Another advantage of having seen a lot of the vocab before is that you can get the differences in nuances.
- While beginner might complain that some of the words are uncommon, that’s not an issue for an advanced learner. I was glad to see those. (Even got a funny situation where I got to use my “unnecessary” knowledge in real life)
- You can benefit the most from the example sentences, since you can read them and understand their context.
- You can immediately join the book clubs on the forum! You can also take a look at the other tools made by the community, such as FloFlo, Kitsun, KaniWani, KameSame, and so on.
Word of caution: when reality hits you hard
Upon reaching level 50, I went from this:
I honestly thought I would be able to finish WK with <1K mistakes. But I was wrong.
Also, the dip might not seem too big, but remember that it’s over the last 10 levels!
16.7% of WK accounts for 28% of my mistakes, so obviously, my review performance were a lot worse than usual during that period, and that felt horrible, especially considering that everything so far (the past ten months basically) lulled me in a false sense of security. That was a hard wake up call. But again, it only hurt because I was learning. I do wish I had been able to reach that part faster, so that I could have then taken my time finishing it.
While this has nothing to do with the review, I still want to thank the people I interacted with on WK and pushed me forward.
In alphabetical order: AngelTenshi,
Brox Box Bark Brix, Cassykins, crihak, CyrusS, FlyingPenguin97, Glias, gojarappe, jprspereira, Kumirei, Kyasurin, Leebo, LucasDesu, MidnightOverlord, MikaelBaka, MissMisc, Momoiro, Ncastaneda, NickNickovich, Ninkastmin, OmukaiAndi, Omun, Powerpuncher, Radish8, Raionus, RoseWagsBlue, Rowena, Ryouki, saiakuma, Sandpiper, seanblue, Sezme, Shadkat, shadykit, TamanegiNoKame, TomatoSalad, trunklayer, Vanilla, Whologist and everyone else I forgot, because, let’s face it, I suck at this kind of things.
I also want to mention that one of the main motivator to keep my speed has been the race to the cake thread and the 0/0 challenge thread.
Also, I am rushing to write this; no proofreading was done. I hope I do not sound overtly agressive; that was not my intention. I want to repeat that I really like WK (I wouldn’t have made it to 60 otherwise, obviously). I hope that my point of view will help other advanced learner make an educated decision about using it or not, instead of simply judging that it’s a tool aimed at beginner and just moving on.