[Review] Making it to level 60 as an advanced Japanese learner


#1

Introduction

This 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.

Background

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:
%E7%AF%84%E5%9B%B2%E3%82%92%E9%81%B8%E6%8A%9E_154
to that:
%E7%AF%84%E5%9B%B2%E3%82%92%E9%81%B8%E6%8A%9E_193

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.

Acknowledgements

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.


Race to the Cake :cake:
How can I bypass the wait time?
#2

I’m at work so will read on break but I’m inserting this stolen photo I took of you to celebrate and claim firsties.

可愛いでしょう?


#3

I need to go to sleep, but I’ll read your post later.

Congrats again! :tada:


#4

As another advanced learner that’s just starting, my biggest thing is that Wanikani is something consistent that I can do everyday to ensure that I am improving. I tend to burn out easily on other methods, but the motivation to stay 0/0 twice a day makes it easy to keep up with. I still have a while to go before I get to enlightened reviews, but I’ve been enjoying my time so far.


#5

Definitely!
I should probably mention that in the post. The way WK has everything cut out for you really helps making it into an habit, which, in turn, helps you keep going. Virtuous cycle all the way.


#6

Noted. Thanks for sharing!


#7

I guess :smile: I typed that during my lunch break, actually.

Re: the picture
Damn, I was still in my prime, full of vim and vigor. Time hasn’t been kind.


#8

First of all, I wanna congratulate you for beating me sticking to WK until the very end at such speed. People might think “Ohh, they’re freaking N1 so it’s ezpz lemon squeezy for them”. Well, it’s definitely easier, but it’s far more dull. The discipline to stick to something, knowing fully well that what you were looking for was at the end (the cake obviously, not the kanji) deserves quite some praise :slight_smile:

If you think you’re not disciplined, you’re wrong. You are. You’ve proven that with Wanikani.

The way you organized your post gave me two ideas to fix this. But first, some background.

When I joined WK in June of 2017, going full speed was taboo. It was something very much exclusive to legends like Leebo. Actually, during the time I joined WK, he was the only guy able to handle such speed. There was someone else (which name I don’t recall) which was a huge influence on me in the lower levels. The dude probably did WK as fast as us. I remember him taking N2 in 1,5 years (and passing). Huge props.

Nevertheless, full speed was reserved for legends. I remember being level 1 and 2 and thinking “I’m going full speed and I’ll finish this in 1 year!”. Well, I kinda felt that I wasn’t allowed to think that. There was no guidelines to follow. Full speed was something for the genius kids, you either have it or you don’t.

Times have changed. Nowadays, it’s not like that. I guess my Guide (thanks for linking it
in your post <3
) and having all of you sharing it (<3) normalized the idea that everyone can achieve higher speeds if they want to. There’s a freaking guide deconstructing everything after all. There’s no “full speed is reserved for geniuses” thing anymore. Now, you either have the time and willpower, or you don’t (and that’s :100:% ok).

People that have read the Guide and participated on the forums now know how to balance things better. And I’m not just mentioning full speed. People that go 20 days/levels can now go 14 days/level and so on. Now people have the know-how, which was something that wasn’t as actively shared before.

If WK was to allow people to go even faster, we could go back to when I started Wanikani: people would fear the unknown of going crazy speeds. Sure, you could say “You’re the one choosing how fast you go, b-baka!!”, but let’s be frank: WK didn’t add this “speed locker” for no reason (lifetime subs everyone? :money_with_wings:). They did it because they believe burnout is a real thing. If it happens on WK, just imagine how frequent it is on platforms like Anki. You’ll never see them again.

Now, here’s the part that you actually wanted to read about: how can WK fix the “WK is too slow for non-beginners!!” problem:

  • Let’s use the 僕 example: during my time of leveling up, that was a level 44 kanji. However, all the radicals involved were max level 12, I believe. What WK does is adding kanji which uses radicals you already know in higher levels as a way to balance the number of kanji/level and also to avoid creating more fast levels (can be done in 3d10h).

  • WK could allow us to add this type of kanji to the lessons pile manually. They wouldn’t show up in the lessons’ pile naturally as you would guru their radicals. That’s a devil’s treat. If you actually want to add extra stuff from higher levels, you would have to go out of your way to add them. Adding them should not be easy. So I’m imagining a little button at the end of the item’s page. No bulk adding kanji.

  • Once you guru these kanji from higher levels, you would then unlock the respective vocab, which would go to a similar page as “Tools” (heck, might as well add it there). The procedure to add these same vocab to the lessons’ pile would be similar to how they implemented the radical thing. Select => Add.

This fixes the major problems:

  • It avoids giving free will to users. No, WK won’t throw everything at you like Anki does.
  • Only once you actually know the radicals that build up the content you wanna learn (whole WK’s philosophy), you can then actually add them to lessons and learn them.
  • By not adding them directly to the lessons’ pile directly and by making it a slight mendou to do so, people won’t go 9999+ mode as easily.
  • Vocab would probably not be overwhelming because it’s not like you would unlock all the vocab on WK for that respective kanji. You’d probably still be missing some other kanji the word uses, anyway.
  • Plus, they would allow the method of “Exposure => Add to lessons” to be a thing (i.e. Saw a kanji through exposure to the language? Do you know all the radicals? Great, you can learn it now!!).

9999


I wrote too much. That’s so not me :roll_eyes:

Oh, did I ever mention that I look up to you, @Naphthalene? Ups, 言っちゃった!


#9

In another topic you were mentioning that near the end of the current fast level you were already routinely having day with 500+ reviews… I didn’t do the math, but I feel that doing 60 fast levels at full speed would be quite insane, like 1000+ reviews everyday insanity. Would it be really possible ?!


#10

Woohoo, congratulations! :partying_face::partying_face::confetti_ball::tada:
Only took you like month to create this thread… xD


#11

Congrats!

I totally agree with your explanations. I made a similar experience and I wish WK would provide a bit more flexibility. Additionally after having reached level 60 I’d like to repeat some kanji selectively in a kind of quick mode now. That would be nice.


#12

Congratulations, Napthalene. I love to see people reach level 60!


#13

Congrats on your last level! Enjoy the cake, but leave some for me!!!


#14

Congratulations!! :cake::cake:

I consider myself going full speed too, only not in WK. :sweat_smile: … I really appreciate learners like you wondering around here, you give me so much feedback, and it’s really something valuable having comments related to your own journey and what did or didn’t workout for you, along with some hints on the why most of the time.

I’ve set up a timeline of 2 years to learn japanese at a level that hopefully will allow it to take care of itself by reading or consuming media afterwards.
In July life will catch up with me and the current amount of hours dedicated to japanese (studying) won’t be possible, so I’m carefully planning this coming 6 months and trying to make the most of those… (so most likely I’ll have tons of questions for you still :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: )

Anyway thanks for all!! Enjoy the cake! And keep us informed of your next adventures, those surely will be something to look up and be inspired


#15

Congratulations! A few months ago, I still remember seeing you in the Painful sub-forums, just a few levels above me. You are essentially more than double my level now :joy:


#16

I still feel like you could make it work. For instance, using @Kumirei review count estimator or the webtool from @Tenoch, or even better, something that would be directly built in WK.

It’s the same problem with your method. Even if someone would normally have to manually go through everything, someone will just make a script that automates the process. (Cf the mass unburn script)

At the end of the day, people who do not have experience with SRS will bite more than they can chew, burn out (or nearly burn out) and learn, I think. :woman_shrugging: I feel we should put more effort on education and prevention, but that’s another conversation. I guess the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter to me how I get to unlock more lessons, as long as I can.

gaaaah stoooop
s


Not quite. I mentioned having 300+ reviews a day with spikes at 400+ (and that the person I was replying to might make it to 500+). But that’s with full speed items reviews at every level except enlightened, i.e. almost the maximum amount. Looking at the tool I mentioned at the beginning of this post, going full speed all the way would result in this distribution (at my current accuracy):
fullSpeedAllTheWay
So I’d say spikes at 500+
Also, this is only once enlightened items come back for reviews, i.e. 6 months in. With the current system you are about level 25 when doing 7 days level, so you would be level 50 if you get fast levels all the way. Only one month to go, so I feel like it would be “doable”. (Still very taxing of course).


Thank you!

I don’t see what you mean. Look at the level up chart. It clearly says less than a week. I don’t know what Discourse does with images metadata, but even if you check those, you’ll see that the screenshot was taken today. I have thought of everything nothing to hide.
Pay no attention to the person behind the turtle shell.


I’m glad to hear that it’s not just me. :laughing:

I haven’t used it myself, but I think that @rfindley’s self study script would allow you to do just that :slight_smile:


Thank you! I’d love to see you reach level 60!


Thank you! And don’t worry, there seems to be infinite supplies of diabetes in here.


Thank you!

Yes, and I think that’s totally fine. That’s pretty much what I did too… except that you are still keeping up with WK, which I didn’t, but really wish I did. Oh well, I still got there in the end, so it’s all good (and it’s not like I consider the time I spent on other things wasted).

That’s amazing! And I’m sure you’ll make it too. From I could see of your method, you seem to have everything under control.

Well… I hope I can contribute, but in comparison, my approach to learn Japanese has been to faceplant forward. It’s still progress, but boy was it slow and painful.

Hm, not much planned so far. I will probably go back to spending a lot more time on immersion, while still spending a bit of time on SRS… I should probably work on written production, though, so I’ll try to think of something.


Thank you :smiley:
Well, if you factor in all the time I have been registered to WK (~6 years), I’ve only been going 10 level per years on average :stuck_out_tongue: So you’re probably faster than me from that point of view :stuck_out_tongue:


#17

Thanks for the advice! I will check it!


#18

Oh, I totally get that. That’s a good tool indeed (I actually recommended Neicudi to add a similar concept on Kitsun).

Agree :v:

Yup. That’s precisely why I suggested what I did because I felt like it would fit WK’s criteria more (I might be completely wrong though). I think it’s fair to wish for certain tools on WK, just like it’s fair for the team to say no.

Anywaaaaaays, I’m tired. U go to sleep :rofl:


#19

Sure. I still think that it’s easier to get a yes if it’s easy to implement (and my solution requires zero code, just a quick database update… even though, it’s almost 99.99% sure that it will get a 無視)
Speaking of which, I’m glad I have the lifetime and can just stick around until they add more stuff :stuck_out_tongue:

Sounds legit. Good night :wave: :green_heart:


#20

People at the WK headquarters be like…

bluemu%20-%20Copy%20-%20Copy

Gn :wave::green_heart::stuck_out_tongue: