Should I tone down Wanikani?

I’m preparing for the N5/N4 exam this year and after lurking in the web, I found this around 2AM.

While it’s incredibly important to learn kanji for daily life in Japan, if you’re studying for the lower levels of the JLPT like N5 and N4, I would discourage you from spending all of your time trying to go above and beyond what’s recommended for these levels. One of the biggest mistakes I made in studying for the N5 exam was spending too much time on WaniKani, a website for learning kanji. It actually worked so well for me that I kept going and going — unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is that kanji is actually used quite sparingly on the actual exam itself. I wish I’d learned just the recommended kanji for each level and spent more time learning grammar and working on my reading and listening comprehension. As a result, while I completely rocked the kanji and vocabulary section on the actual exam, my reading speed was quite slow and I barely had time to mark the last answer on my sheet.


What are your thoughts on this? I definitely have the level to spare on Kanji. Should I just do reviews from now on and focus the extra time to study grammar and vocabulary?

Thanks for reading! :durtle_hello:


Well it depends on two things I think. First, if you are already spending an appropriate amount of time in other areas of Japanese, there’s no reason to slow down on WaniKani (unless you want to focus more on other areas of course). Second, real Japanese isn’t written like N5/N4 tests since more kanji/grammar/etc. is used in real life. Unless you’re only goal is to pass the test, you should find the balance that works best for you. I always recommend studying multiple aspects of Japanese at once, but putting focus on one. You should focus on the one that helps you get toward your goals the quickest.


I think this is incredibly easy to answer, so I’m not quite sure what you were looking for.

Will your grammar and vocab be up to par by the time you want to take N5/N4? If not, spend more time on them. If so, then you can keep doing what you’re doing.


Unless it’s really taking up your time to study the other topics necessary to pass the test, I don’t see the problem here.

If you are enjoying learning kanji, and plan to become proficient in japanese beyond the JLPT N4 and N5, just do what you like!


You took so long to post I thought you were writing pages upon pages of text. Guess not though. :laughing:


I was waiting for you to go first :joy:


+1 Vote for making sure you’re comfortable with the grammar that’s included in the N5/N4 and then just doing what you’re doing. There’s literally no harm in learning more kanji but if you’re studying kanji when you still have grammar you should know for an upcoming test I would scale the kanji learning back till you have that grammar down.

It’s all about balance!


N5 I believe has ~60 kanji which is just the first several levels of wanikani so if the test is your current concern I would focus grammar/listening more now. If wanikani doesn’t cut into your studying time then theres no reason to stop as others have pointed out.

Kanji and vocab quickly becomes one of the hardest things on the JLPT tests by N3+ and is very important just for general understanding of Japanese so I wouldn’t put off kanji too much like I did.

Basically, if you are behind on grammar and don’t have much time, then put off kanji for a bit. Otherwise no need to put it off


An interesting and timely question. There is no doubt that WK has given me a massive uplift in my reading and vocabulary abilities; however I now feel I need to bring other aspect of my Japanese up to the same level. There’s only so many hours in the day and I want too be functional in Japanese and I need to focus more effort on speaking, reading and understanding. Kanji and grammar knowledge only get you so far and my ability to parse Japanese sentences sucks. It might be worth (for me at least) putting WK on the back burner for a bit (reviews only) to focus on these things.

Alternative is just to push through, I’m on the fast track, get it done and then work on other things.


Short answer: I don’t know. Focus what you need to focus on.

Slightly longer answer: It really depends how comfortable you are at other areas of the JLPT. Instead of toning down wanikani, you should look at the areas in which you need practice the most.The person you quoted apparently had some reading speed issues, so should’ve focused more on that part. There are multiple ways to assess what area you need to improve. You can estimate it by yourself, but seeing how you made this topic, you might be slightly insecure. Alternatives are doing a mock exam on the JLPT website, or perhaps make a J-CAT test. I can definitely recommend the last one, it lists you score per category.

Although this is probably not specifically your problem, sometimes it feels like some people see wanikani as a (complete) Japanese learning method. It is not. Wanikani covers the kanji part, and you should allocate your time to wanikani as you would to kanji. (this is probably the mistake the quoted person made, imo)

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I’d recommend not doing that. You have lifetime, so there’s no need to rush. I’d recommend slowing down somewhere between levels 25 and 30, and spending that freed up time focusing on other aspects of Japanese. Additionally, make sure you put in the time to apply what you’re learning to something fun, whether that’s reading or something else you prefer.


Every once in a while we hear about someone who made it to level 60 without really studying much of the rest of the language at all, and usually they aren’t recommending the experience. But you could easily go to somewhere in the middle and not have it negatively impact your other studies.


Definitely the right path I think. Bloody oath I need to level up my ability to parse sentences.

As someone who did literally that (studied kanji for a year without doing anything else), I’m not not recommending it but it’s definitely not the most ‘efficient’ way. (Lol I hate that word.) I’d just say that if that’s what keeps you studying, like it did me, all the power to you and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it!
And since that year I’ve more than caught up in all the other areas so it can for sure be done.


This is currently exactly what I’m doing lol. I’ve successfully slowed down the pace of WaniKani, but it seems that instead of spending that time studying grammar like I should, I’m spending it writing and cleaning… but let’s just ignore that part lol.


WaniKani is just one part of a Japanese learning journey. You could get to level 60 and you wouldn’t be fluent. I recommend that you do WaniKani along with something like Genki 1 and 2, then move on to something like A Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar and/or Tobira.

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I feel like Wanikani isn’t just a website to learn Kanji. Of course, that’s the main reason someone would do it, but Wanikani also teaches you a ton of vocabulary that will be present in writing, conversation, etc etc. I treat Wanikani as one of my most important websites to learn Japanese because of this.

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Do be careful with that - since WK doesn’t mark when they teach the kanji version of kana-only vocab. And other highly important kana-only vocab isn’t touched upon - for obvious reasons.

It also teaches you the most common readings of the kanji comprising the vocab, not necessarily the most common vocab. Though plenty from the core 10K is in here.

WK is extremely useful and teaches a lot, but supplementary vocab studies elsewhere or reading native stuff is important.

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I’m currently doing Wanikani and at the same time. The thing I like about Bunpro is that there aren’t any locks on lessons. I find that it lets you modify your pace to match Wanikani. I also like how they feed off each other where I’ll see an example sentence on BunPro with a Kanji I learned on Wanikani and be able to read it faster without clicking to see the furigana or English translation. And reverse is nice too where I’ll learn a verb in Wanikani and already know how to conjugate and use it.

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I’ve taken the JLPT four times, the N4 (once), the N3 (once), and the N2 (twice). All times except one, I didn’t bother spending time studying for the test, instead I focused on learning Japanese and used the exam to measure my progress. The one time I failed was when I made a concerted effort to study for the exam.

Of course this is my personal experience, but my advice is to put learning the language to a higher priority than studying for the exam. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know the format of the exam so that you aren’t wasting time reading directions. However, if the point is to learn Japanese (in whatever respect you’re learning the language), focusing on learning the language is likely to lead to better outcomes over time.