Story of a Duo Refugee (1)

Hi all here on the forums!

I’m a new WaniKani user writing a post to introduce myself and begin a tradition for myself that will hopefully last from today to the end of my journey here. I very rarely take part in forums online (I haven’t made a public post in years), but the community here seems so nice and supportive it would feel wrong not to.

Introduction
I’m Mercuridi, and I’ve decided 2024 is the year to get serious about learning Japanese. As a monolingual native English speaker with some limited experience in school of French, at the start of last year I decided I wanted to learn another language, and I wanted it to be one that didn’t use the Latin alphabet. I wanted to learn something that would really give me a new lens to see the world through, and briefly considered Russian or Chinese. However, due to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine I struck Russian, and Chinese seemed too difficult to go straight into due to its intonations being integral to the language.

At this point I recognised the obvious answer; I’ve watched a few anime in my time and enjoyed them, and I love the idea of one day living and working in Japan. Therefore, why not learn Japanese? I began my work on the 11th January 2023, just using Duolingo and keeping a streak alive there.

Where does WaniKani come in?
Well, right here! As the year drew to a close, I realised that with a now 343-day long streak on Duolingo, I had very little to actually show for it despite paying £60 for a premium subscription. I can read hiragana and katakana. I know some basic sentence structures, but my actual understanding of the grammar is limited to say the least. I have trouble keeping up with a conversation, and I know very few kanji in total. For an entire year’s worth of commitment and work, it was slow and inefficient for the speed I actually wanted to learn; at this rate, I’m looking at JLPT N5 in more than a year’s time! It just wasn’t enough.

So, I did some research, and obviously now I’m here. I’m planning to pick up lifetime subscriptions to both WaniKani and Bunpro before their respective sales end, and my current goal is to be finished with both courses by the 1st January 2026, giving me exactly 2 years. As a side goal, I want to be able to achieve a JLPT N2 certification in the late exam season of 2025.

For now, I’m planning on continuing with my Duolingo streak on top of this to keep the number going up, but it’ll be seriously on the back burner compared to the new regime I have planned. Depending on workloads, I might even move to a different language on Duolingo that’s a little easier to pick up for an English speaker.

What’s this about a tradition?
To help keep myself accountable, I’ve decided I’m going to write a post similar to this one on the 1st of every month until I’ve completed WaniKani. Each post will contain a short update on my progress and potentially a few excuses about how my life has been going. If anyone else around is new and on the lower levels as well, I’d love to hear from you and we can undertake this journey together!

fin.
So, that concludes my first post on the forums and a little outline of my plans. I’m now in my final year and final term of university, so the workload for the next 4 or 5 months is going to be seriously intense. However, I’m looking forward to the challenge of finishing up my degree and being a bit more proactive about reaching my own goals learning Japanese - now it’s time to do some more reviews!

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We’re all very glad you’re here.

Please browse our amenities, such as Japanese ラジオ, anime clubs, and mistranslations.

We hope WaniKani meets all your Japanese learning needs.

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Thanks very much! I’m excited to be here.
Sadly radiogarden doesn’t work in the UK due to some weird copyright laws or something. A real shame since I don’t know of any other way to listen to authentic Japanese radio!
I’ll be sure to check out the anime clubs and mistranslations too.

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Welcome! Best of luck with your studies in 2024! Once you have studied some grammar, consider joining us in the Absolute Beginners Book Club! :stars:

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I did see the Beginner Book Club was starting a manga in February that I liked the sound of - I might buy a copy there and join that, but with the knowledge that there’s an absolute beginner’s club too I would probably be best off looking at that first!

Thank you for the welcome!

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Well, Duolingo really excels at obfuscating grammar concepts and making sure that while using it you will never be able to construct new sentences by yourself.
Japanese grammar is so different from English that I don’t think it’s possible to learn it just by translating example sentences. I tried Duolingo for a few weeks and realised that it leads to a dead end.
I haven’t tried bunpro, but from what I heard about it, you’re on a good track :slight_smile:

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I wish I had the same realisation earlier! It almost feels like I wasted a year of learning by committing to the slow slog of Duolingo, especially after they reset my progress(!) to move to a new system in ~August. The new system is definitely better, but it took me a long time to gather the motivation back up to continue - seeing all your progress “deleted” is pretty demoralising.

On a side note, I just bit the bullet on the Lifetime sub - no going back now! Let’s do it!

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Honestly, I scrapped Duolingo when I found Wanikani. I realised it just wasn’t teaching anything of substance, and it kept you stuck without learning anything new for a long time. If you’re going to be using Wanikani and Bunpro, (which I am now using both too) then honestly I can’t remember anything Duolingo taught that I haven’t seen on the other two. So it may be a waste of time that could be better used.

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That’s Duolingo’s Japanese course in a nutshell. The English translations are horrible and since grammar notes were removed completely, one has to search for all explanations online. I’m still doing the German course, but that one’s way better than the Japanese one.

However, ironically Duo now offers also kanji practice, which includes readings, meanings and stroke order so you might want to try that.

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It’s not just that Duolingo is slow. It’s intentionally misleading. For example, it teaches you that to say you want something, you just add がほしいです to the thing you want. Yep, one word. You’re never told what it consists of, what each part means, you’re never even told that が is a separate particle. Every time you need to translate a sentence, you just fill in “gahoshiidesu” as if it was one word.

My breaking point was after I watched Cure Dolly for the first time and realised that が is a particle that marks the word that comes before it. On that day I uninstalled Duolingo.

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I wouldn’t call that misleading. That’s a part of Duo’s core approach to teaching languages. It throws different structures in different combinations at you so that your brain can eventually figure out which ones are used when. It works for a ton of other languages, but not so much for Japanese which is way more nuanced. The other issue (this time Duo’s own misgiving) is that for Japanese it is super important to understand at least the basic relationship of components in a sentence. Without the old grammar tips it’s of course way harder if not impossible.

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I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I stumbled on WaniKani in June~ last year and didn’t look further into it because the advertised “2000 kanji in 18 months” sounded like a lot of work that I wasn’t willing to commit to at the time. Now I wish I’d gotten a hold of myself earlier! If only I started then, I’d be well into the teens by now at least. Better late than never!

That’s partly why I touched upon maybe swapping to a different language - I have to imagine that the simpler/easier languages to learn have better courses attached to them, and I still enjoy the Duolingo format - it just took me this long to realise it’s not been executed correctly for Japanese.

I have actually been using that feature a lot since it was introduced and it’s by far my favourite part of the Japanese course. However, you have to reach the unit that introduces a kanji to practice it in that way, and getting through those units is slowwwwww. I suppose you could do the section quizzes to skip ahead though - those would unlock the kanji practices after you’ve “proved” you know the content they want to teach you in their ordering.

I was reaching the point I noticed this as well - it didn’t quite sit right with me for some reason, and you’ve just explained why. I understand why they did it, it’s almost easier to understand as a “block phrase” that you just put on the end of something, but it’ll never truly teach you the grammar or how the language really works.

As I mentioned in my original post, my own breaking point was simply the realisation of how little I’d really learned; at least in Japanese, Duolingo is great at making you feel like you’re making progress without actually understanding any of the underlying concepts at all.

I’d also note that the slow pace might be on purpose. A customer that sticks around for many years trying to finish a tough (and poorly executed) course such as Japanese is more likely to pay for the service and to pay for it longer. Needless to say, I cancelled my Super subscription already.

You could argue services like WaniKani and Bunpro would benefit from the same concept, but I think both focus on much sharper areas and are properly honed and designed for a specific area of learning specifically Japanese, making them much better tools suited for the job. Also, I think offering a lifetime subscription at all is a very honourable decision. I’ve never liked pure subscription models, and would ten times over prefer to buy permanent/lifetime access to something up front for a fair price than get locked in to a recurring charge forever.

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This would be fine and well if there was any structure to speak of, for example if you had to select が, then ほしい, then です as separate words when constructing the answer. Then you would at least know that these parts are replaceable.

But Duolingo’s method is like teaching that “rideabus” is one word. If you ever need to say “ride a train” or “rode a bus” or “ride the bus” or “ride a pink bus”, you wouldn’t even know these phrases are possible to utter, and you wouldn’t be able to utter them because you wouldn’t know which part of the word “rideabus” to replace!

Duolingo lets you memorize set phrases and keeps congratulating you on meaningless achievements. It’s a nice game, but it doesn’t teach the language.

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I never thought about it and you’re right! Now I feel even better about my yesterday’s decision to buy a lifetime subscription :slight_smile:

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As a computer scientist and someone who’s generally paid a lot of attention to how the internet and various companies on it want to take our money, I’ve gotten very tired of those that insist subscriptions are the only way that any of it could possibly ever work.

There are plenty of people out there like me that are very happy to pay a lump sum up front for a good product, but every company out there has clearly done the maths and come to the conclusion that sneaky subscriptions are the best way to extract money from their userbase. Adobe Creative Cloud, Duolingo Super, Amazon Prime, Youtube Premium, Apple Cloud, and every streaming service out there immediately spring to mind as subscription models that could be much fairer to their users.

Just the option given to buy lifetime access will endear me very heavily towards doing just that, since it’s so rare these days to actually own what you pay for online, and I think providing the choice says something about the kind of platform being run. Just look at the recent Playstation-Discovery debacle! Those people paid real money for content and were told it was being removed from their libraries with no reimbursement.

Despite being too young to really remember it, I miss the days where a copy of Photoshop was just a copy of Photoshop.

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image

Alas, the thing was, you would buy Photoshop 4.0, then you would need Photoshop 5.0… but yes, your point is broadly correct, the as a service landscape is, indeed, aas.

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I agree. I would rather pay for something once. We’re still paying for something that could disappear someday, but I like the model of paying once far better than the subscription model. I have similar feelings about DRM. I am constantly looking for DRM-free language resources, like the Lonely Planet phrasebooks, so I can support the people who put references together without tying myself to a particular application or an endless subscription.

I pay for this, but I wish I could just pay once. I found five other people at my university who wanted to split the cost six ways and start a Family Plan (this is allowed by the terms of service even though we’re not family) so the cost ends up being less than 2 USD per month.

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I remember when this happened, I didn’t have the money to pay for any of their products (for web design and flash animation, and I used to love flash, it was pretty awesome, I still miss it) and I definitely couldn’t afford their subscription either when it started, and the whole idea of being forced to work with a subscription, felt like freaking big brother at the time. I’m not part of this field anymore so it’s water under the bridge, but I still prefer lifetime/one payment than subscription. And better yet, offline ones.
Lingodeer is an example of a product that keeps on growing and yet it has a lifetime option.

When I started using Duolingo they still had the translations by users mission. I used it for french when I needed it and I still use it for the nefarious German course that I finished when the tree was so small, and I have the super, because It keeps me in check with German, the course really changed and the vocabulary was extended. I can read books and understand sometime a lot sometimes close to nothing, but it did the work.
Japanese though, only for reinforcing kana, because I already have it, and from time to time to see if I can skip levels, but not for learning.

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In the sake of fairness, I have to emphasize that this is a unique situation and not the norm. Usually you have even single words broken down into conjugation patterns. Words which in other courses would be complete word tiles/bubbles. Not sure how far you’ve gotten in the Duo course, but I for instance don’t even remember your example.

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Hi hi! Welcome to WaniKani.

There are a lot of people here that are probably not happy at their progress, myself included, but remember that you’re actively taking the steps to improve. Let that desire burn :smiley: . Hope you enjoy your stay here, and that you learn all the kanji needed to pass even the n1.

Good luck mang

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