Stuck in a rut at Level 24: Best strategies for moving forward?

For whatever reason, up until about Level 23 I was making regular progress in WK and it was super fun. But I guess other life duties got in the way and now I’m kinda stuck on Level 24 to the point where even keeping up with daily Reviews is tough, leaving no time or energy to do any new Lessons.

Right now there are almost 400 Reviews in my queue and I struggle to get it back to zero.

The problem is that my memory recall for most kanji is really slow. Like I have to sit there for between 5 to 20 seconds on average to try to remember the correct answer. Especially if it’s one that is near Burn status and I haven’t seen it in months.

Is this the wrong strategy? Should I be aiming for “Know the answer immediately” and if I can’t think of it in 5 seconds, then I should just enter a wrong answer and skip it? Or is there some value in racking my brain for 20+ seconds until I can think of the answer?


My method is to fail quickly and fail early. I’m fine with taking a bit longer to come up with the meaning/reading for Guru and beyond, but while an item is in Apprentice, if I don’t get it in 5 seconds, I’ll fail it and spend 10-15 seconds reinforcing the meaning/reading/mnemonic.

I find that this helps keep my accuracy up for when it comes around again during the longer intervals.

I feel you. The same thing happened to me in the early 20’s. I posted about it here:

The best thing to do is stop all lessons until you get the following:

  • Apprentice around 100
  • Guru around 500

Once you get to less than 100 or 50 items per day, then you can think about starting lessons again.


I went up to level 21 before burning out and resetting. I do think there is value in taking some time to remember, because it’ll help you think about the mnemonics you might have used to keep it sticking in your memory. Then the next time you see it, you’ll be able to recall it faster. You are in a rut right now, so I don’t think it’s abnormal to feel like you’re moving too slowly. ><


It’s totally normal to have a feeling of falling behind as you hit the 20s. If you have 5-10 kanji and vocab per level that are tough for you, by the time you have 20 levels of that you’ll have a lot of recurring villains in your reviews. People here often call those “leeches”. Items that you struggle to remember. The common fix for this is to hold off on lessons. Eventually you’ll work your way through the leeches and have a more sane number of reviews per day.

At 60 (and for 6 months+ now) I still have items failing their burn reviews. I just try to remember that this is what SRS is for. It’s not for watching your level and score going up. It’s to help you find the hard items and give you lots of extra practice with them.


Just checking in for another reset. Mine was at 19, but I am terrible at languages. :smiley:

Persistence is key. Keep at it, sticking to your routine and the habits you’ve made will help. Also it’s okay not to be going as fast or if your less motivated, do what makes you happy and follow your interests. For a season I was on a level for like 100 days, eventually my motivation to learn vocab came back and levels are only taking me 10-15 days.

I definitely identify with the overwhelming feeling of having a pile of reviews. I recommend setting aside that 30 min in the am and 30 min in the evening, doing that every day will help you clear your queue.

I’m worried for when I get to the ‘consciously incompetent’ phase, as of now I’m happy being ‘unconsciously incompetent’ and learning tons of vocab :sweat_smile: (see tofugu/one of tofugu’s podcasts on this - they basically say keep going because it gets better and it’ll be worth it).


If anyone else has found themselves in a similar rut, here is some advice that worked for me. I have a full time job and a Family w/ kids, so I understand not having as much free time as others.

Every ten levels I have taken a break from learning anything new for about 60 days. I continue to drill my reviews everyday, as long as you don’t start the next level radicals or Kanji nothing new will build up in your lesson pile. If you feel overwhelmed, this will give you time to to focus on what you have currently while slowly killing the backlog out.

In my 60 day break, I make sure to read as much Manga and play as many Japanese Video Games as possible to reinstate that I have actually learned something useful and fun! If that’s not what you find fun, the do whatever it is you set out to learn Kanji for. It will re-motivate you to learn even more! I also use that two months to brush up on some key grammar points, vocabulary, and listening practice. You will not get by in Japanese on Kanji alone.


Are you reading anything, manga, starting to watch shows with Japanese subtitles, like what is the rest of the time your spend with Japanese like?

Also, 5 to 20 seconds is fine, esp. for burns. Doing WK I have often blanked on kanji I know-- like, things I have seen thousands of times as part of a common word in a real-world context-- because doing flashcards is just flashcards. I think a lot of the advice here is really good (stop lessons, 100 apprentice, etc) but maybe you’re brain’s just bored with it because there’s not a lot at stake. I asked about other Japanese time because if you can see the connection to real-world stuff, then maybe more’s at stake and you get momentum again.


I should also mention that when you start lessons up again, you only do 20 per day or some other number.

What happens when you do all the lessons at one time is that the Guru/Enlightened/Burned period for those items comes around at once and you get 100+ added to the review for that day.


I suspect, as @timfreilly mentions, you may find that a backlog of leeches is keeping your review count high. At around the same level as you I noticed the same thing. Digging a little deeper I found that in terms of progress I was moving at the same pace in terms of learning new items at those levels and moving those items through the process the same as always. However my apprentice count, and hence review count, was high due to two factors. One was some persistent leeches (one or two per level of those buggers adds up to half of your 100 apprentice level goal at this point - hence leaving you with only half those slots for your current progress). The second factor was my repeat guests - items coming back from guru and master levels - filling up my apprentice queue. Personally I find I have a quite a gap between my short term recall and my long term recall. I have a pretty high percentage after first learning a new item and during it’s progress through apprentice to guru and guru2 and often even to master. When items come back around from guru2 or above the percentage on my review sessions drops quite dramatically.


If it makes you feel better, I started having considerably bigger problems remembering new kanji at around level 21-22 and it continues even now. I considered resetting, but then I realized I’d have to go through close to two thousand of items I don’t really need to repeat only to get to the few hundred (if even that) of problematic ones. I will keep going and maybe reset at 60. :slight_smile:


Ahh yes the good ol’ 20’s

I think most people end up getting smacked in their face by the workload at that point, and to be fair nothing really prepares you for it.
I perserverede through part of it but eventually decided to slow down. WK took away too much of my time from studying, working and generally having a life (not that i managed to amend that).

Regardless there a multiple benefits to slowing down. I feel like you mix up fewer items, you dont burn out, reviews start appearing in neatly sized chunks (compared to the dreaded 100+ reviews)
You already know quite a few items at lvl 20 and your time is better spend spread out doing more grammar at least up to and including N3 along with consuming some more native content.

To clarify, by going slower i mean reducing your apprentice items or any other method yielding similar results, im at max 70 apprentice currently due to uni exams and projects and im generally already a busy person. 100 is probably a good number for most and then it can be tweaked as one likes (but it takes maybe a month to fully stabilize)

In terms of your “thinking pause” dilemma. If i feel that the answer is on my lips ill try and recall it, otherwise its probably not worth the time.

As per usual this got way longer than necessary


Happened to me as well, at level 21-24… I noticed my leeches became more and more and my review score got worse and worse. Not to mention I woke up to 200-300 reviews and had another 100 in the evening. I couldn’t do it anymore. When I make mistakes, I get easily frustrated, which lead to more mistakes… it was awful.

I didn’t do new lessons for 2 months and worked on my leeches. I still have 100 of those fuckers and I just hate how I can’t get them into my brain no matter how often I see them. I go very very very slow now. I only do one lesson (5 new items) if my review level is 85% or + once a day.
It slows me down a lot, yes. My apprentice items are around 40 now, sometimes going up to 50. My guru items around 350ish (they were 700 at level 25 and thus resposible for my extreme workload).

Also I started reading Japanese manga and playing difficult RPG games only in Japanese. I felt so frustrated with those damn leeches, I was about to give up. But then I noticed, damn, I understand so much already! I go very slow these days, I do not want to rush into anything. I might never get these damn leeches right and I will never be able to distinguish or remember 公社 and 公用. Never. But I noticed my enemies are not the new items I am learning, but the leeches I have collected so far. I need to fight them while slowly learning new items so that I am not hitting a full stop.

But in the end I started to study because I wanted to be able to play games in Japanese and read manga and that is already something I can do! Also it is much less stressful to only do 70 reviews in the morning and 50 in the evening, so I am not feeling the burnout anymore.


The 20’s certainly got me. That’s when burn reviews started to come in and the workload went up appreciably.

There’s a balance to be struck there. 20 seconds is a lonnng time for a review card. Generally my philosophy is I either know it or I don’t (and intentionally fail it), with the exception being if I know a card’s answer is right on the tip of my tongue and I’ll give it 5-10 seconds. For the most part though my goal is to my typing the answer within about ~1 second of seeing a card.

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I would say:

(1) don’t be afraid of taking a long time off doing lessons (I took a whole year! did not realise that would happen when I started the break… oops…)

(2) do reviews quickly - there’s no point burning an item which it took you half a minute to remember

(3) once you have the energy again, invest time in your leeches (e.g. comparing similar kanji, coming up with distinguishing mnemonics etc) before recommencing lessons

Basically, it sounds like you are burnt out, and it’s best to acknowledge that and give yourself some breathing space before you get, like, super duper burnt out. So don’t even think about doing lessons until you have way fewer items to review each day than you’re comfortable with. As soon as you do lessons, that number goes up.

And then just let yourself review really quickly without expending too much energy on trying to recall things, nor on worrying about your accuracy.


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