That WaniKani Mountain (Yet One More Level 60 Post)

I’ve been keeping a journal for the entirety of my WaniKani journey, so I thought now would be a good time to share it all. First, about how I felt today, having finally reached Level 60:

(For context, I’d also like to preface all this rambling with the disclaimer that I suffer from intense depression–made worse by COVID, after which I’ve also begun to experience agoraphobic symptoms. Some parts were written in Japanese so I’ve also added spoiler tags to the translations below. For funsies.)

ワニカニのレベル六十 (WaniKani Level 60)

2020年10月24日に(六百四十日前)、私がこのワニカニの旅を始まりました。今日は、毎日毎日練習続きの後で、やっとレベル六十に達した。もっと日本語でちょっと書いてみる。毎日毎日勉強して、少しずつ進んだ。ずっと何があっても、簡単じゃなかっても、毎日午前七時ちょうど一生懸命張って練習していた。僕の復習のことの全部をいつも完了した。十または十五の漢字または語彙の単語を毎日学んでいて、学んだ単語がどんどん増えてきた。UDEMYやDUOLINGOを使って、僕の文法もを練習続けている。これの努力のせいで、日本語能力が段々上達してきた。N4日本語能力試験にも奇跡的に合格した! 計画どおり、レベル六十にたどり着くことができた!なんて功績だね。

(I began this WaniKani journey on October 24, 2020 (640 days ago). Today, after continuing to practice every day, I finally reached Level 60. Let me try writing a little more in Japanese. I studied every day and progressed little by little. No matter what happened, even if it wasn’t easy, I practiced hard every day at 7 am sharp. I always completed all of my reviews. I learned ten or fifteen kanji or vocabulary words every day, and the number of words I learned increased steadily. I continue to practice my grammar using UDEMY and DUOLINGO. Thanks to this effort, my Japanese ability has gradually improved. I even miraculously passed the N4 Japanese Language Proficiency Test! Just as I’d planned, I reached Level 60! What an achievement, right?)

It just figures that my review score on the day I reach Level 60 is 77%, perhaps the worst review score I’ve ever gotten. 32/143 items WRONG. And at least half of those are ones I study over and over again and no matter how much I do I just can’t seem to get them through my thick skull. 94 leeches, or as i like to call them 特別な物. I should feel good about having reached level 60. It’s huge accomplishment. I should feel fantastic! Though I sometimes forget or confuse kanji, I can still read most of the material I encounter and I even learned a ton of new vocabulary words to boot. Maybe the real accomplishment here (for me) is no longer being absolutely terrified of kanji.

For my next adventure I thought I’d take the N3. I thought maybe I’d try out BunPro and NativShark. NativShark is very slick. It has nice detailed lessons and natural Japanese spoken at native pace. It’s very well put together. But the pricetag was difficult to swallow given the “reviews” are just flashcards and you have to indicate on your own which ones you got wrong. BunPro seems closer to what I am looking for and I really like the way it lists similar grammar points AND explains the subtle nuances between them. With other methods I’d have to either search through the textbook or a bunch of PDFs to find what I was looking for and even then it never explicitly stated something like “this point is similar to X, but the subtle differences are x, y, and z”. But I find myself having trouble knowing what they’re looking for with each question. I guess if you do them enough times you get the hang of it. And $150 for lifetime membership seems like a really good deal. With both of them there’s no way to skip ahead or test out of anything, but at least with BunPro you can choose to study by JLPT level. And even though I did an N3 course, I just don’t think going through the N3 portion of BunPro and working on it every day until December will get me in shape for the N3. I don’t know why I thought I could manage to prepare myself in only a year. I also don’t even know why I care. I turn 41 next week and the only reason I study Japanese is for myself. I don’t need it for school or for work. I probably wont be able to visit Japan for a while either. I don’t have any friends who speak Japanese or any local friends interested in studying it. So this is my own personal journey, for myself, and I don’t know why I need to complicate it by forcing myself to take these tests. It was nice taking and passing the N4, but the more I think about it the less ready I feel and there is no reason I absolutely have to take the test THIS year. And yet, I am letting this wreck what should be an amazing feeling, thinking things like:


(What should I do? How can I reach intermediate level? Why do I always feel like I can’t remember anything? Why do I feel like even studying as many as three hours a day isn’t helping? I just want to go back to bed.)

And I did go back to bed. For most of the day. And I think I might have been able to sort a few things out for myself.



(8 hours later…)

I spent today not doing anything. I didn’t study math. I didn’t eat lunch. I didn’t do my usual Beat Saber exercise either. While staring out the window at the heavy rain I finally realized. Studying Japanese is fun and interesting, and I love it. But, studying for the JLPT is NOT FUN AT ALL. I hate taking tests. Then why am I torturing myself? There’s no value in that. I’m always nervous, have trouble sleeping, and I’m not really participating in other activities. I definitely don’t want to feel these unpleasant feelings. Maybe, for now, not taking the test would be better for me. I will continue studying, but this year I won’t take the test. And that’s okay. Taking tests is not the most important thing. To me, the most important thing is having fun studying Japanese. And now, I’m proudly standing at the top of this WaniKani mountain. I tell myself: “You finally did it. Smile and take pride. Congratulations!”

July 25, 2022 6 PM

The rest, I put behind spoiler tags in case anyone is interested. (It’s LONG. Read at your own risk.)

ワニカニのレベル十一 (WaniKani Level 11)


(I began this WaniKani journey on October 24, 2020 (85 days ago). Today, I arrived at Level 11 and I am very proud of myself.)

Since there are 60 levels, this means I’m 1/6 of the way through! In just 87 days! My profile page says 16% of kanji and 14% of vocabulary. Including apprentice level, that’s 227 radicals, 348/2055 kanji, and a whopping 1,030/6358 vocabulary words. Unless my count of apprentice items has exceeded 100, I do 20-25 new items each day. Based on current data this translates to about 10 levels every 3 months. At this rate, I’ll be done in another 15 months, in April 2022. It seems like a long way, but I’ve also COME a long way.

The level up email contained statistics that made me proud of my achievement thus far: You know 98.73% of the JLPT N5 kanji and 75.9% of the JLPT N4 kanji. You know 88.75% of the kanji Japanese kids learn in second grade. Even more impressively, you can read 65.75% of the kanji on NHK News Web Easy, 54.96% of the kanji that shows up on Twitter, and 54.1% of the kanji on Japanese Wikipedia. And, you’re still only 10 levels in!

Considering that I am planning on taking the N5 (or maybe N4 depending on how confident I feel when registration opens in June) in December, this is a huge milestone!


January 17, 2021 9:30 AM

ワニカニのレベル二十 (WaniKani Level 20)


(I began this WaniKani journey on October 24, 2020 (168 days ago). Today, after continuing to practice every day, I reached Level 20.)

I’m nearly 1/3 of the way through! In just 168 days! My profile page now says 31% of kanji and 31% of vocabulary. Including apprentice level, that’s 312 radicals, 658/2,055 kanji, and a whopping 2,111/6,358 vocabulary words. I’m still sticking with learning only 20 new items each day and keeping my apprentice items below 100, which keeps the amount of reviews I have to do each day manageable—usually between 110 and 150. The data still indicates that I’m gaining about 10 levels every 3 months, which means I should be done in another 12, around April 2022. It still seems like a long way, but I’ve definitely COME a long way.

I thought the Level 21 level up email would be the “milestone” one with new statistics (since the last “milestone” email was at Level 11), but this time it came at Level 20: You know 98.8% of the JLPT N4 kanji (as well as 100% of the JLPT N5 kanji) and 65.94% of the JLPT N3 kanji. You know the amount of kanji a Japanese 3rd grader should know (and 70% of what a 4th grader should know). You can read 87.03% of the kanji on NHK Web Easy and 76.92% of the kanji on the average Japanese Wikipedia articles.

Still not sure if I want to take the N5 or the N4 in December—I’m not sure if my grammar is up to snuff—but knowing all the N4 kanji is certainly a big help. If I’m still undecided I can always take a few N4 practice exams and see where I land.


April 10, 2021 8:30 AM

ワニカニのレベル三十一 (WaniKani Level 31)


(I began this WaniKani journey on October 24, 2020 (269 days ago). Today, after continuing to practice every day, I reached Level 31.)

I’m nearly halfway through! My profile page now says 49% of kanji and 51% of vocabulary. Including apprentice level, that’s 386 radicals, 1020/2055 kanji, and a whopping 3,638/6358 vocabulary words. I’ve finally begun to “burn” items, which according to the site means “This item is “fluent” in your brain. The answer comes with little-to-no effort. You will remember this item for a long, long time. Even if you don’t use it and “forget” it sometime in the future, it should come back to you quickly after recalling it. Items that are “burned” no longer show up in reviews.”

I did miss several (what I thought should have been) really easy burns and got really upset. My first failure to burn an item was when I messed up the spelling for the reading of 小 (small—it’s しょう and I put しょ. Another time I mistook 氷 (ice) for 泳 (swim). I definitely don’t like making mistakes on easy items I am (or should be) really familiar with. I still get a little discouraged when I make spelling mistakes, responding with the kanji meaning for a radical (like when I keep answering “round” for the “circle” radical or “wings” for the “feathers” radical—the radical is just feather but the kanji means feather AND wing), or responding with a semantically similar word (like when I put “assist” for the “help” kanji). Perhaps the most frustrating mistake I make is mistaking one kanji for another. With there being SO MANY kanji that look almost identical at first glance—like 間・聞・開・閉・閣 (interval/hear/open/close/cabinet) or 絞・結・緑・続・統 (strangle/bind/green/continue/unite) continuing to mistake them for one another is probably inevitable.

I keep telling myself that mistakes are part of the learning process and making a mistake on an item just means I get to practice it more. Despite knowing that, I still felt like such a failure that day I got 18 wrong—or really any day my accuracy dips below 90%. But this is NOT an easy language to learn and I will keep making mistakes like these and I will keep learning from them. I do feel good that it’s quite rare for me to completely blank on an item. I usually know at least the meaning or the reading and I usually don’t make a mistake on the reading unless it’s an exceptional one. I’ve also found that it’s easier for me to recognize kanji as part of words because of the context like 結婚 (marriage) vs. 結 or 時間 (interval) vs. 間.

The data still indicates that I’m gaining about 10 levels every 3 months, which means I should be done in another 9, around April 2022. It still seems like a long way, but I’ve definitely COME a long way. Halfway is a really big accomplishment. I went from about 150 kanji to over 1,000 in just about 9 months!

Neither this level up email nor the level 30 level up email was a “milestone” one with new statistics, so I looked them up myself: You know 90.46% of the JLPT N3 kanji (as well as 100% of the JLPT N4 and N5 kanji) and 63.76% of the JLPT N2 kanji. You know 94.5% of what a Japanese 4th grader should know (and 81.08% of what a 5th grader should know). You can read 93.74% of the kanji on NHK Web Easy and 87.58% of the kanji on the average Japanese Wikipedia articles.

Registration for the JLPT in December is less than two weeks away and I think I’m leaning toward taking the N5. I can think of it as an opportunity to see what taking the test feels like and then, feeling good about having passed, I can try the N4 next time the test is offered.

私が進みます!頑張ります!(Yep, now I know the kanji for がんばる!)

July 19, 2021 8:30 AM

ワニカニのレベル四十一 (WaniKani Level 41)


(I began this WaniKani journey on October 24, 2020 (384 days ago). Today, after continuing to practice every day, I reached Level 41.)

I’m more than two-thirds of the way through! My profile page now says 65% of kanji and 67% of vocabulary. Including apprentice level, that’s 445 radicals, 1370/2,074 kanji, and a whopping 4,438/6,471 vocabulary words. I’ve already burned 305 radicals, 541 kanji, and 2,009 vocabulary words.

The data still indicates that I’m gaining about 10 levels every 3 months, which means I should be reach Level 60 in another 6, around April 2022. After that I will still keep practicing and trying to burn as many items as I can. It doesn’t seem like such a long way to go anymore. I’ve already come so far. I’m more than two-thirds of the way there and every day I remind myself what I big accomplishment that really is. I went from about 150 kanji to over 1,300 in just about a year! That’s crazy! Even if I stopped today, I’d still have improved my ability to ready Japanese by more than 800%!

Neither this level up email nor the level 40 level up email was a “milestone” one with new statistics, so I looked them up myself again: You know 98.09% of the JLPT N3 kanji (as well as 100% of the JLPT N4 and N5 kanji) and 84.47% of the JLPT N2 kanji. You know 97% of what a Japanese 4th grader should know (and 93% of what a 6th grader should know). You can read 97.56% of the kanji on NHK Web Easy and 93.96% of the kanji on the average Japanese Wikipedia articles.

I wrote the following thoughts on accuracy in between Levels 31 and 41 and having these realizations really helped me put things in perspective. Also didn’t hurt that I burned both 小 and 氷 after failing to do so the first time they came up for their burn reviews. ::wink:: It’s finally begun to sink in that there’s no need to be so hard on myself for making mistakes. It’s part of the process. Besides, what’s wrong with an average accuracy rating of 80-89% when learning one of the most difficult languages on the planet? Nothing, that’s what. Instead of focusing on how many I got wrong, I am trying to focus on how many I got RIGHT. Today that was 89%. I got 89% of my reviews RIGHT and I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it every single day, no matter how many mistakes I make or how hard it seems. That alone is an accomplishment And on the days I do get over 90% of my reviews correct, I smile a little bit wider and congratulate myself just a little bit more.

On Accuracy

  • About halfway though Level 34 I finally had a moment of clarity about accuracy: Accuracy is only a progress indicator (and one of many)—it’s meant to increase over time as I learn and grow. It’s not meant start at 100% and stay there. If I my accuracy was always 100% I wouldn’t need to be studying anymore: I’d already be done. The reason I’m studying every single day is because I’m NOT done—there’s still more to learn—and that means continuing to improve little by little, making mistakes along the way and learning from them.

(August 28, 2021 6:45AM)

  • Nearing the end of level 38 I still felt bad when I made 22 mistakes one day. I’d made 21 mistakes the day before, and 27 the day before that and even though that meant I’d gotten 80% of the answers correct, I was still frustrated. I thought “Why can’t I do this? Other people can do this. Japanese kids can do this. Why can’t I?” And then it came to me: Japanese kids do this over TWELVE YEARS of schooling, bit by bit. I’m attempting to do it in ONE. (Closer to one-and-a-half.) AND I have an 80% accuracy rating, which means that most of the time I can read what I am looking at. I couldn’t say that at this time last year. So maybe instead of being angry at myself for making a few mistakes I ought to celebrate all the hard work I’ve been putting in this past year.

(October 13, 2021 7:45AM)

I registered to take the JLPT N4 in December. I almost didn’t end up registering at all because there were no test sites in NYC this year. But I didn’t let that stop me. After not having been able to do so in 2021, I REALLY wanted to take this test and I am going all the way to DC to take it. I completed an online course to prepare for the test and I think I’m in pretty good shape since I was already familiar with almost all of the vocabulary and grammar points that were covered. I’ll spend the rest of the month working on my reading and translating full sentences and looking at practice exams. Depending on how I do the N3 might even start feeling like a realistic goal.


November 11, 2021 9:15 AM

Taking the N4 JLPT/N4日本語能力試験を受ける

I did it. I took the N4 JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or N4 日本語能力試験 as it is called in Japanese) on December 5, 2021. If nothing else, at least I can say that much. I set out to take this test and 一生懸命勉強して頑張った (studied as hard as I could and did my best).

Since they were not offering the test in New York this year, my choices were either to travel all the way to DC to take it or wait another year and hope it would be offered in New York. After already waiting a year I wasn’t about to wait another. Tests are stressful all by themselves and this one was made so much worse by my having to travel over 200 miles while dealing with all of the COVID precautions and restrictions.

For months, I was so worried about traveling all that way (and spending all that money to do so) and then something going wrong like finding I had forgotten something (like pencils, an analog watch, or my test voucher), the test being canceled due to COVID, or my phone going off during the exam even though I’d turned it off. To complicate matters further, I had to register my vaccine information with the host institution, Georgetown University) and I was so worried about the part where they said I’d have to print out an attestation on the morning of the test. I was staying with Tod and Doug and had no idea if I’d have access to a working printer. I emailed the both JLPT test administration and Georgetown to ask if it was okay to just show it on my phone. They said yes, which was somewhat of a relief, but I printed out the emails and highlighted those portions because I wasn’t taking ANY chances. I ended up having access to a printer after all, and decided to print it anyway just to be safe. I even printed it twice. The first time I emailed it to Tod to print and it looked came out all weird so I just hooked up my laptop to his printer, dowloaded some printer drivers to make it work, and printed it again. And wouldn’t you know it? When we got to campus Doug was able to drive me right up to the building where the test was being given and all I had to do was show my test voucher and my ID! All that stress and worrying for absolutely nothing. Lesson learned?

As far as the test itself, I was reasonably confident I was going to ace it … that is, until I sat down and the test began. To be fair to myself, while I did understand most of the questions I understood less than I thought I would and far less than I was comfortable with. The grammar and vocabulary sections seemed fine–I’m sure I missed a couple here and there—but I went through them at a steady pace and even had time to spare to go over some of my answers. That, of course, led to the phenomenon that occurs during a standardized tests where you have three questions in a row all with the same answer and you begin second guessing your choices. "Are these answers correct? “Can there really be three questions in a row with the same number answer? That can’t be right. One of them HAS to be wrong. They can’t ALL be 1.”

Because I have such an extensive vocabulary (far more extensive than what is required for the test) I had a lot of trouble with words written in kana (phonetic alphabet) alone. When words have the same sound, the kanji is what tells you the meaning/which word it is. Without it, it was nearly impossible to tell because context only takes you so far. It’s ridiculous to expect that we should be able to figure out which word it is from just the kana. I thought the whole point of kanji was to be able to differentiate in those cases. And weren’t we being tested on our kanji knowledge too? If that wasn’t the case, they should just put furigana and call it a day. At least that way there’d be no confusion.

By the time I had completed the vocabulary and grammar sections, I still felt confident that I could pass. After all, only need an overall score of 90/180 is needed to pass. A minimum score in each section is also required, and for the vocabulary and grammar sections that is 38/120.

The listening section was where it all went to hell. An unmitigated disaster, actually. I think what makes this section harder than the others is that the pace is set for you and the section proceeds without stopping. It’s all done by playing a single audio track with time built in to read the questions and responses, listen to the passage/conversation, and select your answer. Each question is read and you are given time to read over possible responses before hearing the passage/conversation. The question is then repeated and you have some time to select your response before the track moves on to the next question. Once the question is done, there’s no going back. So once I got flustered and began feeling like I was falling behind, that feeling only intensified as we proceeded. I began to feel like I was bombing and all I wanted to do was finish the test and get the HELL out of there.

I had such a hard time extracting the information they were looking for from the spoken passages. It wasn’t even that I didn’t understand what was being said. They spoke clearly and at a reasonable pace. It just felt like it was happening so fast that I didn’t have enough time to listen to the passage, translate it, parse it, AND determine the correct answer. I felt like I had to hear every word because missing even one or two would make it that much more difficult to determine the correct response. It didn’t help that they made a point of using ALL the possible choices in the spoken passage, so you have to REALLY understand what is being said in order to arrive at the correct answer.

Like one question was “What days is the CEO in the office?” and during a long rambling passage, he discussed his plans for nearly every day of the week. I was sure he was in on Tuesday but got confused by the time he got to talking about Friday. It SOUNDED like he was saying he’d be in for at least part of Friday? Or maybe he was saying he was traveling that day and wouldn’t be in at all? Even in English I would have needed to hear it a second time.

Other questions seemed to have more than one possible answer. In one section they show you a drawing and you have to select the statement that the person with the arrow pointing to them might say. One of these was a picture of a man and a woman each holding a glove. The arrow was pointing to the woman, who was standing a bit behind the man and holding out the glove as if the man had dropped it or left behind. One of the choices was something like “You dropped something.” and another was “Did you forget something?”. I chose “Did you forget something?”because it sounded more polite but I feel like either one might have worked.

I feel crushed, and so disappointed in myself even though I KNOW I did the best I could. I studied every single day. I did my kanji, vocabulary, and grammar practice, took a 15-hour course to prepare for the test, worked on translating from my book of 5,000 Japanese sentences, worked my way through the book of Japanese particles, and even took some practice exams. I was so ready. And then the test began and all that confidence evaporated like morning dew.

If I just got 19/60 on the listening section it should be enough for me to pass, but right now I feel like it could go either way. All everyone in my life seems to be able to say is "you probably did better than you think” and “don’t be so hard on yourself” and “the test is over so try not to think about it” which is absolutely maddening. Everyone is trying to help, but nobody is really listening to me or hearing my feelings.

The worst part of all of this by far is the waiting. Six or so weeks, sitting with this feeling of failure and uncertainty, obsessively analyzing each mistake, all the while hoping that by some miracle I will have managed to score a passing grade. And then if I have, will I be able to do it all over again for N3?

December 9, 2021 3 PM



(On Sunday night the JLPT test results were finally posted. I couldn’t believe it. I passed! I really passed! I’m so happy and proud of myself.)

After six weeks of anxiously waiting and feeling like a total failure, the JLPT results were finally posted. After spending a few minutes trying to recall where I’d put my registration number and what I’d used for a PIN, I had my score report in front of me. Holding my breath, I scanned the report, looking for my result. I could hardly believe my eyes! But there it was, right on the screen in black and white: 合格 (Passed). “I can’t believe it!” I yelled, as an epic grin spread across my face. “I passed!” What an incredible feeling. I’d done it. I’d actually passed!

Of course, the only one surprised by this news was…me. I texted a whole bunch of people a screenshot of the score report and after congratulating me and telling me how proud of me they were, every single one of them added either an “I knew it!” or an “I told you so!” For some reason that wasn’t as annoying as it had been six weeks earlier.

I couldn’t stop smiling as I read through the rest of the report. My total score was 140/180. The Language Knowledge (Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading) score was 101/120 and the Listening score was 39/60. All the scores were far higher than I expected them to be. I’d even managed to score 20 points higher than the 19/60 sectional pass mark for the listening section, the one I was so worried would cost me the exam. At the bottom of the score report there was a reference section that showed how well examinees did in each area and provided a reference for Future Japans-language study. Letter grades were listed for Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading. I received an A in all three. (A: The number of correct repossess is 67% or higher.)

I am really proud of myself and all the hard work I’ve done. Japanese is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn and I am learning it all on my own. Not only did I pass the JLPT, which is a goal I’ve had for years, I did it on my own AND I passed the N4 level without even having attempted the N5. That is a huge accomplishment. Passing has also given me the confidence to keep going; I’m planning to study hard all year and take the N3 in December. The test date (December 4, 2022) is already in my calendar.

But for now, I’m going to take some time to celebrate my hard-won achievement. I’ve earned it.

日本語能力試験に合格したおめでとう!(Congratulations on passing the JLPT!)

January 25, 2022 11 PM

ワニカニのレベル五十一 (WaniKani Level 51)


(I began this WaniKani journey on October 24, 2020 (526 days ago). Today, after continuing to practice every day, I reached Level 51. Let me try writing a little more in Japanese. I studied every day and progressed little by little. No matter what happened, even if it wasn’t easy, I practiced hard every day at 7 am sharp. I always completed all of my reviews. I learned ten or fifteen kanji or vocabulary words every day, and the number of words I learned increased steadily. I continue to practice my grammar using UDEMY and DUOLINGO. Thanks to this effort, my Japanese ability has gradually improved. I even miraculously passed the N4 Japanese Language Proficiency Test! And now, only 10 levels of WaniKani remain! I can definitely reach level 60! See you there!)

I’m in the home stretch now. Just 10 more levels to go! My profile page now says 83% of kanji and 84% of vocabulary. Including apprentice level, that’s 477 radicals, 1722/2074 kanji, and a whopping 5,491/6,501 vocabulary words. I’ve already burned 390 radicals, 858 kanji, and 3,302 vocabulary words.

Since I have been doing only 10 lessons a day unless I achieve a review score of higher than 90%, it’s taking a bit longer to reach Level 60 than I’d thought. But that’s okay. I’d rather take a little longer and retain more. It should take me another four months to reach level 60, somewhere around my birthday. Happy birthday to me. For your birthday I taught you all the kanji. You’re welcome. After reaching Level 60 I plan to keep practicing and trying to burn as many items as I can. Maybe even start looking at those N1 kanji that aren’t on WaniKani. I’m definitely looking forward to relaxing my wakeup time and sleeping in sometimes, since the SRS schedule won’t matter as much when there are no more new lessons to do. There may even be days where there aren’t any reviews to be done. It doesn’t seem like such a long way to go anymore. I’m almost there—the end is in sight! I still have to remind myself what a big accomplishment that is. I went from about 150 kanji to over 1,700 in just about a year and a half! That’s insane! Even if I stopped today, I’d still have improved my ability to read Japanese by more than 1,000%!

I don’t think I’m going to get any more “milestone” emails with new statistics, so I looked them up myself: You know 100% of the JLPT N2 kanji (as well as 100% of the JLPT N3, N4, and N5 kanji) and 55.19% of the JLPT N1 kanji. You know 99.5% of what a Japanese 4th grader should know (and 98.34% of what a 6th grader should know). You can read 99.15% of the kanji on NHK Web Easy and 96.9% of the kanji on the average Japanese Wikipedia articles.

I spent the better part of this journey beating myself up for every mistake I made. It doesn’t feel as bad as it once did to make a mistake. Before I’d be upset all day, asking myself “why I was so stupid”. Now I remind myself that this item will be getting more practice and try to figure out what the trouble is. Did I confuse two similar kanji? Did I get tripped up by a homophone? Did I blank completely? And then I try to address it as best I can. Now that I have completed the “pleasant”, “painful”, “death”, “hell”, and “paradise” levels and have moved on to “reality” (AKA the final ten levels) I’ve been noticing a certain kind of ease with the reviews.

Some days I even get over 90%. It could be thanks to all the extra practice I’ve been doing. After each review session I do my lessons and then four additional review sessions: the items I just learned, the “Special Items” (other people call these leeches, but like to think of them as items that need special attention and extra practice), the items I missed during the daily review, and all the items I’ve learned in the past four days. And here’s the thing, I almost always get 100% in all of those, which means that the more often I read in Japanese the more I will remember.

Increasing my Duolingo practice to six lessons a day has made a huge difference too. More and more I feel like it is easier to put together sentences, to know which particles to choose and where to put them. In my JLPT N3 course I find myself not needing the subtitles as much. I read articles on Tofugu to teach me even more about the finer points of the language. I have more synonyms now and I understand their nuances. I can say things in more than one way. I have a little bit of “spice” to add to my speech. I’ve even been reading more in Japanese. I read an article in Japanese about the nuance between 列車 and 電車 that really helped me clarify when each one should be used. I’m not afraid of Japanese Wikipedia anymore. I even bought a book of Japanese short stories to read. It has furigana and even an English translation on the facing page. For now I cover it with a piece of paper so that I don’t glance at it by accident. And even if I do make use of those tools…there’s no shame in that. It’s not a crutch. It’s a helping hand. That’s why it’s there. That’s how I will learn.


April 2, 2022 7:30 AM



(In addition, I have already completed the N4 course and it was very useful. Thanks to the N4 course, I successfully passed the N4 Japanese Language Proficiency Test last December. I would like to try the N3 Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year, but first I would like to improve my Japanese proficiency even more.)

This is what I wrote to my Online Japanese N3 Course instructors this morning. I’ve been trying to communicate in Japanese as much as possible and use the grammar points I am learning. The fact that I was even able to put this short paragraph together (even though I did use google translate to double check myself and make some better word choices) is a testament to how much I’ve improved over the last year. I KNOW I’ve made a lot of progress. And yet, I can’t help but feel like I’ve climbed what I thought was an enormous mountain only to find myself standing at the top of a tiny hill—staring up at a mountain so tall I can’t even see its peak.

For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling less and less confident about my Japanese ability, especially when it comes to understanding popular media, song lyrics, or reading longer passages of text. And yes, “real” Japanese isn’t the same as “textbook/test” Japanese. It still feels like no matter how hard I try it’s never ever enough. Even though I know I’ve come so very far I still feel like there’s so much more to go that I don’t know if I will ever get there. I don’t even know if I can pass the N3 in December. I did some practice vocabulary and grammar questions and only got about 50% of them right. I’m so fucking tired of giving everything I have and still feeling like all I will ever be is a B+. Good, but not good enough. Why does everything I want to accomplish have to be done alone? Why does everything always feel so fucking difficult? Why do I still keep confusing the same kanji? Why does it feel like the more I learn, the more I forget? I’m studying close to three hours every day, and still one step forward, four steps back. What more do I have to do?

JLPT registration opens in about a month and while I will have reached Level 60 in WaniKani and finished the N3 course and still have three months to study. I plan to read, continue playing Final Fantasy VI in Japanese, watch a bunch of shows without subtitles, keep writing, take tons of practice tests, and maybe even repeat the N3 course. I just don’t think it will be enough.

It’s good to have a goal to keep myself motivated, but if it’s unreachable I’ll be stressing myself out for no reason. To that end, maybe I should wait another year while I keep studying. Or, maybe I should just take it and see what happens. Of course, that makes me think about how disappointing a failing grade will be and how bad it will feel and how the test fee (and the money I spend to go down to DC to take it) will have been wasted. And yet if I do fail, I already know nobody is going to care except me. What does it even mean if I pass this test? That I can pick the answer out of three or four choices because I learned “how the test works”? That I got lucky because the test is graded on a massive curve? Is passing this test even a goal worth having? Do I really need a roadmap that’s going to take me to “textbook Japanese understanding” if that’s not where I ultimately want to go? If the test is only a reason to keep studying, do I really even need it? I wish I knew. I wish I didn’t feel so helpless and alone.

That said, I can’t do anything about those feelings. I CAN keep studying and doing my best and that is what I am going to do.

July 9, 2022 9 AM


Dude. I read your JLPT N4 story and that got my heart racing just reading about it. Nicely done! I want to do the same!


It still makes my heart race to read it myself. Good luck with your test prep, definitely make a point to work specifically on listening practice, and definitely do a (full) practice test or two so you know what to expect. And of course, don’t be me and stress yourself out to the point where it stops being fun!


Congratulations! Level 60 is cake time!
I went for a layered cake, to symbolise how each layer of studying builds on top of the others!



I think I might FINALLY use that new cake pan I bought…the one with the removable bottom. And make brownies!


Congratulations! :crabigator: :cake:


Big congrats on getting to lv 60! Hope you get to enjoy your success somehow and good luck with your future studies! :slight_smile:


you’re a WK legend!

おめでとうございます! :cake:


@pragmata Thank you! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

@ekg ありがとうございます!昨日あと、ちょっと気がもっとよくなりました。必ずこの成功を認めて見せます!少し時間がかかる。

そして、このケーキは美味しそうです!食べたいなあ。。 :drooling_face:

@mitrac ありがとうございます!


Congrats! Amazing story

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Thank you!

It’s funny, while I was going through it I didn’t really think about it being amazing or not amazing, but now reading and rereading it I hope that other people might be able to make use of some of the insights I had and/or be inspired. (Especially the parts about accuracy and the part about doing something in 18 months that native learners take 12 years to do.)


Congratulations! I’m gonna go eat some banana cake with cream cheese frosting I have in my fridge for breakfast (in your honour…not just cause I’m looking for a reason to eat this cake for breakfast instead of eggs)


Happy cake day <3 Finding the motivation to do something that feels like work as a hobby/leisure activity can be really hard, so congratulations on finishing WaniKani! For a lot of people, learning kanji is absolutely the hardest part of Japanese in terms of actually finding the drive to do it, and certainly everyone works differently. But it feels like once you have this it’s sort of proof that this isn’t a stupid goal or something you’re just gonna give up on or that it’s impossible for someone learning as an adult. At least, that’s how I felt when I got to level 60. Knowing 2,000 kanji is by no means fluency but it’s a huge step forward! Good luck with your continued studies!

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@kuchikopi Thanks you! I don’t think one ever needs a reason to eat banana cake with cream cheese frosting…or any other cake. Cake is enough of a reason. The cake is NOT a lie. Also cake has eggs in it … and yours has bananas so really it’s healthy, right?! :wink:

@izzyfizz96 Thank you! I should get some cake… or make some cake… ケーキを作るはずでしょう!
You’re 100% right. I started learning Japanese in 1999 and I was terrified of kanji. Actually, I was even terrified of hiragana and katakana. I did everything in romaji. (I know, I know. Eeeeew.)

It wasn’t until I was able to get in a few college courses that I even looked at kanji at all (aside from 火・木・火・水・土, of course. Because reasons. And anime.) Even after learning those first 200-250 kanji I still found it tough. “How do you learn so many kanji, I thought? How do you remember them?” I’d wonder. And then I discovered WaniKani in 2020. Still can’t really say I can remember every one of them all the time, but that’s what continued studies are for! And I see you’re starting a year in Japan in March! That’s so exciting! I went once in 2016 and would love to return someday.


Congratulations!!! I noticed it already in some of your other posts - you have SUCH a great way of writing. The whole part about taking the N4 felt almost like reading a thriller :slight_smile: Really sorry to hear about your depression and panic attacks. But you didn’t let that stop you - you just rocked and did it.
Enjoy the cake mate!


ありがとう @Warrie さん! Always nice to be complimented on my writing. I kept an almost daily journal from about 2005 until around 2013. It got to the point where I was spending 4 hours a day writing and feeling anxious that I misremembered something, left something out, or recorded something inaccurately. Now I just do a really long entry on the last day of the year, reflecting on the year gone by and my hopes for the next year. (Not resolutions! If I have something I want to accomplish I just do my best to make it happen! No need to wait until January.) I also journal when I need extra help processing something or when I have a special memory I want to preserve. Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate some Japanese to get more practice writing. :thinking:

A special thank you for the kind words. Though the state of affairs in the world today is abhorrent, the depression is manageable, especially since I have a consistent routine (including Japanese study). :hugs: The panic attacks don’t happen too often, mostly when there are too many people close to me and I get overwhelmed. I get to stay home most of the time and I like that.

As my own worst critic it’s nice to hear that I rocked something. Thank you for that reminder.

And… I made a GIANT pan of brownies! (If I make a chocolate cake I’d have to eat it myself and it would get stale before I was able to finish it. Brownies last MUCH longer. :smile:


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