The dread of failing

Hello everyone! Sorry if I’m doing something wrong with this, I haven’t really been to the community before and this is my first post. But hello! I’m glad to be here :slight_smile:

I’m here to vent a bit I guess, as I just went through 86 or so reviews and didn’t do too well on them. Many were from the lessons I had done earlier today, 70 I think of those (currently beginning of level 10). I just found that I remembered way less than usual, whether meanings or pronunciations, or even radicals. Stuff is just hitting way harder than it was. I feel so dumb and so bad when I don’t pass reviews, especially when I knew the answer but just didn’t think hard enough (or typed an instinctual answer that was for a similar kanji).

I also find myself not able to remember words unless I see their kanji, and often glazing over and not recognising kanji (in the real world; I live in Japan) I know because they’re not part of the vocab I’ve specifically learned through wanikani. Is this normal? That my memory is so selective to wanikani? Will I eventually come to a stage where the kanji and vocab really gets ingrained to the point where I just know it?

I don’t really know what I’m getting at with this post. Guess i’m just wondering if anyone feels the same? I feel guilty when I fail because I’m on a one-year plan and hope to finish by then, for money’s sake. And so I feel I’m always racing against time and shouldn’t let anything wait. It’s tricky. Ugh, sorry for this mess of a post XD Have a great day, and stay safe!


for me so far, this is the key. failure - it hones my memory and and helps me remember confidently all those i fail 10, sometimes 20 times in about few weeks. its ok, and it is the key to remembering them all. i think you should not be demoralized by that since you learn and remember much more than you forget eventually, and just keep doing the reviews. little by little, even though its hard for some tricky kanji or vocab - your brain eventually will remember them by that same frustration you are having.

it was important for me to reply for this post because i was at your place, honestly. but, i kept go with the flow, and find out that wani kani shapes my memory technique little by little and teaches me how to remember better, and because of those failures im sure you will be able to remember better at few more levels.
remember that the mass of items you remember by now starts to get really big - its normal that at some points you will have a slowdown.

keep on going and have a good luck, enjoy the process - it makes everything much simpler :slight_smile:


Hey keep failing. The system wil just keep giving you the same flashcard until you memorize it.
You’re just learning. It’s totally normal.


I’d also take a look at doing fewer lessons per day :slightly_smiling_face: there’s no need to do them all at once, and as soon as you start hitting genuinely new material it really does get harder to cram that much new information in all at once.

I definitely think it works better to do a smaller number of lessons every day, but perhaps spend a little more time on them.

In terms of not recognising stuff in the wild; that’s normal, and the more exposure you get the better that will get too. I’d recommend the font randomizer script too; it can help to shake you out of only being to recognise things in the WaniKani font, which is one aspect of this issue.


I used to feel the same way; like every time I got a card wrong that I was doing something wrong and not “learning enough.” Eventually I realized that for those tricky cards that I just can’t seem to get right, the failures and repetition of seeing it over and over again is actually the process that is cementing it in my brain.

I’ve also noticed that my own mental performance will vary from day to day and even at different times of day, depending on how I’m feeling. Am I tired, hungry, have I had a few beers, did I just wake up? I don’t even worry about trying to optimize my WK time for when I feel sharpest, because I figure I want to use it in the real world and I’m not always going to be in learning mode every time I encounter a word in the wild.

I’m also trying to complete WK by the end of the year (or as close to it as possible), so I make sure to spend a bit of extra time outside of WK reviews (I write every single WK card down in a notebook; physically writing it down helps me a lot with memorization) trying to reinforce the new kanji and radicals for that level to make sure I can level up on time, but after that I don’t worry about it so much and just let the SRS work its magic.


Thank you thank you for your kind words and reassurances, I will take them to heart. I’m happy to hear that you’ve come to a better place and are more in tune with wanikani’s memory technique, that’s fantastic :slight_smile: thank you again :slight_smile:

Thank you very much :slight_smile: you’re right, of course. Spaced repetition isn’t famous for no reason XD I will keep going and see each failure as a chance to learn, thank you :slight_smile:

Thank you very very much, that’s some great advice that I’ll definitely take on board!! :smiley: I’ll work through lessons in moderation, and expose myself to different fonts. Maybe put some extra effort into recognising them in the wild too :slight_smile: Thank you a bunch :slight_smile:

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Thank you very much for your reply!! I must say I’ve experienced the exact same. Sometimes it’s right before bedtime and I’m exhausted and get lots wrong. Other times I cruise through while jamming to whatever music. I hadn’t considered this, but you’re right - learning in all stages of your moods and energy levels is the key to replicate real life. And your advice on the note taking is also great - I’ll see if I can do something similar, I think it’ll be a great help. Thank you!! :slight_smile:

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Right here with you with the frustration and feeling discouraged! Maybe not so much right now but I do feel that way from time to time. I know how frustrating it can be to be stuck with leeches and suddenly completely blank out on a kanji you knew 2 days ago. All I can say is just keep swimming! It’s a great feeling to finally get down the kanji you used to struggle with. It also helps to view something wrong as positive not a negative, it just means you are learning more

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Yeah, you’ll get past that.

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Yep. Memory fades and brainfarts are all part of the WK/SRS journey. Also, trying to recognise kanji in isolation is difficult compared to seeing them in a word. It’s common and normal.

If you didn’t remember something, it was at that exact moment in time with everything else that’s going on and how you’re feeling and how stressed/tired you are. But it’s not a permanent defeat or failure - you just haven’t remember that one yet and you’ll get there with some patience and extra reminding. :slight_smile:

I used to get scary frustrated but these days I force myself to say aloud “oh of course!” or “oh that’s interesting” or "oh i wonder where I got mixed up " (and then find out) whenever I miss a review. It’s that mental game of staying chipper and not beating yourself up.

And there is no feeling finer than burning a word which leeched you for ages - it felt fantastic to finally burn 除く yesterday.


If it’s any comfort, it’s the same thing for native speakers when they start out. Chinese is my… second native language, let’s say? (I started as a toddler, but I used English as my everyday language, while Chinese was for Chinese lessons – spelling, comprehension, oral exams, essays etc – at school and TV at home, because my parents preferred Chinese shows.) I constantly drew blanks when I was younger. I would remember what a word meant, but forget its reading, or remember its meaning, but forget its reading… or I would have forgotten everything despite knowing that I had seen the character a while ago in class. It’s normal. Don’t worry about it. Just keep going, and the characters will stick eventually.

Just a suggestion though: I think the most useful thing for learning to recognise characters ‘in the wild’ is learning stroke order and writing characters by hand. You may not have the time to write every single character, so if you want, you can just learn the stroke order for a few. The reason I’m suggesting this though, aside from gaining muscle memory (which will give you another way to remember the kanji), is that no matter how hard you try, your handwriting will probably look different from the font you’re copying, so you’ll get a feel for the shape of the kanji itself and realise how it might be changed/distorted when someone else writes it (be it a calligrapher or a graphic designer).

Another thing you can do is to go onto calligraphy sites (even Chinese ones) and just get a feel for how else the character can be written, especially with brush strokes. In Chinese, I usually search ‘[kanji] 书法’. (Don’t worry about the first character: it’s the simplified Chinese version of 書 and doesn’t exist in Japanese.) For Japanese calligraphy, you can try ‘[kanji] 書道’ or ‘[kanji] 書道 手本’ if nothing promising shows up for the first version. Look at the results in Google Images to get a feel.

Whatever it is, just keep calm and carry on. You’ll get there eventually, and being exposed to kanji on a daily basis in Japan should help you, not harm you, provided you make an effort to recognise kanji you already know every once in a while. Eventually, you’ll stop going, ‘Oh no, I know I’ve seen that kanji, but I can’t remember,’ and you’ll start saying, ‘Oh yes, that’s it! I remember that one!’ All the best. :smiley:


I get second thoughts a lot when seeing a kanji on the wild that I may or may not know, because some are so similar, usually if I feel like I don’t really know it odds are that I haven’t studied them on wanikani. But the more I see the kanji, the more is ingrained in my brain. Still I get the “I think I know this kanji” thoughts all the time

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Limiting the amount of lessons and reviews you do at a time should help with that. Level 9 was around the time I first started struggling to remember content, I think purely down to the fact that you’ve already crammed so many vocab and kanji into your brain that it just needs a little extra time to absorb everything that you’ve been learning up to that point.

Sometimes if I get something wrong in a review I become so fixated on that mistake that I start making more and more errors on kanji and vocab I might have gotten right otherwise. If you find that happening to you during a review, wrapping up the session and taking a short break to clear your mind can help prevent you from making a bunch of silly errors due to feeling stressed out or from rushing to try and finish the session.

Just today the word 人類 came up in my reviews (one of my major leeches). I’d already reviewed 人情 and gotten it right (for once), and so thinking it couldn’t possibly share the same answer with full confidence I typed in ‘human race’. :woman_facepalming: I don’t even know many vocab I have bouncing around between guru and enlightened because of this. A lot of the time a kanji or word I mistake for something else doesn’t even look remotely similar and I still manage to get them confused.

Every now and then when I sit down for a review I’ll come across several words using a certain kanji and get them all right, and then that kanji will come up shortly afterwards and I’ll completely draw a blank and fail it. It tends to be easier to remember kanji as part of a word than isolated all by itself. The more exposure you have to words through reading and listening to stuff the easier it’ll become to recall them in the wild, it just takes time and experience.

You’ve received a lot of good advice from everyone. At the end of the day we’re all in the same boat so try not to worry too much and just do your best :blush:


Thank you very much :slight_smile: I’ll keep going for sure, and just keep at it. Looking at mistakes from a positive perspective instead :slight_smile: and looking forward to get those extra hard kanji down! XD

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I’m glad :slight_smile: I hope so :smiley:

Thank you so much for your reply :slight_smile: I will definitely use your method of saying that stuff out loud, and try to prevent myself from hating on myself for what is just a natural part of learning XD and I’m so happy to hear you got that vocabulary down!! Well done!! :smiley: good luck with your continued wanikani journey :slight_smile:

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Thank you thank you for your advice and reply! :smiley: It’s great to know that natives also struggle with this stuff when they learn, thanks :slight_smile: And you’re right about the stroke order, I am definitely going to incorporate that into my workflow. I have an app where it tests you on your writing, and I plan to create a custom list with all the kanji I’ve been introduced to, and then keep adding as I go along. That way I can practice my stroke order every day :slight_smile: And thank you so much for the encouragement - I will indeed carry on while knowing it’ll get better :slight_smile: all the best to you too! :smiley:

I’m glad to hear I’m not alone!! :smiley: That’s great, I suppose it’ll just get better and better and I’ll recognise and be able to read more and more kanji :slight_smile: thank you :slight_smile: