Hello everybody. I don’t post on the Wanikani forums all too often, but decided to write the traditional level 60 post. Overall it took me 516 days or about 9 days per level in order to hit level 60. It was a difficult journey requiring an extreme amount of patience and persistence, but here at the end of my Wanikani studies I would say that my time was well worth it.
My Experience with Japanese prior to Wanikani
I first began studying Japanese in High School, I really loved the written language; hiragana, katakana, and kanji. It was all just so visually striking to me and captured my interest more than anything else. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep taking Japanese in college, so I went on to pursue an undergrad and most of a master’s degree in musical composition.
In 2018, after I was done with my schooling, I was at a crossroads in life unsure what to do, so I decided to pick up Japanese again as a hobby. This time, websites that allowed for efficient self study were lightyears beyond what I could find in high school. In my search I came across Wanikani. I figured that kanji was one of the things that I loved most about Japanese, so what would happen if I really focused just on that one aspect of language again.
I figured that if I really set out to just learn kanji, that I would be able to read native Japanese and from there reach fluency. Of course it is not that simple, and focusing on kanji won’t teach anyone enough Japanese to read, but this first goal was what I needed as the catalyst to getting proficient in the language again.
How I used Wanikani
I feel like in reading the forums that I am in the minority in not using userscripts to alter my Wanikani experience. I really had to feel every error, deal with the setbacks of typos delaying my progress by several days, and if I wanted to add my new kanji to the queue go through the 100+ vocab I just unlocked. I feel like this is most users’ experience, it’s just with all the talk of scripts in the forums that I wanted to clarify that I am one of the ones who went without userscripts.
Daily I usually spend at least two hours on Wanikani. Towards the beginning it was less and towards the end it was almost four hours a day just to keep up. If I had new lessons I would try to burn through all of them as soon as possible. If I had too many reviews I would sit there until I at least went through all the “essential” kanji reviews. Rinse and repeat for a year and a half and here I am finished with Wanikani
+The best part of using Wanikani is the magical feeling you get looking at native content and immediately knowing every single kanji on the page. It feels like a superpower.
+I feel like the chosen vocabulary is really good and relevant to when you start reading. Many words I thought I’d never need but would see them pop up a day or two later in native material.
+Drilling the onyomi first and then moving on to the kunyomi with vocab worked very well for my learning style. Up until I started Wanikani I never really understood the difference between onyomi and kunyomi, but you can’t get far in Wanikani unless you start understanding these reading differences.
+Internalizing rules that allowed me to sound out kanji I have never seen before. This one is a little hit or miss, but sometimes coming across a kanji you’ve never seen and being able to sound out how it is read feels great. This aspect is not quite as useful as you still need to look it up to make sure you are correct, but this saves time on learning.
—Wanikani not having a leech system like anki had me spending hours on unimportant vocab over minor errors. Much of this vocab gets clarified once you start reading so going over and over the same terms isolated was especially painful.
—Diminishing returns. As you progress in Wanikani the kanji and vocab become less useful as is to be expected, but it is also frustrating learning the kanji for words or terms that Japanese materials will just use hiragana for instead of the kanji.
—The time needed to keep up with Wanikani at this point seems better spent on engaging with native Japanese material. These last two are not really Wanikani’s fault, it is just the reality of learning a language. Like Wanikani’s final level up email suggested; it is time to leave the nest and learn to fly.
Other Resources that I Studied while using Wanikani
Genki II: Decent textbook. I find the ordering of grammar points strangely arbitrarily organized. I got my copy for cheap at a Half Price Books.
Tae Kim’s Guide: I find Tae Kim’s guide more useful than Genki and it is free.
Pimsleur: I found modern pimsleur to be a really good self introduction to speaking. I feel that it gets way into the weeds with business Japanese once you get 20 or 30 lessons into the program.
Japanese IOS Dictionary App: I especially like the SRS in this app.
Duolingo: About a year or so ago duolingo reworked their entire Japanese tree. They now have appropriate use of kanji and more native sounding sentences. I think this app is awful for learning Japanese, but decent at providing some translation exercises much like you would see in a textbook.
NHK Easy: The first content I used to read. If you have trouble download an app with a built in dictionary.
Satori Reader: Super approachable from a comprehension standpoint. I’m just not sure if it is worth the subscription fee.
Sambon Juku: Best youtube resource I found for teaching Japanese in Japanese.
Netflix: With an account set to Japanese I was able to get Japanese subtitles for a lot more titles.
My Final Thoughts
So now that I am moving on from Wanikani for the moment, what am I planning on doing now? I’m continuing my immersion into native content and hope to make more of a dent in the two Japanese novels I have. I’m trying to utilize my Japanese more on apps like hellotalk and italki. I’ve also just finished applying to the JET program, so while brushing up on my teaching skills I’m also pursuing more Japanese language targeted towards surviving in everyday life.
Wanikani has really meant so much to me. Without Wanikani I do not think I would have come so far in my self study. Wanikani was there on a daily basis to push me further and keep me on track. Wanikani really is something more than just a way to learn kanji, especially with the forums, and the truly passionate people on this website. Thank you so much to Wanikani and the lovely community here in the forums.