The magic of failing 19308 times

What a ride !

622 days ago, I signed up to Wanikani. It took me a few months to really get on board, especially after I stopped to take a trip to Japan in late 2022, but after that it became part of my daily life for a year and a half. It was the first method I tried, and it really worked quite well for me. Here’s a little timeline, with some context for the longer levels !


(I’m French)

What’s next ? I picked up grammar a bit late (January of 2024) with a personal teacher. I’ll continue seeing her each week until I feel confident enough. I’ll also keep burning my remaining Wanikani items, and as it takes less and less of my time, I’ll dedicate it to more reading and moviegoing. In late October, I’ve got another Japan trip scheduled, which should also help me practice ! Then, we’ll see ! Once I’m happy with my Japanese level, I’m interested in picking up Chinese, and reinforcing my Spanish and Portuguese.

**Reasons for learning Japanese**

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I’ve had several specific interests throughout my life, and all of them led me to japanese culture. In high school, I practiced theatre a lot, and the various forms of japanese theatre were the ones I admired the most. Then, I spent one year training as a potter, and the main inspirations of most studio potters here in Europe are usually japanese. After pottery, I studied literature for 5 years, and was always very frustrated knowing that the subtleties of japanese poetry and prose cannot be translated without significant alterations. Finally, I’m now working as a game/narrative designer, and you probably won’t be surprised if I tell you that most of my favorite games are japanese. I’m especially interested in all the experimental gems that were developed for the PS1 and PS2 and never translated.

So here are the things that prompted me to learn Japanese: I wanted to be able to understand games, poetry, theatre, and talk to japanese potters !

**Routine and stats**

I’m still not done with Wanikani. I have many many items to burn and a bit less than 200 vocab items left to learn !

But I expect to spend a lot less time on Wanikani each day. For most of the last months, my daily routine usually looked like this:

  • 30-45 minutes during lunch break
  • 30-60 minutes after work (this is the one I’ll start skipping)
  • 30 minutes at night time

I know I would have gone faster with a morning slot but it was usually taken by physical exercise. Also, I’m too dumb to install scripts so I practiced Wanikani the chaotic way: in vanilla mode (I just used smartphone apps to do my reviews when I was away: Jakeipuu and then Flaming Durtles). I admit that being able to correct typos would have made me happy, especially when I had to use the smartphone and struggled to write correctly. Don’t do this at home ! Install scripts early on !

As I said earlier, I started taking Japanese courses six months ago, as I was already approaching level 40. I had very few notions of Japanese grammar (but I knew hiragana and katakana). I chose to start with the kanji as a way to force myself to finish: I knew the repetitive aspect of kanji learning would be easier to fit into a daily routine because it required more discipline than intellectual effort, and I knew that after learning all those kanjis, I would have invested too much time to turn back. It kinda worked ! I never lost hope or focus, and I’m now determined to keep on learning.

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Finally, here are a few accuracy stats ! It’s crazy how much my accuracy level reflected my current mental state. In times of intense stress, I would have very frustrating review sessions (these last few weeks have been horrible). One advice I’d give is to go at your own pace: don’t add too much new items if you think you’ll lack the time or availability, don’t look at the pile, don’t put too much emphasis on accuracy or speed, and try to make reviews a reassuring and encouraging routine. You’re making progress every time you log in, even if it doesn’t look like it !

**Frustrating times**

Overall, the main struggle I had with Wanikani was also its greatest strength: it keeps you busy. This means it’s quite easy to stay involved, but it also means you’ll get overwhelmed if you must take a few days off for whatever reason. It was frequent for me to have 0 free time for several days in a row, and it always meant I’d find a pile of 500-1000 reviews waiting for me. Since I rarely have more than 2 hours available per day, it would usually take at least a week to go back to normal (150-300 reviews/day).

The second most frustrating experience would be that as a non-native English speaker, I often struggled to understand the difference between two english words. I would mix up words not because of Japanese, but because I considered their English meanings to be strictly identical. I had to use quite a lot of user synonyms, since everytime I reviewed a word I ended up phrasing my answer differently. It’s a good thing we can add user synonyms !

Overall, I’ve been very happy with Wanikani and I recommended it to several persons (everyone in France seems to be passionate about Japan). Thank you for making it, and thank you to the persons who made the smartphone apps ! Also, I seldom participated in the community, but it was nice knowing you were all here. :slightly_smiling_face: Good luck to everyone who’s still working on their kanjis ! :muscle:

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Félicitations :tada: ! Je compatis, ces derniers jours ont été durs durs, bon courage !

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Congrats!

Your title is exactly right. It’s all about the “failing”! :grin:

LOL. I know that feeling, and I’m a native speaker of English. I’m also reasonably well read, and I’m vain enough to believe that I have an above average vocabulary and understanding of English nuance.

But it took the Wanikani experience to realize just how imprecise English really is!

I learned most of my vocabulary phonetically, long before starting Wanikani. I learned pretty early to “think” in Japanese rather than “translate in real time” (which is much, much harder). Going directly between

<JAPANESE> to/from <CONCEPT>

is infinitely better (and easier) than

<JAPANESE> to/from <CONCEPT> to/from <ENGLISH>

much less

<JAPANESE> to/from <CONCEPT> to/from <ENGLISH> to/from <FRENCH>

But the nature of an automated SRS is that you need to match just a few specific, concrete English (or whatever) words, and there often aren’t exact equivalents!

Using English to teach Japanese is terrible. The only problem is I can’t think of a better approach. :wink:

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Félicitations :tada: ! Je compatis, ces derniers jours ont été durs durs, bon courage !

Merci beaucoup !! Bon courage à toi aussi pour la suite :pray:

LOL. I know that feeling, and I’m a native speaker of English. I’m also reasonably well read, and I’m vain enough to believe that I have an above average vocabulary and understanding of English nuance.

OK this is quite reassuring, thank you ! I also feel that the precision of Japanese thinking is something we can hardly assimilate through a tool like Wanikani alone, and having the guidance of a native and/or more conversational experiences will help ! This will be the next step in my learning journey :slightly_smiling_face:

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Courage, camarade!

Yeah I used anki mode (pass/fail) for meanings for this reason. I sometimes have an inexact understanding of some words or kanji as a result but that’s easily remediated while actually reading Japanese in context.

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100% agree…

Marsh, bog, swamp, quagmire, morass, wetland :man_facepalming:t2:

As a native spanish speaker, inside my brain there’s almost no difference :face_holding_back_tears: (I learned lots of new words thanks to WaniKani though).

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And sometimes later when you encounter the words IRL you realize that there’s a very clear difference and because you have meaningful context it’s easier to learn them.

It’s also not uncommon that WaniKani will teach you two very similar words but it turns out that one is massively more common than the other, but you only realize that when you actually start reading real Japanese.

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Marsh, bog, swamp, quagmire, morass, wetland :man_facepalming:t2:

Hahah these were also very difficult for me ! But it’s true that Wanikani helped me expand my English vocabulary.

It’s also not uncommon that WaniKani will teach you two very similar words but it turns out that one is massively more common than the other, but you only realize that when you actually start reading real Japanese.

Sometimes I’d like to have more details about that ! Context sentences are nice, but I’d be interested in having a specific tag when a particular vocab item is very rare/formal/informal/specific. It is sometimes mentioned in the explanation, but not always, and you can’t have a list of items that share the same context.

I’ve been telling some of my friends (who only speak English) that learning Japanese is teaching me some English words. They thought I was trolling with this one until I sent them a google images link.

Or recently I learned 無菌(むきん) which wanikani accepts sterilized and aseptic but not sterile. So I had to do some googling to figure out that aseptic does not mean the same thing as sterilized, and that sterile is probably fine as a user synonym.

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Congrats on Level 60!!! I am just reaching level 30 and it feels great to be halfway done. I love reading level 60 celebration posts because it really keeps me motivated. Hearing you talk about getting swamped by reviews is reassuring knowing I’m not alone. I always keep my review piles at 0, so usually by time I get to my reviews during any given day, I have to do hundreds of them. Plus the fact you are doing this as a non-native English speaker is super impressive too. Anyway good luck on the next part of your Japanese studies, based on those stats you seem like a hard worker and that will pay off tremendously. Happy to hear you have a Japan trip planned for October, I think it is well deserved. I live in the Kansai area and if you have not been here yet I highly highly recommend it. I still love going to Tokyo and other places but Kansai has stole my heart :durtle_love:

Also more than anything else good luck on fighting fascism :fist:t3:, god knows the whole world is on the edge of falling into it…

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Thank you so much for your message !

It’s true that this movement towards hate and chaos seems to be a global phenomenon. I sure hope we’ll see more signs of hope in the near future !

How long have you lived in Kansai ? Is there a special place you’d recommend visiting outside Kyoto/Nara/Osaka (or a little-known part of these cities) ? I only spent a week there and these are the most wonderful memories I have. Can’t wait to be back !

Congrats for the 30 levels and good luck for the rest of your adventure, enjoy the ride !

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I have been in Kansai for about 10 months. If you have been here before I would deff recommend avoiding the big big tourist places. At this point its almost not fun because of how many people there are. I would say even going a little bit out of the way you can avoid the crazy big crowds. For example 安養寺 is an awesome temple, and there is lots around it as well without a crazy crowd. Also if you go to the top where the bell is there is a little gate that if you go through it there is a trail you can go into the mountains, and do some hiking. Be carful though about closing time because they will lock you in. (Happened to a friend and I lol).

As for Osaka, my favorite city in the whole world, I recommend going to 天満. It is one of the few places in Osaka left that is not gentrified to all hell, but is still super popular. There are so many awesome places to visit, delicious restaurants, and the longest shopping street in Japan. If you like お好み焼き and 焼きそば I recommend a place in 天満 called千草 some of the best I have ever had for sure.

I hopefully will be writing my level 60 celebration in January if things keep going as they have. The ride is a roller coaster with ups and downs for sure, but it sure is a lot of fun!

Thank you very much for these recommendations ! I’ll definitely visit these places thanks to you !

I had the same impression when I visited Kyoto: we had our best moments in places that were less frequented, like 愛宕念仏寺, 法然院 or even 蓮華王院, whereas 伏見稲荷 was hard to enjoy because of the crowd.

I wish you all the best for your remaining WaniKani levels, and I’m eager to read your celebratory post in January !

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