The three rules in the onboarding guide

Apologies in advance for suggesting a small, but, I feel, fundamental and important change.

New users to Wanikani are soon directed to the Onboarding Series (part of the wonderful Knowledge guide).

The very first page introduces new users to what I’m going to call “The Rules”. Here is how they are currently written:

  1. Do your available Lessons.
  2. Do your reviews.
  3. Do them every day, without fail. Probably even on Christmas.

We all know that users rarely read instructions, but I think it’s safe to assume most get at least this far.

Unfortunately, rule 1 unintentionally stresses lessons over reviews. The word “lessons” is even capitalized! This seems exactly backwards to me. Skipping lessons can slow you down, but skipping reviews will crush you.

We all know that only a small fraction of users get past the first few levels, and there are numerous examples in the forums of people not doing their reviews every day and becoming overwhelmed for various reasons. Common wisdom is to only do enough lessons to keep the number of Apprentice items in check (typically between 100-150).

I feel quite strongly that “rule one” must be “Do your reviews” and not “Do your lessons”. I think WK does, too, based on what’s currently rule 3!

If I may be so bold, I’d suggest changing the order, and also inserting an additional page into the Onboarding Series as well. I’d love to be able to provide new users in the forums a link to something like the new page below (instead of basically rewriting it from scratch every few weeks!):


1. What is WaniKani?

If you try WaniKani, you’ll be able to complete the incredibly simple task of learning ~2,000 kanji (both meaning and reading) and 6,000+ Japanese vocabulary words. In order to do this, all you need to do is follow three rules:

  1. Do your available reviews.
  2. Do them every day, without fail. Probably even on Christmas.
  3. Do as many lessons as you can without getting overwhelmed.

[These aren’t in sequential order, they’re in order of importance: lessons can be performed before or after reviews. Skipping lessons may slow your progress through the levels, but skipping reviews today can create a soul-crushing, exponential backlog of reviews for tomorrow! We will explore reviews and lessons more thoroughly later.]

[If this is your first day here, you won’t have any available lessons yet, you’ll need to complete some lessons first. These rules aren’t in sequential order, they are in priority order. We will explore reviews and lessons more thoroughly later, but for now know that lessons can be performed before or after reviews. We generally recommend that you do your reviews first. Skipping lessons might slow you down, but skipping reviews may create a backlog of work that can become extremely difficult to work your way out of.]

“Simple” does not mean easy. The word “easy” is a …

[remaining sections, replacing “steps 1-3” with “the three rules”]

Let the Pain Begin!

Are you ready to actually learn the kanji? It’s simple. Just sit down and follow the three rules every day. It won’t be easy and it will still take a long time, but within a year you should be able to read much if not most of what the Japanese language throws at you.

Let’s now explain what we mean by “lessons” and “reviews”. [link to new page below]


2. Lessons and reviews [New Page]

Here are the three rules we introduced earlier:

  1. Do your available reviews.
  2. Do them every day, without fail. Probably even on Christmas.
  3. Do as many lessons as you can without overwhelming yourself.

Let’s define our terms:

  • Lessons teach you the meaning of radicals, kanji, or vocabulary items (as well as the readings for kanji and vocabulary). They introduce new items into your review queue.

  • Reviews quiz you on items you already “learned” in prior lessons. “Learned” is in quotes because it usually takes several review iterations for something to really stick.

Completing a lesson schedules the first review of that item in a few hours. This is just the first of many subsequent reviews. Each time you review an item, Wanikani re-schedules the next review sometime in the future. How far in the future depends on whether or not you answer correctly.

You must perform all or most available reviews every day, but whether you do this in one marathon session or multiple smaller sessions throughout the day is up to you. The latter is usually more efficient and preferable. The newly introduced extra study feature allows you to get in more reviews of recently learned items — this can be particularly handy if you prefer marathon sessions or struggle to recall recent lessons.

No shame in wrong answers

Incorrect answers during a review cause the next review to be scheduled sooner than if you answered correctly, but incorrect answers are an important part of the process. Wanikani tries to quiz you more frequently on items you find difficult and less frequently on those you find easy.

It’s human nature to want to answer everything correctly, but the only way Wanikani knows what you find difficult is if you answer incorrectly!

Eventually you’ll develop a feel for how long to struggle to recall something, but realize that if you have difficulty recalling something, you’ll probably benefit from more reviews for that item anyway — so answering incorrectly is often best!

Lessons create many reviews

It seems reasonable to do lessons before reviews, since completing a lesson schedules the first of many reviews for that item in a few hours. On the other hand, some users prefer to do reviews during the day and lessons just before going to bed. The order is up to you.

Every completed lesson adds to your daily review workload for the next several months. Typically, only a few of the available reviews on any given day will be from recent lessons: most will be for items that were learned days, weeks, or even months ago.

Controlling your workload

It’s not necessary to finish all of your available reviews or all of your lessons every session. It’s often wise to balance speed (how quickly you finish all 60 levels) with workload (how many reviews become available each day, and how difficult you find them).

There are only three ways to increase your daily workload:

  1. Completing lessons
  2. Not completing available reviews
  3. Providing too many incorrect answers (rescheduling subsequent reviews sooner than otherwise.)

You will almost certainly want to increase the workload in the beginning. After a few months, however, many find it wise to start pacing themselves, limiting the number of lessons they perform each day to ensure they can complete all available reviews with a high level of accuracy.

With that out of the way, let’s get started by doing your first lessons.

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Truth. Reviews before lessons, always.

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Unless you’re going super fast and know what you’re doing, you should always knock out available reviews first!

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It’s okay to do lessons first, then reviews later in the day. But if you can only do one and not the other: DO YOUR REVIEWS.

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Definitely, although I think we had the same point stated differently as you cannot possibly be unable to do both unless you’re going fast :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

These two statements appear to conflict. :smile:

I stand by my version, though I definitely agree it’s safest to do your reviews first. I do my reviews first, am not going fast (currently at about 2-3 weeks/level), but could still be unable to do both simply because I run out of energy (or get called away for whatever).

I only do lessons when reviews is zero. That’s my own little rule, because I can’t be sure I’ll have the energy or time to finish the job later. So I do the ‘must do’ first, then the ‘nice to do’.

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Not entirely. Your previous quote has the implication that order doesn’t matter as long as you get to both of them, and if you can only do one, do reviews.

If the first quote, reviews before lessons, is talked about in terms of priority rather than sequence of actions, it also makes sense to put reviews before lessons, always.

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This is starting to sound like a game of wff 'n proof :laughing:

Yes, I was interpreting both statements as a matter of sequencing, not priority.

But I think the original post is sufficiently clear: the priority of reviews is higher than lessons, regardless of the timewise ordering of the two.

I have the same rule, although I amend it with “I only de lessons when reviews are zero and it’s before noon.”

That expression rarely evaluates to true. :crying_cat_face:

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Thanks for bringing this up and thanks for taking the time to do this. We’ll talk about it with the rest of the team and let you know what we decide.

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Thou shalt say いただきます before doing each lesson, and ごちそうさまでした after burning each durtle.

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This is the same text as the email you get when you join. If it said do your reviews as number 1 that would be very confusing, because they don’t exist yet!

If it’s a ‘you just joined, so now what?’ guide, then the order as it is is the way it should be.

If it’s a page for ‘you’ve been here a while, how should you progress?’ then it should stress clearing reviews first. But does anyone go back and read it after they have gotten started?

My 2 yen.

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And 行っていきます before standing by your laptop. The rest is up to WaniKani team.

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Before noon? Who gets up before half past lunch?!

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It’s 08:24 here in Texas and I’ve been up for around 4 hours…

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Perhaps, but the Knowledge Guide gives advice for a multi-year (or at least yearlong) journey. Of the the nine hundred or so days I’ve been here, precisely one had no items scheduled for review.

It seems reasonable to provide slightly different or additional advice in an email to those who’ve not yet taken their first step.

The very next parenthetical sentence states that these are in priority rather than sequential order. It wouldn’t hurt for the email to also state that you need to do some lessons before you have any reviews, but I don’t think the Knowledge Guide should emphasize day one above all the others.

Fwiw, my highest rated comment was about pedagogy. It discusses experts often making poor teachers because they focus too much on correctness and corner-cases rather than actual teaching.

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I think this is a little too vague. New users won’t know how the amount correlates to being overwhelmed, and the first few levels are not a good measure.
While you do explain things in detail further down, as you said, people might not even read that far.

I think a better general rule would be

  1. Do lessons regularly, but in small batches.
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  1. and most importantly, DON’T BLINK

I do agree that stressing reviews over lessons is more important. This is a chicken and the egg situation, for a new user who is completely clueless if 1. is “do your reviews” they may think, huh? what reviews? I don’t have any? that’s because they need to do the lessons first.

Maybe they should just get rid of the numbers, as numbering 1, 2, and 3 instead of using bullet points as you said gives an order of importance.

I like the additional page idea, especially the workload and no shame in wrong answers. For a long time I felt much shame for wrong answers.

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It’s difficult for me to give an actual opinion, as even Kanji-wise, as I do more than WaniKani’s quizzing system. So, I’ll throw in my two cents here.

  • "Do your reviews first" is easily the most accurate thing. However, on the best amount of reviews (without overwhelming yourself), I would say - it is decided by 1. accuracy 2. time taken
    • Time taken depends, as I can tolerate over an hour of reviews in the past; but 30 minutes would be reasonable.
  • If your accuracy falls, it is best to reduce number of reviews. Don’t force yourself to do more reviews despite failing.
    • "Providing too many incorrect answers" may conflict with “No shame in wrong answers”. Actually, you should have shame, and learn well, that is, the failing or leeches are also counted as your still-count-as-lessons.
    • It can also be said, be aware of what are your Apprentice pile. Be proactive before they become leeches.
  • Be strict. When in doubt, mark as wrong.
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