Thanks everyone, I’m really overwhelmed by how helpful this has been and how supportive the community is, considering I posted this a few hours ago.
I think I’ll start to take note of the worst offenders and write sentences for them to start. For me it’s never the reading that I struggle with, more the meaning. It feels like once you get something wrong a handful of times then that’s it - you’re destined to always get it wrong until you actively do something about it.
A good example for me is 構造 and 構成 - I haven’t formed any meaningful connection in my brain so it always seems like pot luck if I get them right.
One more question - out of all the tools above, which is the best for simply showing a list of my leeches? The SRS Level Progress add on (screenshot above) is telling me I have 481 leeches…
I like the Leech Trainer script, because it gives me a manageable number (usually well under 10) words to practice, and it gives variations and similar-looking kanji to make sure you get it. For example if you get the Kanji 時 wrong, it might test you on that as well as the Vocab 時 and 時計.
It’s so interesting how quite a few people have trouble with this word. People talk about this leech quite a lot here in the forums.
For me, words usually tend to stick when I hear them in context. For example, in actual conversations. That’s why I recommend consuming as much Japanese media as possible. Music, anime, jdrama and whatever you can get your hands on.
Learn to love the leech. They keep showing up because you need them to. It means the SRS system is actually working. What’s worse, seeing the item again, or burning it before you actually learned it? The minute I change my attitude about seeing a leech is often when I start committing it to memory better.
Side-by-side study. The way WaniKani (and other flashcard systems) works, you see items in isolation. When two items are easily confused, the question often becomes, which of the two possibilities is this one? I find that looking at them side-by-side can help. Oh, these kanji look alike, but here is the difference. Oh, these meanings are similar, but here is the difference. That way, I’m no longer learning them totally in isolation, but in relation to each other. That creates another connection and another way to learn them.
One at a time. Don’t commit to getting rid of all your leeches. Pick one, the most tenacious, and commit to that one. Once that one is at a level you’re comfortable with, move on to another.
Oversaturation. Get a pack of index cards. Put all three items – kanji, kana, and English – on the same side of the card. Now make about a dozen copies, and tape it up all over your house. If you live with a partner, get them to hide the cards in places you go a lot. Every time you see a card, read it aloud. Say aloud specific things that you should notice about the item that make it distinct. For bonus points, put a story mnemonic on the back of the card, and say that aloud too.
If it sounds like a lot of trouble… well, yeah. But when the easy ways fail, try the hard ways.
(BTW: I may only be level 8 here, but this ain’t my first language rodeo. I went through the same stuff in my journey towards fluency in Spanish and French.)
This may sound obvious to some but I think it’s worth mentioning again.
Just by starting this thread and thinking about my leeches has already helped. Before this thread I would try and bash through then as quick as possible, almost trying to catch them by surprise. Now with each review I’m taking more time, reviewing the kanji and the radicals that make them up once more, and forming those connections all over again. My average review score has already shot up from ~65% to around 85%.
Again, I know it might sound obvious but I think it’s really important to take a step back when you get into a rut like I did, and change your method. I’ve made a folder on my desktop of screenshots of the worst offenders (thanks @Noelyuk) and again, before even going through them, taking the screenshots already made a difference. I’ve even started to learn new items this morning…