Trilingual level 60 adventures

It feels… unreal. I still can’t quite believe I’m here now, but…
I made it! Just shy of 500 days, so I was by no means speedrunning, but I made it to the goal and that’s what matters!

Stats

Average level up:


I took the fast levels slowly. The workload was already overwhelming enough. The people who manage to go through them in minimal time are incredible.

Daily Workload:


I had a pretty hard limit of around 180 items. More than that and I’d get brain fog and harm my learning.

Accuracy:


I’m happy with it. There is a noticeable difference between kanji and vocabulary accuracy and I think this is due to
A: KaniWani
B: You have Kanji reviews around 4 days before the associated vocab is reviewed, so even if I got the kanji review wrong, I’d know its meaning in the vocab review.

Heatmap

My Journey

Like many of you, I needed something to do during the lockdown and picked learning Japanese.
I was almost certain I’d quit after a month, but as you can see, I didn’t.
After learning Kana and the absolute basics, I began WaniKani in April 2020.

Initially I wanted to complete it as fast as I could, but when the burn reviews started (Level 21), I had to slow down to keep up with the review count.

German

Around level 15, I noticed that my English vocabulary wasn’t as… broad as I thought it was. Words popped up that I didn’t know and hindered my learning.
That’s why I decided to go back through all the Kanji and Vocabulary I’d learned up until that point to add German synonym for them.

You know… when you’re level 15, you don’t even realize how much you’ve already learned on this website. Even though I had automatized it as much as possible (userscript to quickly to go the next item, to add synonyms per keyboard shortcut and look up words in a German Kanji dictionary in a separate window, [that’s lost now, sorry!]), it took a few days to add synonyms for all items.
Glad I didn’t start later.

You might be wondering why I used an English website in the first place:
German Japanese learning resources are scarce. There is RTK, but that wasn’t for me.
There are Japanese courses in universities etc., but those aren’t for me, either: I’m an autodidact.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the extra work I had to do (looking up items and carefully thinking about what meanings I put) helped my retention a lot.

Things got difficult

My brain’s pretty good at remembering things. Usually, I didn’t even have to read mnemonics. I just had to tell my brain “remember this!”, and it did. This was awesome, and meant I didn’t have to deal with many leeches.
But eventually, that stopped working so well. More and more similar looking Kanji appeared and whatever technique my brain was using behind the scenes to remember Kanji, it got confused.
My motivation to do reviews dropped harshly as the number of incorrect items rose. I was beginning to dread reviews a little.

I also don’t sleep enough, even though I’m very aware of how much of a difference it makes.
This had nothing to do with reviews, I only rarely did reviews at night.

The Forums

At the beginning of my japanese learning, I had learned to avoid japanese learning forums / threads like the plague.
For some reason, japanese learning forums are full of people who seem determined to stop you from trying, to convince you that it’s futile to attempt to learn Japanese.

The WaniKani forums are different. Aside from the occasional level 2 ranting about how WaniKani artificially limits them (not understanding that it’s doing them good in the long term), it’s a positive place where people want each other to succeed and where the people who have succeeded give newbies good advice.
The forums taught me that the goal is not to finish in a year, but to finish at all - and to retain as many learned items as possible: 60 is just a number.

And so, I slowed down as much as I needed. 10 days per level, sometimes almost 12… the most important thing was making progress. And I learned not to dread mistakes, but to view them as a chance to improve. I also began to make more mnemonics for myself, especially to keep similar looking Kanji apart.

At level 50, to keep myself motivated to do my daily reviews, I began to post in the “0/0 streak challenge” thread. This made getting all reviews and lessons done feel immensely rewarding. I can only recommend it. Start early and surpass my puny 10-level-streak!

KaniWani

Since I also wanted to be able to speak and think in Japanese, I started doing KaniWani around level 8.
It was a lot of work to catch up, but absolutely worth it. Doing KaniWani in addition to WaniKani means doing a ton of extra reviews every day, but it really helps vocabulary retention.
I also wrote a custom UserScript for myself to reorder the prompt so that synonyms appear first. It relies on the fact that KaniWani, for some reason, orders user synonyms backwards and will probably break if that is ever fixed. In case anyone wants it:

// ==UserScript==
// @name        KaniWani Synonym Reversal
// @namespace   Violentmonkey Scripts
// @match       https://kaniwani.com/*
// @match       https://www.kaniwani.com/*
// @grant       none
// @version     1.4
// @author      Basalt
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
  var mut = new MutationObserver(function(mutationList, mut) {
    mut.disconnect();
    
    var primary = document.querySelector('[data-question-primary]');
    var secondary = document.querySelector('[data-question-secondary]');
    
    if (secondary && primary._currMain !== primary.textContent) {
      var secondaryContents = secondary.textContent.trim() === "" ? [] : secondary.textContent.split(', ');
      var readings = [primary.textContent, ...secondaryContents];
      readings.reverse();
      primary.textContent = readings.shift();
      secondary.textContent = readings.join(', ');
      primary._currMain = primary.textContent;
      
    }
      mut.observe(document.body, {childList: true, characterData: true, subtree: true});
  });
  
  mut.observe(document.body, {childList: true, characterData: true, subtree: true});
})();

Lessons

During Lessons, I would immediately add German synonyms.

  • Direct translation of the English words for radicals (Or the kanji’s meaning if the radical is a kanji)
  • For Kanji meanings, I’d look them up in Japanisch-Deutsches Kanji-Lexikon - Hans-Jörg Bibiko 2021 - a website with terrible 90s UI (The <frameset> tag?!?!), but good content. I’d then compare the meaning to the one WaniKani teaches and pick what seemed the most relevant. Often, this site gave meanings that were much more helpful for learning the associated Vocab.
  • For Vocab, I was using https://www.wadoku.de/. Not nearly as nice as https://jisho.org/, but it gets the job done. Later, I was using the 10ten reader browser extension (Rikaichamp), which features German translations for vocab (apparently sourced from Wadoku). Neither feature kanji meanings, though.

It’s weird that WaniKani doesn’t have the “add Synonym” fields during Lessons. Is there a reason for this? The “WaniKani Lesson User Synonyms” script saved the day here.

Next steps

For me, Immersion is the way to go after WaniKani.
I’ve begun to read and watch japanese subtitled shows around level 20. Having to look things up is annoying, and you have to do it a lot early on, but it helps so much and gets better.

I will keep doing my reviews on WK - really looking forward to that daily workload decreasing soon!
Burn reviews for level 40 items just started, so I’ll probably have a lot more gurus soon… Oh, well.

If I forget something, I’ll revive the item, but I don’t think I’ll reset my level.

Where WaniKani could do better

There are many cases where we have to learn a kanji we’ve already learned levels ago again - this time as a radical. And there are even more cases where we don’t and then end up with 5-radical-mnemonics that are more difficult to remember than the kanji itself, that could be 2-radical-mnemonics that are easy to remember and helpful.

The majority of Kanji get their meanings from one of the kanji they are made of and the reading from the other, which is very, very helpful for learning. The Keisei Phonetic-Semantic Composition script was a godsent, I really wish it was part of vanilla WaniKani. This is an important concept everyone should learn ASAP.

The database should be updated so that Kanji can be made up of radicals and other kanji, not only radicals. That would also necessitate some reordering of items - but that should have already happened, in my opinion. Isn’t that the advertised “WaniKani way”? To learn the simpler Kanji first and to then learn the complex kanji that contain them later? Then why do I, for example, learn 曹 at level 59, but 槽 at level 57? That happens often and is super confusing when reviewing older kanji.

Closing remarks

This rocked! I made the right decision to learn kanji and vocabulary here. It was a ton of work every day (and I didn’t even go full speed), but it’s paying out. Being able to read and understand Japanese is amazing.
There’s still much for me to learn. I realize that. But the things I’ve learned so far enable me to keep going without frustration.

Ignore the naysayers that pollute other forums; you CAN do it. In fact, use them as motivation. Show them that you can do what they couldn’t and imagine their bitter tears and cheap excuses.
You have the motivation and dedication they lack.

I wish everyone the best of luck in their endeavors and I’d like to thank everyone on the forum for their contributions and the Tofugu team for creating and maintaining everything.
Oh, and thanks to the creators and maintainers of UserScripts and the Android and iOS apps. They definitely add an incredible amount of value to WaniKani.

59 Likes

Congratulations :tada::smiley:

It’s a great feeling to accomplish something like WK given the time commitment involved.

I had the same experience. In my case, it was probably the weekly memory verses I had to learn all the up until high school.

But it’s definitely only a head start rather than an ongoing advantage. In the later levels things definitely started getting muddled and I had to lean on the mnemonics more.

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That happens here through pulling you so far down into the forum-rabbithole, that you forget that the original site exits.

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Haha, yeah I can see how that could happen.
I mostly stuck to the productivity focused threads and reading through level 60 posts to learn from other people’s experiences.

But the meme thread and the wall of shame fortune telling thread and others were tempting.

Congratulations on level 60 and also on writing a delightful and informative level 60 post - it was great to read, many thanks. Your accuracy is impressive!

3 Likes

Congratulations on hitting level 60 using German on WaniKani!

The database should be updated so that Kanji can be made up of radicals and other kanji, not only radicals. That would also necessitate some reordering of items - but that should have already happened, in my opinion. Isn’t that the advertised “WaniKani way”? To learn the simpler Kanji first and to then learn the complex kanji that contain them later? Then why do I, for example, learn 曹 at level 59, but 槽 at level 57? That happens often and is super confusing when reviewing older kanji.

I believe that it is better to learn the more used word first but I guess a difference of 2 levels isn’t much. The WK team is planning to move 又 to level 51 from level 2 because it is just a rare kanji even if it is a common radical. Learning 屯 before 純 and 吾 before 語 isn’t exactly the most helpful order even if they are more simple kanjis.

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So envious. Congratulations!!! :fox_face: :cake:

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Congratulations! Thank you for the great read!

100% agree. Hopefully with how many people bring it up, they integrate it sometime.

That’s interesting. One of the things I like about WK versus other kanji learning programs is that it does usually the less complicated kanji before the more complicated expansion of the same kanji. It seems they have room to further improve in that department though.

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Big congratulations on making it to the top! :grin: :tada::tada:

37462020

Please celebrate with some cake! ^>^

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Finally some cake! :cake: Congratulations @Basalt , it’s a great achievement!

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Congratulations! :tada:

Also, brilliant idea on using the synonym feature to learn using German! I never thought about using it that way.

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congratulations alice

Congratulations on an outstanding achievement! Here’s some cake for you. Enjoy!

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