Wow. The past 12 months has completely flown by. And now it has officially been 2 years since I bought a subscription and gave myself up to the crabigator! And man, what a wild 2 years.
This is going to be a very very long post so please bare with me, but I have plenty to talk about.
August - September
For the first few months of my 2nd year, things were going amazingly (on WaniKani at least). I was doing my reviews three times a day and doing at least 10-15 lessons every day. I would also never let my apprentice count exceed 120 so I wouldn’t get burnt out and overwhelmed by too many reviews.
My average review count was around 150 to maybe 200 a day, and I could handle it pretty well. Around this time it was August, I had renewed my annual subscription and I was also getting ready to start college, (which would go on to become a problem).
But the thing was, despite always coming on WaniKani everyday I just couldn’t seem to be improving in my Japanese other than just recognising a few hundred kanji, which isn’t as useful as it seems if that’s the only thing you can do. That’s when I knew I had no choice but to focus on other aspects of the language, specifically grammar. So that was my new goal, and I set my sights on it.
October - November. (Grammar)
Around early October, I decided to buy a small Japanese grammar book, and I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m going to study this everyday!”
Well that lasted 2 days. It became painfully apparent very quickly that I wasn’t learning much from it. I’ve never been good with textbook learning unless I already have a solid grasp of what I’m learning, otherwise I’ll need something more interactive, like WaniKani, but for grammar… Is there even anything like that out there…? I think there is! I heard people talking about it once on the forums, I think it was called Bunshou!
I decided to purchase a year’s subscription and so I was on my way! “I’m going to study on this everyday!” I thought to myself.
Well that lasted one week before I started only using it to study once a week. The thing was, I was so used to knowing everything on WaniKani and getting over 90% on my review sessions, that I literally couldn’t handle getting something wrong on Bunpro (I mean Bunshou).
It severely discouraged me from studying it every day and I just stayed on WaniKani, all because I couldn’t handle failure.
December - February
Now this, this relates to another post I made, where my 3 month break turned into a total reset, so you can already see where this is going. This is where my Japanese journey went from kind of learning something to not learning anything at all.
Like I said previously, I had just started my first year at college and I was finding it pretty rough, and to be honest I’m surprised I didn’t drop WaniKani or Japanese sooner. But on that fateful December 15th (I think?) I decided to finally put WaniKani to rest. Originally I just wanted to skip one day, but that turned into a week, into a month, into three months.
I guess I was just really burnt out of Japanese in general, it felt less like a hobby and more like a chore. “Ugh, I can’t sleep yet until I finish my nightly reviews”. Instead of “Wait wait, I can maybe squeeze in a few more lessons before bed” (yes I really was that enthusiastic). Nothing really happened during those few months except for the massive guilt I felt for quitting the thing I used to have so much passion for. Sure, I wasn’t amazing at Japanese, but I loved learning. It wasn’t until late February where I decided to actually try come back.
I was super super motivated to return and destroy my review wall, over 5000 reviews and I was going to decimate them all with ease, because I AM AMAZING AT WANIKANI!
I then proceeded to get my 10th item wrong and quit instantly. This happened a couple more times until March, where I REALLY wanted to come back.
March to June
So in early March, I tried to scale my review wall, and I made a pretty big dent, eliminating about 400 or so, but I just felt like I wasn’t at the same level I was at back in December (which isn’t a hard level to get to anyways). That’s when I started considering more rash decisions. I decided to reset, to level 15 maybe? I was around level 33 or 34 at the time. And then I made the most impulsive decision and reset to level 1.
It probably wasn’t the smartest decision since I still knew everything from the first 8 or 9 levels before my memory got hazy but I think I just wanted it to be super easy for me so I could ease myself back into the habit of visiting everyday.
And it worked! Around May time I had also gone back to Bunshou and I had started to go on it everyday, I would force myself until it became a habit and until it felt weird if I didn’t do it. I was finally getting back on track to becoming fluent in Japanese! Sure, I wasn’t going to hit my level 60 goal like I wanted to this year, but hell I’m just glad I didn’t quit.
July - Present
Now this is where stuff really started to ramp up, I was using WaniKani and Bunpro everyday, and I had also started practicing my writing. Things were going amazingly, and to be honest I think they still are. But there was one, small, small problem.
In my entire two years of studying Japanese, I hadn’t spoken a word of it to anyone, not even myself. And I knew that had to change. I knew that right from the beginning but I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know any Japanese people, and I’m not open to the idea of trying to seek out a Japanese person online who I can torture with my broken speaking skills. I did try language exchange apps, like HelloTalk and Tandem, but to be honest you’d be lucky to find anyone who actually does what the damn app is supposed to be for, literally 90% of people on there think it’s some dating service to help you find your perfect foreign hookup. So I quit that pretty quickly.
It wasn’t until late July where I found iTalki which you can find teachers and hire them for a certain period of time to improve your skills, (my goodness I sound like an advert) but it really is a great app.
And I think for me, having lessons with my teachers and just talking to them and having them correct me really allowed me to accept myself making mistakes and not being perfect all the time. I know it’s easy to say that no one is perfect and you always have to make mistakes to learn but I SWEAR I KNEW THAT KANJI I SWEAR!!!
But anyways, it really helped me accept that I’m not perfect by any means, and as soon as I did, I could see my Japanese speaking and reading skills improving rapidly. Obviously not fluent by any means but damn am I way better than I was last year or the year before that and in reality that’s all that truly matters.
Advice for newcomers
It feels so weird that I can give advice to newcomers when I still feel like a newcomer, but let me just give you some quick tips:
Don’t complain about WaniKani being slow, it gets faster.
Kanji and Vocabulary is important to learning Japanese, but won’t make you fluent.
You probably won’t reach level 60 in a year.
Take your time, this isn’t a marathon.
Don’t just focus on WaniKani, focus on Grammar, Listening, Speaking and Writing.
The Crabigator is much more dangerous than the Duolingo bird.
Keep your apprentice review count below 120
If you have radical lessons, try complete them all in one go if you can, even if your apprentice count does exceed 120.
Enjoy the E-mails when you level up, and look back on them in times of hardship.
And good luck!
The future and conclusion
My 2 years of WaniKani have really taught me a lot, not just about Japanese but about learning anything in general. I probably won’t be going for the annual subscription this time, but I’ll stick around for a few more months and I’ll see if I truly still need it. I feel as though I’ve outgrown it, and it may be holding me back in some ways. But who knows, I still got thousands of kanji to learn. The Crabigator truly holds some ancient powerful knowledge. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next year.