Two years on WaniKani

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.

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Haven’t read everything, but congrats on your journey so far and all you’ve learned!
I’d just like to note that if you stop using WK, you’ll still need to learn kanji somehow. They are critical, and they even help you with listening and speaking, memorizing and recognizing words, because you’ll know what elements and meanings a word is based on. And for me, having completed WK, I can say that it’s a very good method of learning kanji, and most other methods I know would have probably been a lot more work or less efficient.
Good luck on your future journey!

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Right on! That’s awesome.

So we don’t share the exact same experience, but I did do tons of iTalki as a beginner and it was very useful for many things like giving me the vocabulary to learn in a Japanese setting and ask questions in Japanese. It also helped me deal with the typical speech anxiety you get when you speak your new language to a native speaker.

And this may be my iTalki teacher who insisted on correcting every mistake and diving into every single grammar point and what not… But my real speech breakthrough only came later with Pimsleur Japanese.

Because of the repetitve nature of the course and the immediate feedback, I did that for several months and then all the knowledge I had previously learned started to click. I can speak muuuch better now.

So I dunno if you tried that, but it made a huge difference for my speech.

:slight_smile:

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Lol I almost never read long posts. I didn’t read OP’s. I just skimmed everything.

But I also say:

Keep it up OP and off to learning Japanese :•)

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this december it is gonna be 2 years for me. I am really glad I found a tool like WK.

Interesting, as levels progress I feel more and more willing to get new vocab and kanji. I have 170 items almost everyday and I do them very happy that I see I have some progress month by month,

Same I cant say for bunpro, I am strugling there in N2, as soon as I finish it, that’s it,

I wil ltry to find a different tool for grammar. Bunpro became like kaniwani for me, you need to answer, the answer has possibily 10 different ways to answer, I wont memorize color for words and hints, that’s bad for language in my opinion.

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I am a little under a year into using WaniKani. I have recommended the app to many people, especially other Japanese learners who swear they cannot learn Kanji. I think it is HANDS DOWN the best way to learn Kanji for people who are starting from zero or a low level. With that being said, there are still two things I cannot stand about WaniKani, and I pretty much always caveat these two things to people.

First, the vocabulary is terrible, especially the English translations. I know the purpose of the app is to teach Kanji first and foremost and the vocabulary chosen is meant to enforce this rather than being useful vocabulary, but man is the vocabulary you learn on Wanikani mostly useless. How many different writings of “warehouse” (くら) do I need to learn? Why can’t they choose better words that people actually use, or at least do a better job of making distinctions that these are not common words, maybe by picking more scarcely used English words instead. I live in Japan, and also have been working with an online tutor for 1.5 years, and I have lost count of the number of times I have used a vocabulary from WaniKani and drawn either amusement (usually from my sensei), or an obvious reaction that I just said something weird from Japanese people. Using WaniKani vocab in reality is a quick pathway to ending up having misunderstandings with Japanese people. I used to add the vocab from here into my flashcard sets, but stopped doing that around level 23 when this became obvious.

If they cannot do this, at least give us the ability to shut off vocabularly all together, or make it separate from Kanji check. There have been many times when I have lost motivation because I have 200 vocab words due right at the first check on a new level. You can tell when this happens because I will have a random level every 6-7 levels take 12-14 days as opposed to 7-9.

The other issue for me is the words assigned in English to the Kanji, and the fact that many Kanji have 1 single word assigned to them. I’ve had so many Kanji go from burn (as in, they should have been burn at that point) back to Guru because I used an exact synonym for the Kanji that the system wouldn’t accept as an answer. I hear this same complaint from a lot of other people as well.

That being said, I still absolutely love the app and never hesitate to recommend it to people. If they fixed those two things, it would be literally perfect for me though.

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I understand the critique of the vocabulary, I just always knew that it was for reinforcing the kanji, and most of it not common vocab, so I built my own vocab on the side e.g. with Anki.

You probably know this, but in that case I’d just add my own synonym, which will then be accepted in reviews. You could even use some Undo scripts or apps that allow undoing your review in these unfair cases, though these can have disadvantages too.

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I build my own sets on Anki as well from the textbook vocab as well as what I see in videos and such, but for a long time I did not realize just how uncommon and badly translated much of the Wanikani vocabulary is. Much of it lingers in my flashcard sets from back then, and I don’t always remember which words came from Wanikani or not. Also back then I was under the “more is better” assumption, that even if you have 6 other words with the same English definition you may as well add another similar word. I only later on realized how unhelpful that can be sometimes.

I did not know that actually. Thanks for the tip. I actually just started looking up the English meanings of the Kanji on Kanji Study when I am absolutely sure I 100% know the Kanji but am just unsure which word they want for the answer. Sometimes WK has a unique English term given to the Kanji though so it ends up a miss.

Is that when you adopted the level 13 flair, or did you pick that your first time around?

I see you hiding that post-reset level 3 :eyes:

頑張りましょう!