Wani Kani - Tips, tricks, and traps

Hello all.

I started worshiping the Crabigator on May 6, 2015, not long after I started studying Japanese. At that point, I had maybe made it about halfway through the textbook Genki I and had very limited experience with kanji. Initially, I did all of my reviews and lessons as soon as they became available, but soon became overwhelmed and became a card carrying member of team taking it slow. For those of you interested in how slow, I’ve kept a cryptic online spreadsheet of my progress since level 27 or so.

I recently reached an important milestone in Wani Kani and thought I’d share a bit of what I learned along the way. So, here goes:

Wani Kani - Tips, Tricks, and Traps

“When you get to the top, don’t forget to send the elevator down for the next guy.” – Stan Kenton

1) Try and go for a lifetime membership

I’ve said more than a few times that learning Japanese is more like a marathon than a sprint. It isn’t so much that it’s difficult, it just takes a long time! You really have to spend a lot of time with the language to make significant progress. It’s not really something you can rush through. Can anyone really rush at anything for two, three or more years? Of course not. There will be ups and downs. Work or school will be busy. You’ll get sick. You’ll go on vacations. Instead, strive for slow but consistent progress. It often will not feel like you are progressing at the time, but if you review material from the year before you will be pleasantly surprised.

Keeping that in mind, I can’t really think of many scenarios where it makes sense to get a monthly subscription instead of a lifetime membership. The latter approach frees you up to take things at a pace you decide without the pressure of “getting your money’s worth” tempting you to go too fast.

2) The importance of taking it slow

" Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence" – Ovid

If there’s any dead horse I’d beat, it would be this. I’ve been on these forums for three years now and think that going too fast is probably the number one issue that trips people up when using the software. Once you’ve gotten to level 10 or so (I don’t recall exactly when it happens), the apprentice, guru, and master queues will have filled up a bit and your review count will start creeping up. You’ve got to find a way to control this or you will spend too much time on Wani Kani.

Going too fast manifests itself in several different ways. I’ve seen threads where users were whizzing though the levels in record time, with heavy daily loads, and then got sick or woke up and didn’t feel like doing reviews that day. Their aggressive pace offered them little to no wiggle-room for such days, and soon they were looking at 400 items to review and burn out kicked in setting them back further than if they had taken a less aggressive approach.

My recommendation is to do all of your reviews as soon as they are available, and regulate your overall workload by varying the number of new lessons you take each day. Each of us has a different life outside of Wani Kani, so you’ll have to settle upon your own. I would recommend no more than 10 new items per day. I’ve experimented with 5 a day, 10 a day, 10 on weekdays and 5 on weekends, 10 a day unless kanji were involved in which case 5 a day, and other approaches and finally settled on 5 a day for the final 20 levels or so. When you change your rate of taking new lessons, it will take several days for the workload to adjust to the new level as the queues reach a new equilibrium.

3) Keep your studies well rounded

Remember, Wani Kani was developed with a very specific goal in mind: to teach you kanji. I think it ends up doing more than that, such as teaching some vocabulary, and reinforcing the heck out of your kana skills, but still it is only one piece of a well rounded plan for attacking Japanese.

We all have different reasons for studying Japanese, but I think it is fair to say that almost every serious student of the language will need to develop skills in grammar, listening, vocabulary, slang, reading, and several other areas.

Over the past three years, there have been times where I felt like my WaniKani level was too far ahead of my overall Japanese level as well as times where it fell behind and also times where it was just about right. When it is just about right, you will start seeing your WaniKani items starting to appear naturally “in the wild” during the other aspects of your study like listening and reading. Reinforcement from several sources with context, can really drive home a vocabulary item.

I’d say that WaniKani can be a significant part of your study regimen early on, but once you reach level 20 or so you should really branch out into reading and just try and get as much exposure as you can. You really want to solidify the basics as a platform towards getting over the hump into intermediate Japanese which is all about exposure. Follow your interests and find a native language blog you are interested in, or read reviews for music, books, and movies you enjoy on Amazon Japan. You will start to develop a word cloud in your head filled with vocabulary that matches your interests.

Once you reach level 40 or so, you’ll start learning more organically, and will even start to have items coming up in your new WaniKani lessons with which you are already familiar. What a great feeling that can be!

4) Quick tips

  • Use the cellphone app: rattle off a few reviews while you’re in the line at the grocery store, etc.
  • Turn on the Jitai font randomizer script so you will recognize kanji written in various fonts.
  • Take time to drill deep on leeches
  • Get your money’s worth: if you don’t recognize an item within a reasonable mount of time, go ahead and get it wrong.
  • Realize that you’ll have many items that get up to enlightened, and then move back down to master, and even guru a couple of times before being burnt. This is good and what you are paying for.
  • In addition to WaniKani, keep your own home-made deck of vocabulary you encounter using a SRS like Anki, Memrise or similar.

And remember not to lose sight of the real goal for all of us here: Learning Japanese! (Not finishing Wani Kani as fast as possible.) Overall I think the best approach is to start Wani Kani at a pretty quick pace, then start slowing down and widening the scope of your reading and immersion.

5) Specific Recommendations on supplements

There are a lot of threads on this already, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Levels 0-10: Contrary to everything I said above, now is the time when it’s OK to go fast. You’re really just filling up the queues, and most of what you learn will be reinforced by your grammar studies. Everything will seem like wine and roses, and you’ll feel like you’re going to be fluent by the end of the year. Enjoy this false optimism while it lasts. Check out the Genki book if you can afford it. Start familiarizing yourself with the main online resources like Maggie-Sensei and Tae Kim. You’ll feel the rewards of progressing quickly. Focus on really drilling the simple grammar, as opposed to trying to learn every type of verb conjugation. There are plenty of “beginner Japanese phrases” videos on youtube that will be worth your while at this point. Start picking your favorites.

  • Levels 10-20: Time to slow down on Wani Kani. Stick with the same resources as above. Maybe add a verb conjugation or two, but really drill them. Learn these basics well. Maybe move on to Genki II. I’d recommend investing in the Genki Conjugation Cards app. It will serve you well until level 40. Explore the free features of Japanese Pod 101 for listening and grammar.

  • Levels 20-30: I’ll echo the Wani Kani guide here. It is time to start reading. It will be ugly, but you’ve got to face the beast. The honeymoon is over. It may be time to slow down on WK once again. You’ll probably start encountering the same things in your reading, listening and grammar studies. Try NHK Web Easy (everyone does it), listen and shadow with The Cut-tongue Sparrow on Spotify, or delve into your first manga with Samezu or Shirokuma Cafe.

  • Levels 30-40: Your vocabulary should be exploding at this point. You’ll start to find several different sets of words that mean the same thing, but with subtle variations. Probably a good time to pick up Tobira if you’ve already made it through Genki II or equivalent. You’ll want to really master the causative and passive causative forms now and make them intuitive. Start reading through the example sentences in your favorite dictionary for exposure to a variety of short sentences.

  • Level 40 and up: Now you’re cooking. Start poring through native material like an archaeologist. Read anything. Some of it will be very hard, but try it anyways. There is almost too much material available at this point. Find your favorite reviewer on Amazon Japan. Pick up your first Light Novel, or join one of the reading clubs here in the WK community. Definitely check out my favorite blog, where you get a two-fer; reading about Japanese grammar while immersing yourself in the language.

I hope this helps some of you newer students out there.

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Did you mean reviews here?

PS Thanks for this, and congratulations! :tada:

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A very happy :star2: :partying_face: :fireworks: congratulations :fireworks: :cake: :star2: ! And thank you for all the tips, links, and advice for those of us still on the journey! :+1:

i’m in a different camp: i want mass input, max exposure, so learning them all at once, then failing them is part of my plan. the reason is, i am already in japan, so i get it all shoved down my throat, whether i want it or not, as long as i have my eyes open while wandering about.

the jitai addon is a great thing and more important than many may think. you’ll come across so many totally crazy fonts here, being somewhat prepared is enormously helpful.

i’m right now on monthly while waiting for the next lifetime sale.

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Hah! I was just testing to see if anyone was paying attention. ; )

Good eye. I’ve corrected my post.

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I did that for a while, but my error count was too high and I was spending too much time on it and neglecting other areas. I hadn’t thought of how different things might be for someone living in Japan when I made my post.

The last time I was over there, I was on level 20-something if I remember correctly. I was surprised at how much I could read already at that point. I envy you for your exposure. You probably can’t avoid getting a couple of hours of “reading” in a day, while I have to find ways to sneak peeks at websites while I’m at work.

Yes, I love that one. Although it seems to be like they’ve eliminated some of the wilder font variations recently. Still, before using jitai I remember being surprised at not being able to read a word I ‘knew’ because it was not written in the standard font used in Wani Kani.

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yes, the circumstances here change the whole game of course.
and then, i’m normally not a visual learner, i’m more the audible type, so all my learning here is extra tiring… but the constant reminders in real life equal it out a bit.

if i wasn’t here, i’d probably take my time, because it’s exactly as you said: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. and that fact really needs to be clear to everyone, it’s not just a phrase or an excuse for being lazy. learning takes time. you have to biologically grow connections, and that’s not something that happens over night (actually it does, you grow them while sleeping, but they’re hit and miss, like anything biology).

For the last 3 levels i’ve doing like this:

  • as soon as I enter a new level I put the radicals and the kanji first and lean all the radical in one day (for me they are easy…) and maybe 5 kanji;

  • in the following days I do 10 new kanji per day and 10 vocab words until there’s no more new kanji, then I start doing 20 vocab per day.

In this way each level takes me roughly 9 days and the vocabulary is normally from the previous level, which is really nice because I learn new kanji and reinforce the kanji from the previous level (It’s surely through the vocabulary that I really learn the readings).

I’m doing this for the last 3 levels, as I said, so I think I reached and equilibrium already with the review queues. There are roughly 80-110 items per day (they vary a lot, but is not more os less that) and they are quite manageable, I do one review in the morning and one at night, it doesn’t take more than 15 min.

So far this pace is OK, but I’m still level 9, so what do I know?

Congratulations, well done!!! :cake::cake::cake:

I really like your post since it focuses on learning the language and not just rushing through a program as if it were a video game.

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This is a fantastic post and the exact kind I was going to ask for in regards to tips and tricks on learning Japanese on one’s own pace once I settled into the place and made an intro post. Thank you for sharing your experiences and sources! Will definitely be looking into the lifetime subscription once I get more levels under my belt.

Thanks for sharing.
Bravo

I know that you should keep it slow but I’m at lvl 41 and only halfway through genki 2 so I think I’ll just power through WK and then focus on other things. Probably less effective but only thing that really works atm :thinking:

I think it’s not bad to go fast if you can handle it. As for myself I (re)started WaniKani on October 22 last year. I’ll be reaching level 60 in 3-4 weeks which will make my total time spent on WaniKani somewhere around 380-390 days.
Some would think at that speed I’d have been focusing on just WaniKani but no, heck I’d say I might even be in a much better position than many other fresh level 60s. I’ve never taken the JLPT and don’t plan to but everyone seems to use that as a level system for some reason and based on the content I’ve seen I guess I’d probably be around N3.

Just do whatever works for you and make sure you’re going at a pace that doesn’t make you burn out and you’ll be fine.

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Ty, nice noragami profile pic btw. I think I am around your pace, however I dont know how long I am going to need for the fast levels. I plan on doing my 24-max 30 lessons a day but heared that for full speed you need like 40. Also I got into the habit of doing like 10 kanji lessons a day, so doing all kanji lessons on 1 or 2 days might be tough…

Guess I’ll see in 5 levels, I hope myself that I won’t burn out, got 200 reviews in 15 minutes :smiley:

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Thank you so much for your tips! I recently found out about this problem where I wasn’t recognizing kanji I knew fairly well because of the font. I will be installing this script :laughing:

And congrats on taking your time with WK, sometimes I feel like that is a separate feat on it’s own. It’s so tempting to rush through it. :sweat_smile:

They’re called

“Hugo, Paco y Luis” in the latinamerican version

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That sick bit ain’t no joke. Had bronchitis for weeks and now it’s progressed to pneumonia. Between the illness giving me legit distracting pain and the medicine blurring my vision I keep missing stupid things in reviews with typos and misreading. For instance, I absolutely know the difference between 四日 and 四月, but I can’t always tell which I am looking at. :joy: It’s a real pain. @_@

I hope you feel better soon! I was bedridden for a few months earlier this year and still am not up to full strength with “a viral illness that acts like mono.” It’s no joke for sure!:worried: At least I am able to do my Japanese study while lying down.

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How had I never heard of this? It looks adorable!

Huge congratulations on the level 60 :grin: definitely intending to slow down myself when I reach level 40, and have been slowed down significantly the last few months already by life. On the flip side, I’m learning so much vocabulary outside of WK through reading, and I definitely agree that that kind of consolidation is hugely valuable around this level.