WaniKani burnout

I’ve been studying on WaniKani for about 9.5 months straight as of now. The first few levels were a nice introduction, levels 10-20 were the most productive, I was doing ~20 lessons and 100+ reviews almost every day.

I’m now level 27 and my results are slowly declining. I can’t remember old vocabulary, new ones I forget after a few days. A lot of old vocabulary keeps resetting to apprentice-guru beacause it doesn’t make sense to me and I can’t remember them. My results dropped from 90%+ on average to around 85% at best. And in general WaniKani started to feel like a chore. I asked my friend recently if I should take a break but they suggested just decreasing the number of lessons each day, because they think it will be really hard to go back if I stop even for a bit. I’ve been doing around 10 leves each day recently following their advice but it didn’t help much.

What do you think I should do? I haven’t done a lot of grammar stydies or reading practice in a while, so maybe that’s the problem? Or is it natural to feel this way and I should take a break?

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Although I’m only level 15 I know what you’re feeling and I can tell you it’s totally fine to take a break. I had to study a lot for my university exams and basically took a longer break from WaniKani during that time. For about 1.5 months I didn’t do any lessons at all and only tried to do my reviews (although in the end I let them pile up as well). But now I’m picking it up again and I gotta say it feels great to be back at it! The break definitely wasn’t the worst thing and now I’m back on track again with newly found motivation :+1:

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Concider using KaniWani for sementing words into your vocabulary.

I’d have also recommended that.

One thing worth mentioning is that if you’re reducing the number of new items per day, it’s natural for your accuracy to go down. Usually we remember the recently learned items much better than old ones. If there’s less new items going around in the reviews, the accuracy will be also lower.

I’d honestly recommend bringing those lessons down to 5 (but maybe not 0, because it might kill your momentum entirely) and continue doing your reviews as usual. It will be tough and your accuracy will take a hit. Your progress will also go down, but that’s okay. By level 30, one knows around 90% of kanji that they’ll see. Your kanji level is at a pretty good level. You should then focus on grammar and reading practice. Maybe join a book club.

I’d recommend against vacation mode. If one is not feeling like doing something, then vacation mode just makes it easier not to do it. I think reducing the WK load of daily reviews by lowering lessons and continuing with reviews is more important here.

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Can confirm, it’s really hard to go back if you stop (been there several times). If you’re able, try to just not do any lessons for a while, or do very few, and focus on other ways to learn Japanese which tickle your brain in a better way. Soon enough you’ll be back for more.

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Something I’ve been considering for myself recently and I’ve seen recommended by others a lot (seeing as I’m now averaging 250 reviews a day and am about to go back to college) is to finish your current level at your usual pace (for me, basically as fast as possible and keeping track of which specific reviews I need to finish at the hour I get them and keeping track of which sets I can do at a a bit slower a pace) and then level up. But before doing any lessons for the new level, just hang out doing reviews for a while until you’ve got your apprentice pile down a bit.

Most people try for under 100. The items in your apprentice box are the majority of your daily reviews, whether that be old ones that you get wrong and pop up again, or kanji and vocab from your current level. If you can get older ones up to guru or even master, then your number of daily reviews will drastically decrease.

The reason I’m hesitant about doing that is because I’m really trying to get WaniKani done by the end of my first year of college and have been trying to get my average time per level down from the 12-14 days they were taking me for like the first 15 levels before I kinda figured out a system. But like someone above me stated, it’s learning a language, not playing a game. We’re not going for a high score, and in the end, the main impact we’re talking about is adding another few days, maybe a week or two, to our total time every time we take a break from lessons. So not that big a deal. If reviews are starting to pile up, it’s probably a good idea.

Another thing I’ve found that helps me a lot with those confusing recurring kanji vocab that I just get wrong over and over again, usually because I repeatedly confuse it with something else that looks similar or uses a similar mnemonic or logic behind the vocab, is I have a tab in my notes app that clarifies things. When I come across one of those items that I’m always confusing, I guess, then whether I get it wrong or right, I throw it in the notes app alongside the other one I confuse it with and take a good look at the difference, or sometimes make a mnemonic for it.

For instance, I was always confusing 存 (そん) and 在 (ざい) because I could never remember what radical the actual difference was. When I wrote them down side by side, I could remember that 存 has the 子 radical in it, who is my son (そん). Things like that. I’ve got like 30 some distinctions on that app, and it helps a lot. Usually just writing them down side by side is enough and I never have to look at it again, but it’s good to save in case I forget.

Anyway, hope this helps!

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Thirding this to emphasize it. It’s really hard coming back from vacation mode, especially if your reason for activating it in the first place is motivation-related. Took me a few months to get back in the groove, instead of a couple days/weeks like I half-planned.

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Thank you very much for the replies. I’ve decided against taking a vacation and instead I will try to deal with my reviews before moving on with the lessons. Hope my motivation will get back to me before long.

I’ve marked one of the replies as the answer, however feel free to give more suggestions to me and others in need, all help is appreciated.

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Good job sticking with it! Learning 27 levels of kanji would be a huge accomplishment. Even if you only did reviews (and no lessons) for months, you’d still be learning lots of the most valuable kanji. :slight_smile:

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Hi! I had pretty much the exact same problem as you at the exact same level. If you’ve been here for ~10 months I was probably going around the same pace as you as well. I hit a wall in the mid to late 20s where my accuracy took a huge dive and WaniKani started feeling like much more of a chore than it had been. Here’s how I got through it.

First of all, the accuracy dive comes from hitting a sort of critical mass of leeches. As you go through levels the vocabulary that sticks makes its way through the SRS while the leeches clog the pipes. That means the farther you advance through Wanikani, the more your accuracy will naturally go down as your ratio of leeches to non-leeches increases. This is natural. The first step to avoiding discouragement is deciding to accept the lower accuracy and slowing the pace because reviewing will now take more time relative to learning new content. You can also use a leech review script to help alleviate the problem (this will help the accuracy, but you’ll still be moving more slowly because the leech reviews themselves take awhile).

As other people have mentioned, a freeze on new items for a week or two can be really helpful. There are a few pieces of advice that I see tossed around that I strongly disagree with, however. DO NOT use vacation mode. Vacation mode circumvents the entire purpose of an SRS and everything will be harder when you come back. Also, DO NOT take a break from WaniKani entirely, just a break from new lessons. Habit is one of the most important factors in maintaining momentum with any endeavor, and that is especially true with regard to SRS learning. You can ease off the throttle without breaking the overall habit. I’ll add the caveat that different people learn differently, so this advice may not apply to every single person or situation. That being said, anyone choosing to go against this advice should be very aware of why they are doing so and why it would work better for them.

Another thing that helped me avoid burnout when I was in your position was shifting my priorities. WaniKani had been my primary study tool to that point, and I realized that my Kanji knowledge far outweighed my listening and reading skills. Leveling up through WaniKani feels great, but considering the ultimate goal is fluency, there is so much more to learn than Kanji. By the mid-twenties you know enough kanji that it will not be the limiting factor when diving into reading. Starting reading (if you haven’t already) will be difficult no matter what, but I found that grammar and vocabulary were much bigger impediments to my comprehension than kanji when I first started. I also find reading to be much more rewarding than SRS, and SRS should always be viewed as a tool to meet that end rather than an end in and of itself.

That being said, there are always high points and low points in language learning. Take mental snapshots of the highs to remember why you are working through the lows. And know that as long as you fall back on habit to persevere through the lows, the lows will ALWAYS end.

(Looks like in the time it took me to write this a lot of people chimed in with great advice. I strongly agree with izzyfizz96 and jprspereira)

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Thanks for the well written reply. I will try to deal with my pile of leeches and get back into other forms of language study.

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I am starting to figure this out for my self as well.

There is the idea that rushing through wanikani is some how better. It’s better to go fast, and learn more… BUT. Language doesn’t really work like that.

If you aren’t hearing it, reading it, using it, you brain doesn’t need to know it, and despite you best efforts it will DUMP it anyway.

I agree with some of the others. At level 27 if you feel like you aren’t remembering things, you should be reading more. Or studying more grammar, watching simple shows. Force you brain to actually need to remember things.

Take a break from new levels and go USE your japanese.

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I agree, and everything you said is good advice. I did rush through the levels, getting to 60 after a little over a year here. Somehow I managed to avoid burning out until then. But then I did burn out. Not with Japanese – I continued studying – but with WaniKani. It took me almost a year before I felt like starting up again.

And I’ll tell you that my retention wasn’t that great, even on “burned” items. I do like WaniKani and continue to use it – slowly – this time, but without the additional reinforcement that comes from encountering the kanji you learned in text, you will forget them.

It’s fun to get to level 60 and all, but that shouldn’t be confused with mastery by any means. So, is “burning” meaningless? No, not at all. They may not be cemented in your memory, but each time you learn them again, the more they’ll stick, until (through a combination of memorization and encountering them in the wild) they will be finally be wired into your brain.

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Reading through these replies, I find it very interesting how common this issue is at this point. I am at level 26 and hit a similar wall, with which I responded by holding off on new lessons and focusing on only reviews for several months. The concept of “leech” reviews is very accurate from my experience, this issue definitely grows over time with more items added. Currently I have a pile of about 2000 reviews, of which I do a few hundred every couple days. The fact that so many people experience this between levels 20 and 30 goes to show the consistent building challenge anybody faces when learning this material. I also feel that diversifying study (grammar, reading, speaking, listening, etc.) is a good move at this stage. If anybody has some good suggestions for platforms/resources for these other topics, I would love to hear!

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The best advice would be take less lessons or even stop them completely for a while. That would decrease your review queue and give you some time to breath. This doesn’t need to be a race (unless you need to pass an Japanese test ASAP).

Wanikani is not (or should not be) the only learning tool for you, so you don’t need to give 100% of your brain to this. Pair it with some reading, grammar and listening. When you do this, you give yourself both a break from wanikani and a boost in your Japanese (which is not made of Kanji only). On top of that, seeing the Kanjis you’ve learned here in other places really helps to keep them in your memory. The other way around is also true: When I get a Wanikani lesson of a Kanji that I saw somewhere else, they tend to stick to my memory more easily. Like this you’re not overloading your brain with only one type of input, but rather diversifying your portfolio.

If you do that, you won’t feel the urge to race with Wanikani, because you won’t feel that you’re wasting time (since you’ll be at the same time learning from other sources). Try Satori Reader and NHK EasyNews. They will bring you out from rote memorization to a more natural input and give you a break from your Wanikani burnout. There’s also Bunpro for grammar.

While you stop your lessons, you can install a Leech script to help you deal with them too.

I hope it helps :smiley:

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I’ve only been back a month, and I was already getting sucked back into the level 60 mindset and then I thought ,“It’s silly to think I can get to N1 level in a Year.” Or that I should. Outside of Kanji, there are piles and piles of vocab to learn. How am I gonna learn it all in a year? Put it all in another SRS? and I just looked out at the year I was planning for myself and realized I didn’t want to learn that way. In front of a computer memorizing.

So If I’m not going to get to N1 in a year, partially by choice, then why do I need to get to 60 in a year?

That realization had me step back. if I’m level N5 and a half right now… Then I can only use 16 levels of WaniKani anyway. By the end of the year I should be firmly in N4 with a little N3, so my early next year, I’ll be able to 27 levels of WaniKani, but the rest of levels I won’t really be able to use until probably another year or more. That’s how long it will reasonably take to have learned and mastered all the grammar and vocab to use Wankani to the fullest.

Basically, I think there should be more emphasis on getting to the WaniKani level that you can utilized fully and then growing at a pace equal to and not exceeding your grammar and vocabulary. It’s a recipe for burn our to learn kanji you can’t use.

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Or some manga like よつばと! Whatever is compelling enough that you want to keep reading. I tried Satori Reader a couple times, but ultimately, the stories there felt too much like homework for me. I’m still searching for something that I actually want to read in Japanese rather than something I’m forcing myself to read. This is pure laziness on my part, because I know that language learning isn’t effortless when you have your own language to fall back on. It’s just that I keep thinking there must be some kind of Japanese text that is so interesting (to me), and not so far above my level of comprehension that I’ll become addicted.

Try harder, Sezme!

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I hope Shimeji Simulation is good. We are reading it next month in the Beginner Book Club. Mine is coming tonight in the mail from Japan. Squeal!

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Indeed, it takes quite a bit of time and effort to get to N1 level. I was probably at N4 level (apart from kanji) when I started WK at the beginning of 2018. By December of that year, I wrote the N3 and was (barely) able to pass. My WaniKani studies were invaluable for that. But even so, having passed the test, it’s easy to forget much of what I crammed.

I still don’t feel ready for N2. Perhaps with effort I’ll try at the end of 2021 (assuming the Covid-19 pandemic lets up by then).

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Cute illustrations. Maybe I’ll give that a try!

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