WaniKani difficulty curve

WaniKani’s first levels comprises of the easiest kanji of the 2000. I reckon the first three levels are easy and then the difficulty goes up until it tapers off at some point. Is my assessment correct? If so, at which point does the difficulty stop increasing? I know that difficulty is subjective and each person may have a different experience depending on their experiences. I had scanned through the kanji list of every level and they seem to get scarier (number of strokes-wise at least) as the levels go up up to a point.

I am at level 2 as a free user and I am having a blast. I would like to know if should I decide to pay and go through levels 4 and above my experience will be way harder.


Not the answer you wanted, but the main difficulty of wanikani is keeping it up for 2 years. You certainly won’t be in the same position as right now by then. Losing motivation is the biggest issue. Because of how kanji are being taught, you just get used to learning the new kanji, like a frog in a pot


Ditto what @Gorbit99 said. Well said.

Only thing I’ll mention — as difficulty is subjective — is to recognize the change in workload over your WK journey, this is a big part of the reason why you’ll have to forgo motivation and dial into discipline to make it through.

You’re attempting to learn a new language, literally learning how to see the world in a whole new way, it’s going to be hard.


I agree with @Gorbit99. Another note is that after 1.5 years (I’m only at level 25), the kanji may have become more complex, but I am also much better at studying. I have learned how to study effectively to make sure I am retaining better and making more effective use of my study time. So for me, the lessons don’t actually feel more difficult now, maybe even a little easier. Also, for me, having a routine is necessary. If you try to study just “when you can” or when you feel like it, it will be way to easy to get derailed.


I would mention that this graph mainly goes down in the center because the number of radicals decreases, and those for me at least are the easiest


That’s a good point, honestly, the biggest thing about radicals is giving me a “way” to perceive kanji. Rather than as foreign hieroglyphs without any meaning. Their reduction on workload makes sense, as one gets better at learning kanji.


The workload point is a good one, mostly what makes WK get harder up to a point is the review count increasing.

As for actual difficulty of content, I think it goes both ways. I don’t think most people have that much issue with the added complexity; it ramps up nicely, but as you learn more kanji there are more you have to distinguish by one small difference. There’s also a not uncommon view that the vocab in WK gets harder over time because it gets somewhat more abstract. All that makes sense.

Personally, though, my accuracy per level, barring a few spikes (level 21 lol), is decently stable between the early levels and now. A few things you may be missing that make the early levels harder:

  • There aren’t THAT many possible on’yomi readings so over time you see the same ones over and over. This actually will help you to more quickly map them onto kanji, or it certainly did for me.
  • If you dig into photo semantic stuff you can sometimes reason out the reading for a kanji based on a shared radical with another – I never directly looked into it but I still think I have a small feel for that by now.
  • While the kanji are simple, the early levels are loaded with tricky exceptions in vocab. Counters and the like are such a pain when you’re new, but that’s kind of the nature of the really common simple stuff in a language to often get loaded with irregularities.
  • As others have said, beyond the help in readings, you just get better at learning kanji as you do it for longer.

Just hang in there and it’ll be ok :blush:


The early levels have “simpler” kanji (fewer strokes). They slowly build up to more complicated kanji, but I feel like somewhere between level 10 and 20 they stop caring and give you whatever kanji they want. However, by the time you make it that far you won’t find kanji any harder to learn or recognize because they have more strokes (writing them might be a different story, but WaniKani doesn’t teach that apart from user scripts). Guess there’s no point in reiterating what’s already been said, but the difficulty of wanikani is not giving up or getting too busy for it.

My main recommendation is don’t take wanikani too fast at the beginning causing you to have too much to review later on and burning you out on it. Also too much wanikani time usually becomes an excuse for thinking you’re learning Japanese when in reality you’re learning a bunch of kanji out of context. Pretty early on, you should start learning grammar and practice reading. The amount of reading possible is near infinite because so many manga are written out with furigana. The main thing keeping you from practicing and understanding reading is not knowing words/ grammar (many words will be written without kanji no matter how many kanji you know) and not having practiced lots and lots and lots of reading.


I think you’ll be okay, that difficulty of kanji looks normal pretty early on, at least where I am, a quick look at every Kanji I haven’t learned yet, they all look completely normal and stuff that I can learn just as easily as the ones I’ve been doing for several levels.

You learn radicals and that’s what makes these kanji less intimidating. I had the same thought as you in the beginning, but actually getting to this point, it’s quite easy. As others mentioned, it all depends on if you can do your reviews


There have been some good answers in terms of what factors affect the WaniKani difficulty curve, but there’s one more I’d like to add.

Depending on how much studying of Japanese you’ve done prior to WK, there will be kanji and vocab words that are freebies (okay, now we’re adding “学校” to the SRS, cool), and ones where you have to learn them for the first time, using mnemonics to build up the kanji from radicals, or the jukugo from kanji, then associating a reading with it.

Common kanji and vocabulary items come up a lot in the early WK levels, and may already be familiar. The further you go, the fewer freebies you will get. So pay attention to how well the WK method helps you internalize the content you had never seen before the Crabigator showed it to you, and that will be a good indicator of how well the method works for you.


Never experienced that some kanji were harder than others.

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I mean, surely before you started studying Japanese you would recognize that if someone told you (as your introduction to kanji)

一、二、三、are one, two, three,
and that
議 is “deliberation” you’d initially think kanji gets crazy hard :slight_smile:

That said you get over that hump pretty early on.


For me, the difficulty peak was around level 20.

That was the time when a number of factors started coming together for me that made learning easier. I saw then that a solid foundation of the kanji of a given level makes most of the vocab essentially freebies as you glue together the readings you’ve just learned. So I focused a lot on getting the kanji right. I made sure to visualize each mnemonic as vividly as I could.

At that point, I also started seeing some patterns. Some radicals “dominate” their kanji and make them have the same onyomi pronunciation. Other times I’d start associating readings with other kanji. Wherever I see an えん reading I’d group the kanji into the “park” category of readings; if I see こう then that kanji is “public”; てつ is “iron” and so on. This way I don’t have to remember a different mnemonic for each one. That’s also the point when you realize onyomi pronunciations are finite. What’s more, they’re not that many, and a very large number of them repeat quite often.

At some point you start to feel out rendakus and doubled consonants as well. It’s all about what rolls off the tongue more easily, and even if you think it’s fine, you’ll learn that people really don’t like their double Ks, or Ks after つs.

As others have said, you learn how to learn. But if you need a break - take one. For me it was getting a bit too much around level 15 when you throw in work and life into the mix. I spent some time away from WK and when I came back it felt easier than ever. I started breezing through the levels. That’s also when I started noticing the details mentioned above.

It’s definitely doable. For sure. You just have to persevere. WK is a long marathon that you need to take at your own pace. So long as you go at it day in and day out, you’ll reach the end.


Never really crossed my mind, I got into kanji as soon as I went into japanese pretty much. But sure, those you mentioned are fairly easy to remember as a total beginner, but you get into fairly complicated characters fairly quickly. But on the other hand I never had much issue with kanji either, always went smooth, could just be me.


I am 1,5 years into WK

It is fun and frustrating and fun again. That’s the motivation I get from SRS.

It doesnt get hard because it is only word and kanji, grammar IMO, I would define as hard, doing N2 now in bunpro, and damn, that’s what I call hard.


議 wasn’t being mentioned as an easy to remember example for someone on day one… beginning Japanese students might remember meanings of 一二三 but still learning to keep ツ and シ straight*… there’s no way they would tell the difference between 網 versus 綱 … and might even freak out looking at 議

*Even this is assuming too much for day one - this is at least a month of University Japanese

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Don’t worry… now it’s 345

All worth it to get the 0/0 and level up to 42 today


I think it’s an illusion. For levels 1-3 you have a very small workload but at level 4+ the workload suddenly increases, maybe because you suddenly are taking on a lot more content, the ability to remember everything is more difficult?

I am probably wrong, like usual, but I find that when I have a lower workload I focus more on each kanji or vocab and so it feels easier.

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The concept for WK is to teach “visually simple” early on, and then move on to more visually complex.

Whether that means increase in difficulty is probably objectively correct, but also at some point of doing WK you stop thinking kanji are “visually complex things that are hard to learn” . At that point, you’ve already won the battle really. it’s just a matter of perceverarance after that!


As always, just wanting to be arbitrary for the sake of it. Do you ever have a point in jutting into a discussion ever? Beyond aggravation that is? Because, one example, doesn’t make a tendency in in any way.

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