WaniKani for a long-time student of Japanese

Hello! I am a WaniKani user and long-time advanced student of Japanese (20+ years) who currently works with Japanese professionally. Over time, I’ve seen posts saying that WK is useless to users starting at a more intermediate or advanced level. Personally, my kanji comprehension is better now than it has ever been in my 2 decades of studying Japanese and I credit this singlehandedly to WaniKani. So I wanted to add my voice to the conversation and share my experience.

A little bit about my background in Japanese:

  • I started learning Japanese on my own in my early teens as an anime fan in the 90’s. Dubs were notoriously bad so I would hunt down fan-subbed VHS tapes of my favorite series. Listening to so many hours of subtitled Japanese helped me pick up bits of the language naturally. Many manga series were only available in Japanese so I’d buy them wherever I could find and translate them. This is when I fell in love with the Japanese language.

  • I was lucky that my parents supported my language learning and got me an at-home Japanese tutor in high school because my school didn’t offer Japanese language classes. (It does now!)

  • Japanese Language & Literature was one of my majors in college, which means I took somewhere between 14-18 credits in both language and cultural classes.

I would’ve killed to have tools like WK, KaniWani, and Bunpro when I was in high school and college. I learned most of my kanji by handwriting characters and vocabulary words over and over again. It was grueling and kanji remained the weakest part of my Japanese for over a decade.

  • I studied abroad and lived with a Japanese family for 4 months in Kyoto, after which my language skills and especially my speaking and listening comprehension were the best they had ever been. I entered that intensive program at an intermediate-low level and left testing at advanced-low.

  • I work professionally with Japanese as a lawyer reviewing documents for international cases involving Japanese companies. I’ve done this part-time for the last 5 or so years. I have and continue to maintain professional fluency in Japanese. WK plays a big role in keeping my skills from getting rusty between projects. Whenever I get on a project I usually put WK on vacation mode because I end up reading Japanese documents for 8 hours per day. It takes a lot out of me but working in Japanese makes it enjoyable.

I did not plan to do this type of work before I became a lawyer. In fact, I had no idea this type of work existed at all. I reconnected with a friend 10 years after we studied abroad together and she told me about it. I wouldn’t recommend becoming a lawyer specifically to do this type of work because there isn’t a ton of it and the market for projects has slowed recently even before the pandemic.

About my experience with WaniKani:

I can’t remember how I found WaniKani. Previously I was using iKnow.jp to maintain my proficiency. There’s nothing wrong with iKnow. In fact, I recommend it if you want to level up your vocabulary after you complete WK. (Doing both at the same time would be too much in my opinion.)

I started WaniKani mostly because I was bored. I knew 80% or more of the kanji/vocabulary up through levels in the high 20’s. But the process of relearning and drilling radicals and mnemonics made a huge difference in better solidifying kanji that I already knew. I felt like I was plugging in the holes in my kanji knowledge. I’m in the mid-40’s now and I still know over 50% of the kanji and vocabulary in each level but WK remains as helpful as ever. Because of the learning I’ve done with WK, I’m much better at guessing a kanji’s pronunciation or meaning even when I’ve never seen that kanji before. That makes it much easier to look for the word in a dictionary like jisho.org.

If you look at my WK Stats, you’ll see that I’m not the fastest WK user. Especially recently – I started my own business right around the time I hit level 32. I am a strong believer in going at your own pace no matter how long that might take. Seriously, ignore anyone who tries to make you feel bad about how fast you’re leveling. Just keep swimming and soon you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

Last year I bought a lifetime subscription to WK since I am progressing on the slower side. I plan to keep WK part of my language maintenance in the long-term, even after I’ve burned all 60 levels.

TLDR: Everybody is different but I strongly suggest any intermediate-to-advanced students who are frustrated by the easier lower levels to keep going. Up through the end of level 39 I knew anywhere between 50% to 100% of the kanji introduced in each level. Now at level 45 I still encounter kanji and vocabulary words that I already know. But WK does an amazing job filling in blanks I may have in my knowledge while strengthening the parts I already know to be even more solid.

I hope this was helpful. I am happy to share more about my experience if anyone has questions. :slight_smile:

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Great post! Very interesting to see other people “Japanese” stories.

Sounds insane. That’s some serious reading practice to reinforce WK SRS.

How’s your accuracy on wkstats, if you don’t mind sharing.

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Sure! Mid 80’s-low 90’s. It was low 90’s across the board until probably about 10 levels ago.

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It is kind of insane. :sweat_smile: My first Japanese project ever had overtime – 12 hour days. My brain was so drained by the end of each day!

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Somehow I got inspired reading that part of you being a lawyer working with the japanese language! Even though you said yourself that it’s also not that promising nowdays xD

I’m also a lawyer (just 3 years since I got my degree) and started studying japanese a few years ago (around level N3~N2 right now). Sometimes I try to think how could I make a passion of mine (japanese) together with my formation (which I don’t enjoy that much xD) to make a living. It’s no doubt hard, but hey, not impossible. Thank you for sharing this story!

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You’re welcome! I’m glad it was inspiring. If you want to look into this type of work, search for “Japanese document review.”

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What a great story!

I just love hearing that breadth of experience of the users here.

頑張ってください!

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This was a fun read and completely reinforces the fact that there is no one “way” to do WaniKani.

It also helps that my WKstats are close to yours. Which just goes to show that you needn’t be 99% accuracy to progress.

Thank you for confirming that the individuality of approach to WK is an inevitability.

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I want to live and work in Japan so this is very motivational. I’m impressed by anyone who managed to become fluent in Japanese without all the nifty apps and services that are so easy to find nowadays. It makes me feel like I have no excuses.

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Very inspirational! As an intermediate-advanced learner myself, I completely agree with you on the fact that WaniKani really helps fill in the gaps of my kanji knowledge. Yes I’m constantly seeing words and kanji I already know, but after level 30-something, the amount of unknown kanji and vocabulary swiftly increases. Truly worth the lifetime subscription––even for intermediate or advanced learners. Good job and keep it up! :+1:t2: :+1:t2:

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I’d love to go back to Japan to live there someday, too. I hope you’ll get the chance someday! Where would you like to live in Japan, you think?

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Thank you! You too~ 頑張りましょう〜〜

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I love WK Stats but it can be a blessing and a curse. Mentally, it was challenging to see my accuracy numbers go down the higher I got. I had to untangle my ego from the numbers.

I had a major drop when I was very busy with my own business and had difficulty keeping a regular WK schedule. In 2020 I crawled out from under 1000+ reviews. Many wrong answers were brain fatigue, too. I encountered a similar “brain fatigue” in the early 20’s levels, where nothing would stick. You can see my level 22 is long because I just had to take a break.

I also slowed down in the 30’s because I put in more time and concentrated effort training my most stubborn leeches instead of going hard on new lessons.

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chatty chatty with counselor 弁護士 zeynokiz-先輩

Same. To me, especially in the beginning, it was frustrating to see it slowly go down from the 90s. But I learned more and more from others posting on their level 60 posts, or others that relate their experiences, that keeping that high accuracy is a fool’s errand. Like you, I just had to convince myself that some items are just not going to be as easy as others. As soon as I was able to accept that, my general outlook towards reviews improved and despite the fact that I may not be able to pull up accuracy ever, I am at peace with it.

This is what some users need to realize. We are all in different circumstances and because of that, it impacts our ability to do WK. Would it be nice to be able to just study Japanese all day and not have to work? Sure, sign me up. However, that is not the reality for others. So being at peace with this also has helped me be better at WK.

Funny you mention this because when I first started, I was so hell bent on speed that it actually ended up backfiring. The early levels were like once a month level-ups almost for me. :laughing: When I was finally at peace with slowing down, not doing everything as they unlock, accepting the fact that some users who started later than me have overtaken me, my speed actually improved. I do around two levels a month now. I think it was mindset more than anything. I was not listening to what my brain was telling me, forcing it to go on overdrive only to fail miserably. Right now I am in a good pace. Leeches are piling up but I want to get to at least 42 before the year is over. I shall address leeches in 2021.

Honestly, reading this was a great reminder that I am doing it the right way: my way. And I think that is the best way for anyone doing WK, just do their own take on how to tackle the levels and trust the system.

Here’s my wkstats so far in case you are curious:
image

Btw, congrats on starting your own business! I wish you all the best on this endeavor. Not everyone has the gumption and the entrepreneurial drive so I salute and highly encourage those who do take the leap.
:slightly_smiling_face:

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I honestly have no idea. I still need to do a lot more research, tbh. Right now my mentality is sort of, “anywhere is fine as long as I have the opportunity”. :sweat_smile:

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It’s always nice to see another user starting WK as an advanced learner.
I can absolutely relate to the filling of holes in one’s knowledge.

Hm, I feel it’s been much more nuanced recently, but I might biased because I only hear about those discussions when someone links my own thread (shameless plug) in those discussions. :thinking:
Anyway, my own thread is closed and the message bears repeating, so it’s always good to have more threads about it.

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it’s so interesting to see the career paths that people can take with their japanese learning! i never thought about buying a lifetime subscription for the sake of continuing to review, but it does make a lot of sense! i also like how you were honest about not recommending becoming a lawyer specifically to do the kind of work that you do. it’s really important to keep your options open rather than narrow them down to something super specific and potentially risky when it comes to the benefits of japanese learning. now i’m rethinking getting a lifetime account this december!

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Finally, a kindred soul! I’m not as experienced as you, but yes I finished until level 60 and am working as a Japanese interpreter/translator (outside of Japan though). In addition to working with Japanese people, WK single-handedly boosted my kanji fluency. It’s always my highest in the JLPT. That is how amazing WK is (and Tofugu as a whole, which introduced me to the world of learning languages through apps)!

As I mentioned, I’m on level 60 and am just finishing up my “to burn” items. Work is insane so I do have to resort to vacation mode more often now. It took me approximately 4 years to reach level 60 because I was juggling Japanese and MA studies, Japanese work, family issues, non-Japanese-related work, a semblance of a life, etc. that whole time. Slow but steady really wins the race! I see your stats average somewhere between 9 to 20+ days. I was worse! I’d average 16 days during a stable phase of my life, then take 30+ days during extremely busy phases. I don’t have enough money to buy the lifetime subscription yet, but even at level 60, I definitely will! There’s still a lot more to learn!

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