WaniKani for Newbies

I started using WK in late Sept '21 after having studied hiragana on Tofugu for about three weeks. It took me 5 months to get to Level 5. I was struggling and bummed out when I read about other users progress, always scoring 80% of higher on reviews, blasting through levels in a couple of weeks. What was wrong with me?

I took a two-week vacation to Ecuador in early April and left WK in vacation mode. When I returned I was really not looking forward to the slog (that’s what it felt like) to try to come back up to speed. I thus reset my WK to zero and started all over. I’m currently (and joyfully) back in Level 3, and I’d say it’s all going so well that I thought I’d write some Notes to Newbies of what I found and suggest. I’d love it others chimed in too; I’m sure I’d learn a lot.

WK has several counters on the Dashboard; I didn’t know what to aim for.

  1. I keep my Apprentice level at about 40 or below, and never above 50. Thus, I only take new Lessons when I have “room” to increase the Apprentice quantity. Yes, that means I may have to wait around for Reviews to graduate items to Guru but the stress level is much lower (for me). And, when I’m bored waiting I love using the Recent Lessons and Recent Mistakes capabilities.

  2. Previously, I tried writing down challenging kanji and their kana translations on paper on the hope that that would give me something to review on my own. That didn’t help much although it’s fun to see my ability to handwrite kana improve. I also tried 3x5 cards and yellow sticky notes on my bathroom mirror. Didn’t really help.

A HUGE problem for me was keeping track of the various kana and vocabulary used for numbers, numbers of people, numbers of things, number of days and months. Man, the particles and inconsistent vocabulary/kana was maddening. I created a simple spreadsheet form (that I printed out) that I fill in with the Kanji and kana for all the numbers. Each number (e.g., 1, 2, 3…) gets a row with columns People, Things, Days, Months. Now I can visually see the method to their madness and it’s easier for me to sort it out and remember in my head.

  1. Of course, I do my Reviews all the time, at least twice/day, which doesn’t take long because they’re generally not that many to do.

  2. When the Apprentice counter dips below 40 and I want to do some more Lessons I do them in increments of 5. Okay, sometimes 10 but that’s rare. Slowly but surely wins the race for me. And, as Reviews start bringing up things that I haven’t seen in awhile and I make mistakes, well, the Apprentice counter stays reasonable.

That’s all I can think of for now. Hope it helps!


Essentially boils down to:

  1. Find out how SRS and WK works.
  2. Find your pace.
  3. Always do your reviews, like your life depends on it.

I was weak. I took every 365th day off. :disappointed_relieved:


I certainly imagine how for you, x90PT, that this all seems so basic. But that’s why I thought about creating this thread for Newbies, to give them some info to help get started.

“Find your pace.”

Yes, but:

  • I started working on WK at a fast pace as I had on hiragana, anticipating that learning kanji and all was going to be similar.
  • I was surprised (and dismayed) how we were often being taught two Japanese words for each kanji. It was confusing how there was a difference between “Kanji” and “Vocabulary.”
  • I well recall how the dashboard felt like there was so much going on there. So many metrics, unseen knobs being turned (by the SRS/WK).
  • Sure, I needed to do the reviews, and I did every day, often 2-3 times. But it took me awhile to see how doing lessons fed the review pace, and how, if I got too many in my review queue I’d make mistakes which only made the reviews even harder. I was overwhelmed.

Bottom line: start slow, like really slow, in opening up new lessons. So slow that you get impatient, waiting for your reviews. You’ll see then build good feelings of mastery and can gradually increase the pace to find your own learning pace and comfort zone.

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