Wanikani "hump"?

Hey guys,

I’ve been reading old forum posts and whatnot in my new person excitement. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of posts by people like me. However, they are often two or three years old, and the level next to the name is “7” or “8”.

Is there a pretty typical pattern where people start off like gangbusters and then get overwhelmed sometime right before level 10? It seems like if people can make it past this “hump”, they often go on and get to at least level 30 or 35?

This is based off of a small sampling of forum posters, but are there any third party apps that show a “hump”? And tips for getting past it, since it looks like I’ll hit it within the month? I’m still excited and having fun, and would hate to lose momentum due to feeling suddenly overwhelmed.


I think its a pretty typical pattern for anything in life. Probably more just people not really as into as they thought they’d be. Think of all the times people start a diet/learn an instrument/play a sport/etc, are all excited about it, but a few weeks/month later, they suddenly don’t care anymore.


There have been a couple threads about user statistics. The most recent one I can find is here.

There are plenty of good theories about why the drop-off is so big - a lot of people stop at the paywall of level 4, many try it for a couple months longer and decide it’s not worth their money, and a lot just plain give up. The drop off in later levels could be accounted for with users moving onto different resources and/or having enough of a kanji base to head out into the “real world”, and I have a feeling that the level-reset option is getting more and more use these days (myself included).

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There’s a few significant drop-off points.
Lvl 3, the paywall
Lvl 7-10, the early quitters
Lvl 15, there seems to be something about 14/15 that kills users
Lvl mid20, when people get burnt out
Lvl 30, when people perceive after months that the glass is half empty instead of half full and lose confidence

Most people who made it past 40 seem to stick around, abd most over 50 finish it.


I think the reason for the Level 15 barrier is that is about when WaniKani shifts away from learning lots of new radicals. There are fewer radicals, and of the new ones, they are many times just a kanji that has already been learned. I’ve gone through the level reset process two times in the 15-17 range, but now I’ve finally broken through. I think the key for me has been to space out learning the kanji unlocked at the start of a level over the 3 days that the SRS is working through the radicals. I can still keep up a good pace, but they aren’t all bunched together. And I use the option to learn radicals first, so I don’t feel like I have to race at the start to stay on pace.

Looking forward to the mid-20s burn out! I can definitely feel it coming.


I honestly can’t remember lvl 14/15 anymore. I burnt out at lvl 24, quit wk for 3 years, came back and reset 4 levels. now i made one again and doubt i’ll get stuck there again.

A list based on no evidence whatsoever:

  1. quitting before level 10: is where people realize that WK is a one-hour(ish) daily commitment for at (the very) least one year. Not everyone wants to go through that

  2. quitting before level 20: on top of the previous problems, but here I think the people who quit are especially the ones whose general knowledge of japanese is not as advanced as the kanji they have to learn. For example people who start WK almost the same time they start learning japanese.

  3. quitting before level 30: on top of the previous problems, people are starting to burn out. After six months or more on the website, other things happen in life which distract you from WK. Even a two-week holiday can kill the momentum and the accuracy

  4. quitting before level 40: on top of the previous problems, here people start realizing that the biggest barrier is not reading kanji, and so they shift to different aspects of the language, including consuming more native language material

  5. quitting before level 50: on top of the previous problems, here are people who can get kanji organically as they pop up from reading native material

  6. quitting before level 60: on top of the previous problems, here are people who simply feel they don’t need the extra levels just yet

  7. quitting at any level: people who get a japanese boyfriend/girlfriend and believe that pillow-talk will turn them into native speakers in no time (only to discover that the boyfriend/girlfriend in question is making the same thoughts about his/her english).


Noted: push through every five levels. I’ll learn kanji the same way I row. :joy: “500 more meters! Just 10 more strokes 5 times!” “Five more levels! Just 10 more kanji 25 times!”


that’s not a bad mindset.

i treat WK more like the shower or shaving my beard in the morning. sit down, do it, move on.
the more you think about it, the bigger of a thing it becomes, and a big thing that turns bad is a big problem. just don’t let it become so big. do other studies, too. WK is only one cog in the wheel.


99% of the time they are dumbing their speech down for you anyway, so you aren’t as good as you think. I, personally, have suffered from this. Now I’m here on WaniKani to become a real boy. :]



I’m still trying to figure out how to get over my problem with not being able to actually speak Japanese. Like, I’m too embarrassed to talk. I can type up a paragraph or story or respond to a message and hold conversation over text. And I can UNDERSTAND spoken Japanese at least enough to get the idea. But I’m way over shy about using it, especially with actual Japanese people. I’m over aware of myself. And when meeting a Japanese person it’s always incredibly awkward. I’m really tall and extremely sensitive to pretty much every phase a person has in processing that. Literally everything from the eyes widening “Oh my God, that chic is STILL going!” as they see me stand up for the first time to the flicks of eyes as someone still isn’t quite sure where to look when talking to me or flicks of eyes from people who want to look at me but are trying not to. It’s just a lot. And every time a Japanese person has encountered me directly it has involved constant eye movement and random giggling, which will scare me right away pretty dang quick. Except this one really tall Japanese American cashier at the Asian food market. But he’s American. :joy:

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My suggestion. Get a teacher, or other Japanese person you pay to listen to you and help you improve your conversation skills in Japanese. Once you find it easy to speak to your teacher move on to regular people, it should be much less stressful.


I think this is a big one, and it gets bigger the higher you get as you start learning the language through additional means (reading material, writing, grammar, etc.). All of this added to WK starts to take a significant chunk of your time every day, and I doubt it’s a commitment a lot of people are willing to make.

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There is only one solution:

Really though. Download Hellotalk and start trying to find people to talk with if you don’t have anyone in your immediate area that speaks Japanese.

Edit: To add in a few more things, people in Japan may look at you for being tall, but they look at you for being foreign also. You just have to get used to that kind of stuff. People will literally look at you with their mouth agape because you’re a foreigner.

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It legit might be helpful to have someone who has a professional interest in not scaring me away and some experience working with foreigners so I’m not trying to navigate their shock at the same time as trying to navigate their language.

N-no! >.< It’s n-not like I’ve been on level 9 for 46 days or anything, b-baka!

Lol. There’s nothing especially hard about the levels around 5-10. While it’s true that these levels have the most new radicals to learn, I wouldn’t say it poses any more of a challenge than the rest of the levels on WK. So I’d say the common factor is the typical amount of time into a new resource people give before a certain percentage of them drop out. Kinda similar to how 90% of Japanese learners quit after the first month, or something.

As for getting overwhelmed, it’s certainly possible even at these lower levels. My best advice is to look at your apprentice count and keep it between 50-150, whatever you’re comfortable with. If it’s too high, stop doing lessons for a while, and find the balance that works best for you. Learning a language is a long play and it’s important that you pace yourself. You’ll achieve a lot more with a regular comfortable pace for 2-3 years than you will if you have too fast a pace and burn yourself out in mere months.

The sole reason I’ve been on this level so long is that I haven’t had the time to do more lessons, because of Uni deadlines (in my final year + thesis), so I’ve just been focusing on reviews, but I’m about to get to the point where I can phase back lessons again. It’s important to recognise your own limits and adjust your pace to them.

On a final note, by the time you reach level 30-35, you may have acquired enough kanji to do what you set out to do. It depends on how many kanji you want to know and why you’re learning Japanese. So, the overall aim for everyone is not to reach level 60, but to reach the level they desired, with respect to their kanji knowledge. There’s always more to the statistics than you might think at first glance.


So I read the fluent in 3 months guy’s sales pitch. And there is no need to pay him any money. The “trick” was right in the sales pitch.

“The only way to learn a new language is to not be afraid of making mistakes.”

So yeah, the trick is to use it, even when it’s scary and you screw up all the time. My French went from nothing (after years and years of study) to almost passable in a couple months when I started speaking it. Be brave, and don’t be afraid of mistakes. If others judge you, that’s on them.

I’m actually finding that WaniKani is a great place to “hide”. Spending an hour a day memorizing is just way less terrifying than meeting a stranger and opening my mouth for 5 minutes. Or saying “arigato gozaimasu” to a Japanese co-worker when they hold the door for me. I mean, I KNOW how to say thank you, but I’m still scared to do it.


The first ten or so levels are the slowest due to having to teach all the radicals that lay the groundwork for future levels, so the speed may be discouraging or frustrating for some that they might look for another (faster) resource or just simply give up. They may also just find that WaniKani’s teaching style or review system isn’t for them. Interests may also shift, or people may find they just don’t have the time. There’s a lot of factors at play, so the early levels end up sort of weeding out the people who don’t or can’t have the commitment to do this for multiple years.

If they’re going at a steady pace, this is probably around when enlighteneds and burns start piling up, effectively almost doubling the workload. People who do or did tons or all of their lessons at once are especially susceptible to getting overwhelmed. Review counts start to peak here and become a new standard, so it becomes another test of commitment.

If I recall my personal experience right, the level 20 area is when the kanji themselves start getting harder. There’s less radicals, but the kanji gets more complex now that you know the “main” radicals and mnemonics and are past the easier and more distinct early elementary material.

While I didn’t quit at any point, this reflects how I felt/feel at these points. In the 30s you have the vocabulary to start picking up more intermediate material without looking up every other word, and start to train in other areas of the language. In the 40s I was reading native material pretty fluidly, often picking up bits of kanji and vocab that is taught in later levels. And now in the 50s, I feel very ready to be “done”. I could very well stop here and start putting the time WaniKani takes into consuming more advanced native material and studying the upper levels of other parts of the language without missing too much. The last ten levels feel like bonus material, which makes sense since 50 was the original end point and they were added later in the program’s lifespan.

So yes, the first ten levels tend to make people stop and think about what they want and whether they want to continue, as does a number of other places. But as long as you pace yourself well, you have the time, and you find that WaniKani truly is for you, you may not even feel that big of a hump.


IME, it seems like the big killer is like 15-20. Its pretty apparent too if you look at the user distribution by level from awhile back