WaniKani reviews - how should I do this?

Hi! So I have been doing WaniKani for a little while and I’ve been wondering about better and more effective ways to do it because mine does not seem to be as productive as it should be. I’ve grown into some habits that are probably… sub-optimal. At the moment, at the current pace I have been going at for the past ~6 levels, I have spent around 18.5 days per level but still on average 30-90 minutes per day (for reviews only, not including lessons, which usually takes 30 minutes for me, at 2 kanji and 7 vocab per day). For the amount of time I spend, is that day/level rate normal? I feel like it is kind of slow.

Currently, my review “system” works like this:
For kanji, I drill myself on the radicals in the character (just quickly run through their names) then run through the mnemonic in my head. No matter if it is quizzing me on the vocab or the reading, I go through the full mnemonic. Also, I’ve gotten into the habit of remembering every meaning and reading. Synonyms seem to be pretty rare for kanji and they usually only have distinct meanings, so I do not think its too unhelpful.

For vocab, I run through the meanings of each kanji, and if there is a vocab word within a vocab word (or a vocab word within THAT vocab word), such as 留守番電話 (absence-number in a series-telephone -> looking after one’s house-telephone), I also tend to run through the meanings (all of them…) of those as well. I find this helpful as it also gives me the chance to review other vocab, but it may mess with the SRS as now I am getting increased exposure before I am having to review the included vocab. Once I have the meaning, I also run through the reading mnemonic even if it is just asking for the English translation.

With both reviews of kanji and vocab, I try to get two full exposures to further maximize what I get out of the review. I find running through every possible meaning helpful at drilling it into my head, but it really does cost a lot of time. Especially since I have not done this strategy for the majority of my WaniKani levels, meaning I often need to open kanji and vocab pages from older levels during my reviews to go through them and review. Because of all of this, my accuracy definitely has had a significant boost, but I can’t see this working as I get more and more busy. In general, I have around 60-80 reviews in a day (over time it should trend increasingly towards 80 with my current rate of lessons), which I’d assume is lower than probably the majority of other WaniKanians, but take just as much time as those that probably have double my review count (or more) in a day.

Ultimately I was wondering whether or not other people do anything similar to me or have done something similar in the past? I do not have a good memory in general, so I’d say that I need more time than most in terms of review, but I still feel like this is too much. It would probably make the most sense for me to ditch strategy of going through all meanings and readings of a vocab (and kanji), but then I do feel like I’m missing out on something, such as I know if I don’t go through the two distinct meanings of 適当 (appropriate vs irresponsible). I think on another extreme is the strategy of losing the mnemonic after a few reviews all together, or not even using one at all and just swiping through the reviews in like five seconds. If you’re doing this, how is it working out for you? If you don’t do that, what other strategies do you use for your reviews? Or if you have any suggestions for how I could/should reduce my intensity in one part of a review? I don’t think it is necessary to go this over the top, so any help would be great!! Also some tips on lessons could be helpful.

Thank you for reading! :smile: This was definitely longer than I meant it to be, so sorry about thatt. I’m currently trying to go through my Japanese learning and cut out redundancy and unnecessary habits, and WaniKani is at the top of my list ;). For WaniKani at least, this could be summed up as a mid-level crisis.

The question of whether you are going fast or slow is highly personal. Individual circumstances vary greatly. It depends on factor such as how much time you can afford on WK on a day and what kind of workload you can tolerate without burning out. I would say don’t fix what isn’t broken. If your current pace works for you then stick to it. Don’t try to imitate what others do because the circumstances probably don’t compare. You say you don’t have a good memory. In this case it is probably better to go slow but to make sure that what you do is done well. If you overwhelm your memory you risk to burn out.

If I understand you well you are in the habit of memorizing every meaning of a kanji or vocab. I agree that this is a bit excessive. Personally I learn only the main meaning and look at the alternative meanings when I encounter them in the wild that is when I read them in native material. I don’t think one approach is inherently better than the other but there is indeed an opportunity for you to reduce your workload to make room for more lessons and reviews. I feel your thinking is sound. You should trust it.


You do what? For every single kanji? And vocab meaning? At every single level and SRS stage?

I’m just gonna copy and paste from Wanikani’s FAQ:

What do Guru, Master, Enlightened, and Burned mean?#

Guru: You know an item fairly well. Any available, associated items will unlock and appear in your Lessons queue.

Master: You should be able to recall these items without using the mnemonics, usually.

Enlightened: You should be able to recall these items without the mnemonic, fairly quickly. The answer should appear without much effort.

The mnemonics only exist to help you remember the meaning/reading, but it kinda sounds like you’re giving yourself the burden of memorizing them in addition to memorizing the meaning and reading.

Personally, I also don’t memorize every single meaning and reading, just the main one and look up the other ones when encountering them, like @prouleau. If what you’re doing here works for you, then I don’t think that it can be harmful other than being time consuming.

If you change one thing I would definitely quit memorizing the mnemonics. They’re not meant to be memorized.

Edited to add:
Just to be clear, if I were you I would stop everything you’re doing, because I’ve never done anything you’ve described and it’s worked out fine lol. But you said that you’ve only started doing this recently so I think you should be able to judge for yourself whether or not it’s worth it.

A tip for doing kanji lessons:
A lot of kanji that contain the same radicals also have the same reading. It’s easier for me to memorize the reading based on that rather than remember a whole new mnemonic. For example: 生 is in 性 and 星, so they are both pronounced せい.


Thanks for the response and help, and I get what you are saying. Yeah I do not think I would be able to do as well if I removed all or most of my “tactics” when tackling reviews. So, I agree with you and I should probably lean more on the maintaining side rather than the cut and burn side. In the end I might make some compromises and only focus on all distinct meanings for a vocab and kanji, choosing one of the many synonyms of similar-meaning words that best latches onto my brain.

Yep that’s a good point. I’ll definitely keep that in mind, and possibly only do my higher intensity review style only lower levels, and slowly let go of the training wheels over time after the information is in my head to an extent that I feel comfortable. Possibly using a script or something that tells me each review’s SRS level.

That’s true, but the good thing is in general I use my own mnemonics that stick really well, and I don’t usually need to worry about forgetting about them too much. And my memorization usually gets less and less detailed in later SRS levels until I only remember a bare bones way to connect kanji -> meaning -> reading for vocab reviews. As long as I run through them in my head every review, it usually becomes second nature to remember them (kinda).

Haha yeahhhhhh, it definitely is a hard decision, but I do want to try this method for a while longer, even though just letting it all go would and relying on the mercy of the SRS system would be sooo much faster.

Very good tip, thanks, and I could see that reducing the mnemonics that are necessary for kanji readings.

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I want to ask, do you have instant recall of (one) meaning and/or reading? Then forcing yourself to remember the mnemonic for vocab is going to slow down your actual reading as well. How are you doing in the broader Japanese studies? Are you learning grammar, doing some reading? Both of those will help with learning and solidifying kanji and vocab you learn here on WK. The ultimate goal should be to be able to grasp the meaning of a vocab without having to translate anymore. So I would say, definitely do not focus too much on the mnemonics for the later SRS stages, but go for near instant recall. You don’t want to burn an item you had to go through the whole mnemonic for in order to get the answer, but if you are drilling the mnemonic inspite of having instant recall, I would recommend to put that time in other aspects of study, which will also reinforce your kanji learning.


I think I might, because usually the higher the SRS, the more my brain tries to skip the mnemonic and instead just go straight towards the meaning and reading, and I still try to do the mnemonic even after I (unintentionally) have the meaning and reading in my head just for further review. It could for sure be slowing me down but I don’t think I’ve noticed anything significant yet.

I’d say I split my time almost evenly between WaniKani and other Japanese learning (though as I’ve stated, I do wish to cut WaniKani down a bit more as I get more busy in general). I mainly am focusing on reading in general and my weakest point is probably listening.

Hmmm I really do like not having to go through the trouble of recalling it every time. It could make sense to have a balance, as I said a bit above, with me only intentionally using my mnemonics in Apprentice or something like that.

Yeah if I’m being honest, I don’t really know how this intense mnemonic-based way of reviewing is going to effect my Japanese overall. I agree with you that it should be my goal to have instant recall, though I do know that I am a lot more mnemonic reliant on exceptional readings (and meanings), so that could be a future trouble if I continue this way, but on the other hands, it may not be not disadvantageous at all.

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I personally have the same problem as fas as not being great at memorization. I actually just found this thread because I was curious to see if anyone posted on the same type of question you posted.

For me, I don’t try to memorize the mnemonics but instead try to remember the gist of the story. My goal is, can I use the picture of the story to help me recall the meaning and reading. When I get to Master and Enlightened, I unfortunately don’t always seem to be at the point where I can just recall the kanji and words without thinking of the mnemonic. I can for about 75% of them by the time I get to enlightened/burned.

If I can remember the meaning without the mnemonic, I always see if I can remind myself of the gist of the story to the word and/or kanji. If I can’t, I scan over the parts I don’t remember. I don’t let it hold my progression back however if I forget the story but remembered the reading/meaning. However, if the word/kanji is in the master/enlightened stage and I feel I just guessed the answer and didn’t feel confident in it, I will intentionally mark it wrong via the undo script I am using. I feel I rather be confident than cheat myself as it has proven to help me retain more words in the long run.

As far as remember all the meanings, I don’t even attempt that. For me, that would require mnemonics I’d have to make up myself which take a lot of time and usually all the readings aren’t useful except for specific situations.

Just remember though, as you increase your speed that you go through reviews, the more reviews that stack up. One unfortunate side effect I’ve gotten from that is sometimes I don’t get to newer reviews quick enough and I am more likely to forget those words and have to review them many more times since I didn’t take advantage of the SRS timings.

I will finish with this, I have a friend who made it a goal to get through levels at the quickest level possible. He got to about level 18 in about 19 weeks. He also seems to have good memory when it comes to memorizing things quickly. However, he stopped studying for about 3-4 months when he got overwhelmed by work. In the end, he found he forgot a good chunk of what he had learned. So there is negative to rushing too. Especially for people who cheat themselves (which I’ve been guilty of too) to progress.

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It’s interesting to see a strategy that also has a focus on mnemonics, and I would say many of the points you bring up about your experiences are similar to mine in terms of how instant recall turns out in the long run for the vocab and kanji that one studies in this way. The more I think about it, even when I’m attempting to do an instant recall of the meaning of a vocab word, the more I realize that my brain is doing a run through of the mnemonic without me even really noticing. Which, in the end, may not be the worst thing in the word, cause it is still relatively fast and I find it likely that would wear away over time as I see the vocab word more and more in other Japanese material.

In terms of the story you give, it is funny because I tried to do the same thing (though I could never get myself to reach the maximum speed, I could get up to four level-ups in a month) for my earlier levels. I had a similar ending in that many of the words became very fuzzy and I just felt that I didn’t learn them properly (which made me lose confidence a lot, so I stopped doing my lessons for a few months and focused on the large onslaught of reviews coming my way because of my speed), which is the reason I tried switching to a higher intensity review method in the first place, but now am starting to see it as almost too far on the opposite side as a complete rush to the end.

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