What am I even doing? Help

I’m sucking at Japanese you guys. WK reviews I’m consistently getting 75%, my lowest ever. I joined the absolute beginner book club to find I don’t understand any of it without English translation, save for maybe one kanji every couple pages. I got the graded readers to find I understand a few kanji and that’s it.
I’m so frustrated. How do I get my review percents up without screwing up the SRS? Was I dumb to join the book club? I feel like I’m never going to get anywhere with this. I’m also using Bunpro and Genki and having similar problems there. I know I’ll make mistakes learning a language but this feels like a little too much.
Anyone have any advice? Anyone else suck at learning Japanese? I don’t know how to proceed.


I sure do. 50-60% on WK on average. Occasionally in the 80s, occasionally in the 30s.
My grammar and vocab are also garbage, no matter how much Bunpro and Anki core 10k I do.
Reading Yotsuba, but at best get a general idea of what’s going on. Rely heavily on translations to really get it.
Failed N5, by two damn points, a few years back, and feel like I’ve made little to no progress. Can’t say as though I’d pass if I tried again.


So there are two facets here:

  • Your review percentage is fairly low and that is frustrating. There are a variety of strategies you can employ, like singling out kanji and words that repeatedly trip you up, figuring out with which other kanji and words you are confusing them, and consciously creating mnemonics to distinguish them. Or maybe, writing kanji out by hand to reinforce your memory of them could help. Or maybe you just need to take things a bit slower.
  • You can’t read Japanese yet. The thing is, WK only teaches you kanji and a subset of vocabulary. It does not teach you these things in order of importance; it does not teach any non-kanji vocab at all, and it does not teach grammar. I am currently also participating in the same book club as you and I am also struggling. That is not because I suck at learning, it is because I haven’t learned all of the things I need to understand the book yet. The solution for this problem is to use additional resources that focus on grammar, vocab and common expressions in addition to WaniKani. I see that you already do that, but it is likely you just aren’t far enough in yet.

Both of those issues are absolutely normal for someone at our stage.

Regarding the book club, you can drop out and try again in a few months, or you could just see it as an opportunity to get faster at learning hiragana, and see which words and grammar concepts you can spot, without pressuring yourself to fully understand the text. It’s your choice and tbh either way is probably fine. Just don’t see it as a failure on your part - you tried to push yourself, that is a success in itself.

(Also, even if you have a lot of vocab and grammar knowledge, reading fluently is still a skill you need to practice and get experience in. It is perfectly normal to struggle at the beginning!)


You may be used to getting things right on the first try, and now you’re freaking out because that’s not happening now. Japanese is a new skill for you, and it may take countless tries before you get it right. I mean, think about it: were you able to read books as a child on your first try?
I know it’s frustrating, but always have in mind that the key to mastering is a skill is not perfection, it’s consistency.


Thanks for your kind words. I wish I could figure out which kanji trip me up. I kinda know but not until I see them in reviews. I’ve thought about handwriting them but haven’t tried it yet. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling in the book club though! I want to get through it but I fell behind and I’m worried about playing catch up.

I did try to use Torii but got overwhelmed by it - no mnemonics made it really hard to remember anything. I didn’t feel like I was learning anything, just making educated guesses that were usually wrong.

@antoniosv You’re absolutely right. I am used to just breezing through things - I did fairly well in school without really trying. I’ll try to keep in mind what you said about reading.

@DaisukeJigen hang in there. You’re not alone. :slight_smile:


In that case, one possibility would be to stop for a moment when you make a mistake during the reviews and think about why you made that mistake. E. g. when I confuse a kanji with another one, I look at both of them side-by-side on jisho.org, try to isolate the differences, and occasionally write them out side-by-side on paper.

That has really helped me get straight couples like 水 and 氷, or 和 and 知, or 親 and 新, or (my latest nemeses) 顔 and 頭.


An important question to ask yourself is “what do you want to achieve by learning Japanese?” or “why do you want to learn Japanese?”

The answer to this question is critical because it is necessary to know your desired destination before you can determine which path is the best to get you there. Without a clear idea of where you want to get to or what you want to be able to do, you’ll likely feel lost and wander ineffectively.

Please reply with what your goal is, and why that is your goal, and I’ll offer some guidance on how to get there. Since different goals require different approaches, I’ll need to know what you hope to achieve in order to offer the advice that will best help you.

If you’re having trouble pinning down what your goal is, think back to what got you interested in learning Japanese to begin with. If you need some help sorting out what your goal is, let me know and we can work on figuring that out.

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Don’t view it as something bad. You got the items wrong for a reason. You’ll probably need more time to engrave them into your memory. Don’t think of it as only 75% correct. Try to view it as getting the 75% of the things you know out of the way so that you can spend more time on the 25% that you don’t.

As for the reading, We’re in the same boat lol. I’ve recently started using Satori Reader and I can barely understand what I’m reading. I just attribute that to the fact that I haven’t really learnt all the specifics of Japanese grammar yet and I try to use the fact that I don’t understand as motivation. I’ve still got a long way to go and I’m reminded of that fact every time I try to read an article. That being said, I still feel incredibly proud of myself anytime I’m able to read even a portion of a sentence. I feel like being bad right now gives me the opportunity to see myself improve in real time, even if its only one word or phrase at a time.

Just try to keep your head up, and make special note of the small successes you enjoy. That, my friend, is progress being made.


If you can use scripts Item Inspector will list the items that give you trouble. These items are called Leeches and Item Inspector will let you study them outside of reviews. There are two study modes:

  1. You may recite aloud meanings and readings and check your answers by moving the mouse over the item. The answer will show in a popup.
  2. You may start a quiz in Self Study Quiz by clicking a button.

Disclosure: I am the author of Item Inspector.


Memory has two primary components: encoding and recall. If you’re having trouble with your WK reviews, it’s because there is a problem with one (or both) of these processes, and you will need to modify your study habits to address it.

First, consider spending more time with each of your lessons as you learn them. Pay close attention to each part: the component radicals or kanji, the synonyms, meaning explanation, vocab reading, and reading explanation. Play the audio clips for Kyoko and Kenichi several times. Say the word out loud yourself several times. Read the example sentences out loud in English, but say the word you’re currently learning in Japanese when you get to it. If you can think of a better mnemonic than what WK offers, write it down in the notes section. All of this should help strengthen the encoding process of your memory, making it easier to recall items later.

The next part is addressing faulty recall. At the end of your WK reviews, WK will give you a list of all the items you answered correctly and incorrectly. This isn’t just a gallery of war medals and purple hearts, it’s an additional study tool. Open up each item you got wrong in a new tab and refamiliarize yourself with them. Think about why you got them wrong and what you can do to make the correct answer more memorable. Come back to your review summary later in the day and test yourself again, and restudy anything you’re still having trouble with. All of this will help improve your recall by correcting faulty memories.

There’s no rule saying that you have to follow WK’s SRS algorithm by the letter. The SRS pattern is designed to teach you kanji/vocabulary with the fewest repetitions possible, but this does not necessarily mean that the resulting memories will be the strongest they can be. The strength of a memory depends a lot on how frequently you recall it, so additional studying through your kanji/vocab lists may be necessary if you’re having trouble. Or you can just make a list of kanji/vocab you know you consistently have trouble with, and more frequently study that.

I think you’re also setting your expectations too high for what you should be able to read right now. At level 8 you’ve learned at best 13% of jōyō kanji and 8% of core 10k vocabulary. Of course you can’t read much at this stage, that’s normal. Focus on being able to read the example sentences in Genki, as they will be appropriately matched to what you have learned by that point in the textbook.


i’ve got no better advice than already given
i just came to say that i, too, suck at learning japanese
i am very good at eating chocolate though. i’m not completely talentless :wink:


This was me in March of 2019, with my first Absolute Beginner Book Club. The only difference is I had a lot of known vocabulary, but that doesn’t help when 1) there’s a lot of grammar you don’t know, and 2) the manga is しろくまカフェ which is all about puns using uncommon words.

For some people, the best thing to do is to ask questions on what sentences mean, so you can learn the grammar. (This is what the book club discussion threads are there for!) Over time, you’ll start to recognize the same grammar coming up again and again. You’ll reach a point where you recognize the meaning of the grammar (as well as some common words) without having to detour through English. It just takes a lot of time, patience, study, learning, review, and repetition.


In these kinds of thread, I am always curious: is Japanese your first foreign language?

My goal is to be able to read the few books I have (Sailor Moon manga and a light novel from Danganronpa) and ideally understand anime in Japanese. Reading is most important to me though.

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Depends on how you define foreign language. I took ASL in college because Japanese didn’t fit with my work schedule. I did well with ASL overall but sucked at grammar since it’s so different from English but it uses English words. But I did well enough to do an immersion program one summer.

I get what you’re saying definitely but I feel like posting “I have no idea what is going on” isn’t exactly what the thread is for. I can’t even translate the sentences into English with the spreadsheet helping (more like broken english phrases). I don’t know what’s words and what’s grammar. It’s frustrating.

I guess you didn’t really have the experience of learning to “read” a foreign language, then, at least not in the conventional meaning. When I learned English at school, it took me a year or so until the first time when I read an English text, and my brain just processed it in English, without consciously translating it. It’s really hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it but if you stick with it and be patient it will eventually just start to happen.


You’re exactly at the level 8-9 initial bump. That’s when I started to feel it as well. Some useful hints are already given, and some of them I employed: spending more time on the lessons, going over the lessons from the lesson summary overview after completing them. I started reciting both reading and meaning out loud during reviews and switched on the option for WaniKani to play audio after entering the correct reading, which reinforces the item via the ears, not the eyes.

There will be other bumps, don’t let it discourage you! You don’t just get better at Japanese, you get better at studying as you figure out other ways of soaking up information!


Crmsnprincess - speaking as a fellow beginner - there’s so much to learn. I feel similarly! But I hope you find something that makes you feel like you’re progressing outside WK and when you spot a WK word/kanji out there, it will make you feel cheerful.

I like this, it is funny and you can see the students in the programme struggle along with you. I think part of my problem is that it’s quite lonely poring over a grammar book.
I’ve also liked the free grade 0 and 1 tadoku books online.

I can manage them with a bit of effort. I’m not ready for the alleged absolute beginners club yet. I think it gets a bit depressing if one tries to take on something that’s too far advanced. You feel you’re nowhere. But you’re not nowhere! You’re level 8 already. You have to believe that if you keep slogging away, you’ll steadily get better and better until you can read those books that you want to read.
keep going and good luck!


Keep at it! Unlocking a language is incredibly frustrating and we all feel your pain. Your brain will slowly start to put the pieces together. がんばって! Do your best!