TL;DL-- WaniKani changed my life, no exaggeration. Its results are truly incredible.
I’m not Level 60, and I think maybe my approach at learning Japanese with WaniKani is different than most, but it is thanks to WK that I now hold a job as a Japanese-English translator in Japan.
I studied Japanese for 5 years at uni before moving to Japan and discovering WK. So before I started WK I had a strong base of grammar and vocab. While my speaking and listening were high, my reading was very, very weak. I was the kind of student who looked up kanji so I could read the sentence or pass the test but was never able to put it into long-term.
That got me straight A’s in my Japanese classes, but then when I came to Japan I realized that I couldn’t read a damn thing. If someone read the paper to me, I could understand it, but I couldn’t do anything on my own. I had to improve my reading, and I had to improve it fast.
Then I found WK, and my life totally changed thanks to it. I did WK religiously every single day for the first year or so and got to level 40 in I think about 16 months? I’d wake up in the middle of the night to do reviews the moment they were available. SRS is my God and I worship it lol.
Living in Japan, I was able to see my progress everyday as the fog hovering over all the words around me began to fade one by one. I went from not being able to read hardly anything to working a full time job as a translator in the span of 3 years. I do nothing but read Japanese all day now!
And I’m only level 40! That’s just 2/3 of WaniKani.
Of course, there are still words and kanji that I have to look up every day. Not a lot, maybe 5-10. (Depends on what I’m translating that day.) I can honestly say that thanks to WK, I can now live and work in Japan comfortably.
But as I stated before, I started WK with strong speaking, listening, and grammar skills. When i unlocked a new kanji or vocab on WK, my usual reaction was, “Oh, so that’s the kanji for that word I hear all the time!” Or “Oh, so that’s the on-yomi for this kanji!” So only half of the item was new information to me, which made the learning burden less.
I think that WK is probably best for people like me, who already have a firm knowledge of Japanese grammar and vocab and just need to put a name to a face, as it were. Frankly, because WK doesn’t necessarily teach kanji/vocab in order of frequency, you learn some more difficult kanji/vocab at the start that beginner learners may not be able to find/use in the wild.
In terms of increasing my vocabulary, I don’t think that WK is directly responsible for my boost in vocabulary. But WK gave me the ability and confidence to go out and read authentic materials (novels, short stories, manga that isn’t Yotsubato haha), and it was through these authentic materials that my vocabulary grew.