Why even have levels?

I love WaniKani. I use it every day consistently, and I’m on level 15 right now.

One thing that bothers me however is this: at the end of each level, I’m often stuck with only 2 or 3 vocabularies / Kanji, and only once I get those right as many times as required by the SRS, I can move on to the next level. Then, I get a bombardment of new items to learn (sometimes >100). Because I want to be as quick and efficient as possible with getting through all WaniKani levels, I tend to learn all of those items at once, just to be able to finish them quickly. I feel compelled to do so because I usually feel I’ve already wasted time being stuck with the odd vocabulary from the last level. However, this often takes a long time, and it’s something I cannot properly plan, because it depends on my reviews performance whether the next level will be available or not.

In terms of convenience, but also in terms of didactics, this seems like a huge flaw to me. Wouldn’t it be much more convenient and efficient to have a constant stream of new items to learn, instead of learning nothing new for multiple days and then getting a huge chunk of new information at once? I assume levels are mostly there for motivation, but in my eyes it actually threatens user retention, because getting a big pile of new vocabulary might overwhelm people and that could be the final straw that makes them give up. I also understand that there are some dependencies: can’t learn the kanji before the radical (although, this rule strangely seems to be broken sometimes), and can’t learn the vocab before the kanji. But most new items of the next level aren’t exactly dependent on the items of the level before.

So at this point I’m not really sure why there even are levels. I guess it’s a motivation thing and it makes it easier to keep on track with learning and to celebrate the user’s progress. But you can still do that without having to force the user to wait for new items even though they’re 95% through with the last level, and then to present an overwhelming amount of kanji / vocab at once. You could for example spread out the new items and present them to the user, even if the user is not completely finished with the items of the last level. And once all items of some level are done, you can still do the whole congratulatory thing and everything.

This is really the biggest thing on WaniKani which I’m consistently frustrated by, and I wish I had the option to “peek ahead” to the next level, just so I don’t get +100 things once I’m finished with the current level. Maybe there’s some handy userscript out there already? I tried to look in the forum for something like this, but didn’t really find something.

Are there any other people on here feeling like this? What’s your solution? And what is the rationale behind the strict level structure?

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They actually do this already, if you get 90% of a level’s kanji to Guru, you already progress to the next level. I assume the main reason you’re not seeing this is because you’re doing all of the previous level’s kanji lessons at once, which, assuming you get most of them correct, would end up causing all of them to hit Guru at about the same time, unlocking their new vocab in addition to causing the level up all at the same time.

There’s actually quite an easy way to mitigate this though, since you mention that working through the previous level’s vocab takes some time, you could use a script like the lesson filter to slightly change the order in which you learn the items. So instead of first working through the previous level’s vocab, you do a few new kanji lessons and a few vocab lessons instead of the default order which would have you doing just vocab until you reach the kanji. That way, not all kanji will hit Guru at the same time, thus causing a more gradual leveling experience.

Alternatively, if you’re trying to complete WK as fast as posible, you could do the kanji lessons first, then work through the previous level’s vocab while the kanji are in the apprentice stages. If you aim to to that (and even if you’re not), I can recommend checking out this post:

Especially section 5 of that guide is very useful here, it describes how to order your lessons so you can still go at maximum speed without having to do large batches on one day and nearly none on others.

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What I do is run one of the scripts that lets you manually pass something and pass everything until it hits guru regardless of if I got it right, then I can get the next lessons. Usually by that time I’ve actually learned the item too, but if I’m still struggling with it I fail it so I can practice more.

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I’m a bit at the other end of the spectrum, as I don’t progress at top speed. But one thing stuck out to me:

So it seems to me that you don’t really manage to be as efficient as possible here… As BIsTheAnswer said, you only need to have 90% of the Kanji in Guru to be able to proceed to the next level. That means for most levels that you have 3 (sometimes 4) Kanji as “wriggle room” - if you make an error on those, it doesn’t affect your level-up speed. If in each level you still have another 2-3 Kanji that you make mistakes on, then that’s already 20% of the Kanji of each level that you have issues with. (Vocab items have nothing to do with level-up btw, it’s only radicals and Kanji). 20% is a pretty large number in my eyes - maybe it might be time for you to rethink your learning strategy to actually become as efficient as possible (which you stated as a goal above)?

E.g. in my case, I do 5 kanji and 10 vocab each day (15 vocab if I’m out of kanji). The number of vocab is probably not sufficient for the lower levels (as they contain more vocab), but you can increase it to 5 kanji and 15 vocab a day and you should be good.
Granted, it takes me around 10 days per level, but I don’t mind as I have lots of other stuff to do - learn vocab and grammar, read books etc. WaniKani is great but there is a lot of other stuff to explore out there! Also, I can remember the Kanji much better as I am not as overwhelmed and confused by the sheer amount at the start of each level. And if I make a mistake, it doesn’t affect me most of the time as I have enough time anyways (except for the last batch of 5, of which 3 are “wriggle room”) due to my staggered approach…

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Wait until you get to higher levels and you’ll be thankful that the levels are there. The levels prevent people from getting overwhelmed when their daily review log starts to creep into the 300-400+ range which happens even if you’re consistent with doing them on time. I’ve hit 60 before so I speak from experience.

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Hey, thanks for the advice! I didn’t realize the thing with the 90%, you’re absolutely right. I wasn’t really exact with my numbers, it appears, it seems I was always just shy of 90%. When you replied that, I wanted to make sure, and sure enough: I am missing 4 out of 33, which comes down to roughly 12%. This alwasy felt like only “a couple” to me, so that’s where I was coming from. But still I feel like I have a good enough grasp on the level to progress further.

I don’t really understand the filter thing you explained: isn’t that just for reordering the new lessons I get? But how could I be faster by reordering, if I do all of them at once, that would still be the fastest, no matter the order, right? Or are you talking about cases where I’m not able to do all of them at once (which I understand will happen more frequently in later levels), so I can prioritize radicals / kanji over vocab? I’ve read the the post you linked when I started, it was really helpful. I didn’t really pay much to the filtering thing, because I just thought “I’m just gonna do all of them once I get them, so the order doesn’t really matter”. But sorting is probably better for the cases where I can’t do that, right?

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Hey, good tip! I’m kind of afraid I won’t memorize them as thoroughly when I do that, though. I don’t really want to cheat the SRS, I just want to get a few more lessons in shorter time, without huge lesson chunks. But maybe you’re right and it’s actually not a huge issue, just like you said

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As unintuitive as it is, doing all the lessons at once doesn’t automatically equate to the fastest leveling speed unless you catch the first two intervals.

So the biggest contributor to leveling speed is timing. After that, it’s the number of lessons per day.

In fact, you could get pretty close to max speed with only 20 lessons per day as long as you do 3 sessions per day and keep up with your accuracy.

Considering the fact that most people tend to do all the lessons as they become available, I think this would be detrimental.

For an SRS system, you need to space out learning items. And doing it in chunks like this allows the system to feed you the next chunk when you’ve been able to digest a certain amount of the current chunk, I.e. the 90% of Kanji in each level.

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The reordering does a few things:

  • It keeps the ratio of vocab higher than Kanji to help with mental load. Vocab helps reinforce Kanji, so having 5 new Kanji items and 10 vocab items for reinforcement of previous Kanji is a bit easier to process than say 15 Kanji.
  • It ensures a steady stream of Kanji so that you can hit that 90% threshold as soon as possible.
  • It ensures that you work through all of the vocab when you’ve finished the Kanji lessons. There’s much more vocab than Kanji so you’ll be clearing out the current level’s vocab just as you begin the next level’s kanji.

Personally, I stuck with the default order and finished in about 2 years so it’s up to you how you want to go about it.

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Hey, thanks for the advice! I actually checked and you’re right, I’m actually missing 4 of 33 Kanji, so I’m just shy of the 90%. I guess it must have been always like that in the past, around 4 out of 25 to 35 kanji or so just always felt like “only a couple” to me. Sorry for not being more precise!

I don’t entirely agree with the “20% is a pretty large number”, because I don’t really think in terms of levels. When I have some stragglers (even more than 10% per level) I don’t really mind, I trust the SRS to help me memorize them in due time. I understand this can become a problem when I have a bunch of those clogging up my review stack, but once that happens – the way I imagine it – ideally, I could just reduce the number of daily lessons. But who knows, maybe I’m naive, and once that happens, it’d be already to late and I’d be discouraged to continue. But at the moment, I feel like I’d rather spend a little more time on daily reviews, instead of being stressed with big lesson chunks.

“maybe it might be time for you to rethink your learning strategy to actually become as efficient as possible”: I guess you’re right, technically speaking, when “efficiency” is the memorization performance by time quota. Currently, because I’m learning big chunks of new lessons at once, it’s probably not great for memorization, so I end up making a few more errors, and thus adding to the amount of time needed. What I should have said is probably that I’d like to spend more time on reviews for the sake of getting through the levels faster, even if it means making some more mistakes in the process. So “efficiency” is probably not the correct word, you’re right. Maybe that’s something that’ll resolve itself in some time, once I get to the higher levels and it becomes harder to keep up with reviews any way. Currently I’d like to spend more time to progress faster (or let’s say, “get to higher levels earlier”), and the level system doesn’t let me. Like you said, maybe we also have somewhat different priorities here

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I see. Currently I feel like I could spend some more time on reviews for the sake of getting to higher levels earlier, though, because I know I’ll be much busier in a few months time. So when I get to that level, maybe I can take some more time then

Hey, thanks for the explanation. I think we are on the same page with your last remark, though, what I meant with a “constant stream” is a reasonable amount of 5-20 lessons a day or so (maybe to be set by the user, how it’s done in other SRS systems).

I’m working with other SRS where it works like that, and so far it hasn’t been an issue that I can decide when to do next lessons by myself. I’m sticking to a daily quota, and once I feel I get too many items in my reviews, I just lower the number of lessons per day or stop with new lessons for a couple of days. If I wanted to get nice, reasonable chunks of new lessons on WaniKani, I’d need to really carefully plan it out, as I understand it right now. I’d have to hold myself back on the next level, spreading the lessons over several days, and then I’d have to make sure I get all the reviews exactly on time, otherwise they’d clump together forming bigger chunks again, right? Or am I getting this wrong?

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The only mistake that he is doing, is that he does all his reviews at once. And now he is complaining…

My opinion is forget about “not cheating”. I see a lot of people treat this like a video game trying to be completionists or speedrunning it or resetting once they reach level 60. This is a means to an end, and the end is becoming comfortable with reading kanji. Burning an item is no guarantee you won’t forget it no matter how honest you were with your reviews. You know when you really learn something? When you read it, hear it, or use it in a sentence. So get WK done with as soon as possible and focus on immersion, that’s where the real learning happens.

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^.^’

You mean lessons, right? I do reviews very regularly 3 times a day. Basically, if I wanted to have new lessons in nice portions, I would have to space them out myself, and everytime I don’t do reviews exactly on time, I would lose time on progress, because the new lessons wouldn’t be available, right? What I basically want is WaniKani to space them out for me, regardless of my progress on the last items, to ensure I get a constant stream of daily lessons. This is really nothing crazy, that is what most SRS I’ve seen so far. Please, this is no attack on WaniKani or whatever.

Hello! If it helps, I want to share how I have been dealing with this question. I use to let all vocab to learn at once and usually to overhwelmed with that. Plus, with the work and weekly apointments I usually would get stucked in the levels because couldn’t to the reviews at right time and by the time I did, would’t remember anything.
Now I am at 24th level and stablish some pattern. The kanji and radicals rounds usually takes 4 days. So I organize myself to be free with the vocabs by the end of this cycle. I also make a great effort to make the reviews at the right point in order of not wasting time (I have also learned that the mnemonics are pretty important at that phase). Once I pass the first day of the new kanjis, I go to the vocabs, in a speed of only fifteen or twenty a day.Usually it is enought to have new words everyday and yet, be ready for the new kanjis. It is has been working very well :slight_smile:
I think the levels are important to keeps alive and happy of being growing.

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I’m seconding everything @BIsTheAnswer says above. I understand your frustration, but it’s pretty easy to customize WK so that it works the way you want it to work, where you do a consistent steady stream of lessons each day instead of huge lesson binges. It just requires the lesson filter script and a little bit of self-control.

For me, I use the lesson filter script to do 3 kanji and 9 vocab lessons a day (I start out by doing all of the radicals and sometimes a few kanji on the first day on a new level. And at the end of a level, once I’m out of kanji lessons, I do 10 vocab a day until I guru the remaining kanji and level up). There are roughly three times as much vocab as kanji, so a 1:3 ratio works pretty well to keep one from getting too far ahead of the other, though you might have to adjust to something more like Nicole’s distribution at higher levels. I never run out of lessons, and my level up pace is extremely consistent, at about 13-14 days per level generally. I have roughly the same amount of reviews each day (an average of 130).

If you do want to go max speed, the ultimate guide to WK is probably the best route to go, at least in terms of avoiding burnout. It also involves using the lesson filter script, though slightly differently.

I’d caution you a little bit with going full speed, though, unless you already have a background in Japanese, or you’re able to devote a lot of hours to Japanese daily. Going full speed in WK takes up a lot of time, and you’ll want to also be learning grammar and additional vocab and ideally also doing some immersion.

But, yes, for either of these approaches, you would have to space out the lessons yourself. You don’t have to do your reviews exactly on time (the ultimate guide talks in-depth about scheduling), but you do want to hit those first two review intervals fairly close to their scheduled time if at all possible. It just requires a little planning upfront, then sticking to your own plan each day.

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Very well put. I think I’m beginning to understand this point of view for the first time.

I know that I’m at least somewhat unusual in that I already spoke Japanese prior to starting with WK. I’m not sure what you mean by immersion, but I’d definitely been immersed in the language for many, many years (having lived in Japan several times).

But I learned the language in the least efficient way possible: a few years of formal study here and there, always in romaji and kana (and one interesting textbook with the furigana below the kanji), interspersed with many, many, many years of frustration until I found Wanikani a little over two years ago. Finally learning to read so many words that I’d known for yours (and many more I didn’t) has been immensely satisfying.

I agree with you strongly that the other way around is far more efficient! Learn to read as much kanji as possible as quickly as possible, then immerse yourself in either the written or spoken language (or preferably both). It’s much easier to understand how Japanese “works” once you can read a bit.

Until your reply today, I couldn’t understand at all why people might want to rush through the levels as quickly as possible, doing everything possible (including, I suspect, “cheating”) to get a string of 4 correct reviews for 90% of the kanji on each level within a week (my own pace is currently almost 3X that!).

But I hadn’t thought to put myself in the shoes of someone who isn’t already comfortable conversing in the language. In that case, I think “kinda/sorta/almost” being able to read a bunch of characters as quickly as possible does make sense, as it lets you get to the good stuff (reading, grammar, and speaking) more quickly. In the beginning, a low level of understanding for many items trumps high level understanding of a few: quantity trumps quality.

I’m still a proponent of the slow lane, though, and believe in learning vocabulary specifically well rather than quickly.

If WK had existed in 1976 when I first started and time travel was a thing, I think my advice to myself would be to focus almost exclusively on Wanikani for about a year or until reaching level 35 or so (whichever comes first). Then slow down with WK and focus on retention and quality of understanding vs. quantity while branching out into the other mandatory areas of learning: reading sentences, grammar, listening, and speaking/production.

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I can understand the sentiment, but there’s also the point that WK will improve your immersion experience. Plus, you don’t have to finish WK to start immersing.

Then again, I think in the long run it all evens out. :slight_smile:

I think being pretty strict for the first 30-35 levels and then immersing and being a bit more lax is probably a good middle ground.

That times 1000. lol

I think of Kanji as the main barrier because it’s really hard to learn a language without being literate in it, especially when self-learning.

Honestly, I think the resources available for language learning, for Japanese at least, has exploded in the last 10 years or so. Even more so because of the popularity.

There’s also been a downside to this in that for the vast majority of material that you would want to watch/read, there’s usually an english translation available, if not officially, then at least a fansub.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, if it wasn’t super popular it was only available in Japanese. So there’s much less pressure to actually learn the language now than ever before.

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Oh, definitely. I’ve been having 2 hours weekly lessons with a tutor from italki since around level 10, and using stuff like Satori reader and Language Reactor, as well as random native material in various places. What I meant was you can do a lot more of that after you’re done with WK.

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