Worried about retention

Not sure where else to put this.

My stats are pretty bad. I put a lot of time into WK, but for whatever reason I don’t seem to be retaining things as well as I think I should be. In general in other areas I don’t really have a good memory. For example I don’t remember character names after a few days away from a show, and my kids seem to retain every piece of information.


I’ve been at it for 905 days at this point. I had a couple very long breaks, where I was just burned out. I started out with the goal of wanting to be one of those level 60 in one year people. In time I just kept getting so many incorrect, I couldn’t keep up with the reviews. I left the site for a while, but came back. I’ve recovered from queues of 2000 three times now I think? I’m not sure anymore.

I’ve been back on the site now for a month, maybe a little longer. I recently got my apprentice queue down to around 100, but guru was sitting at over 1000. I decided to hold off on lessons. As of my last review session a few minutes ago, guru is down to 700, with apprentice back up to 186. I’m guessing what that means is that about 2/3 of those 300 went on to master and the rest came crashing down to apprentice.

Anyway, I don’t mean to whinge. I’m just feeling pretty disheartened right now, especially when I read these “how I mastered 2000 kanji in 320 days!” threads. Even without taking on new lessons, I’m getting queues of around 200 daily right now, which I think is just fallout of chewing through a 2000 review queue a month or two ago.

Any advice is appreciated. I don’t like stopping progress, but I also don’t like the feeling that I’m not learning. I’ve had to accept I won’t be a seven to ten days per lesson person, even if I show up 16 to 18 times a day.


I think you need to supplement your WK Kanji learning with reading material such as a beginner-level book and/or textbook. This will vastly help with the retention. Also maybe if you do HelloTalk or chat in the JapaneseLanguage threads here, utilize your newly learned vocabulary and use the kanji instead of hiragana. Also slow down and read the example sentences aloud!
I think if you solely focus on WK there will be a lot of gaps with the retention. I notice that especially when I get busy and only use WK as my learning resource. My retention definitely suffers. Basically, aid the retention by finding other outlets to practice your newly learned kanji whether it’s writing a journal, really honing in on these kanji in a book/NHK news, or picking them out in a textbook.


My feeling is. Not to worry. If it was me, i’d feel a little down because I’d feel like I’m not progressing but merely catching up. Because I tend to pick at my failures. But in reality you are progressing. It just doesn’t look that way (BTW, I always know I am getting burned out because I start banging on the keyboard at every wrong answer and having strong desires to throw this F!%$&!G machine through a wall.)

Another thing is, I reflect back to taking English in school (I am a native English speaker) and being terrible at vocab and grammar and the like and yet here I am writing perfectly clear English. You could easily give me 100 english vocab words for me to study, I could study them and maybe get 80% right on a test two weeks later. So if I am retaining 80% with Japanese I’m probably doing at least as good as I would in English. So that comforts me.

The last thing is, I’m not in this game to know vocab or even grammar per se. I’m interesting is reading, hearing, speaking and writing Japanese. So I know as I read and listen to things I’m particularly interested in, I feel my retention and understanding of vocab and grammar will go up. And going back to my own learning of English, I know over 99% of my learning of vocab and grammar came from reading (in particular, I’m a big reader), speaking, listening and writing.

Okay the real last thing, I think I remember someone on a Tofugu podcast make the statement that they felt that those who learn Japanese are generally those who simply didn’t give up. As long as you are doing the work, you are progressing.

Anyhow, I hope that helps.
Take care


My feeling is that it’s a marathon not a race. I’d also say those stats don’t look bad to me personally. Being correct on the vocab at 80% i think is really good. Something i do to help with memory is i got a planner notebook of sorts and i write down each radical, kanji for both on/kun and the meanings and readings/vocab. I feel like putting it down on paper with my hand helps me remember better. I’m still in the early game so i have no idea what lvl 20 is like but id say you’re doing pretty great, Especially when most people don’t try to learn a second language let alone Japanese.


i use hello talk all the time is a lot of fun! People are so nice and correct me when i make grammar errors or misuse a kanji!

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In addition to WK I also use Bunpro, and that’s really where I do most of my reading practice. I took two years of Japanese in college and we completed Genki II, so a few months back I started working my way through those paths on BP in order to brush back up on the grammar. Outside of that I have also been (slowly) playing Dragon Quest 11 on 3DS because it has furigana, which speeds up the time it takes me to look things up when I don’t recognize the kanji. Granted I usually only play for about ten minutes a day, which is roughly one conversation. It goes slow when you have to look a lot of things up. I have been considering NHK News Easy but reading is a bit intimidating. I know I should but I have a tendency to put it off because I know how difficult it can be, but if it’s a way through then I should probably put forth the effort.

Really I want to be able to play games in Japanese as my long term goal. Everything else is gravy.


I don’t necessarily have advice for you, but do wanna let you know that you’re not alone.

I’m around 81% total accuracy & 15 day level up time - ish happens fam, I’m with you in spirit.


80% accuracy is great I think!

Reading Posts linke yours really makes me sad at times. Learning a language should be fun and bring you joy. I totally get that you want to see your hard work pay off but in the end it just takes time to learn something as complex as japanese. I mean have a look at what you have already achieved - you learned two new alphabets (hiragana, katakana) and now work on mastering Kanji. Your mouth is able to produce sounds it probably did not know before. It is almost like your brain is going through a second childhood :hugs:

Be proud of your progress. Someone already mentioned it - this is a marathon, not a sprint. As long as you keep going, you will improve.


The impression I got from other posts is that 80% is pretty bad honestly. A lot of people seem to get 90% or higher, especially the ones that can do it in a year. Maybe I just need to rethink things because I thought this was pretty abnormal.


Those people that do WK in a year are the exception. It may not seem like it because you see a lot of posts, but they are the ones most likely to post. Its absolutely normal to take 2+ years to reach 60.

A likely cause for your feeling of low retention is the long breaks. The SRS can’t do its job if the timing is thrown off, unfortunately. So, in your situation, a lower accuracy is more than normal when your brain is scrambling to remember 2000+ reviews in such a short span of time.

You can push through it and the SRS will do its job. You will end up with plenty of apprentice for now, and your accuracy will be lower for now. Thats whats supposed to happen after taking a long break.

You will, however, begin to see those apprentice numbers drop as the Guru levels climb. Your accuracy will improve and your review queue will slow down. Once that happens, you will be “caught up,” as if you’d never taken a break. What you are doing now is simply catching up.

Once that’s done, taking in new lessons won’t be so bad… and as a fellow “slow-goer” who has reset his account twice, I’d recommend not worrying about how long it takes you to get to 60, and just focus on what pace works best for you.

You can do this! Just keep chugging along!


hello. I’ve been there.
Let it go and reset. You will be better and stronger in this second round.
it is like in “Scott Pilgrim” movie. Anyways…
i do have a rule: if I can’t remember the reading or meaning, i do not use use hint button.
Good luck.


You know, I’m in a really similar boat as you. This must be why they call the 20’s “death”…

I wish I could say I’ve solved the problem. I haven’t. My accuracy seems to be getting worse with every review, and it seems whenever I get a new kanji to Guru, some kanji comes back from months ago on a burn review and gets knocked back – sometimes all the way back to Apprentice I. It can be really frustrating, especially as the time-on-level climbs steadily and we keep seeing those “Level 60 in a Year!” posts.

With that said, I take some comfort in knowing that for every person posting about their rapid ascent to Level 60, there are tens of us in the shadows, plugging dutifully away at our reviews with average accuracy; the marathon metaphor gets used frequently (someone even used it above), but it’s really true. For every champion coming in first there are hundreds more just behind him.

I will say, for the record, that I hate WaniKani Stats. There, I said it. I’m sure it’s a useful tool for people who are timing themselves or racing to 60 or whatever. But in my opinion, it encourages us to focus on exactly the wrong things. Language acquisition is a slow, painful process, and WkStats reduces it to flashy “accuracy” numbers and “time on level” graphs. I especially detest the “typical level-up” metric: it exists solely to encourage you to compare yourself to other people, which is the worst possible thing to do while learning a language, since everybody is different!

Anyway, hang in there. We’re all gonna make it. Think of the faceless buddies alongside you, not the flashy guy out in front. The front is the worst place to be in a peloton, anyway.


I’m not a 7 day per level person, either, and I don’t think it matters. Go at your own pace. Any progress is progress, and even small improvements are better than no improvements. It doesn’t hurt to slow down and just work on a few at a time. Good luck.


The comparison with others is a psychological trap. Some Wanikani-ers might have been living in Japan for several years, speak the language, have studied kanji before, but have only recently discovered WK and simply fly through the levels. Noone expects you to keep up with that.

There’s the mention about the break you took - which if you need it, you need to take - but that will reduce accuracy for a while, untl the SRS has repositioned all the items into their new stages.

Then there are the differences in memory. I’ve heard people say that their memory isn’t the best plenty of times. Usually the same people then effortlessly recall the birthdays of 60 family members - something which I have no hope of ever committing to memory, or to rattle off all known pokemon. Really? Bad memory? Different people remember different things. (Plus busy people, such as parents, tend to have more on their mind that what the characters on a TV show are called - it’s about subconscious priorities as well).

Important to realize is that people also memorize differently. Some people are very visual, some remember things they hear, smell, touch, taste or even things based on emotion. If you are any of these but not the visual learner, flashcards on screen can be a struggle. Do you let WK play the audio upon entering a correct reading? It should help if you recall better based on hearing. Tactile learners can probably benefit from stroke order practice.
You could experiment with different ways of practicing the items to see what works best for you.

But as others said, the most important thing is to stick with it. Marathon style. You have a clear goal, and all of us here are confident you can do it!


I think this is the biggest thing affecting your retention. It’s like watching a show once or twice every few months versus watching a whole season in a row. In the former case, it’s not surprising you wouldn’t remember any character names. The show may be familiar, and you remember the premise and the framework, but specific names elude you.

I would honestly just recommend you reset and try for slow and consistent progress. Think of it like this, those years are a sunk cost. You could try to spend more time fixing them, but it’s better to just let them go and spend the next few years with a new perspective.

Like the others have said, your journey is your own. While it’s nice to daydream about being the “Level 60” in one year guy, don’t forget to open your eyes and enjoy that path that you’re on. It’s not graded on a curve. :wink:


Hey don’t worry I’ve been here almost a year and gotten to an astounding level 8 (but haven’t even seen a single level 8 radical because I’m still crawling though vocab from level 7). I will say I’ve spent most of my school semesters in vacation mode as I die from school, but nevertheless do ok because I keep my apprentice pile low (around 20-30). I’d like to go faster, but I don’t remember and then get frustrated. I also noticed kanji I’ve seen elsewhere - Kim tae, manga, ect stick with almost no effort, so 10/10 would recommend slowing down wani kani and spending more time elsewhere.

You can do it, keep having fun and remember why you started, rather than comparing yourself to others!

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As someone who did WK in just under a year (technically, since I originally registered years before actively doing it), I just wanted to say this as well:

I was N1 when I (re)started WK, because I only knew 1500 kanji after even 10 years of studying, with most of that spent in Japan. 900 days into learning Japanese, I knew maybe 100 kanji. You are doing great.

Also, I’d like to say that if I look at my stats on kanji I didn’t know before hand, I’m also at 80% accuracy. As other have mentioned, it’s not a bad accuracy, by the way.


If 80% really isn’t that bad, then I guess I have nothing to worry about really! My impression was that it was normal to get 90% or above. The breaks weren’t great for retention, admittedly. It usually started by getting busy with work, and then my pile would go to 200, to 500, and then I’d just say screw it, but I always come back. Consistency is very important.


Agree with all of the above. Especially , you need to add reading. Satori reader is a superb site. Also try readin a news article everyday. Use something like SerpentiA Japanese dictionary to check words. But one thing I didn’t see mentioned when I was scrolling through is that forgetting is an important component of the process of learning stuff. It’s actually necessary so that you can reinforce your recall so dont sweat it. If your retaining about 80 % that’s great . Just go at your own pace. Dont make the mistake of comparing yourself to other people. Cramming ability does not necessarily lead real long term retention.

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This is impossible without using the “undo” script and simply blasting through the Kanji without really learning it. Either that or having an eidetic memory which is extremely rare.

Something I’ve come to dislike is that people post about their “1-year journey” and post their 95+% accuracy stats without admitting that they abused the “undo” script relentlessly.