Japanese Language Learners Unite!

Japanese is a challenging language to learn, so let's support each other here! Post questions, advice, encouragement, or just vent about particles!

Let us know where how you're doing! What are your motivations to learn? What keeps you going when the going gets tough?

Resources:

Wanikani -- Kanji study site that provides onyomi and kunyomi readings, plus translations

Bunpro -- Japanese grammar site with lessons and SRS function

Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese -- Classic site for learning Japanese grammar

Books:

Japanese from Zero
Genki
Japanese the Manga Way

Hopefully I won't be hanging out in this thread by myself! I guess I'll start off with my own motivations and methods. As background, I lived in Japan on-and-off for a little over four years, so I picked up enough Japanese to understand the fundamentals, but I'm severely lacking in vocabulary, grammar, and listening skills.

Current Level: JLPT N5, basic speaker/listener
Next goal: Improve listening skills and vocabulary to take JLPT N4!
Ultimate goal: JLPT N2

Motivation: I want to be able to speak with my Japanese side of the family

Methods: Wanikani for kanji. Japanese from Zero series for grammar and vocabulary. Listening practice from eavesdropping my wife's non-stop Japanese YouTube watching and anime watching. Haha!

I've studied Japanese in a very ad-hoc manner over the last ten (ten?!) years on and off. My motivation was to be able to play certain Japanese only titles without having to rely on official- or fan-translations, mainly older Fire Emblem titles (nowadays, between remakes and fan patches, I think all the old FE games can be played in English one way or another, but at the time...). Over the years, I've occasionally picked up a Japanese game as a project and translated as I've gone, with varying degrees of success, but always limited to reading rather than speech.

I've used online resources like Jim Breen's WWWJDIC and Tae Kim's guide. I've also used plugins like rikai-kun/chan (dependent on whether I was using Firefox or Chrome at the time) to help read Japanese scripts for games posted online, which works quite well for quick translation if you understand enough grammar to work out the conjugations and clause constructions yourself.

My actual vocabulary at this point now is still quite poor (and in slow deterioration due to lack of recent practice) and uneven—one issue with using old Fire Emblem games as a learning tool is that you learn to recognise words like 力 (strength), 魔法 (sorcery) and 鋼の槍 (steel spear) long before you learn how to ask directions to the train station. Lack of actual conversational practice also means I haven't developed the mental framework to really speak Japanese with any confidence either. When I listen to subbed anime however, I can pick up certain things without looking at the subtitles—though not enough to follow any vaguely complex dialogue. In any case, I've found that a certain baseline of knowledge tends to stick over the years, even if it requires some prodding to reawaken, and I still occasionally plot to play some title in Japanese rather than English if I can find the time and energy.

Funnily enough, I considered starting this thread today after our conversation elsewhere. Thanks for doing it!

My current level is also N5, which I passed back in 2015 (mostly by luck).

My ultimate goal is pretty much to be able to grab a manga and read it. Right now, if I grab volume 14 of きのう何食べた? (which I have sitting next to me), I'm at about 15-20% (and about 30-35% for よつばと). My guesstimate is that N3 should be sufficient to get me to 'good enough'. I'll reevaluate after N3 if going for N2 is worth it or not. I also have a few Japanese only games in my backlog I'm hoping I can get to someday (I'm looking at you, Sakura Taisen).

I've been using WaniKani for about 3 years on and off, and I managed to complete level 60 back in September. I still do my reviews everyday. No idea if I'll ever get to 100% burned, we'll see. I'm probably going to get sick of it before this happens. I almost gave up on it a few times in the past year. There are also a bunch of Kanji that are part of N1 and Joyo that are not covered by WaniKani, and I plan to add those to a custom Anki deck at some point in the future (but I will need quite a bit of time to write the mnemonics).

For grammar, I bought the Human Japanese and Human Japanese Intermediate apps on my iPad (made by the same folks who made Satori Reader, also available for a bunch of other platforms). My plan is to finish HJI by the end of January (I'm in chapter 17 out of 42). At the same time, I'm also doing lessons with the French version of Assimil (which I've tried to go through many times in the past). I've also taken advantage of the 30-day trial for the pro version of Bunpro (which I started today). We'll see if it helps or not, I might subscribe for a year if it works well. Tae Kim's grammar guide is next on my reading list (planned for February and March).

Grammar and listening are my main weaknesses (I think I'm doing OK on kanji and vocab for N4).

I'm in the process of planning my next trip to Japan as well. I went in 2016, and my Japanese was in no way sufficient to do, well, anything. I'm hoping to do better next time! At this point I'm not sure if planning a trip for Fall of 2021 is realistic. My current plan is to go for three weeks, start in Tokyo and move West towards Hiroshima. If I can get more than three weeks off, I might fly from Hiroshima to Sapporo and then make my way back to Tokyo.

Oh, hey.

I first tried to learn a year or so ago using Genki. It went pretty well at first but I dropped off. Much more of a beginner compared to others that have posted.

I’ve been trying again using Human Japanese since it’s app based. I figured I am much more likely to use something that doesn’t involve a physical book. Sort of sad, but true. I’ve gone through Chapter 34 of HJ. I’m using it in combo with Anki and basically reading more HJ when I get to new words, phrases in Anki.

I think I should probably start learning some kanji though.

Anyway, I guess my motivation is to understand Japanese entertainment without subtitles. There are also a lot of aspects of Japanese culture and customs outside of entertainment that appeal to me. Additionally, just speaking a second language is a goal I’ve had for a while.

I’ve never been anywhere near Japan but I hope to go someday.

Good to have some folks here to go to with questions.

Hurrah! I'm not alone in the thread! Haha!

Ravanon, I totally feel you on the gaming vocabulary. While living in Japan, I was playing the latest Dragonquest game in Japanese since it hadn't been released in English yet. I was really struggling with reading the text, and was having to look up tons of things. Some of my wife's relatives dropped by to say hello, and burst out laughing when they saw how much I was struggling. They explained that it was because the Japanese I was trying to read was equivalent to "Ye olde English" style in the English version of the games. Essentially, I was trying to translate the Japanese equivalent of "Thou art most fulsomely acquainted with thy spirit, which dost fit thee well."

After that, I felt better about my Japanese skills, which I had begun to seriously doubt!

Bobbywatson, I guess I'll shut up with WK recommendations since you already far outstripped my progression on WK! Level 60 is super impressive, and your kanji knowledge is way beyond N4 if you've hit that level! I really enjoyed the Human Japanese apps, and I still have them installed for review intermittently. I also just started the Bunpro trial, so we'll see how that goes. I like the big site update and the SRS feature, which reminds me of the WK method. I'm generally not a big fan of straight memorisation (because I suck at it), but repeated practice certainly helps and I like that the knowledge check is in the context of actual usage, rather than just a definition.

For manga practice, I really recommend the よつばと!(Yotsuba&!) series because it has a great combination of easier Japanese in hiragana (spoken by Yotsuba-chan) and adult Japanese in Kanji (with furigana) spoken by the adults in the series. Since it's all slice-of-life stuff, there's actually really useful vocabulary in there, such as figuring out how the local recycling works. I could have really used that when I first moved to Japan! The huge bonus of that particular series is there's a full set of English translations that are actually accurate in terms of idioms and intended meanings, rather than straight translations. Hugely helpful to read them side-by-side, although my wife makes fun of me. Says that it looks like I'm pitting two books against each other, which looks really smart and super weird at the same time!

Anyway, glad that there are others along for the ride. Very motivating! I'll try to put resource links in the main post as people suggest them. If nothing else, it will help newbies figure out where to start. My wife is a big fan of using みんなの日本語 when she teaches, so I should probably put that in there as a reference.

For beginners, I really like this roadmap on Tofugu (Tofugu is the company behind WaniKani, so they do advertise their program in the article). I stumbled upon this just now, they also have a lot of articles on grammar. If work is slow this week (and I expect it will), I might go through some of them when I can.

I've been poking around with the Japanese lessons in Duolingo and poking around in the Japanese from Zero workbooks for a little bit. I can pick out hiragana and katakana, recognize some basic words and phrases, but I'm still very much a beginner and looking to really start upping my Japanese study. My wife and I were planning a trip to Japan for our anniversary last year, but COVID stopped that plan pretty hard. I'd still like to be able to be somewhat competent whenever we do get a chance to go on our vacation.

Looking forward to learning more with the rest of you!

Great thread, guys!

I am also interested in learning Japanese. I started learning in October 2016 and managed to work on it every day until the end of December 2019. I feel like I learned a lot during those three years, but then thanks to all the wonderful things 2020 brought us, I had to stop and it's now been a year since I've done anything with the language. In chronological order, this is what I did:

I completed Tofugu, my first contact ever with learning Japanese, and I highly recommend it.

I completed both volumes of Genki, and I also highly recommend them. (I teach Spanish, so I connected immediately with this textbook for obvious reasons.)

I Started both An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese and Tobira, and hit a wall, so...
I tried Satori reader for like three months, which were pretty much free thanks to some promotion, which led me to...

Starting Human Japanese 2 (skipped 1 entirely) and completed 31 chapters out of 42, but I felt I wasn't learning to actually say much of anything, so...

I started the Pimsleur audio lessons, and got through volumes 1-4, and started 5, but that's when I had to stop for a series of reasons. Pimsleur is super old-fashioned and it's "only" good for listening and speaking, but for those two skills I do think it is excellent.

All that said, and after a year-long hiatus, I feel like I've forgotten a lot, and I want to go back to learning. I am hoping to be able to find some time to get started in the spring. I would like to continue with Pimsleur for listening and speaking because one of my main motivations for learning Japanese is to be able to go to Japan with my wife at some point in the future and be able to move around, interact with people, etc. Of course, I would also like to read manga in Japanese (I have read the first volume of よつばと!and thought it was great fun) and eventually play games in Japanese and watch anime in that language as well.

So what to do next? I have considered Wanikani in the past because, as we all know, kanji is the bane of the Japanese-language-learner, but never tried it, but it sounds like I should! This reminds me I also started reading The Kanji Learner's Course Graded Reading Sets, by Andrew Scott Conning. The first volume is free for the Kindle on Amazon, and it is very good (also: free), but I confess I didn't finish it because, even though it is good practice, I found it rather boring. Less boring reads were しろくまくろくま (no kanji), and Hikoichi (some kanji and audio narration of the text!), and the first volume of Dragon Ball, which I had to put down because it was super slow progress due to the hundreds of words I was having to look up.

I think my main problem was my scattershot approach. I did well sticking to programs in the beginning (Tofugu, Genki), but then I hit a wall and grew restless and perhaps tried too many things instead of focusing on one. I do want to go back to Pimsleur, like I said earlier. I just need more hours in the day, every day, like we all do.

In any case, hopefully this thread will serve as motivation and as a way to discover new resources!

Mario_Alba wrote:

I have considered Wanikani in the past because, as we all know, kanji is the bane of the Japanese-language-learner, but never tried it, but it sounds like I should!

WaniKani is great at teaching you to READ the Kanji, but not to write it. For most of us who will probably never write Kanji by hand, this is probably OK (It was for me. I'm a proud wapuro baka!) And, while overall I think WK helped me tremendously, it can be a pain to go through it, and I almost quit many, many, many times. (I even wrote and drawn a 5-page comic about it).

There is a custom on the WK forum to write a 'level 60' post. I wrote one, but never published it. I'll find it (I think it's in my MacBook somewhere) and post it here, I think it's a good summation of what the experience was for me (although it's a bit dated as I wrote it in September).

WaniKani lets you try the first three levels for free. I don't think they are a good representation of the rest, as it's very easy at first, and have way fewer Kanji than most. It can also be expensive (but they have sales once in a while, and there's currently 100$ off on a lifetime account - no idea what the deadline is for that deal).

Interesting fact I'm learning about Bunpro: Apparently there are multiple questions for each grammar element, so rote memorization won't work. I like that!

I just started Japanese a little while ago. I've been using Rosetta Stone (meh) and Rocket Languages (very good!).

Overall it is challenging but nowhere near as hard as Mandarin. I've been on and off studying Mandarin for years and man that is such a tough language to grok. Japanese, while still challenging, is much easier by comparison.

Also for books, I've been a fan of the Teach Yourself series for a while. Very straightforward and enjoyable.

My experience with Japanese so far is that there is an initial easy on-ramp when the language seems pretty approachable. Hiragana, katakana, and some basic kanji are easy to memorise. Basic phrases are similarly easy to memorise. And then the easy on-ramp suddenly turns into a near vertical cliff of multiple dependencies, in which you need to know the vocabulary to understand the grammar to understand the kanji to understand the vocabulary. I've been slowly clawing my way up this cliff and I'm convinced that a multiple-approach strategy is critical, using various written, audio, visual, and practice methods.

Heisig's Remembering the Kanji is a superb resource if you really want to learn to write the kanji, know stroke order, and understand the basic meaning. But it doesn't teach the various pronunciations. WK, on the other hand, is excellent for recognition and a lot of the pronunciations but doesn't have a focus on writing. In fairness, my wife says that a lot of native Japanese people have trouble writing kanji now since typing/phones are so common (much as Western children have generally lost the art of calligraphy as a subject taught in school).

Having studied a little Russian in years past (i.e. learning Cyrillic characters) and now Japanese, I'll say that when I see French or Spanish, it nearly feels automatically readable just because so many of the word forms and sentence structures are so close to English! Amazing what a little perspective can give you.

Oh heya everybody. I'm a bit more advanced but there's always more to learn. Not sure I can be much help in this thread, as I don't know anything about learning resources or tests. (I passed N2, but a very long time ago and I believe the test difficulties are different now.) But happy to answer any language questions.

bobbywatson wrote:

WaniKani is great at teaching you to READ the Kanji, but not to write it. For most of us who will probably never write Kanji by hand, this is probably OK :)

A side note, but I'd encourage everyone to make their peace with not being able to write many kanji. Reading and writing are basically separate skills, and writing vanishes super quickly unless you practice it often. I mean, do practice writing kanji - it's useful for reading, and you want to be competent at writing e.g. from a reference. (Also it feels cool.) But just don't be surprised if they don't stick with you.

Anyway here's your homework - everyone pick a phrase from this video and try to work it into your repertoire of useful expressions.

Thanks for the links folks have shared.

That Tofugu roadmap looks helpful. Glancing at it, I think I'm maybe 2/3, maybe little more through the vocab/grammar of a beginner, with the glaring absence of much Kanji knowledge. So I might give WaniKani a try. Going tech-based rather than paper-based with my learning seems to be working this attempt.

I took a year of Japanese in college, and got comfortable with the very basics. I did a fair amount of refresh before going to Japan about 10 years later for work, and spent a week in and around Nagoya and didn't feel completely lost.

My problem with continuing in Japanese (and other languages I've tried to learn) has always been the lack of opportunities to use it. I still have plenty of books and reference materials from my Japanese classes, but all the studying in the world doesn't seem to help if I don't get a chance to speak/read it on a daily basis. The reading part I can do, the speaking and conversation not so much. How do people work around that limitation when learning on your own?

Boudreaux wrote:

My problem with continuing in Japanese (and other languages I've tried to learn) has always been the lack of opportunities to use it.

This has probably been my biggest frustration starting out with this. I've done enough lessons in Duolingo that I should be able to recall something when someone asks me to say a phrase I know. However, I've realized that when I actually try to say something (or even write it down) when I'm away from the resource material, I completely draw a blank.

That's kind of the rough part in learning a language that isn't really used all that much where I live. And it's not like my wife is learning it with me, so we can't practice together. So while it's been nice picking things up here and there in the lessons (or consuming Japanese media), I'm slightly disheartened that it's not entirely practical for me to use in my every day life.

So I'd definitely be interested in the responses to Boudreaux's question.

Boudreaux wrote:

I still have plenty of books and reference materials from my Japanese classes, but all the studying in the world doesn't seem to help if I don't get a chance to speak/read it on a daily basis. The reading part I can do, the speaking and conversation not so much. How do people work around that limitation when learning on your own?

If my wife's Netflix profile is any indication, setting your language to Japanese (even on a USA account) will put Japanese subtitles on a ton of stuff, and recommend a bunch of Japanese-language material. Doesn't really help with speaking, but certainly it would help with listening to more advanced conversations that aren't in anime-speak.

Coldstream wrote:
Boudreaux wrote:

I still have plenty of books and reference materials from my Japanese classes, but all the studying in the world doesn't seem to help if I don't get a chance to speak/read it on a daily basis. The reading part I can do, the speaking and conversation not so much. How do people work around that limitation when learning on your own?

If my wife's Netflix profile is any indication, setting your language to Japanese (even on a USA account) will put Japanese subtitles on a ton of stuff, and recommend a bunch of Japanese-language material. Doesn't really help with speaking, but certainly it would help with listening to more advanced conversations that aren't in anime-speak.

I should try that.

I also realized recently that I can use a VPN to pretend I'm in Japan and access a whole bunch of shows and movies on Japanese Netflix that we don't have here.

Regarding Bunpro, this is only my second day, but I think I like it enough to pay for a one year subscription. I like that, when reviewing grammar points, the questions will change, and so will the politeness level. I do wish they added a 'conjugation practice' tool outside of the regular reviews. I'm pretty sure there are plenty of web/phone apps for that, but it'd be nice to be integrated into Bunpro so I could earn extra XP (how's that for gamification!)

Former military linguist here; I was trained by the Air Force to read, speak, and write Korean and I grew up around Japanese folks as my father worked for a Japanese company for nearly 40 years. I also spent six years of my career in Japan and a few months in Korea... among other places. My post-military job has me going back to Japan regularly; usually at least once a year.

I was trained in Korean via deep submersion i.e., reading, speaking, listening, and writing Korean for 8-12 hours a day, 5+ days a week, for 63 weeks. After that, I tried multiple programs for learning/improving both my Korean and my Japanese - including the standard Rosetta Stone, Babel, etc., and my personal preference is listening to Pimsleur audio files (usually in my car during my commute).

Pimsleur uses the principal that babies/kids learn to speak by listening and repeating what their parents say in conversation. So, they do the same - they provide you with the context of a small, life-pertinent conversation, such as asking directions to the restroom - and then teach you the conversation in Japanese while breaking down the words, conjugations, etc. Each lesson builds on the previous lessons' words, grammar patterns, etc. It actually sounds a bit more complicated than it really is.

Suffice to say, I ended picking up far more - and more importantly, a better UNDERSTANDING - of Japanese in just a few audio lessons than I had with somewhat irregular contact with Japanese guests during my childhood, taking a semester of Japanese in high school, and my first three years of living in Japan combined. Long story, short - if you're having trouble with Japanese, I HIGHLY... HIGHLY... HIGHLY recommend Pimsleur's Japanese program!

You are all making me feel guilty for not doing better in my Japanese studies.

Mantid wrote:

You are all making me feel guilty for not doing better in my Japanese studies. :P

Mission accomplished, we can close the thread now

Mantid wrote:

You are all making me feel guilty for not doing better in my Japanese studies. :P

How's this? I lived in Japan for 2 years. I've visited several times since moving back to Canada in late 2013. My wife is Japanese. Both my kids speak Japanese*. I can understand a decent amount of Japanese and at least get the gist of a conversation. I cannot speak Japanese at all.

*my youngest is 1.5 so he mostly babbles

bobbywatson wrote:
Mantid wrote:

You are all making me feel guilty for not doing better in my Japanese studies. :P

Mission accomplished, we can close the thread now :)

Yup, that was faster than we thought. I love it when plan comes together.

Wow... can this be done. how hard is this?

Boudreaux wrote:

The reading part I can do, the speaking and conversation not so much. How do people work around that limitation when learning on your own?

On this, I recommend "wax-on wax-off" style rote imitation. Choose a short snippet of native dialog from from any video source, make sure you understand the grammar, and practice it until you can say it at native speed. Then repeat with a new snippet. As you do that, you build up a collection of constructions that you're super comfortable with and can pull out when needed.

Then when you go to say something in Japanese, rather than thinking of an English sentence and trying to mentally translate it, you'll often find you it's easier to take the phrases you've practiced and splice them into what you want to say. Speaking this way limits what you can express, but it forces you to think and speak in native constructions - making you a better speaker, and helping you avoid bad habits like starting every sentence with "私は〜" and so on.

Errgghhh, this is a sign. I've lived in Tokyo since 2018, and restarted learning a few times. I don't take the tests, but assume I'm N5. I have a japanese wife, but we speak english. A lot of people will tell you 'only speak to your wife using Japanese', but those comments don't take into account that not everyone wants their relationship to be a classroom, and that not everyone is born a teacher.
I was taking some pretty great classes, but they got cancelled in March (unsure why?!). I've made peace with the fact that I am more driven within a classroom environment than self study. I think if tried 3 or 4 jpod 101 trials lol.

I mostly wanna be able to read and order food. Followed by casually talking to family, neighbours, konbini employees.

Anyway, two resources I do rate are:
JDict app - A dictionary. I store my vocab in there and it also has great kanji features (stroke order, or search for kanji by component.)
And Learn Japanese Pod (dinosaur on the cover). It's a little more casual.

Other things I've tried are duolingo, lingodeer, the rocket app, minna no nihongo textbook, japanese for dummies, a dictionary of japanese grammar and -precovid- language exchange meetups.

I like the idea of Pimsleur, but pricey!

emiru wrote:

Other things I've tried are duolingo, lingodeer, the rocket app, minna no nihongo textbook, japanese for dummies, a dictionary of japanese grammar and -precovid- language exchange meetups.

Give the Japanese from Zero series a shot. It's self-paced, has tons of useful vocabulary and grammar, and is in workbook format. This forces you to apply what you've learned, rather than just memorise and call it good. Don't be thrown by how book one advertises teaching hiragana and book two katakana. Even if you have both of these cold (which I assume you probably do since you say you're N5), all of the other stuff is really useful. Especially with a Japanese wife and living in Japan, you have ample opportunity to inflict what you're learning on other people. I always enthusiastically encouraged my Japanese friends to attempt English, no matter how terrible it was. One of the ways I succeeded was to speak mangled Japanese at them at every opportunity. Back then, a few beers at the local izakaya and Google translate was usually enough to set off a conversation in which everyone was laughing uproariously (and I incidentally learnt a ton of Japanese).

For conversation practice I recommend Pimsleur... again. I know I mentioned it earlier and vypre talked about it as well, but I think it is an excellent resource. It is not cheap, that's true, but you can buy the different chapters in the units one by one, which makes it more affordable. That's what I did on Audible, and I used a bunch of the credits they give you when you create an account and the ones you accrue to get as many of these as possible. I still ended up paying for most, but doing it piece meal and taking advantage of the sales and credits really helped.

Oh, this thread has convinced me to give WaniKani a try. I started it yesterday, and you can totally tell it's from the same people that made Tofugu/Textfugu. I really enjoy their style, so I'm excited about it!

For those considering Wanikani, here are my complete thoughts on the app itself. I wrote this back in September when I finished the last level. I was planning on posting it on WK's forums, but in the end I never did (for no specific reason). I did not edit this before posting it here, but re-reading it now, I can confirm that the number of reviews I have to do each day has gone from 250 to 350 a day to around 120, four months after I finished (which is way more manageable). This was written thinking it would be read by WK users, so forgive me if I used WK slang here and there

The conclusion to the text below is somewhat bittersweet, but in the months since, I think I've come around to being fairly positive about the experience. At the time, I was not sure if I wanted to keep learning Japanese. Now that I've recommitted to it, I'm glad I went through the whole thing and kept going. Despite still being sh*t at grammar, I'm not afraid of Kanji anymore!

tl;dr version of what worked well for me (especially towards the end):

  • Used a custom plug-in to reorder lessons. For the last 10 levels, I was trying to do 10 new lessons a day. I usually started with 5 kanji or radicals, followed by 5 vocabulary words. There are currently 8896 items in the app (according to my spreadsheet). They added a few kanji and vocabs once or twice as I was going through it.
  • When the number of lessons became too big (>100), I skipped the reorder plugin to catch up to current level on vocab
  • Used vacation mode when I knew I was not going to be in front of my computer for several days (and also during the few periods where I was either too sick of it or when life got in the way)
  • For certain vocabs, I kept inputting meanings that I felt were accurate but worded differently than the accepted answers, so I used custom meanings to make sure I would not get wrong answers for those.

I should point out that I used the WKStats website extensively to keep an eye on items remaining, especially towards the end.


Some background info on me:
Canadian in my early 40’s
Native French speaker, with English as a second language
Programmer working on boring business applications
Been studying Japanese for a long while, but have never gotten really far into it, although I did pass JLPT N5 in 2015 (barely)

As with most other folks who have reached the end of WaniKani, this was not a safe and steady journey. Overall, the journey from 1 to 60 took almost 3 years (if I ignore the fact that I started level 1 in 2016, did a few lessons, and then did not get back to it until 2018 without resetting). I went through serious periods of insomnia that had a definite impact on my progress (levels 2 through 12), I moved once (level 39), I took a long break at level 42, and another at level 44 when I switched jobs and had a long commute (which, ironically, was no longer a problem when the COVID-19 lockdown started). It was filled with periods of inaction and doubt.

The end is still way off into the future, as I have only burned about 53% of all the radicals/kanji/vocab. I don’t know if I will ever get to 100% burned, and I cannot wait for the number of daily reviews to go down significantly. My current daily review count is between 250 and 350, and that is a significant amount of time that could be better spend elsewhere. I am especially looking forward to not waking up with 100+ reviews in the queue.

As I was going through “Reality”, there were several points where I got incredibly frustrated and discouraged. I was doing 10 lessons a day (although I did increase to 15/day as I got closer to the end). If I had radicals or kanji available, I would do five, and then do five vocabulary words.

The downside of limiting myself to 10 lessons at day is: When I reached level 56, I had about 200 lessons queued up. That’s when I decided to spend a few days to get this number down. I had the same problem when I got to level 58, and again I took a few extra days to reduce the lesson pile. The goal, at this point, was to get to 0 lesson by September 30th. By increasing to 15 lessons a day some time before that date, I managed to finish on September 22nd.

Another problem of the 5 kanji/5 vocabulary words a day is that I had guru’d the kanji, but then was not seeing again it for a long while because the vocabulary words associated with it were still in the lesson pile, so I was more likely to forget it. Using reordering, however, was a necessity, because otherwise I would run out of lessons. In order to finish by my target date, I could not skip a day of lessons, and there had to be at least 10 in the pile, every day. This is the period where I was dreading any content update, because adding new radicals, kanji, or vocabulary words would push my target end date off.

At level 46, I started a spreadsheet to keep track of how many items I had in each SRS stage at the end of each day, along with the number of available lessons, and number of items left until the end. I used that spreadsheet to highlight accomplishments, like “40% burned”, or “80% learned”, or “500 items remaining”. That kept me somewhat motivated and gave me something to look forward to.

I started using my own synonyms around level 55. 大概’s main meaning is ‘In general’, but for whatever reason I kept typing ‘generally’, which WaniKani did not accept. Since these two meanings were close enough, I added it. That alleviated some of the frustration. I regretted not doing that earlier.

There were many points along the way (particularly during the break at level 42, and around levels 55 and 56), where I seriously considered quitting. These doubts are still there. At this point, I’m still not sure if the journey was worth it. And yet, now that it’s over, I’m thinking about creating a user script to resurrect a random burn item every day, so that I always have something going on. We’ll see about that.

When I started on this Japanese-learning journey (probably before some of you were even born), I wanted to read Japanese so I could get access to untranslated manga. Then, I wanted to play untranslated Japanese RPGs. Well, nowadays, most relevant JRPGs have been translated (officially or not, although there are still some exceptions), and I don’t read manga all that much. The reasons why I started on this journey are no longer relevant, which leaves me wondering if there is any point in continuing. I have been pondering these questions for a while, and will likely continue to do so for some time.

While I’m now somewhat able to read a good amount of kanji, I’m still way behind on grammar. I passed JLPT N5 five years ago, and I’ve been meaning to attempt N4, but for some reason I can’t justify it to myself anymore. I keep pushing it back every year (and will likely do it again this year because of the pandemic). My N5 score was dismal. If/when I finally get to attempt N4, I want to ace the damn thing.

If I decide to continue learning Japanese, I think it is high time for me to start reading in Japanese every day, and to start studying grammar. I have purchased several grammar books over the years, now I need to sit down and read them.

Overall, I’d call WaniKani a relentless taskmaster. If you are in any way like me, it’ll become an obsession, something that you resent, but stick with anyway, and come back to (almost) every single day, multiple times a day. But WaniKani is also a beast that CAN be conquered!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find the nicest French pâtisserie around, buy their best looking cake without looking at its price, and eat the whole thing for dinner, completely ignoring the calorie count and the 砂糖 quantity in the process!

Very interesting, bobbywatson. I envision a similar journey. When I was going through Textfugu, the Anki decks I had to review on a daily basis became both a burden and an obsession, and I would break out my phone any chance I had when I wasn't in front of my computer to knock down some of them here and there. Do I want more of the same? Hmmm... yes and no. Let's see what happens!

I keep trying to climb that first Kanji Cliff after crossing the Kana Beach, and every time I think I can see a path up I just fall right back down and give up for a while in discouragement.