WaniKani & Kady: level 5
In February, I started using WaniKani as a way to become more familiar with kanji and Japanese in general. You can find out everything you need to know about the method on the website. I won't go into huge detail about that here.
At level 5 of 60, I'm just starting out. I've decided to document the process at various stages. It'll be useful to look back on how I progress. Even if you're not planning on learning Japanese, hopefully this'll interest you too.
Why learn kanji this way?
Most of the Japanese I know has come to me through listening. TV shows, music, films, audiobooks, things like that. I can understand speech fairly well, but put the same sentence on paper and I might not know the kanji even if I know the word. To progress with WaniKani, you have to be able to read and understand. Each time you're asked to recall a kanji, WaniKani makes you type out the reading in Japanese as well as the meaning in English.
Writing out kanji over and over by hand is something I've tried and given up on. There are thousands of them, it feels daunting. It's also become less necessary to write them, given the amount we communicate digitally now. Apart from the odd form or letter, I suppose.
I've already passed JLPT level N3 and know a reasonable amount of Japanese. This has meant the first 5 levels of WaniKani have been frustratingly easy. You're told how well you recalled everything at the end of each review, and I've yet to dip below 95%. I'm fully expecting the difficulty curve to skyrocket once I get to 10 or so.
That said, there were some surprises. Across the kanji and vocabulary sets, you're taught both readings for kanji - the onyomi and kunyomi. For some of them, I know both... not all of them, though, as it turns out. Typing in the wrong thing has caught me out several times.
On top of that, the names of some radicals are plain bonkers. The character for 'ne'? Oh, we're going to call that 'pelican' because it looks a bit like a pelican. Good for the memory, is a little pelican association. If I call it 'pelican' in from of a Japanese person, I'm going to be sectioned.
WaniKani's 'unlocking' method
The idea is that you learn the radicals which make up kanji, and this in turn unlocks the kanji. That bit's straightforward. The order in which they're unlocked, not so much.
By level 5, you'll know how to say 'government business' and 'municipal' and 'substitution'. But because one certain kanji hasn't been unlocked, you won't have learned the days of the week yet. I understand the logic behind the 'radicals lead to kanji' approach, but if I were a beginner I'd rather be learning more useful words first.
Putting kanji into context
Every new word or phrase has some example sentences so you can see how it's used. It's not as easy to make sense of as it could be. Verbs are shown as 'to x' quite prominently, but words which could be made into verbs by adding 'suru' aren't so clear.
That said, this isn't built to help you understand conversations. It's hard to criticise that when the intention was never there. WaniKani is just one of several Japanese language learning aids made by Tofugu. The proper supplementary 'context' bit they provide is EtoEto, which is annoying not available yet.
Fitting it into my schedule
The claim is that you'll know around 2,000 kanji and 6,000 bits of vocab in a year and change. That's got to be based on using it several times a day. I use WaniKani once daily, and it's taken 2 months to get to level 5. At the rate I'm going I'll hit level 60 in 2018. It is, however, nice to be able to set your own speed and not be bound to timings.
Reviews are based on how long it's been since you were last tested on that word or kanji. If you aren't using WaniKani frequently, the reviews snowball. Logging in to see you have 200+ things to review is terrifying. It'd be enough to make some people give up.
At the moment, doing a review once per day is working for me. It's slower going through each level than if I did several reviews each day, but it's a comfortable pace. That might have to increase to twice when I've unlocked a lot more.
Are you using WaniKani? How are you finding it? Did this make you want to start learning Japanese? Let me know.