WaniKani midway check in

Dec 18, 2021

Last September I wrote about after a successful bout of learning hiragana and katakana, I went nuclear and started the much more difficult project of kanji, aiming to use WaniKani to learn ~2k characters and ~6k words of vocabulary.

WK has 60 levels, and as of last week, after a year of work, I hit 30, roughly the halfway mark.

It’s been a wild ride. Out of a few thousand vocabulary words learned, I’ve enjoyed discovering some old favorites like 怪獣 (kaiju), 刺身 (sashimi), お任せ (omakase), and 乾杯 (kanpai).

Functionally, my Japanese is still worthless as I’ve done very little work on grammar. When reading Japanese news sources or Twitter I can recognize a lot of the vocabulary (like most languages, a common subset of vocabulary gets used with disproportionate frequency in everyday conversation) and often get the general gist of a sentence, but am light years away from more complete comprehension, or writing any myself. I’m currently trying to make my way through the first few chapters of Tae Kim’s grammar guide to remediate some of that.

The project’s come with a large-ish time investment – I’d estimate something like 45 minutes to an hour a day crunching through 200 to 300 reviews. While certainly not worth it the conventional sense of ROI through practical application, I don’t regret the time spent on the project – there’s always downtime in my day that would’ve otherwise been wasted anyway, learning a language can’t be a bad thing from a long term cognitive health perspective, and reading Japanese is something I’ve wanted to be be able to do since I was 17.

Halfway is a major symbolic milestone because having made it this far, I’m committed enough that … I’m probably just going to finish. I’m already well behind the maximally optimal WaniKani completion speed of 60 weeks, but I’ve sunk into a routine of 10 to 20 new lessons every day, and at this rate am on track to get this tied up in a little more than a year.

A few months ago I bought Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicles in in Japanese bunkobon (文庫本) format. I can’t read it, but keep it on my table as an aspirational project, occasionally flipping through to see how much of the kanji I know. One day.

Wind-up Bird Chronicles in bunkobon and western formats.
Wind-up Bird Chronicles in bunkobon and western formats.

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