Month-long Kanji Challenge Update: Anki Re-visited


So about 3 months ago I made a post after panicking over my dependence on furigana and declared that I would challenge myself to use kanji learning program, WaniKani, everyday for a month as my primary study method.

So here’s the challenge –

  • Daily focus on WaniKani reviews for the rest of June – At least 1 hour during lulls in the work day, and 1 hour at home
  • Textbook time limited to 30 minutes of my lunch break (I’m sorry, I can’t give it up completely)

I started off solid. It took a few days to get the 300 or so reviews in my queue down to 0 and from then on, I’d get anywhere from 50-150 each day and would knock them out in 10-30 minutes and get started on learning new material. I had a routine where I would set a timer and play my J-Pop playlist for the hour in order to get a little more listening time in. I was golden for about 2 weeks.

Unfortunately, this got old fast, and I think it had more to do with WaniKani itself than my laziness (although my laziness was indeed a factor). The way the system works, as you continue to work through the material, you amass more and more reviews to the point where they become overwhelming if you decide to skip a day here or there. My reviews would pile up and I’d get the phone notifications every 15-20 minutes (there has to be a way to make these less frequent!) This in itself would not be as huge of a deterrent if there was a way to remove vocabulary that I already knew. I spent a good chunk of my study time drilling in words that I could recall instantly and if I made a typo? Forget it, I lost some progress and was farther from burning the word from my list.

Another gripe of mine would be learning kanji and vocabulary that were not relevant to me and were likely to never be. For example, the words “土星” (Saturn) and “海王星” (Neptune) were introduced at level 7. I understand there is a method to the madness and admit these words helped me review the readings, but I had no desire to learn words such as these at this stage. I got no closer to being able to read simple texts than I had at the beginning of the month. I saw a little progress, but not what I would have hoped for all the time I put in.

Anki Take 2

Through the monthly challenge, I realized how important it is to learn vocabulary that is relevant to each individual learner, whether it be a hobby you’re into or a topic that interests you. I decided to give Anki another try as it is a program that is completely customizable. I did not download any pre-made decks and instead have been slowly collecting vocabulary from NHK Easy News articles, tv shows and emails from my Japanese tutor. I majored in political science, so words like “political party” and “refugee” would not be in any beginner lists I could find, but they are relevant to my interests so I added them. I’ve also learned the words for “long-lasting product” because of my interest in makeup. My vocabulary decks are individualized for topics I actually like to discuss and words I will certainly be using.

So far I only have 100 words or so added, so the reviews are not at all painful to do at this stage. If I forget to do a day or two, it’s not overwhelming. This could obviously change once I have 500+ words, but I like that you have the option of telling the program exactly how familiar you are with the word which changes the frequency with which it’s shown.

Here is how I set up my cards –

  • Front – Japanese word or phrase (kanji only)
  • Back – Hiragana + Example Sentence

I’ve noticed that I’ve had a much easier time of recalling vocabulary in writing and conversation from sticking to the SRS method and of course learning words that are relevant to my discussion topics.

The drawback of using this method is less focus on learning individual kanji and radicals, which does make it difficult to recognize kanji in the wild. I notice that I remember certain kanji due to process of elimination and knowing what’s in my deck, which may not be the best way to recall them.

As I’m currently satisfied with the progress I’m making in the realms of writing and speaking, I am going to stick to this method for the next few months or so and see where it takes me. If you’re an Anki guru and have any tips for me, please share in the comments!






About L

Interested in Japanese language and culture, J-Pop, K-Pop and Asian Dramas.
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