I have been on Wanikani for a few months now. I am taking the lessons very slowly so that I don’t get overwhelmed. It’s funny – every time I learn a new kanji or a new pronunciation, I think “how am I going to remember that?” And then, a month later, I look at it and it pops to mind, completely unbidden, the moment I look at the word.
So I think the harder you work at Japanese, the more you’ll seem to advance, and the quicker you forget. It seems to me that a slow, steady path of absorption seems to work much better than trying to cram as much into your head as possible. That certainly seems to be true to me.
I don’t mean to imply that it doesn’t take time or effort. Of course it does. You’re not going to get anywhere by watching anime with subtitles and never studying the language – you’ll go backwards. But I’m saying that if you’re struggling, you’re trying too hard. It does sink in eventually, and things start to seem natural pretty quickly that didn’t seem to before. You just have to get used to it.
I have told the story before about how I got acquainted with Japanese. When I first heard the Japanese language spoken it was literally gibberish. I could not pick a single word, phrase, or meaning out, and even when I started learning greetings, their accent was so different than I was used to that even if I knew a word it was difficult to pick it out of the sentence. But now, I still have that problem, but much less so. I still go back to that video every now and then, and I find myself understanding more and more of it. And the thing is, I’m not really trying. I’m just working on my Wanikani, practicing it as much as I’m able, and otherwise just letting it sink in.
That seems to work for me.
Study, but not too hard. Work, but not too hard. Memorize, but not too much. Japanese is a language you have to be in for the long haul.