“Studying” wanikani Kanji

What’s a good strategy for studying Kanji outside of a WaniKani lesson?

I’d imagine that studying at just the wrong time - for instance, reviewing an item the day before it is to be burned - whether intentionally or by accidentally seeing a translation when looking for other stuff - could have effects that offset the SRS powers of WK.

I could imagine any of the following being justifiable:

  • never study, only wk reviews
  • study only leeches
  • study only right after you fail a wk review for that item
  • study anything anytime
  • …?

What’s a good way to think about the potentially conflicting nature of supplementary studying vs honoring the SRS process?


SRS is mostly for time management. It minimizes the amount of time you have to spend on each item in order to remember it. But it’s a tradeoff. The more you study an item, the better you’ll remember, but the less time you’ll have to study other things.

Just be sure you’e not intentionally studying things just before their next review. Reviews are WK’s way of determining whether to show you items more often or less often, so studying them right before they come up for review can give WK a false sense of how well you know them. But that mostly applies to things that are at the Guru stage and above.

If you have the spare time, it’s generally good to study items while they are still in Apprentice stage, and Leeches. And Burned items, if you feel like you are forgetting things after you’ve burned them.


What @rfindley said, except I’d emphasize that frequent “outside” reviews of items in stage 1 or 2 are an especially good thing.

I like to think of the WK SRS as an efficient way of getting kanji into your long-term memory. The only way to get there is via your short term memory. I view items in guru stages as stuff thats transitioning out of short-term, and the first two apprentice stages as stuff that hasn’t really entered into short-term yet.

I’m still of the opinion that leeches mostly take care of themselves: see something enough times and you’ll eventually figure out why you keep missing it. But there’s nothing wrong with extra reviews/study of stuff that seems to keep going up and then back down the stages.

I view mnemonics and other “tricks” mostly as hacks to get stuff into short-term memory. Long-term retention is mostly about getting enough repetition (though sometimes you need to rely on tricks for long-term, too, especially to distinguish very similar looking characters).

Thinking more about it, I honestly don’t believe this is a serious issue at all. I think people get too hung up on the scheduling aspect of an SRS: quizzing you just before you forget something. To me it’s simpler: the SRS quizzes you more frequently on things you find difficult, less often for things you find easy. That’s it.

As for “offsetting” the power by studying out-of-band: who care’s how you learn something as long as you learn it?


I see this comment a bit. And to be honest it is a bit silly. This would mean for 2 - 3 years I am not to do any anime or manga or anything else Japanese because I might stumble upon a word that I am also learning on Wanikani.

This is not the right way to look at it imo. The more exposure you get, the better. When i first saw 人間 I struggled to remember it. But as soon as I added anime into my Japanese learning (Eden Zero seem to use 人間 all the time) I can confidently say I have committed this one to my long term memory.

Coming at the language from different angles (Wanikani, anime, manga, textbooks etc) is only going to help your Japanese.


Exactly. People use tools like WK because they aren’t studying Japanese 24/7, and therefore need to use the time they have as efficiently as possible.

But the goal is not to “do well” at WK reviews, the goal is to learn to read Japanese. If you “do well” at WK reviews because you’re reading Japanese, isn’t that a good thing?


Oh totally! I’m engaging with Japanese language in a few other contexts beyond WaniKani, it’s a delight when they intersect. I mostly mean specifically going to WaniKani (or user scripts) to review stuff. Seeing kanji in the wild is definitely a plus and can be a huge reinforcement.

Thanks all for the thoughts!

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I relied on the SRS to just do its thing, as that’s time efficient…

…BUT leeches are a different story, as it’s a sign SRS simply doesn’t work on those items for you.

There are plenty of scripts to help you with these items specifically: the Item Inspector, the Self-Study Quiz, the Wanikani Leech Trainer, were my chosen tools to help me get better at memorizing problematic items. :slight_smile:

I think they had the right idea, but missed the mark slightly. Yes, seeing an item before hand will cause WaniKani to not know you forgot a word and therefore won’t know to schedule it more frequently. Thus, it may be mastered/enlightened/burned before it is ready to be. Thus, one should not cheat the system by intentionally looking at an item before it is time to review it. However, this doesn’t mean one should actively avoid the item either!

The admins of WaniKani say it themselves, the most important thing in your japanese learning is to consume as much native material as possible. Read all you can, listen to all you can. I agree that you should do this regardless of the risk it poses to WaniKani’s SRS system.

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My technique for dealing with leeches has been to practice writing them in sentences. I find this tends to cement them into my vocabulary.


A part of trick is to find good quality example sentences that you care about, for example, in manga, or in dictionaries, like goo.ne.jp or weblio.co.jp

Recently, I also found out about eow.alc.co.jp

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Read graded readers. I’m just starting that now and it’s extremely helpful reinforcement.

On this website you can see the levels for books, just filter for free books and desired level. You can read quick stories, in the easy levels you’ll see furigana but this can help to show you the kanji in a real sentence and which reading it’s using


What an interesting question BTW. :slight_smile:

I find kanji and WaniKani eat up quite a bit of my time already. So besides that, I just try to read the kanji I come across in other aspects of my studies like in the textbooks or Satori Reader or something. I find a kanji sticks even better if I see it somewhere else. (And it’s also more satisfying.)

Aside from that, I just trust in the process. The SRS is doing its job and I trust that the rest of my time is best spent reading, learning grammar or trying to speak.

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