才 radical: "talent" not "genius"

My wife is a native Japanese speaker. I was just explaining some things about how WankiKani works to her and happened to mention that the radical 才 is called “Genius” in this tool.

We wound up having an argument for 15 minutes in which I tried to explain to her the distinction between “radical name” and “kanji meaning.” She was very unhappy with some of the names that were assigned to radicals here and felt that we should be learning their actual, Japanese names. I explained that this system is designed around mnemonics to learn quickly, but she got so frustrated…Eventually just saying that at the very least, “才” should be called “talent,” not “genius.” She kept insisting that she wanted to “talk to the guy” who made WaniKani, which made me chuckle a bit (on the inside).

Anyway, just wanted to share. This is her opinion, not mine. Although, I have to admit that I’m now curious where these radical names came from, and whether or not it’s helpful to call them something that doesn’t match up with the Japanese idea behind them.


Yeah, WaniKani’s radicals are more mnemonic components than actual radicals, and they even use the same one to represent any similar variants, even if they’re actually different (for example, both ⺭ and ⻂are treated as the same radical by WaniKani). You’re free to call the radicals whatever you want, but then you’d also have to come up with your own mnemonics later on (though many people do that anyway).

Here is a list I made a while back of WaniKani’s radical names versus the “official” radical names.

If she still wants to talk to the guy who made WaniKani, she can e-mail hello@wanikani.com :slightly_smiling_face:


Out of all the radicals to have a debate over I think this one is fairly easy to resolve in that jisho for example lists both “genius” and “talent” as valid meanings/translations.

Whatever will she say about poop and triceratops? :sweat_smile:


Oh! Oh! And 一 being ground?


OP’s wife vs. Koichi. I got my money on OP’s wife. TKO in round 2.


It’s where Koichi will end up on apparently.


…covered in 幺


I just use radicals to be aware of the forms in kanji to better distinguish two similar kanji. The meanings aren’t really useful to me. That said, I do develop assocations with radicals by learning kanji afterwards. Many of the radicals with original meanings (different from the Wanikani ones) are much more intuitive to me, while I never ‘learned’ those.


“Genius” actually does mean “talent” in one of its meanings.

But show her the “greenhouse”-kanji (yes kanji, not radical) :smiling_imp: :joy:


I believe WaniKani also have untraditional radicals as well. And it’s not encoded in fonts, just simply an image file…


Unless you put an unrelated person’s image next to a quote that he never said


It appears that many native Japanese speakers have the same reaction to much that is taught here. (My wife also made similar comments.)

“What?! No, that’s wrong! Why on earth would you teach unusual/obscure word instead of common word? Why is that taught before that?!” Etc.

True experts are often, usually even, the worst teachers. They know all the exceptions, all the nuances, all the confusing factors. They sometimes find it painful to over-simplify in an attempt to teach the basics of something. They worry about precision and factual truth more than pedagogy.

It reminds me of something I read a long time ago. (I think, but I’m not sure that it was in the book “The Science of Discworld” if there any other Terry Pratchett fans here.)

The author discussed “lies we tell children”. The answers to “Why is grass green?” and “What causes rainbows?” are incredibly, outrageously, ridiculously complicated. Very few adults really know the real answers (I certainly don’t) so we just mutter vague hand-wavy things (maybe even mentioning chlorophyll, moisture-induced diffraction and other things that we don’t really understand).

By teaching a “lie” (an oversimplification) the student understands just enough to make progress. They either lose interest, or they start asking better questions and finding better answers, eventually drilling down to “truth”.

Wanikani won’t make us expert linguists. We won’t achieve a deep understanding of Japanese, but it demonstrably provides enough of a basis for we “children” to learn enough to start asking better questions and understanding the answers.


I often make up my own names for the radicals if I don’t like what Wanikani gives me


I think most native speakers would be shocked by how many of the things THEY were taught in school aren’t really linguistically correct.


They do admit the kanji doesn’t mean greenhouse and tell you what it does mean.


I tried to argue along these lines, but after 11 years of marriage, my desire to prolong an argument is barely existent. I was coming here more to share the tribulation than to lodge a recommendation. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced this.

The solution, in this case, would be for me to go back to not sharing any aspect of my Japanese language learning with my spouse, as more often than not, it leads to some form of argument.


Yeah. If you can speak Japanese gud by the end of it, what does it matter how you got there?


I briefly debated sending this link to her, but she’s moved on overnight, and the last thing I need is to poke that hornets’ nest again. Maybe if she brings it up in the future…


This thread is in risk of turning into one on marriage advice, but I’m sure others have noticed that any particularly odd WK vocabulary choice is guaranteed to be on your screen whenever your spouse walks by. A few have evoked outright laughter, but mostly it’s just head-shaking at this point.


*金玉 intensifies*