Are radicals really any use?

I’ve found them useful, both the more accurate Japanese concept of the things and the WK ones. Mostly because they help me chunk the characters better. This works both in terms of like…memorizing them and in recalling them while writing. So then it’s not just like…3000 completely unique blocks. It’s more like…3000 blocks comprised of set bits and bobs in various combinations. That’s a much more doable task for me, since then it’s not just Unique Individual Characters it’s…small blocks that are built into bigger blocks in greater number.

I think the most useful thing for me though beyond that with like traditional set of them and not the WK ones is being able to look up kanji by radical. So I think it’s very worthwhile to at least learn the most used of the not-WK ones so that you can utilize the radical indexes in kanji dictionaries and such to find stuff quicker. If I come across an unfamiliar character I can go to like jisho or look at my kanji dictionary and look up the radical and find the character. Convenient! That can help with figuring out words you don’t know the readings off too. Since then you can look up the individual characters and like…figure out the readings? Or you can like brute force it and find the individual kanji and then smash them together into a dictionary search and bam. Word is solved.

In both cases, the key thing is creating a more manageable to search index.


The awnser is really simple, don’t know why you guys are discussing so much: radical are useful if you’re going to use the mnemonics provided by Wanikani, period. The name of the radicals were developed by the WK team with the mnemonics of the kanji in mind, that’s it. When they show you a new kanji and they want to make up a silly story so you can remember it more easly, they need to use elements that are present in the kanji (doh) and what are the elements within the kanji? The radicals of course.

Hmm, I may not relate to our own western culture as much as a lot of others do either. I’m also Australian not American and being brought up on American tv doesn’t mean I relate to that culture any better. lol

What you say about the memory holding only so much information makes sense and the complicated kanji being harder to grasp because of it, but learning simpler kanji for themselves can have the same effect as learning these (to me) seemingly random parts of them. A lot of the ones I’ve already learned here are actually kanji themselves, but instead of using the kanji name I have to create a synonym with the kanji name before it will accept it.

So maybe I’ve already outgrown the need for radicals, even before I knew they existed. I started learning Japanese a few years back and started on Kanji back then, which is why I dived straight into them this time around. Even before I’d finished re-learning hirigana. So the Kanji never seemed wildly complicated to me this time around, and learning the first 80 came very easily because I remembered a lot from before. I’ve also noticed when I look at kanji as the weeks and months go by now they seem less and less complicated all the time.

I think I am on the right track without them.

Well as I said in another reply this isn’t my first trip around the block with kanji. :stuck_out_tongue: But I have to go through the lessons to get to the kanji so if they seem useful I won’t just completely dismiss them from my mind afterwards. :wink:

Thanks for the reply. Yeah some of the connections do make sense like that one (for a kanji I already know) but others are a real stretch or don’t make any sense to me at all. Maybe they will be useful in filling in the gaps- helping me learn kanji that are particularly hard to remember or distinguish one from another. Like I did with hirigana and katakana, I only bothered with creating an association or using someone else’s if I was struggling with them otherwise I just relied on using them every day and filing them away into my long term memory that way.

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I don’t think I ever really saw the kanji as a bunch of lines anyway, I see them as either one symbol for the simplest ones or a group of joined up symbols. Maybe with a couple of random additions tagged on which help to differentiate similar kanji. So I don’t need radicals to do that for me. :slight_smile:

Up to WK, I’ve always found radicals to be helpful as it “locates” the kanji or give you (sometimes) a big hint as to what it is rather than just using brute force memorizing. If you’re a visual learner then they are helpful IMO especially for the more abstract ones.

That being said I find many of them of very poor quality here and an actual hindrance to learning. For example, why would you teach a new unrelated meaning for book 本 (real) when the actual radical IS a kanji character with a meaning…just use that! It’s making something more complex for absolutely no reason.

本 actually does mean “real” though. (In addition to “book”)

Personally I do find WaniKani’s radical system to be pretty useless. They were an annoying slowdown at the beginning, but as I progress further they become less important. Still annoying though.


I absolutely agree with your explanation here except for using the radicals to help remember it. Firstly I see that kanji as two symbols already, not as 8 different strokes. Secondly I built the same association after learning the sun and moon kanji every day writing out the dates on my calendar and in a diary. I had also learned the word for bright when watching a lesson on colours and the relation of aka to the sun because Japanese view the sun as a red colour not yellow as westerners usually do. That’s an easy association to relate to because of their flag. So when I came across the kanji for bright in my studies it just stuck right away. No radicals required. :slight_smile:

But the common bare bones usage I’d say is “book” as it’s a standalone kanji…(for lack of a better term)

These “symbols” are called radicals :wink:


I think they will be very useful when I get around to writing them. At the moment the only writing I do is on posters I put up around the house to help me remember. They don’t have to be 100% accurate, just recognisable to me to help me remember.

Thanks for the response!

Thanks for the response. :slight_smile: Yes they could help me with some kanji I find difficult to hold in my memory- creating associations where no others are available.

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The “real” meaning is important to know though. There are plenty of things to be complained about in WK, but I’d sincerely recommend not complaining about one that gives you actually useful information about the language. Learning more stuff isn’t a bad thing.

And do remember that if you’re desperate to give “book” as your answer to that radical, you can just add a synonym to it. I think I did that myself too.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned and rote works for me better. Also I’m using and exposing myself to a lot of Japanese every day so that helps more with seeing kanji properly without being overwhelmed by the number of strokes that form them.
Whatever works for different people. I just thought it a bit odd that WaniKani seems to offer flexibility but forces the learning of radicals at the very beginning instead of making it an optional side learning that would have been far more useful for me.

Dude. Not to discount your previous experience or anything, but why don’t you wait to see if WankKani works first before talking about how much better you think it could be?


But yeah as for the main topic here, I find radicals to be useful on some kanji, and not at all on others. It’s just a matter of whether or not I can easily come up with a better mnemonic myself. Even though it’s certainly less than half the kanji I know that I used WK’s mnemonics for, and pretty much none of the lower level ones, I really don’t consider it a waste.

That was too harsh, sorry. Everyone learns differently. I use the WK radicals system and it works just fine for me and hundreds of other people. Give it a try and see if it helps you through some “oh crap I forgot… wait, I can figure it out” moments. That’s all I’m saying.

At level 1, it seems silly because the number and complexity are trivial to memorize by any method.

Agreed, there’s much worse to complain about. Some of the breaks from tradition, such as 「一」 “ground” 「十」 “cross” 「幺」 “poop”「 灬」 “fish tail” 「忄」 “fish stick”, are just ridiculous.

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“real” as you are saying it is a compound word (more than one kanji)…that doesn’t make sense and it’s also (another main point) not what they do elsewhere…consistency for learners is important. Radicals are the building blocks…keep it simple and to the point. The real meaning IS important when you get to kanji and vocabulary…these are radicals.

Useful? Like walking around and seeing all the stores selling real?

…any how…the horse is dead…