Are radicals really any use?

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In this thread in particular, you’ve had very closely consecutive chains of replies, which stands out and does make browsing the topic a bit more annoying. If you’re creating many posts via the web interface, the composition window will warn you about this behavior and recommends the multi-quote flow. Since you were using email, you didn’t see this, so I forwarded it.

Under most other circumstances this shouldn’t happen and email replies aren’t noticeable. If you see other threads that you’re interested in participating in, go ahead, just keep the web forum conventions in mind.

Just scoot through the radicals to the kanji. There is a reason for them :slight_smile:

Yeah I use a lot of other methods and basically expose myself to a lot of Japanese for a lot of each day. One minute of review and four hours wait time is still very frustrating. And it sort of means to make full use of this place as it is intended I need to revolve my schedule around being back at this site at the right time for the next 1 minute or everything slows down even further. Not only that if I wait too long according the very reason they space the lessons I could forget them and then have to re-do them wasting more time.

Someone accused me of replying here as seeking attention, I think this whole system is just that- demanding your attention for a brief time at an exact moment to make it work just right! lol But eh, if it helps me progress it’s worth it.

Initially they may seem useless but when you’re looking at Kanji with multiple radicals, it really makes it easier to remember. Some kanji are even identical except for one small radical, so I use that radical to remember the kanji and their differences.


some kanji lessons tho…

‘can you see where the radicals fit into this kanji?’
‘no, sorry, and by the way, isn’t this really radical x here?’


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One legitimate complaint I have with WK is that two radicals (with very different origins) are combined into the same radical, pelican.

On one hand you have しめすへん 「⺭」, which is based on 示 (the name comes from the verb 示す).
Oh the other, you have ころもへん 「⻂」, with its one extra stroke, which is based on 衣 (ころも).

しめすへん is often related to gods, festivals, religion etc. 祈, 神, 福
ころもへん is often related to clothing, cloth, etc. 襟, 袖, 被

The pelican name is… whatever… that horse is dead, and we don’t know if they’ll even keep it through the overhaul, but combining these two radicals obscures a clear distinction.


there’s more examples for that, and i don’t get why wk can’t simply teach that radical x looks like 1, 2, 3 or 4, depending on where in the kanji it pops up. water for example, or fire make certain mnemonics so much easier, especially when it comes to similar kanji like 島 and 鳥 … can you roast an island over a fire? no you can’t.

That’s really interesting. Where/how did you learn this? I like etymology and would be interested in any resources about history/kanji origin.

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I don’t know if I can point you to a specific resource, but it’s something I’ve had to pick up along the way in preparing for the Kanji Kentei (which I’ve taken level 5 of, and am still planning to take level 4 of whenever I happen to get JLPT N1 out of the way). If you download any app, or buy any study guide, for the Kanji Kentei, it should have data and questions about the radicals.

My favorite question from my recent studies was the about kanji 舎 (cottage, hut, inn, house)

Which radical is used to categorize that kanji in the dictionary? Is it 土? No. Is it 口? Another likely guess, but no. Is it that upper part? Nope.

It’s 舌. Tongue. Because 舎 is actually a simplification of the original kanji that used 舌 below the upper part, rather than 土 and 口. (If it’s hard to see what the difference is, the vertical line in 舌 goes all the way down to touch the 口 part).

Anyway, pretty useless unless one wants to take the Kanken, but I enjoy that stuff.


Radicals are not only of use on this site, they’re pretty much the only reason I can now learn and memorize kanji encountered outside of it without massive effort. They’re also the only reason I (or pretty much anyone, I’d imagine) can ever distinguish between kanji that only differ by a few strokes at a glance.

So, yes. Remembering random arrangements of lines is near impossible. Remembering arrangements of larger compositions you already attach meaning to (whether you use WK’s mnenomics or the standard ones) is not.

Also, seconding comments above! WK is great for kanji-reading, but it shouldn’t be your only Japanese-learning tool. Make sure you’re filling time between reviews with other types of study materials or practical applications.

Everyone approaches things differently, but I strongly recommend not doing that. You might not hit that perfect two-year completion time, but if you’re a beginning learner 1) the secret is that’s not really realistic anyway, and 2) Do you really need to? You’ll still be learning kanji at a horrifyingly fast rate. For context, even by level 30, the amount of kanji you don’t recognize in daily life in Japan will be solidly eclipsed by the ones you do.

If you can plan your schedule to hit every review, awesome. But you can also just clear out your queue once a day and make sure all your areas of Japanese study are regular.


I plan to move to Japan next year for work (not teaching), so I’ll probably look into it more then and pick up some materials meant for natives. My Japanese is in really bad shape right now, but I love this kind of stuff and will sign up for the JLPT and maybe even Kanji Kentei after I improve.

Well I sort of need to right now while it’s all kanji I already know and my main issue is learning which meanings the program will accept. I just want to get onto learn new kanji asap, then I will slow down and take my time with it. It’s hard at the moment with the way they are randomly spaced out to get into a routine with other lessons and learning tools, but yeah that is also something I need to do.

check this blog


Very cool…TY…

Two things to note. 1) You can provide your own meaning to any of the radicals and words WK presents. I would use this sparingly, but if I don’t like the way WK presents something (like the “real” radical), I will put in an alternate.

  1. Since you are just starting, your workload is minimal and it feels frustrating. It took me a while to really understand the way the WK system is setup. There is a graphic frequently posted in the forums that shows the “full pace” workload. You will be feeling the pain starting around level 10-15 depending on your pace, when your reviews are hundreds per day. BTW, at my current pace I’m on a 5 year track to completion :expressionless:

It still doesn’t make sense to be honest. I did nothing new for a week with all the radicals- then boom like 40 new words dumped on me at once. A few more days and boom it says another 42+ are ready. Learned my lesson this time and won’t do the lessons until I"m really done with the stuff I have on my plate right now.

This is what every other Japanese language site I’ve been to does. Teach a few basic things then a huge info-dump to really hit you hard and confuse the heck out of you.

They all claim to have science behind them, but science doesn’t cater for individuals and businesses should. And businesses which say they listen to all feedback and then say they won’t do anything with it shouldn’t bother asking for the feedback in the first place.

I’ve tried probably a dozen odd different sites, apps, games etc. and they’re all the same- none cater for individual needs. You all seem to just have your way which you claim is the best because and there’s no need to change anything. Well people aren’t statistics and personal customisation is not a detriment to learning, quite the opposite. I’m over 50 years old now and I’ve learned a few things in my life. I know what works for me and what doesn’t. Nobody else can possibly have the same sort of insight into how an individual learns than that person does- just from generalising based on statistical data.

Anyway, I like giving feedback even if it’s ignored, so here’s some more.

This place would be even more awesomer (than you already think it is) with the customisation I’m talking about.

***Let us choose which kanji to learn when- including which compound kanji from the originals. As in, just set a basic amount of kanji for each lesson like 6 or 10 or whatever it is and you scroll through the kanji and start off with those you’re most familiar with. You will get to learn the kanji you know even better and as you go you will need to choose more and more you’re unfamiliar with, but you’ll start off with what is easiest for you personally. Not based on some irrelevant statistical model.
(You could still start off with the radicals, they are fully customisable and it is a decent introduction to your method>)

Reason 1: To me it makes learning 10x harder when being taught words that are never used. “to insert”. as an example. I don’t use it daily, can’t think of any way I would use this. I could artificially think of something “insert key into lock” - that’s something I do every day but I never ‘think’ that word to go along with it. I do think a lot of other words though, so it’s easier to learn words I do use, surely?
Compared to let’s say blue, red and spirit- three kanji taught in the first year of school in Japan. Colours- super common so I can think 青あお and 赤あか every time I see something blue or red. Same with 気き which is not only a cool word/kanji but part of something just as common- the sky 天気。But you leave these easy to remember words until later.
This is a natural way to learn, at least for me. I see stuff every day and associate words with these things so what better place to start learning new words for things than the familiar? If the only place I’m ever going to practically see or think about a word is on a language app it’s not going to have much hold on my memory. This is no doubt at least partly why they choose to teach them to children first- and if children who are learning these as their first words can handle them why do you think we can’t?
Reason 2: So, you could still choose familiar words for us, but this is where a lot of language lessons fail me also. They focus a lot on people who are actually going to Japan and need to know how to order food in restaurants, use public transport, introduce yourself a hundred times a day to actual Japanese people etc. But again if we’re not doing these common things those lessons are useless to us- at least as beginners- cluttering up our heads with irrelevant information.
As someone who is exposing myself to Japanese by reading and listening to it for hours each day I want to, obviously, learn the words I am seeing and hearing repeatedly before anything else. They are words I am super motivated to learn. And when I learn them they lead to other words which complement them and my vocabulary grows naturally.
They are words that I already naturally see and hear every day so remembering them is not only easy it’s super fun.
On the other hand seeing and hearing so many words each day that I really want to learn and then going to study words that I won’t hear/see/need for a long time is the opposite of fun. Just boring and irrelevant right now. Sure, not everything has to be for right now, but the majority shouldn’t be for the big picture either.
Anyway, I think I’ve gotten my point across for what it’s worth. Nobody offers customisation and that would really be worth paying for. I really like the idea you have here of focussing on learning the words here since that is what my approach already is. I was hoping this could be the main place I learned but I really think there will be no such place for me after getting the same inflexibility everywhere so far.
I’ll just go back to plastering my house walls with words. :slight_smile: It worked for the kana and the first 80 kanji and no doubt it will keep working as long as I keep putting effort into it. Soooo much cheaper than paying lots of different people for little bits of what is needed too.

I mean really, if I think I will be able to learn 魔法 quicker than 工 how does that hurt anyone?

Thanks for the reply. I use custom names on all but one or two of the radicals. Mostly I use the kanji name which already exists but if not I use a name that actually means something to me so I can remember it.

You don’t ever put things in other things? Like, what do you do when you get your groceries home from the market? The ones that need to be refrigerated?

I don’t “insert” my food into the fridge.

What japanese verb do you think they use for that action?