Bad Mnemonics

Some of WK’s mnemonics are great. Others, not so much. I think there are two main problems - mnemonics that don’t cover the entire sound and mnemonics where the same mnemonic is used for multiple different sounds.

The first problem is mnemonics that don’t cover the entire sound. English tends to not emphasize unstressed vowels, making them hard to remember, and it really doesn’t help when WK’s mnemonics don’t cover them.

For example, I’ve been plagued by 認める for many months. The WK mnemonic, “meat” is rather unhelpful - is that supposed to be mito or mita? Who knows? I remembered that the “meat” in 認める went one way and the “mead” in 乱れる went the other, but I could never remember which was which, no matter how hard I tried. I only recently managed to start getting it right after coming up with my own mnemonic (you can recognize me by “me toe”).

To compound this problem, WK sometimes uses the same mnemonic for multiple different sounds. To be honest, I have no idea how they could even do this. It’s such a basic and obvious thing to get wrong.

Luckily, WK’s mnemonics for onyomi kanji readings are pretty consistent - “road” is always ro, “roe” is always rou, “rowboat” is always ryou, “robe” is always ryo, etc. However, for vocab, things are much less consistent.

For example, WK uses the mnemonic “shit” for shita in 下, 親しい, etc. but shito in 淑やか. Likewise, “hag” is used for both hage (激しい, 励ます), but also haga in 鋼.


I think those are the worst. I’ve been considering many times to complain about them


I have noticed some inconsistencies with the mnemonics. I came across one sometime last week but I can’t remember it now. Perhaps it will help to email Wanikani about them so that they can correct them in a content update.

If it helps, for 鋼 you can remember the reading because it has 金 (かね) in it. I didn’t research but there might even be historical roots to that.


All I can say is that since these are all really common words (with the exception of 淑やか, I suppose) they’ll be fully engrained in your consciousness from exposure. I guess it’s why I never noticed.


I will occasionally take a glance at the mnemonics but won’t always use them. The best mnemonics are the ones you make yourself where you can incorporate your own impressions, experiences and sense to them. Also, for mnemonics that don’t cover the entire sound, sometimes I like to use other Japanese words in my mnemonics that have an identical pronunciation. しょうがない which sounds like the phrase しょうがない meaning ‘cannot be helped’

Actually, despite burning this item a year ago, it looks like I forgot the reading :sweat_smile:

I actually had one written down in my notes but forgot it…

It’s hard TO RECOGNISE someone when you MEET (MI-TO) them for the first time.


While true, I was under the impression the mnemonics justified the pay for this service. It seems like if the user is going to come up with the mnemonics themselves, why not just go ahead and use Anki?


Just to add, some mnemonics obviously don’t have much effort behind them and those items end up being difficult to memorize.

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I dont use any of the mnemonics. I use WaniKani mostly for convenience :thinking:


Really? You just don’t like Anki?

I love Anki. I use Anki multiple times every day for other stuff. Just that setting up a proper Radical → Kanji → Vocab deck that has decent pacing seems like too much of a bother.
Most community decks I’ve seen that do this right are ripoffs from WaniKani, so I’d rather be a decent human being and pay the few bucks. I’m lucky enough to not be hurting for money.


Are there actually Anki decks that function like WK, where things get unlocked as you progress without you having to think about it at all? I realize that if you want to spend hours getting good at using Anki you can apparently do more than the basic functionality, but getting good at Anki is not a goal of mine.


I don’t think setting up something automatic like “You got the Kanji right x times → Vocab unlocked” is possible in Anki. The only way I see someone doing something similar is by spacing out the cards. E.g. you learn 15 cards every day, so you put 60+ cards inbetween the Kanji and the relating Vocab.


Okay, yeah, that’s kind of what I thought. WK does more than just provide mnemonics.


I have yet to ingrain any of those words in my consciousness, from exposure or otherwise. It’s harder and takes a lot longer than you seem to think.

I can usually recognize 励ます when it comes up on a podcast, but that’s about it, and recognizing a word doesn’t mean you remember exactly how it sounds either (see also, the whole thing with English speakers ignoring terminal vowel sounds - this is a huge problem when trying to learn Spanish or Italian as well).


Yea the push notifications are nice but just getting into the habit of checking a deck regularly could handle that and some of the mnemonics really do help me retain the information a little quicker. I guess the organization is helpful but sometimes makes me question the order of it.

Hm. The more I think about it the more I want to try managing it on my own to see what happens.

And I just remembered the push notifications I’m getting come from Flaming Durtles. Oops.

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I didn’t say anything about it happening quickly. It will happen if you expose yourself to enough Japanese though, that’s all. The same can’t be said about all words. Some just don’t appear at the same frequency to rely on mere exposure.


Also, Anki Web’s UI is terrible. It doesn’t even support auto playing audio. Also, you need the desktop version to import a deck or change settings in the first place anyway. Wanikani can be done entirely on a Chromebook, Anki can’t.

Yea it is pretty bad but I’m not entirely impressed with WK’s UI. The forum is a nice add on though

What do you mean by “checking a deck regularly.” You’d have to create the whole dependency structure yourself. Getting a radical to guru automatically puts the associated kanji into my lesson queue, and yes… you could do that yourself, but it’s just a hassle on the scale of the number of items WK has. You really want to manually keep track of “oh, I got this kanji right, so now a kanji that combines with it and this other kanji from a month ago means I can now add this other vocab”?


I dunno, it’s kind of impossible to predict what mnemonics will work and what won’t. I don’t think you can really assign an objective value to them passed “it worked for me” or “it didn’t work for me”. Sure sometimes they seem lazy or completely nonsensical but then sometimes they end up sticking in your mind precisely because of how notably lazy or nonsensical they are. I’ve also noticed that sometimes stuff sticks because I read other people complaining about a mnemonic. So like hypothetically, if it sticks for 5 people because 1 person struggled, does that make it good or bad in the end?