Children and Wanikani

First of all, I’m new to Wanikani myself at almost level 6. I’ve been using it obsessively and intend to do so until I finish (wish me luck!). This is my first post.

Secondly, my 11 year old daughter has shown interest in taking this on with me. She certainly isn’t doing it as aggressively as I am, but she is at least maintaining interest so far. She is almost level 3, and I told her if she reaches level 3 I will gladly get her a subscription to continue.

It is a well-known fact that children are better at learning a new language than adults are, so I thought it would be cool to get her involved. Plus, it’s great to have an in-house study buddy!

I don’t really have any specific questions regarding this, but was just looking to open a conversation about it. Does anyone have any experience, stories, etc about wanikani and children? Any advice on keeping her motivated, etc? Would love to hear from anyone with an opinion on the matter!


Children nowadays are often more internet-adept than older people, so she should have no problem whatsoever following WK’s method.


Just to remind you that Wanikani is not particulary children-friendly. In the middle of 6300 words, it has “testicles” (level 5), “orgy” (level 19) and “polygamy” (level 20).

They’ve been improving the example sentences and mnemonics in regards to obscenity as well, but you might not agree with the current state of it.

Nevertheless, I really love that you’re doing this with your daughter! :clap:

In terms of motivation, I’m not in a position to give advice on being a father (I’m still a 23yo kid), but I find that positive reinforcement is the way to go when it comes to either creating habits for yourself or raising children. Parents usually go for the punishment method (“If you don’t do x, I’ll take the games from you!”). I think it makes a lot more sense to invest on positive reinforcement (“If you get to level x, I’ll buy you this cute manga!”).

Wishing you both all the best :grin:


Hoping to teach my daughter some Japanese, and Spanish.
Of course, she needs to learn how to talk first :baby:


Also, the mnemonic for かく is cock (but totally the bird) and for ふく it’s f**k (or similar bleeped out version).


Thanks for the replies so far, great information! The inappropriate words are good to be aware of, but I’m not overly concerned. She is a pretty mature kid and can handle some vague adult references. This isn’t her first time on the internet, after all.

I have no intention on requiring this of her, I want her to do it for fun which is what’s happening so far. She enjoys that she is doing this with me, which so far is her primary motivation. I also would like to take her on a Tokyo vacation at some point in the coming years, so that’s a fun carrot to hold over her.

Keep em coming, would love to hear from someone who’s been in a similar situation!


Based off what I’ve read, now’s the time to start speaking to her in another language, even if their simple so she starts ingraining the meanings into her mind.

Speaking to your child would also cement the easy lines of dialog into your own mind as well.


My daughter is really into anime and manga and started with WK but it didn’t last long. Fortunately she stopped before I got a subscription for her. To be fair she is 14 and gets a lot of homework from school and she said that it was too much time commitment. I was a bit disappointed though.

Have to smile about the “appropriate language” concern. My daughter goes to a private, all girls school. I have a very good relationship with her so she tells me everything. Pretty much all her friends and aquaintances swear like troopers. They have all watched porn. What did actually shock me a bit was the number that have already received dick pics. I can imagine that many of their parents don’t know what really happens.


Please do not speak to your children in a language you’re just learning yourself, especially if your input is the only one in that language. You’ll end up teaching them a language very, very different than what you’re learning.


Yeah, I’ll randomly say things to her in Japanese sometimes. I don’t know Spanish, so none of that. Wish I actually tried back in High School. Oh well.
Though its probably not a good idea. Will she pick up the Japanese word for something, instead of the English. Also, what are the odds I’m saying things to her wrong. Don’t want her learning incorrectly. :stuck_out_tongue: Will speaking to her in two languages confuse her and make things more difficult for her?
It’d be one thing if she needed to speak two languages, and her parents spoke two languages well. Potentially doing more harm than good.


I hear that, although children are more adept to learning a language, reading is skill that can be picked up at nearly any age. So if age is something that wants to be used as an advantage, then listening and speaking practice, I think, would be more appropriate.

I’m basing that off of vague memories of conclusions I’ve made which are mostly assumptions, so of course, you might want to do some research on that.

Also I think that advantage applies to one’s ability to being able to replicate what you hear, so a child would have a better accent if they’re listening to a native speak rather than someone learning. There shouldn’t be any harm to memorizing the Hiragana for every word, though.

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Let’s be fair, young children learn their first language “easily” because a) They have no other choice than to do so, in order to communicate b) They live 24/7 with a teacher, their parents c) They’re fully immersed in the country their learn in.

Their brains might be a bit more plastic, but most of the learning advantages come from the reasons above, and don’t especially apply to a language they’ll almost never hear outside of self-study and that is wholly different from their first one. After all, the amount of classmates that were garbage at english or spanish in my (french) school stupefied me even at a young age, so.

With that said, it’s of course cute and encouraging for a child to dare pick up japanese, and I hope it will go well. Considering the workload Wanikani brings however, and the low practical uses if done alone, I’d definitely recommend some other methods that yield more immediate results, such as taking classes or something like that. I think a child would be much happier learning to say “watashi wa Ameria desu” than to do 200 reviews of “nuclear fission” “minister of foreign affairs” “government office building”.


im particularly glad ive learnt 一夫多妻 and 閣議 among others

These are good things and concerns to think about.

Although, if there is a solution, then take it. The idea of independent learning is very foreign in my family. I’m the first person to graduate high school in my family for a long time (as of this may 2019), but I totally wished that my family was more education oriented, so I do admire that type of mindset. Goodluck!

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I can at least speak as a parent of a boy who was 11 years old 15 years ago. I wouldn’t be particularly concerned about “inappropriate” language. That’s probably the language that children or at least adolescents are most eager to learn. I’d be more concerned about whether she could maintain interest once you get to the levels where there are so many words for “feeling” and “action” and “government”, etc. Wanikani is really build with an adult audience in mind who (hopefully) don’t mind wading through many iterations of similar concepts but which might be overly boring for a young person if the motivation wasn’t sufficient.

That said, I wouldn’t discourage her from trying. But I might keep the subscriptions to monthly so that you can cancel if she loses interest.

I think that would be fine, but especially if either a) you spoke the language well enough to teach it competently or b) your child was able to engage with that language outside your relationship (like talking to other people who speak that language or taking a class). But even if it just became like a private language between the two of you, there’s probably nothing wrong with that, and your child will soon figure out what language to use in which occasion.

My wife spoke to our son only in Japanese and I spoke English to him. We live in Canada, so naturally my son at two years old figured out that this meant that he should speak Japanese to his mother and English to everyone else. So when he and my wife visited Japan for the first time after he started talking, he tried to talk to all of her family members there in English. I think he got straightened out in a day or so, but it was pretty funny for a while.


Children do not get confused when they hear more than 1 language (or 2, or 3) – they know which person understands which language. In case a person understands more than 1 of their language, they’ll use something that’s called code-switching.

That said: trying to teach a kid a language that someone is not native (or native-level) in will lead to the child internalising wrong grammar, syntax, phonology, and vocabulary usage. It would end up being a single-family creole language, which is all but useless if you want the kid to be able to function in that language.

Please only speak to your child in your native language(s), especially if the your target language isn’t spoken by the child’s other main caretakers. That covers kindergarten as well – unless the teacher isn’t a native or native-level in your target language (and it isn’t the language spoken by the rest of society), don’t let them use it with your child.

Addendum: language learners do not typically learn child language in their target language; by using only your foreign language, you’ll be depriving them of both the target language’s child culture (rhymes, games, specific words and grammar that help internalise the language’s rules) and your native language’s child culture.


Thanks everyone for the replies, this is exactly the sort of conversation I was hoping to strike up!

I’m a beginner in Japanese myself, so I certainly wouldn’t by any means try to teach it to her. I’m simply offering her the tools that I use, so she can learn along with me. This started based on her interest, too. It was her idea, not mine. But I love the idea and just hope I can keep her into it because A. it’s a fun thing for her and I to learn together, and B. Keeping her motivated keeps me motivated!


I respectfully disagree with this part of your comment. While I do think it would be foolish of someone to try to exclusively communicate with a child in a language that they don’t have native-level proficiency in, I have a hard time imagining that occasional use on whatever level that the adult learner knows would cause any serious or permanent harm to the child. I wouldn’t want to discourage a parent from sharing something they’re interested in with their child by doing things like reading a board book together, or using set phrases or simple sentences.


Occasional use wouldn’t make a child bilingual. I’m talking strictly about talking to a child in your foreign language (that’s different from the surrounding language) in order to make them bilingual. Reading them the occasional book wouldn’t teach children anything about that language; they’d listen for the tone of voice and the pretty pictures and not retain anything ¯\(ツ)


testicals, orgy and polygamy are not foul language…