Creating better mnemonics for radicals

You make a good point (about 土), and I actually think that that would be a more ideal useage of the Add Synonym function. The entry would invisibly accept all the most common synonyms of a word (to be added when the entry is created), and the Add Synonym would be there to catch the occasional slip-up or omission.

Regarding 麻垂れ and countless other radicals whose names do not neatly match an actual meaning, I think those are outside the scope of my suggestion, but if I were to expand its scope then I would suggest attempting to link them to real meanings wherever possible, because of what I said above about neural links and the huge impact that has on effective memorization.

For that specific example, my shoot-from-the-hip (no, this is not a veiled insult to the WK designers) idea would be a cliff off of which marijuana is hanging, and the little dot at the top represents the stoner who is sitting there wondering how to get to it. That would eventually create simultaneous cognitive connections to 垂れる, to 麻薬, and to the radical’s name itself. The English name you choose for the radical (“cliff,” for example) would be somewhat (necessarily) arbitrary, but the mnemonic itself would not.

In short, I’m not saying that creating mnemonics with tighter links is necessarily easy to do; I am saying that the pedagogical benefits to doing so are so enormous that the effort is worth it.

That sounds fine for 麻 in a vacuum. But you need to use one word for 广 in all mnemonics to remain consistent, and it has no acceptable direct translation, so you have to do the “picking what it looks like.” WK just extends that to other things, because in the long run the number of people who will even care that the radicals have different meanings sometimes in Japanese is very small.

For as much as people complain about it, the number of people actually putting it into practice is minuscule anyway.

I would love to meet up with a bunch of WK users and discuss つちへんs and まだれs as we walk into the Kanken testing center together, but I will have to wait a bit longer it seems.

:heart_eyes: That would be so helpful.

Check the edit I made at the end of the part you quoted.

Again, the number people who “care” could be zero, and in fact probably is not too far from zero.

I am talking about creating semantic links whose value to their learning is not something they will recognize until much later in their learning process.

It would be glorious, no doubt.

The creators of WK think that people are more likely to make progress with the mnemonics they’ve written. If you lay the groundwork, but more people give up along the way because your mnemonics were more literal translations, but ended up being less memorable or drier, then you haven’t achieved much.

You can argue that the hypothetical collection of mnemonics being proposed could be as memorable, or even more memorable, than what exists now… but that’s easy from this position.

The fact is that WK has decided the benefits of their often goofy, disgusting, bizarre, hilarious mnemonics is the way to go.

…And I thought you’d like my pot mnemonic. :frowning:

(I also think the dichotomy you describe is a false one.)

1 Like

I’m sure Koichi would be proud. But that’s more because the kanji means marijuana in the first place, so you can make it about marijuana.

Nothing in the official radicals is like boob grave, chester the molester, etc.

What, that the literal translations would result in drier mnemonics. I mean, it’s not literally a prerequisite, but when you can make the radicals anything you want, you immediately have more freedom to do bizarre stuff.

Well, please notice that that is the only reason I went out of my way to make it about marijuana: To anticipate future cognitive links.


And yes, of course you have more freedom, but you know what? Sometimes a limitation here and there is an aid to creativity rather than a limiting factor. Many do it on purpose. You know those chiptune composers who limite themselves to the technical capabilities of the original Gameboy?

If you feel up to it, we can play a little game. Throw out radicals with super-dry and boring meanings, and I will come up with mnemonics that satisfy both my quasi-literal requirement and your creativity requirement.

I have no doubt that for any given thing I gave you now, you could come up with something that would be fine on its own.

The actual challenge would be creating the system of 9000 mnemonics, and since it’s already after midnight I’ll pass for now.

Well yes, and for that the radical’s name needs to be kept simple, right? Like in the example above (“cliff”).

Indeed it is late. Good night.

I don’t know that that’s necessarily a prerequisite. But none of the WK radical names are full sentences like まだれ would have to be if translated literally, if that’s what you mean, and yes, avoiding that where possible is fine. But WK goes with “mullet” for 广, and that’s not more complex than “cliff” in that it’s one word with a fairly straightforward meaning. WK would argue that people have stronger feelings about mullets than cliffs, well I guess as long as they’re not afraid of heights.

Probably. And I would argue that people have stronger feelings about weed than mullets.

…But I could be wrong.

Uh, probably am.

I don’t see how that relates… you called 广 “cliff” in the 麻 mnemonic. But anyway.

With a stoner sitting on top of the cliff, yes.

Are you proposing that people would have to answer “stoner on a cliff” for the radical name? That’s not simple, but it sounds more WK-ish to me at least.

No, but that would be hilarious for sure.

If you insist that the ridiculousness lie solely in the name itself (and let’s face it, it’s hard to get more ridiculous than “mullet”) rather than in the mnemonic which links to subsequent meanings, related vocab, etc., then I would not be able to meet both my requirement and yours. Perhaps you think that alone is enough to kill my suggestion.

But I think the current compromise (abandoning any and all links to subsequent meanings, related vocab., etc.) is a greater one.

Well, WK does have non-ridiculous radicals, but you can’t teach it as “cliff” and then just say that now it’s a cliff with a stoner on it in that one mnemonic, and presumably something else when it’s in 店 or something, that’s all.

But you do have to justify that dot somehow, even if the name in the end is only “cliff.” How should you do that?

My suggestion is the answer to that question: Link it to real words as much as possible.

Yeah, that’s fine. It’s just that it has to be “stoner on a cliff” all the time or none of the time, because otherwise you only know if that dot is a stoner if you are working backward from the kanji meaning, which is what the mnemonic is supposed to be helping you remember in the first place.

Isn’t that how many of the wanikani radicals already work?

Do all subsequent kanji reference the totem pole out of which a toe is sticking?