I love WK, mostly because of its structure, i.e. I really appreciate the ordering of kanji based on visual complexity, and the step by step access to increasingly more complicated items, it’s just great, especially because of the way it teaches you to deconstruct kanji into digestible “building blocks”, so even though the items are more and more complex, they don’t feel more intimidating. I can already see that it’s working.
The mnemonics though… not really a fan.
This is probably not the case for a lot of people here, but I personally don’t use the WK mnemonics all that much (barely at all): my brain just forgets them instantly. It’s harder for me to retain those than it is to retain the meaning or reading of a kanji or vocabulary on their own, since the mnemonics are, for the most part, unrelated to the kanji or the vocabulary. I’m not saying I actively dislike them (Mrs. Chou is so great ), they’re just unhelpful to me.
That being said, what I think would greatly improve WK is the real explanation/cultural background behind the meaning of one particular kanji, or the actual story behind one particular kanji combination used in vocabulary.
This comes from back when I studied Latin, the most fun part of which had always been the mythology and our teacher’s passion for cultural history. We were always behind on schedule because he could read a verb in a text we were trying to translate and start telling us a 20 minutes story of how it primarily means X, but because back then people thought Y, this verb could also be used to mean Z, and so on (I’m talking about words with 5-6 seemingly disconnected meanings).
What I’m trying to say here is that, while I’m a complete ignorant, I think that Kanji don’t exist in a vacuum: their usage, meanings and readings are heavily intertwined with the Japanese language and culture.
So, not only are we missing out on a substantial part of what a kanji/vocabulary word is when “learning” them here, but we also miss out on explanations that I strongly believe would help us memorizing them, because we would be aware of the “why” and “how” of them coming to be what they are now. It would also give us an inkling into the Japanese way of thinking, which is why I learn any language in the first place (new windows into the world we all share ).
For me they’d be helpful and way more interesting mnemonics, ones that I wouldn’t need (nor necessarily want) to dismiss from my memory later on, once I know how to read Japanese. And even if it’s not possible to have such an explanation for all of them, I’d be looking forward to the ones that would have it.
(Come to think of it: could this be something coming up in the later levels that I just haven’t seen yet? Fewer funny mnemonics or simply more actual explanations? )