Going through wanikani without using any mnemonics and stories

I joined WaniKani maybe 1 and a half month ago. I left after a week of use coz at that time my brain didn’t accept the core idea. Later came back to it and now going strong and punctual. Its quite fun. The thing I wanted to talk about is I am not using the stories and mnemonics to remember stuff. In lessons I just try to memorize the kanji’s visual appearance and its readings directly without the help of any stories and mnemonics, so far its working. Did anyone of you did that too? Is it common to do? Am I gonna be fine or making a grave mistake.


That’s mostly what I do. Sometimes I’ll glance at the mnemonics, though that’s mostly because I’m the type of person who’ll try to read any words in front of them, but they generally don’t help me and in fact sometimes hurt me because I remember the wrong parts of them (if I remember them at all). You may come across items where you’ll have to come up with your own mnemonic or some other way of remembering them (especially once you start getting to more similar-looking kanji), but I think you’ll be fine skipping the mnemonics. They’re really only there to help serve as a bridge until you get to the point where you can look at it and quickly know what it is without having to remember the mnemonic first (generally no more than a few reviews for most items), and if something else works better for you, then that’s what works for you.


As long as it’s working do whatever works for you! I at first didn’t use many of them as I had already known what some of the kanji were, but I’ve actually found the mnemonics a lot more helpful as the kanji get more and more complicated!

I would say keep doing you, but don’t be afraid to look at em if it starts getting to be a bit rough on the brain!


Personally for me the mnemonics help a ton with remembering the meaning and spelling of kanji and vocab.
Without them I’d probably do much worse.
But everyones way of learning is different. Do what works best for you.


I don’t read them.

I have glanced at some and I worry they will make things harder not easier, like if the sound is とう and they are telling a story about hurting your toe when it comes up I will probably end up typing とえ instead. They also seem to talk and tacos and cheese a lot, I feel like that will be confusing if I take the time to remember 10 different stories about tacos.

Some of them are also very American, like imagine you are drinking a Zima. I don’t know that is. According to wikipedia it’s no longer a drink in the USA either since 2008 so maybe that one’s just not very good, haha.

Maybe I should do an experiment on the next level where I read the mnemonics for half of the characters I don’t already know and not the other half, and see if they stick faster.


In the beginning I didn’t read them much, but as time went on and more and more visually similar kanji were being added I found the mnemonics really helped.


Personally, I don’t complain that much about mnemonics, as I usually make them, rather than using existing. (Still, I do remember quite a few about WaniKani’s lore.)

Ideally, it might be better to try making connection with something else Japanese, maybe by the sound of vocabularies. However, it might be better to use what comes up first, then change / adapt later.

There is also a thing about whether mnemonics are good enough for the shape of the Kanji. The truth is I adapted quite a lot from RTK’s radicals as well.


This. I feel like trying to remember 2000+ kanji purely based on their rough appearance is just a recipe for disaster. It works well for kana and simple kanji if you drill it enough, but when you’re dealing with 踊 and 躍, 哀 and 衰, 係 and 孫, and 隣 and 傑 every single review session, you’re going to go insane, and those kanji are just going to keep bouncing between apprentice and guru.


Well. I have quite good memory for memorizing patterns. I have been illustrating for very long. I will see when I get to them.

I should add that if I have somehow given the impression that I dislike the mnemonics or stories, that is not the case. I am just indifferent to them. Maybe it will change once I really need them. Fingers crossed.

Even if you don’t use the mnemonics, you should get used to breaking kanji down into radicals, regardless of what you call them.

For example, the only difference between 待 and 持 is that one has the loiter radical on the left and the other has the fingers radical. Otherwise, it’s going to get confusing as you run into kanji that differ only slightly.


Another thing about “Kanji” is about how parts are composed, along the line of SKIP code.

Those days I also did single Kanji handwriting (on AnkiDroid), so not only mnemonics count.

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I think they’re needed. If you don’t use theirs, make up your own and put in the notes.

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I think for the lower level Kanji Mnemonics are probably not needed, but if you go to higher levels it will get more difficult to recall all of them + reading if you don´t have some kind of mnemonic.
I rely on them a lot, I made the experience that I can remember Kanji in the short term without any help if I wanted too, but later on I forgot it or confused it with something else.
Of course there are still some where I don´t care about the story because sometimes a Kanji just really looks like it´s meaning, even though it´s not a pictogram. I think my aspergers is coming in handy there. And then there are also some where I make up my own story, either because the one from WK isn´t all that good, or because I have one that makes it easier for me. Since I have german and english under my belt there are a lot more words to pull from for the mnemonics.

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This is the best advice.

Mnemonics are an aid to short/medium term retention while learning, but aren’t used for the ultimate goal: immediate, effortless recognition of written Japanese. If you can retain maintain reasonable accuracy rates without them, and without notes or online lookups, even for items in earlier stages, then don’t worry about it.

In my case, I found them useful when first learning new kanji on each level, but rarely if ever use them for vocabulary (or radicals). Nor do I rely on them for master/enlightened items — in fact, if I feel I do need to use a mnemonic to answer a master/enlightened review correctly, I’ll sometimes intentionally answer incorrectly just so that I can get in more reviews for that item.

Since about level 30 or so, I’ve noticed that I rarely use them even for new kanji lessons anymore. I eventually learned to just trust the SRS and not fear mistakes or “unnecessary” repetitions (more repetitions can only help, not hurt).

I strongly suspect that, like me, you’ll eventually find yourself occasionally using mnemonic stories or visual cues to disambiguate some characters that you frequently answer incorrectly. It does get much harder in later levels because so many characters are so similar to each other.

Use them when you need them.


This is exactly right. Above I was talking about using mnemonic stories to get stuff into short term memory.

It’s impossible to read kanji without being able to disaggregate the radicals (or all components) within a character, and disambiguate that character from other similar ones.


I notice you don’t include writing of Japanese in your goal :slight_smile: Recognition’s a lot easier than production, IME, and less demanding that you remember exactly which combination of parts distinguishes two complex kanji… (Still in the end you’re aiming to just write, but I found that mnemonics give you some hope of being able to recall the right character when your mind goes blank on how to write a word.)

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Very true. I admire people that learn to _hand_write kanji, and I’ve little doubt that it helps to learn the characters better.

Personally, my writing is entirely limited to using an IME (phone or computer). As you point out, it’s far, far, FAR easier to recognize a correct character than it is to produce it outright.

I “write” Japanese like I speak it. (Poorly! :laughing: ) That is, I literally cannot handwrite even kana much less kanji, but I communicate via email or text in Japanese fairly often. I speak it even more often (my “production” is effectively limited to speaking out loud or “speaking” into my IME).

I really should put in the effort to at least learn how to write kana legibly someday. It’s a handicap that I need to use romaji for notes, etc.

Also, I didn’t mean just my goals, fwiw. It’s clear that WK itself is aimed at learning to read. It pretty much ignores writing and production.


That specific example feels like it was more Japanese… Zima was still available in Japan long after it stopped being available in the US.

Though, yes, generally speaking, cultural references of any kind are kind of doomed to die.


Pretty much what I do after getting new kanji passed apprentice. Don’t worry about your method, in the end the stuff you really remember are the ones you read or hear later in manga and Japanese videos.

Just wanna share my own experience with this.

My girlfriend and I are both living in Japan. She is a student at a language school and I work here. We often do WK reviews and lessons together. The one difference is that I use the mnemonics almost religiously while she chooses to skip them since her native language is mandarin and she barely needs help remembering the meaning of most multikanji words. However, when it comes to the kunyomi and strange readings for kanji she struggles immensely. I have noticed that my accuracy with remembering the readings for the words is much higher than hers and I do think that it is partly due to my usage of the mnemonics as when she struggles to remember a reading I can guide her to it by painting out the story of a mnemonic (either our own or WK’s). One of the most memorable instances was when she couldn’t remember the kunyomi reading for the word 泉 and I just made the sounds for the Mario theme song and she instantly screamed out いずみ Mario.

As others have stated, the main purpose of the mnemonics is to give you some sort of link to the meaning/reading in the early days or if you end up forgetting the reading. In my case I stop needing to consciously think of them after about the second or third review, but it helps a lot when doing enlightened items I haven’t seen in a while. The other helpful aspect of the mnemonics is the continuity of some of the characters (Kouichi, Grandpa Kouichi, Mrs Chou, Jourm etc) just being able to link them to a kanji almost always helps me to remember at least one of the readings without even needing to try.

In the end whatever works best for you will be the best choice, but I would advise against obstinately refusing to use the mnemonics because of the perception that they are silly or not helpful. Some might help you a lot when you are unable to remember based off of the strength of your memory alone.


Yeah I really to at least learn to write the kana. But I know in a pinch I can pull something up on my phone and just copy it from there, so there’s no real push to do so right now.

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