Heisig and WaniKani

So lately I have been hearing how great the Heisig is and that it is arguably the best method for kanji how would WaniKani compare to Heisig? should i start one drop the other or ?

Ps. I did look at couple other threads they were similar but none really answered the question one wanted to do both other one already started Heisig before ect…

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Lots of threads about this out there, you never need to limit your search to WK forums

EDIT: Also, you’re asking a community that uses WK. Sure, some may have used RTK in the past, but if they are on WK, then they most likely stopped, preferred WK, and are biased.


Haha so true… thanks for some reason I had never thought of searching reddit

It’s apples and oranges.

WaniKani’s main focus is on comprehension, using a very rigid system of radicals -> kanji -> vocabulary. WaniKani’s main advantage in my opinion is that everything is automatic. You don’t need to worry about creating a study plan, don’t really need to think about the question of “What should I study next?” or “How should I study?” you don’t even need to really worry about how much you want to study at any given time, since WK does all of that for you. And WK provides tools to aid you in remember every single kanji and most of the vocabulary to boot.

Heisig’s main focus is on writing the kanji, and understanding the meanings. It doesn’t even include readings of the kanji, or sample vocabulary as far as I know. It also doesn’t even have mnemonics for remembering all of the kanji, expecting you to create your own after a certain point. However, there are lots of resources that you can find online for readings, mnemonics and so on, if you really like. I personally think that’s a little bit of a hassle.

Another system is Kodansha’s Kanji Learner’s course. It turns the WaniKani system on its head, teaching radicals and vocabulary alongside kanji, so you learn everything at once. It also provides mnemonics, which are arguably more ‘professional’ than WK’s (no pop culture references, fewer ‘silly’ radical names, etc.). But again, you need to handle study and review on your own, usually by downloading pre-made Anki decks, but there isn’t much support beyond that.

I would say WK is the easiest system to use, since you don’t really have to think about it much. If you enjoy WK’s style (for mnemonics for example), and don’t mind that the pace is rigidly controlled for you, I would say it’s the best system. Heisig is best if you want to focus on writing kanji, and understanding the meanings only, focusing on vocabulary and everything else at another time. Kodansha would be best if you want to control your own pace of study, or if you find the WK mnemonics a little silly for your taste. However, mnemonics are only provided for kanji, not vocabulary, which might be a factor for you as well.

Either way, I would not say any particular system is “best.” It all comes down to your personal preference.


Personally I don’t understand why anyone does Heisig. Couldn’t stand it.


Thank you all for answers I was just wondering because online ive seen a lot of flak for wanikani and everyone praising heisig so I was curious. Instead of making another thread I will just ask here, what is the diffrence between はじめますand 開始。。。ます?

If your goal is to learn random English keywords and not be able to read a single bit of Japanese, then use RTK. If your goal is to actually learn Japanese, use something else.

Also I don’t know where you’re seeing this massive praise for RTK unless it is Koohii or something

When somebody mentions Heisig



well… I like WaniKani was just wondering how they compared, I will be buying the lifetime come my next paycheck for sure.

LoL plantron

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RTK is basically like 1/4 of WK. It’s just the mnemonics but it doesn’t teach any readings or vocab or anything, so you’re left on your own to do that. I’m not sure there’s much more to say beyond that.

It’s also worth noting the English keywords are not necessarily “meanings”.

I’ve heard people say that they felt the keywords from Heisig allowed them to be able to guess vocab meanings. But you only need to look as far as the opposite pair vocab to see how limited that is.


This just shows that knowing two kanji doesn’t mean you can guess a vocab’s meaning.

I’ve always considered Heisig to be worthless for lack of a readings component. What are people trying to learn Kanji for to begin with? I thought is was to be able to read the language and not just blindly reproduce characters they don’t really understand (it’s hard to truly understand a character out of the context of vocabulary and sentences even if you have a word in your native tongue to anchor it to).

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Do you mean 初めまして 「はじめまして」 and 開始? If so… the first means “Nice to meet you” (or at least that is how it is often translated when watching subs), while the second means “beginning” or “start”. I have never seen it with the ます… That likely means “it starts” or maybe “Nice beginnings/Happy beginnings”? (The second offering, is a wild guess on my part.)

It’s hard to explain the literal translation of 初めまして. (At least this late, my brain is turning into mush, been working on grad school application essay answers all evening.)

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Sorry probably my fault for trying to use kanji haha… I was meaning more to the はじめる means to start and かい。。。します example イベントは何時から開始しますit also means to start was wanting to know what the dissimilarities were

I assume they mean exactly what they said, はじめる

And they’re fundamentally the same, the different is that 開始 being a Sino word, is more literary.

If you ever aren’t sure, the best tool to use is Google Images in my opinion.

For example, if you Google image はじめます you see lots of images of people. Part of that seems to be because a manga series uses that verb, but I also found a picture captioned “釣りはじめます!” – “beginning fishing” or maybe “fishing for the first time.”

However, if you Google image 開始, you can notice a funny thing–no images of people whatsoever. What you see are mainly company logos and products.

Based on this, I would guess that はじめます is used when you are a person choosing to do or begin something, where as 開始 is mainly used for companies or products that are newly released. Or some other kind of ‘event’ that’s starting.

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ooh that is a new way that I never thought of doing thanks for the tip!

I feel that Heisig is for… N3/N2 and above; not for people with beginner Japanese. To earn maximal profit from RTK, you have finish it, not just 500 or something, like WaniKani, because it is not sorted by School Grades.

About how to study, instead of studying just keywords, make sure you know all aspects of Kanji, eventually meaning (as in www.kanjipedia.jp not just Keyword), of course.

Also, RTK is better than WaniKani for writing.

But you have to know Shape->Some reading->Meaning->Associated vocabs->All common readings, respectively. Kanji-in-the-wild learning pattern (outside WaniKani)

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Outside is scary.


I dont like the RTK method because it separates recognition of the general “meaning” of the kanji and its readings in 2 steps and it makes you finish step 1 before starting step 2.

That being said I sometimes refer to Koohi or Kanji Damage when I don’t like a WK mnemonic and can’t build my own.
The only point that I like better in RTK is how it uses “kanjis as radicals” much more than WK. (I mean that once you know a kanji they reuse that knowledge as soon as the kanji is used in another one instead of reusing the basic radicals).

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