How and when to use anki decks?

Hello everyone,
I’m trying to stockpile more vocab knowledge, to reach a level where I can start identifying the words that occur frequently.
Most of the people are pretty happy with Anki decks for this. 3 most popular versions to this are: 2k,6k,10k. Being a beginner, I picked up the 2k deck and started with it.

However, there are just too many unreadable kanjis that I’m unaware of.
I’m somewhat able to recall the words if they are in kana form, or the sound pronunciation is given.
But when the kanji form is thrown at me, I’m just completely clueless.

My question is, what did you people do?
Am I trying to attempt these decks too early on? Would it be better if I returned to them at a higher level of WaniKani? If so, then what would be optimal starting level

Any tips, advice, and suggestions are greatly welcome

Wanikani will get you 8000 very useful words. At level 7, the workload has not yet gotten very large. But it will likely get to 200-300 reviews per day. See What level to get 200+ reviews each day? - #16 by bolaurent.

I think you should just stick to wanikani, and meanwhile work on grammar (which wk does not teach you). Soon enough, WK will have you busy enough.


Okay, great! Thanks a lot!

Consider, it’s a far better platform to Anki IMO with an input format similar to WK. They also have 10k plus any Anki import, super easy Jisho card generation among many other things. Check out the community decks they have as well.


So, I’ve been (slowly, see bolaurent’s comments about being busy) working on the Core 2k6k deck and the Tango N5 deck.

The Tango deck is so easy and gentle it’s not a lot of trouble so just do that one in order.

Core can be daunting when you don’t know the kanji, though.
I wrote a script to assign numbers to 3 new fields in each note in Anki : WK level for the word, WK level for the sentence and Word Frequency. The WK level is based upon the kanji involved, not vocab, so it includes words that use the kanji, but aren’t in WK or are in WK at a later point. Kana only are assigned 0 and kanji not in WK are assigned a 61.

With these numbers, I can filter and sort the Core cards based upon my WK level to only get cards that I have all the kanji known. Every time I go up in level, I unsuspend the cards from the previous level. I don’t include the current level because I won’t have learned those kanji on WK yet.
One really nice side effect of using suspension to skip cards that use kanji I don’t know is that as soon as I finish a WK level and unlock those cards, I get those cards immediately in my next Anki lessons. So I get a bunch of example sentences using those new kanji which really help reinforce the lessons from WK automatically. It’s like free sentence mining with no effort on my part.

I have multiple cards for each note in my deck. Some I have ordered based upon word frequency while others I ordered based upon the Core order. This gives nice variety in the lessons and makes sure that I’m getting the most common/useful words as soon as possible.


Okay, will definitely check that out :slight_smile:

But what I actually meant to ask was, at what level can does tackling additional vocab decks make sense? Because regardless of the platform, the content is bound to remain the same right?

So, if the vocab and the sentences have complex kanji - till what level should you try to attempt them

Yes, Exactly!
Core 2k is quite overwhelming for me
Would you happen to have the link for Tango N5 deck?
Also, the script you talked about sounds super useful, is it published on net? :stuck_out_tongue:

From what I’ve seen, people jump into WK with a variety of experiences beforehand so hard to gauge. I see users who have WK as a primary focus and blast off to level 60. I think this has benefits on keeping the SRS consistent and getting a kanji base more quickly. If you have certain goals like reading books, I can see the benefit as well.

I’ve preferred to focus vocab at the level where I’m at right now which is N3-N2. There is so much vocab outside the WK sphere that I think are more important and common than say levels 50-60 on WK. If you are JLPT-minded, I think this is an influence as well. The negative, it will take longer to get through WK of course. Not to mention, grammar and other language skills takes away WK focus as well but again I consider this a higher priority for my goals. Ideally, if one has the time, you can do everything at once.

edit: typos


Actually, yeah. It would be quite inaccurate to judge/generalize someone’s ability by wanikani’s level. There’s grammar, context and a whole lot of other things. Thanks for pointing that out
So, around N3 or N2 trying to look for additional sources of vocab makes more sense.
Until then, sticking to standard jlpt levels vocab will probably make more sense

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I can recommend immersion, just read/watch/listen to what you want and you will learn the words plus it’s much more fun than grinding flashcards. Of course it is difficult starting off, I used ( is a cheaper alternative) as sort of “training wheels”. You can input Japanese text and lingq highlights words you don’t know and shows their definition.
This also gives you a much better understanding of grammar since you constantly encounter it (you should probably formally learn at least the basic N5 stuff first though).


Thank you very much! Will check this out

Yep, better to atleast have n5 under the belt first :joy:

I had a similar issue when I tried the core decks. You could try torii, it goes through the core 10k, but you have the option to set it to show the words in order of kanji learned in wanikani. Therefore, you will only be seeing words with kanji you learn. It’s not based on frequency this way, so you may see relatively infrequently used words, but you won’t see anything with kanji you don’t yet know.

Or you could go the manual route, which I started doing before I discovered Torii (and I’m too far in to give up on it now). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, since it’s a lot of work, but it ensures you only learn words with kanji you know. For each kanji you know in wanikani, look up all the words using that kanji on jisho. Anything with a tag of JLPT3, JLPT4, or JLPT5, add to your deck. Since this is also a massive time sink and arguably a waste of time, I only do this while passive listening.

Another option is to pick up a kana only deck and start working on that first, then when you have more kanji experience, go back to the 2k deck.

You could also go into the 2k deck and suspend all cards with kanji you don’t know. As you learn more kanji, un-suspend the words. Actually, this is probably the best course of action.

Regardless, I personally don’t recommend waiting to learn extra vocab if you’re able to handle it alongside wanikani, even if it’s just kana words. Even if you only learn 1 word a day (which is what I do when I’m getting overwhelmed), it’s better than nothing, and you’ll be that much more ahead by the time you start consuming native material.


At some point, you will begin to be able to read real Japanese (see WK book clubs, and other recommendations that will surely be posted here, and the volume “Read Real Japanese (essays)”, which has real japanese, lots of explanations, a dictionary of the included words, and a cd of the essays being read at natural speed.

Once you can read, I think a better approach to gaining vocabulary is to read. The Read Real Japanese book can be used to memorize the essays, by re-reading many times while following audio. That will get you all the vocabulary, and also natural pitch variation across the sentences.

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Torii seems really cool, will install it and definitely try it out

Even I thought, considering the additional free time I have, might learn something more in that time.

Priority wise though, is it better to take on n5/n4 vocab before tackling 10k(even though its ordered) ?

Also, Thanks for the recommendation!

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The Tango Deck isn’t exactly free.

It’s from a book. Someone turned the sentences in the book into cards.
yeah people will share the deck but it’s kinda expected that you have purchased the book (and show some proof), since that book provides so much value (even the audio is provided by the publishers) that pirating it is seen as a dick move even in a community where piracy is really common… lol

Good news tho is the book is super cheap at only 1400yen.

As for me, I have the N5 and N4 books but I opted to make the cards myself.
Reason being that to get the most out of anki i feel like you need to really know how to the program works and how to program it and to really know how to create cards and notes.

Plus it gives me a little bit of additional writing (well at least typing) practice. lol

I might get the N4 deck off of someone though once i get to it. I’m only spending like 30mins per day on Anki right now so it will be sometime before I get to that point.


As far as I can tell is web-only and cannot be downloaded to my machine. Otherwise I’d try it.

Plus it doubt I will be compatible with all the anki add-ons out there.

Would be interesting to see how kitsun handles SRS intervals and interval growth, which has been the main criticism i’ve seen of anki. I’ll look into it in the future.

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I have to disagree with a lot of the posts here.

Wanikani is a kanji resource, and absolutely should not be your only vocab source. Start learning grammar as soon as you are comfortable enough with the language to juggle a few things. Pick up a course like Genki I and use the vocab list from that as your additional vocab study. You will easily learn 300-500 words from Genki I that you won’t find on Wanikani because they aren’t written with kanji, and most of them will be as common and useful as anything on Wanikani. I did this with both Genki I and LingoDeer I and ended up with a deck of almost 1000 words with a Wanikani overlap of maybe 200 words.

You don’t want to juggle too much in the beginning which is why I think a lot of people just focus on Wanikani for some time, but learning a bunch of kanji and their associated vocab isn’t going to teach you how to use the language either.


I‘m interested in what sort of criticism you have heard. Can’t you adjust all the SRS intervals in Anki?

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Well, most of the N5 words are extremely common, and the N4 ones are also quite common, so I think those would probably be best to start with. However, a fair number of N5 words use kanji that WK doesn’t teach until level 20+, with some kanji not coming until level 40+.

Personally, I’d recommend learning all the N5 and N4 words that have kanji you’ve learned so far. Once you’ve learned all of those, you can move on to the core 10k. As you learn more kanji, you can go back and learn more N5 and N4 words.

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The Tango Decks are only pseudo-free. They’re based upon a series of books for the JLPT. They have audio lessons that go with the books. Someone compiled them into Anki decks, but only gives the links to people who verified purchase of the books. See: "JLPT Tango N5 1000" Vocabulary Book Review and Anki Deck Demonstration - YouTube for details. The books are pretty inexpensive, though, so it’s a good choice.

The script is currently not on the web. The script was written for a single user (ie, me), so is pretty crufty. I really should clean it up and put it up on github for others to use. I’ll take a look.

I was like you with the Core deck until I got it sorted and customized to my level. With my script based modifications to the Core, it has made it a joy to use. I mean, sure there may be kana words or grammatical constructs I don’t know, but I know enough of the vocabulary that I can make pretty good guesses, and that’s really valuable reading practice.

So yeah, I’ll take a look and see if i can clean the scripts up, maybe over the holidays when I’ll hopefully have some time.

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