How do you learn vocabulary besides WK and should I start already?

After reading your review on drops and thinking about it a little more, I agree with you. WK + Drops does seem like a pretty good option :+1:

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6000 words is not very many. You probably know 20,000 or more in your native language.

Learning the kanji is a good bootstrap to a bigger vocabulary in itself, since you’ll often be able to deduce the meaning of a new compound by looking at its components. But you’re still going to need a LOT more words than you’ll get from WK alone.

I’m one of those people who thinks SRSes are boring. I don’t know how many decks I’ve abandoned in various systems. WK has the advantage of clearly defined steps, so you can see yourself making progress. And it still gets boring sometimes. Learning vocabulary by immersing yourself in native content and looking up words as you go is in some ways more interesting, but it can also be frustrating because you have so little knowledge at the beginning. Textbooks, graded readers, and similar materials can help make that initial hump more manageable.

When to start? What’s your frustration tolerance? For myself, attempting to learn vocabulary when I don’t yet know the underlying kanji is pointless. So I might look up anything I don’t understand, but I’ll only actively attempt to learn kana-only words and words that use kanji at my WK level or below. I’m just now getting to the point where I can kind of read middle school-ish level materials without constant lookups.

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Thank ya’ll for the helpful answers already! Guess I’ll take a look into your ideas.

However I am wondering on how to go about vocab that uses Kanji I don’t know yet? Just learn it anyway or more accurate: try to learn it anyway?

Also I’ve just found the ios app Benkyo, an app to study vocab, grammar and kanji with SRS if one is interested. Has anyone tried the app? It seems like a good one for me to us it for vocab.

If it’s a kanji that’s on WK, you can choose to wait until you’ve learned it on here first, but WK doesn’t even have all the jouyou kanji, and there are plenty more that you’ll come across that aren’t jouyou, and those you’ll have to learn on your own

You also don’t technically have to know a kanji to learn a word that it’s used in. I learned 冷蔵庫 was “refrigerator” and read “れいぞうこ” ages ago when I only knew the first kanji, and between that and 在庫 (ざいこ, “stock; inventory,” seen on Kinokuniya JP and other sites when looking into buying books etc.), when I finally learned 庫 as “storage; warehouse” on here on lv 28, I was like, “Oh, yeah, makes sense,” and that was one fewer kanji I had to worry about. It’s only that knowing the kanji makes it easier to guess and learn the meanings and readings of unknown words that use them, but you can learn the meanings and readings of kanji through the words they make up, too.


You could just look up the Kanji on WaniKani anyway and learn it already.
When I first started with vocab-decks I just added everything to the SRS anyway, looked at the WaniKani-Mnemonic to help me a bit and sometimes it would stick really well, despite not having learned the Kanji “properly” and other times I struggled with it.
Now that I have a decent number of Kanji under my belt, I started skipping vocab in my decks when I haven´t learned the Kanji yet and instead learning it later. If is something very common and WK has it at a high level, then I add it to my reviews. Of course you can also just learn the word wthout the Kanji first, but I personally prefer learning both at the same time.

When reading I usually look up unknown vocab with Takoboto on my phone. If it´s Kana-only or uses only Kanji that I know already I add them to a list and when I have time I add all of that vocab to my SRS, leaving out words that would soon show up on WK anyway.

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You resumed my feeling towards ‘minig while reading’. For me it takes the pleasure out of it (and I do love reading…).

As for those obscure words, there are words in my natively language that I have never heard of. One doesn’t need to become a dictionary in order to enjoy native content… And we can always pick new words while just ‘leaving’.

I do wonder if the people who complain about mining while reading are aware of the systems people have in place to mine. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I mine my cards in less than a second, so I’ve never felt like the flow is broken.


Agreed. But then you also have to review what you mine. If you have enough exposure, some things are probably not worth mining since you will see them again soon. If I didn’t know “wizard” and I were reading Harry Potter, I wouldn’t mine “wizard” (high frequency, every book), but I would mine “webbed” (low frequency, mainly in book 4).
Further, for those of us who don’t use Anki (Kitsun users), there is no streamlined process that I am aware of, on mobile.

I’m not making the blanket claim that mining is bad. I’m making the claim that it isn’t for me, and perhaps not as beneficial for high frequency items, and that it is probably more enjoyable to read when there are way fewer things you need to mine in the first place.

Yeah but I mean not while you read. That’s just a product of making flashcards and not something specific to mining.

I mean yeah I can get behind these two claims

Probably for most people. I never personally experienced that. If anything my enjoyment has dropped as I have less to mine because I lose out on the joy of learning more.

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Reading. That’s how. Once you build up enough vocab for the most frequent 2500~ words or so you can kind of just go and get vocab as it comes.


Ah, that’s an interesting perspective. I can see how that might happen.

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Apps and tools are great, and they are demonstrably fast ways to build vocabulary.

But there is a lot to be said for actually, you know, using the language.

“Immersion” to me means immersing yourself, surrounding yourself with the language as much as possible: conversation and written.

It takes a lot more effort to surround yourself with the language if you don’t live in Japan, but between things like Netflix, social media, internet videos, etc., and even paid online conversation services, it’s easier than ever.

It’s not the most efficient way, but it’s how we learned our native languages. We understand little at first, mostly just letting it wash over us. Eventually, though, we understand more and more. Especially if we learn how to read (kanji) at the same time.


I started out trying to learn everything. As I’ve gotten deeper into WK, though, I’ve decided that (1) the WK method for learning kanji works better if I embrace it, and don’t confuse the issue by adding random out-of-sequence kanji through other sources, and (2) trying to learn vocabulary without the kanji is harder, because it skips a step. I’ve also reached the point where (3) my current kanji +vocabulary is (finally!) big enough to give me access to a decent amount of reading material, making it easier (and more fun) to learn organically instead of obsessively building SRS decks.


From my perspective, that’s not a feature. It encourages creation of lots of cards, but creating cards doesn’t do any good unless you actively review them. As we all know from WK, a huge number of lessons now leads to a huge load of reviews later.

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Yea I guess learning vocab without kanji is not the best idea for me now. But as I‘ve now learned there are many kana only words so I guess that‘ll be my vocab goal for now until I am further into WK!
Thanks for your input.


I created some schedules on that include counters, N5 verbs, N5 adverbs and N5 adjectives and follow their own Japanese Basic Words schedule too (which has tonms of nouns and repeated stuff from other schedules too).

I don’t use it for Kanji, since WK is much better. Also it’s multiple choice which sometimes is not difficult enough (often I can figure out a word I don’t know instead of recalling it). But it’s a good supplemental tool.

If you focus on learning grammar along with some vocabularies, in a way that expect Furigana, or just learning to listen; that wouldn’t need add good Kanji level.

Usually verbs and i-adjectives, and perhaps most things with Okurigana, don’t need to wait for Wanikani level at all.

There might be several cases to just roll with Kana reading or imagined sound, for the time being. Having one Kanji as the word of it may help roll out the whole words.

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I’ve been trying to find something to complement Wanikani. But learning vocab in an unstructured way, without kanjis, is quite difficult.
In wanikani, the parts where you just breeze through new vocab items because you just know the Kanjis feels awesome.

Another thing is that many SRS systems use an initial period of one day. That is too long. I often find myself failing new words several days in a row before they start sticking. The apprentice part of wanikani feels much better.

Finally, there is also the fact that I kinda want to also to recognize words written in kana. I’m currently reading a Tonari no Totoro book, and there are many words that I looked up before realizing that I know them, I just failed to recognize them without the Kanjis.

I’m currently using an Anki deck with kanji → [kana+meaning] and meaning → kana cards, as well as Renshuu. Renshuu mixes Kanji, kana and english questions, which is nice. I usually try to find the answer without reading the 4 possibilities, and if I have absolutely zero idea I just hit “I don’t know”.

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I set up Anki with 10min, 4h; but that’s for new items. For old items, it seems that the only way is to Reschedule >> Reset Progress.

For a lot of people and on paper Anki seems to be good.
For me I find it extremely stressful and while perhaps less efficient, I find just reading and looking up stuff I don’t know to be the best.