How proficient in vocabulary will I be when I am done with Wanikani?

This is coming at the difference in the wrong way. Obviously よみました is one easily digestible unit of meaning, and in terms of Japanese that does use spaces (usually all kana writing aimed at young children), it would be a unit to itself. But よみ is also its own noun, and part of things that are more easily identifiable to us as compounds incorporating it (読み方, for example). So it also wouldn’t be strange or intuitive to think of the polite forms as stems plus add-ons, even before they really get that drilled in through grammar classes. And unlike English, “How many words are in this sentence?” just isn’t a thought likely to occur to native speakers in the first place, where the most digestible, least subjective or niche counting unit for writing by the time they’re cognizant enough of language to ever need such a thing is characters. Unless you’re doing grammar drilling, Japanese is pretty much always going to be counted in characters rather than anything else, whereas in English it’s words.

There are also issues with “word count” in Japanese for non grammar-focused speakers even without getting into things like the fact that verb “conjugations” are actually stem-based compounds, such as how to group particles and compounds where the break isn’t all that clear. (What do you do with three- and four-character jukugo phrases? Even as a native English speaker trained to look for “words” in foreign languages, there are some of those I wouldn’t really know how to classify.)

So while it’s true that you might need some grammar training to think of よみました as three words (but also not that much, because you’d see よみ as its own unit in plenty of other cases, and the polite form is already an extra step of conscientiousness on top of the plain forms kids speak in first), it’s also a bit of a projection from an English-native mindset to think that it would be automatic to consider it one.

English and Japanese are just … super-duper different, and the way native speakers think about their smallest practical units is one of the ways that’s true. For counting in Japanese, characters are easier. For parity in translation or for thinking about increasing your vocabulary, there are “phrases” (言葉, etc. - we tend to translate that as “words,” but it can include longer strings of language), but they won’t always line up with what an English speaker would look at and intuitively identify as single “words” either. Basically the two most useful, intuitive units of measurement in the language run either shorter or longer. Languages are just different, and they don’t always break up the same way.

But to the points above, I think the thing that best illustrates that difference is, if you ask a native Japanese speaker to count the number of words in a sentence, they’ll look at you like an alien and ask why you’re having them do this difficult and unintuitive grammar exercise instead of just counting characters. Conversely, if you asked an English-speaker to count the number of letters on their sentence, they’d ask why and if they couldn’t just count words (though at least both would be easy and objective in English; one would just be more tedious).

What is this all useful for? Not a ton really, in terms of how we learn Japanese. But maybe it’ll save someone from trying to bring up an idea like word-count with a native-speaker and expecting them to automatically be on board. (Again, it’s also just interesting.)


As an aside, the reason I really dislike word counts as a means to judge language ability, is because I come from a highly inflected(/conjugated) Semitic language, where things really tend to fall apart there. There are a lot of people who say “English has so many different words!” as a way to say that English is better from other languages, and that other languages are poorer and worse at expressing ideas, and that’s just both wrong and insulting.


Agreed! Word counting for the sake of word count, for me, is useless when learning a language. It has its uses when you need to write X words in an essay/story, or when you need to make sure something looks uniform and aesthetically pleasing, but except for that? There aren’t a lot of used to it.

I mentioned above that speakers coming from languages that use spaces to distinguish between different words in their orthography are “primed” by it to separate the language into “word units”. Adding those spaces is a relatively late addition to scripts (Ancient Greek and Egyptian also did some interesting things with writing direction too). I think it represented that fuzzy word bound separation that all native speakers have had at the time of the orthographic development.

For the record, I do think you can sort of count vocabulary items - but it’s not just a matter of “counting words” but also a matter of lexical, morphological, and semantic distinctions.

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I mean, that’s just wrong because there are no expressionistically incomplete non-pidgin languages as far as I’m aware. It is fun to see what different concepts different languages have distilled down into more compact words/phrases though, and how that can influence interaction.

The ease of imbuing certain connotations to certain concepts will also vary from language to language, depending on what words/set phrases they’ve wound up with, which is neat (and sometimes frustrating once you get deep enough into learning a second).

“Vocabulary items” is a good way to put it. It’s basically what native Japanese dictionaries end up counting too. Some might be words, some might be closer to what we’d think of (and even Japanese gramatically considers) phrases, but they’re useful self-sufficient bits of language, at any rate.

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I kind of have a question. I saw people mentioned Kitsun for basic 10k words, but here’s my problem:
in the first five lessons over there you get the word for ‘general’ which has a kanji I’ve never seen before. So what’s the point of trying to use rote memorization with no mnemonics to just try to memorize the word? Now, it’s okay for kana only words, but in this instance the word consists of the kanji for ‘one’ and another kanji, the word has the meaning ‘general’, I can’t possibly tell what’s the meaning of the other kanji. And since I don’t know the radicals for the kanji, memorizing the kanji itself is hard.

I’m currently level 6 on Wanikani, but it seems to me that before I go on to studying more vocabulary, I should focus on learning as many kanji as possible first. In my understanding, Wanikani is primarily a kanji learning tool, vocabulary is just a byproduct of that. My original intention was to use Wanikani until I’m about level 10 and then start Genki and then start vocab focused stuff when I’m comfortable with kanji and have an understanding of basic grammar. So please tell me does this approach make sense.


You can have it so that you study the hiragana/katakana words from Core 10k first. For that, you go to deck → manage cards → advance search for “kana” and then push these cards to the front of your lessons. This means that they’ll be your next lessons on that deck :slight_smile:

I do agree with the order you’re taking this. Since you’re already learning some vocab on Wanikani, it’s definitely important for a beginner to reinforce the grammar, as the basics are the foundation of the language. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of ways to learn vocabulary that uses kanji you know/it’s written in hiragana/katakana. I wrote a post on the Kitsun forums addressing this.

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aren’t there furigana? I use torii and just figure I’ll learn the kanji at some point or another so just focus on the word itself.

Man can you do that in torii? Would be nice if you could.

No idea, never tried it :slight_smile:

もちろん。:slight_smile: One of the Study Modes in Torii is kana only. It’s possible to have multiple Study Modes going on at once, so you don’t have to abandon any other progress.

There are, but I want to understand what the kanji is constructed from. If you gave me the kanji for ‘point’ and ‘ten’ written in furigana above it, it wouldn’t really do much for me since in order to learn it I’d have to stare at it while repeating ‘ten’ for 5 minutes. It just consumes way too much time. When you know the radicals you can create a mnemonic and you can learn much much faster.

oh ok. Won’t there be an overlap in words though? I’ve just started N1-N5 cards minus wanikani.

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I think those kanji are the 1% though. Even if you only have to look up once every hundred letters, that’s still many over the scope of a whole book. Especially since most of those are pretty uncommon and thus may only ever appear in that one word you just looked up.

Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any way to learn these other than to encounter them and either look them up or intuit their meaning (they’re likely to have furigana at least).

Since there are many thousands of them and they’re relatively uncommon, you won’t know which ones you will actually need to learn until you try to read something that has them.

I still encounter new kanji every time I read a new book. I’m not sure this ever stops being the case.


Yeah imagine that, your native language is one in which you never fully learn its own alphabet.

This makes me grateful for english having only 26 letters so that if even if I don’t understand a word at a glance I can at least look it up or take a wild guess if I see something it might relate to. You can probs do this in japanese too except it’s by looking at the radicals and cross referencing with similar kanji but thankfully you don’t you have to learn a new character everytime. Perhaps it can be argued that the learning of the new character helps to reinforce the word and vice versa, however unlike in english you really don’t know how it’s pronounced until you look it up.

You should also try Bunpro and see if it works for you. To me it was great, since it deals in sentence structure, which Wanikani does not teach, and apparently Anki (and others similiar to it) don’t either. With this thread’s help, I added Torii to WK and Bunpro and I think I’m set for now.

What do you do with all the new vocabulary/grammar that you encounter in games? Do you put it in an anki system and study it?

Yeah, true. :thinking: You would indeed have to manually hit the ignore button for the kana-only words in your other deck(s).

As I am continuously learning the new information I gain I hope to have retained in my mind enough for the next thing I’m doing to make that little bit more sense. That’s my philosophy anyway.

This applies to vocabulary, grammar, context, etc, gained while playing the game. At some point I’ve had to accept the fact that all the tools at my disposal are there for that purpose, and my memory needs to start taking responsibility at some stage.

The last game I was playing was Pokemon. I made a simple web page to help mitigate the need for having tons of pen and paper devoted towards all the new words and kanji I was picking up (here if you’re interested) and I just want to say it was such a great experience I plan to play through it again.

I only picked up WaniKani at the start of this year but instantly the benefits of playing the game and doing WaniKani were obvious from the start. Think back to your early levels, to the following four words:

  • 下がる
  • 下げる
  • 上がる
  • 上げる

Playing through Pokemon made it very easy for me to understand that the words with が in them were for rising and falling, as you see this every time your defense, speed, sp. defense, etc, drops during a fight!

Not to mention I will never forget the word 捕まえ :sunglasses:

Maybe my approach isn’t the best - I just hope to keep studying consistently to make sure that everything common sticks. WaniKani is a great source of vocabulary, kanji learning and context. So far this year I’ve been using WK along with regular grammar practice and one fun and immersive activity (such as games, books, etc) and so far it feels like it’s working wonders (maybe I should patent this the RoseEater learning method :face_with_monocle:). Somehow I feel more confident than ever even with speaking it, also.

Saying all that, I’m open to suggestions and interested to hear what you’re doing.

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I just started to play my first game in Japanese (or will when it comes out) Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX on the Switch. I loved going through it and being able to read native content and understand it. As I was going through it there were still parts that I did not understand such as vocabulary so I might add them into an anki deck or something. Though not having audio will be annoying as I can’t hear how it sounds, but immersing myself in the reading will help me loads I feel.

Update for anyone who cares about this: Earlier I was like, “Why does Japanese Microsoft Word even have a 単語数 (word count) feature?” It should have dawned on me that it’s mainly used for English writing.

Here’s a page that discusses this intended use, where as 文字数 (character count) is used for Japanese writing:

-Post edited to remove a hasty misread/mistranslation of a Japanese sentence-

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