I just started and I have some questions

Why doesn’t WaniKani use the kunyomi?
I’ve just started using the course, and I found the names for the radicals to be arbitrary and annoying. If a radical has a meaning or a purpose in the kanji that helps a person know what the kanji means, only then should it be considered a radical. If it’s just a line with no meaning associated to help remember the meaning of the kanji, then it’s just a line. Take “gun” for instance. Does every kanji with the “gun” radical mean that it has to do with guns, war, projectiles, fighting or any thing of that sort? Of course not. But most things with the tree kanji/radical can be associated with a tree some how. Rest uses a person and a tree, that can make sense. Since not all the “radicals” you identify here have meaning then learning them doesn’t add anything to learning kanji. When you show the person radical for the first time you don’t actually give examples of how it is actually used (what it looks like) in most kanji.
I feel like instead of learning kanji, I’m learning how WaniKani wants me to answer the questions.

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  1. WK does use kunyomi.

  2. WK uses the radical names to help you remember the meaning and readings of a kanji though mnemonics, but they can’t be relevant to the meaning of each kanji since that’s just not how radicals work.

  3. Yes, you are in part learning how WK wants you to answer, but most importantly you are learning to use mnemonics to trigger recall. Don’t you think it’s a bit early to judge before you’ve learned even a single kanji?


That’s kind of it, actually.

WaniKani doesn’t teach the real radicals (except in a few rare cases). It teaches you visual components with their own names, so that it can make mnemonics using those names later. It happens to call those components radicals. If you can live with the WK system, which uses its own mnemonics to teach you the kanji, then it should work for you. If you can use WK and supplement your own real information, also good. Otherwise, if you want a course which will only use the real radicals, WK will not do that. There’s a book called Remembering the Kanji which works a bit better in this regard but requires more effort from you.

To answer your first question, WaniKani sometimes uses kun’yomi. It will teach you 1-2 pronunciations of a kanji that it thinks is “best”, whether that’s on’yomi or kun’yomi, and you may end up learning the other ones from vocabulary.

Side notes; There is an update to the radical system coming up, though it won’t address your problem immediately.

^^ Welp, beaten!

Wanikani uses mnemonics (stories) to help you learn the kanji. So if the kanji contains the gun radical, the mnemonic will contain a gun. This means that if you learn the radicals you will be able to recall the story and then the kanji.

After a while the mnemonic is not needed and the kanji is stored in your long term memory. Although things may seem strange at first persevere with the free levels and you’ll soon see why this is such a great site.

I suggest you read the FAQ & Wanikani guide to understand how the site works (located all the way at the bottom of the homepage)

You learn the radicals as building blocks for the mnemonics later utilized for the kanji lessons, once you unlock the kanji and vocab lessons you will encounter all the on’yomi and kun’yomi :slight_smile:

Just keep pushing through, soon enough you’ll learn the greater purpose of the radicals


during the first few levels I can understand that feeling. But those seemingly senseless radicals still make up kanji and remebering their names will help with with remebering the kanji, be it due to mmnemoics, or just thinking, ah that is the the mouth and the pine, that means ride.
Due to that learning the radicals is sometimes learning the answers, that are wanted, but it will help you with learning the kanji. I guess there are some “real” names for the radicals as well, but they probably don’t make that much sense to modern western people.

These are points that come up again and again so I won’t answer them in length.

Since the staff of Wanikani are unlikely to change the system to incorporate how you personally would like it to function you have two options.

  1. Keep an open mind, try the WaniKani way of learning kanji for the three free levels and then make a decision on whether to continue or not.

  2. Try a different method for learning kanji.

For what it’s worth, I think the system is fantastic. It’s not perfect by any means, but in my opinion it is more than good enough. By using it I have become able to read so much more than I ever had hoped for.

Ultimately the choice is yours.


Since radicals aren’t really taught to japanese students, they are just a mnemonic crook for westeners to remember kanji. At least that’s how I understood it when I did some further research on it. I personally find this radical system more confusing than helping as well.
I found that learning to write the kanji helps a lot with remembering them, since you have a basic understanding of the structure of the kanji.

Also, once you get past like level 3 and start getting into phono-semantic kanji, even if you take the parts at their face value, very few of them make sense. For example, flavor: 味. The mouth is meaningful (semantic), but the right side, which, depending on how you decide to read it, means sheep or not, which has nothing to do with flavor. So, by necessity all the stories are made up. Very few are classified as semantic-semantic (such as rest, and even that one is debatable)


Also, something I heven’t seen told in the answers above. Aside of WaniKani (and KaniWani, which you should check once you unlock jukugo), I spend some time learning how to write the kanji I’m learning, and those radicals help a lot!

They make it easier to remember the parts that make the kanji and the stroke order. I mean, take 女 for example: it’s not trivial to write correctly, but once you get the hang of it, every kanji using this radical becomes easier, because I know that “this part is woman”, even if the kanji has nothing to do with a woman, like 弩.

Japanese students learn the Kangxi radicals. Some of them are the same as WK’s kanji parts, but it’s true that Kangxi radicals aren’t used for mnemonics.

Any adult Japanese person should know how Kangxi radicals work and which ones are associated with most kanji. Some are tricky and do get forgotten though.

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Thank you for all the replies everyone. I don’t know how many different resources you all have used, but I am always open to suggestions.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed the kanji radical live streams on youtube by JapanesePod101.com, they give some useful examples of common radicals.
Also, for learning stroke order, I’ve enjoyed the Kanji Study app (on android - for some reason the android one is way further along in its version than the apple one). Explore the app for free, and click everything, you will see an extensive learning platform the more you learn what’s available (seriously it just keeps going everytime you click something differently, like swiping up on a kanji to learn stroke order and practice writing it). I found that it’s well worth the $9.99 to unlock the whole program in my opinion. You can break up sections in to 10 kanji groups so you don’t have to study all of them at once (and then regroup them together after you’ve gotten profient). You can take quizzes which actually aren’t as easy as you might think at first.

I studied Japanese for three terms in college, and I’ve been doing self study ever since to try to retain as much as possible. So adjusting to a new learning style is really the issue that I’m having right now.

According to WK I’ve learned 18 Kanji. So that’s what I’m judging the system on.
That and my several years of previous knowledge. I’ve never used mnemonics to study before, I’ve always just learned things by memorization.

As the numbers pile up, you will likely find that doesn’t work well. The mnemonics are there to assist with the recall, and can be quite effective. You don’t need to use the offered ones, I often don’t, but some sort of mnemonic story is definitely helpful.

When you have a word that you only ever learned on WaniKani, and it comes up after 4 months without seeing it for the burn review, you’ll probably want to have a mnemonic ready. Since there are also thousands of other words you’ll be seeing for the first time. Not, at the beginning, but eventually.

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If you’re good enough to learn 2000 kanji through memorization only you don’t need WK and you should be curing cancer by now.

On a side note, I’d relay some advice I got early on, which is to not hang on to the notion of the kanji meaning and the kanji’s “look” or radicals. While it makes sense for some kanji and makes for easy remembering, you’ll find out early on that with most kanji/vocab there’s little or no correlation at all between the meaning and the “look” of the Kanji. Just try to remember the words for what they are.


You may have done the lessons for 18 kanji but that does by no means equate learning them. Of you had learned the kanji already you would be ready to level up, but the truth is that you haven’t yet gurued a single kanji and thus haven’t given the system even the glimpse of a chance.

Kumirei, you’re hung up on my WK level. Just because I just started WK doesn’t mean I just started learning kanji. I already have a lot of practice under my belt, but I already tried to explain that. Expertise and understanding are not measured by WK since I can’t demonstrate what I do know on this platform with out months of repetition the WK way.

Yeah, I imagine 2000 with out help would be hard, I only know a couple hundred. My little sister is the one who went into medicine. I only work in IT networking, so curing cancer is outside of my wheel house.

Okay, I absolutely understand everyone’s reaction here and I share their opinions (after all, I think WK is the best XP), but it’s getting a bit too sarcastic and that’s not very inviting, right…

I’d say, mizumiducky, that you should really just give it a chance. I fully aknowledge your previous experience, in fact, I think that must be the reason why you’re sceptical about WK’s system, since it’s not what you’re used to. However, WK’s system can just as easily become a habit as your previous learning system, with the only difference that you’ll suddenly see how INCREDIBLY FAST you’re going! It won’t be long probably before you’ll have exceeded the amount of kanji you already knew by far… And that’s when you’ll feel really motivated and confident about yourself.

That’s the reason why you should give WK a chance. Because of that quick progression and the happy feelings it brings along. And because of the wonderful community here on the forums, whom you can ask anything with whom you can chat about whatever you want. Plan WK into your daily routine and it’ll become a way of life! Believe me when I say your future self will thank you :slight_smile: