Inconsistency in radical composition and using kanji as radicals

I’m finding myself a little frustrated with how WK sometimes makes you learn the same combination of radicals multiple times, rather than teaching you the kanji (or hanzi or whatever) that those radicals make up and then using that kanji as a radical.

The most egregious example that I’ve noticed is that 識, 職, and 織 all have the same right half (戠), so I feel like it makes more sense to teach you that component as its own radical-- it’s “sound” and “drunkard”, so let’s call it, I dunno, “karaoke”-- and then teach 識, 職, and 織 as “say + karaoke”, “ear + karaoke”, and “thread + karaoke” respectively.

Off of the top of my head, other examples from among kanji that I’ve learned would be 要 and 腰 or 票 and 標. In both of these cases, rather than learning “moon + need” or “tree + ballot”, WaniKani has the right component kanji broken down into its “base” radicals (i.e. “moon + helicopter + woman” and “tree + helicopter + jackhammer”), which I feel like just creates extra memorization. Plus, WK already does this sometimes; from my last level, 障 is “building + chapter”, not “building + stand + early”. Why not standardize the approach?

Doing kanji-as-radicals consistently across the board is also helpful for the purposes of learning compound kanji as phonetic-semantic compositions-- to use one of the above examples, remembering the on’yomi for 標 is free if you know it as “tree + ballot”, but that association is harder to use if it’s broken down further into “tree + helicopter + woman”. I know WaniKani doesn’t directly teach phonetic compounds as such, which is fine, but it’s still a useful strategy that I think should be at least supported.


I’ve felt the same way when i get really similar kanji, but I assume that it would kinda require the addition of a bunch of new radicals depending on how often it happens. Maybe might happen in future additions, but i dont work there (yet) so your guess is as good as mine


I agree. For the longest time I couldn’t tell them apart.

But there’s also the situation where a kanji has one big radical made of many “smaller” radicals, and I just can’t unsee the smaller radicals.

For example the kanji 暮 which has “greenhouse” and “sun” in it. When I see this kanji I see ‘flowers’, two ‘suns’ and something in the middle. Maybe I should just make my own mnemonic on this one :woman_shrugging:


There’s a difference between radical and what you’re referring to, which is often called a phonetic component. Phonetic components form phonetic series, like you’ve pointed out. Using this pattern is a great way to memorize on’yomi, but they’re not the same as radicals. Radicals always convey some form of meaning, but phonetic components are more often than not used solely for their sound.

Unfortunately, WK combines them into one word. It’s misleading, but it’s most appropriate for the purpose of learning. You can learn the true difference later. Radicals can also double as phonetic series and vice-versa in rare cases, which just confuse the topic and make generalizations difficult. Also, there are a limited amount of radicals (around 200) where there are a thousand phonetic components (or thousands if you study Chinese).

Phonetic series are an advanced topic, and as you may find, some kanji with the same phonetic component may sound similar (but not the same), or even not similar at all. The reason for this is because of the way Japanese borrowed kanji from ancient and middle Chinese, 3 separate times in the orthography’s history, and how Japanese natives at the time inscribed the middle Chinese sounds.

Many of them are predictable, but that’s a topic for historical linguistics and language recreation.

Finding these patterns makes it fun and easier to make word/meaning connections. I do think it is a better idea to use these to your advantage as you become more used to kanji, but on a personal level. It’s too difficult to implement such a thing into a single learning technique meant for beginners and advanced learners.

Gonna leave a link of a spreadsheet I created for my own studies. It uses data from to discern all the phonetic patterns.


Or try Keisei


I have never seen this one on its own it looks so odd


What you described is what many already do: make up our own mnemonics to personalise how we learn, tailoring it to how we feel works best for us. Personally, I like to add the real meanings for radicals and ignore a lot of existing mnemonics. Not always, but sometimes the original meanings are more memorable for me when I see a kanji and it creates a “feeling”.

Then again, a great deal of my mnemonics are also based off of pronunciations, and I have a habit of writing a lot about DBZ, Shenmue, and and other nerd stuff. Whatever helps you remember!


No, but it’s so cute! It’s like a little hatchling waiting to grow up and become a full-fledged kanji C:


It really does have that feel! How nice!


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