Is there a point in learning a single Kanji reading separate from Vocab

Why not just have radical name, then kanji concept name a’la RTK and then just jump into vocab where you learn the readings in different situations? In same time frame this would easily allow learning 10%-20% vocab words?

Because when we are learning a reading for kanji, we are not even learning speficially kun’yomi or on’yomi, but one chosen by WK. So if we are learning kanji readings as standalone from vocab word with just kanji for testing, we still won’t succeed in test formulated as “Give one on’yomi and kun’yomi of this kanji”.

EDIT: In beginning it felt nice, but more I get into learning japanese I realize that learning the kanji step in WK seems like superfluous step.


In theory you can set your lessons to “shuffle”, in which case WK doesn’t know whether you’ve learned a reading or not.

For example if you learn 試 in level 9, and the first vocab you learn is 試験, then you learn the onyomi し. After this you can move on to 試食 and WK can say “you know this reading of 試 already”.

But if the first vocab you encounter is 試みる, then you learn こころ. And if the next vocab you learn is 試食, the reading you have learned for 試 doesn’t fit here.

For this first part, I would refer to the Wanikani FAQ about what it is actually trying to teach you which is to read Kanji. While you may prefer more vocabulary words in the same time frame, the purpose of the site is technically kanji, the vocabulary is there to reinforce the kanji learning.

The reading chosen by Wanikani is the most common reading, which is why they choose to show it to you first. Wanikani is not meant to teach you readings for testing purposes, it is more for reading ability and then can also aid in other areas of Japanese study such as speaking etc. For that matter wanikani doesn’t teach you stroke order for kanji either, so if you were to take a test like the kanji kentei and they asked you stroke order questions wanikani still wouldn’t be helpful in that department. You would want something like the Kanji Kentei Level step books for something like that.

So by saying that the learning the Kanji is a superfluous step, wouldn’t learning vocabulary be the superfluous step in a website which is aimed at teaching kanji?


I’m saying Kanji step could be reduced to just concept meaning and drop the reading at that point.

Knowing the concept and giving it a name helps you to understand and memorize the vocab word in similar way how radicals are named to help with remembering the kanji through mnemonics.

But remembering single reading in addition gives very little value as you run into it again and again in vocab anyway, more common the kanji, more often it is a part of another word.

At least no obscure readings are not taught in WK on kanji step.

Also, I believe kanji cannot be taught apart from vocab other than on the concept level. If there were a method to teach and test sentences efficiently, it would teach usage of kanji and their interconnections even further. This is because 1 kanji ≠ 1 concept every time, it may have multiple similar but slightly different concepts when paired together with certain groups of kanji or multiple kanji pairs can have same reading and almost but not exactly the same meaning.


But learning the reading is part of the building blocks of the system. Dropping the reading changes the way the system works.

Learning the single kanji reading has helped me correctly guess the reading of new words I’ve encountered in the wild more often than not when they use those kanji. So it has provided lots of value to me. You seem to be narrowly focusing only on words within WK not unknown words you will encounter when reading.


It might not seem too helpful at first, but it does help in the long run when you start to see longer, more complicated words. Knowing the common sound of the kanji can help you make an educated guess of how the word is pronounced.

I’d never seen the words 目医者 or 研究所 before I learnt them on here but I could guess how they were pronounced. Of course, some words just break the rule and have wild readings, but it’s helpful more often than it isn’t.


Why not just use RTK then? Some of us like that WK is not like RTK.


Because RTK (1+3) just gives a unique name to each kanji with no vocab and no readings at all.

I love WK for what it does and the reading step in kanji step isn’t really that big of a thing.

I just think it doesn’t matter much and spending time failing single reading few times in apprentice could be spent better in failing a vocab words using that reading.

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So you keep saying, but how much reading do you do? That reading step has been invaluable when encountering new words and being able to actual read them. Just in my Japanese class alone when the teacher asks us to read new kanji words, I can guess the readings much more often than my peers that have never used WK.

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Au contraire, learning 生 as せい in Kanji step doesnt teach you the reading options very well compared to vocab that actually use 生 , however it does teach you its phonetic reading when part of another kanji, so there’s that.

But it does make sure I know the correct reading of the word in the vast majority of cases I will encounter it. Jisho shows over 300 words using that reading. It is not always the reading, but knowing that means I will probably more likely know the correct reading when also applying other rules of thumb of when an on-yomi or kun-yomi are used.

Which basically contradicts your claim of knowing the reading as not being that useful even more as that makes knowing the single kanji reading even more valuable as it can then be used to derive readings in unknown kanji you might encounter that use it as a radical.

For example, knowing the general rule of thumb that a right-side radical influences an on-yomi reading you could reasonable infer that 性 and 狌 would have the same on-yomi reading as 生 as you can clearly see it as a radical and that would be correct. That means I can then, paired with general rules around jukugo words, that if I were to encounter 女性 that it would also use an onyomi reading and I would correctly read it as じょせい.

That’s why learning that reading as a building block is very useful and empowering as a learner.


One important point (for me) is that the kanji reading is presented alongside a mnemonic. If you teach the reading with the vocabulary, do you include the mnemonic with every vocabulary that uses that kanji with that reading?

I feel that learning the reading with the kanji alone makes it easier for me to recognize it in other words. Whereas, learning a kanji as part of a vocabulary, I don’t recognize it in other words. This is just my personal experience, and will not apply to everyone.

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