Is WaniKani alone enough to learn to read Japanese?

Hello, it’s my first time using the forum

I have started WaniKani about a month and a bit ago and was just wondering how far it would take me? According to the Guide, i should be able to read by levels 30-40 or 40-50. In your experience, is this the case? I will continue regardless but note that i’m not doing anything in terms of learning japanese other than wanikani

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Without grammar study, you actually won’t be able to read almost anything at any level of WK. Well, you’ll be able to “read aloud” the text, because you’ll know the readings, but you won’t be comprehending anything clearly.

It depends what definition of “read” you use, I suppose.


Languages are complex and no single resource will bring you to the point of speaking or understanding the language. WK is a fabulous resource, but at some point you’ll need to branch out.


Exactly what the others are saying. With WaniKani only you won’t get far in actual reading (and comprehending) ability.

Otherwise, if you can back it up with proper grammar knowledge, you can read a lot, if not let’s say most common stuff.
However there are many non-Kanji vocabs which arent covered in WaniKani, but if you have a good grasp of the grammar, you also should have seen many of them.

Also when you are diving into other genre’s like Fantasy, there will be a good chunk of new vocabs to learn too.


You do need other resources besides WaniKani. WaniKani doesn’t teach you grammar and you should find ways to immerse yourself in Japanese by listening or watching Japanese media. It’s always better to use multiple resources to learn a language.

You could check out the ultimate resource list if you haven’t yet.


Yup, you need some grammar, WaniKani will only give you the „letters“, not the glue you need to make sense of them.

So using WK alone will probably give you the ability to understand the words in a sentence, but not their relationship to each other and what purpose they have.

For example:

You would understand:
„good teacher math learn, I math teacher“

Without grammar you wouldn’t know that you too want to become a math teacher because you learned math from a great teacher.

You actually don’t need to start with grammar from the start, but you shouldn’t wait to long either. Finish a couple levels on WK and start learning some grammar along the way, that way you don’t spent to much time on trying to understand the words while learning grammar because you already understand them because of WK and it will get easier the more you have learned :slight_smile:


Even for kanji words, you may be surprised how many non-WK kanji you’ll find in the wild.

Sampling from an hour of a video game I started recently: 朧げ、斡旋、淹れる (not to be confused with the much more common 滝)、彷徨く、騙し

I didn’t even include the names or words with furigana…

Yeah you’ll need grammar like other people have been saying, but a lot of people seem to just forget about vocabulary. Ime this has been the big killer and I’ve put minimal effort into grammar.

You’ll need to supplement your WK with extra vocab if you want to read by those levels. How much work this will be will depend on what you’re reading. Obviously a children’s manga will require far less of you than a light novel or visual novel, but both count as reading.


It’s nowhere near enough, for several reasons.

First, as most people here have pointed out, you need grammar. Knowing vocabulary but no grammar is useless, because it leads you to being able to understand every single word in a sentence while still not making heads or tails out of it. Yes, you know all the words. No, you have no clue what says there.

Second, because there are non-WK kanji, although those tend to be specialized or less used ones. As @saber1 pointed out, he found a bunch on a video game - but I wouldn’t worry about that. You shouldn’t start reading advanced stuff out of the blue anyway, and ideally the first (and second and third and fourth) things you use in Japanese will contain furigana. Even some books that don’t do furigana add it to less common kanji.

Third, and this one is for me a very important one, WK alone won’t let you read because you’ll forget. It’s a bit of a vicious circle here: You’ll forget kanji because you don’t use it, and you don’t use it because you don’t know enough kanji to read stuff with kanji. Luckily by reading (which implies knowing grammar) you can start reading childrens’ books and the like relatively early on (I started by lvl 10 or so, but I knew a lot of grammar and vocabulary from outside WK - and even then it wasn’t easy!), and this helps a lot. Because the thing is, to properly learn most kanji WK isn’t enough. You need to find them in the wild, written and used in context to properly drill them into your head.

So if your goal is learning to read Japanese, you have a long way to go. First, start learning grammar. You can use a textbook (minna no nihongo and tobira are the most common ones) or other resources, but learn grammar. I’d say stay away from online-only resources like maggie sensei or nihongo shark, as those are very light in practice and at first you’ll need lots of practice and exercise - just an explanation of what something is won’t really teach you a lot in the long run. Get a textbook or take lessons, then once you know enough start reading simple stuff.


Around level 27, the reading is really possible. It’s amazing.
But, as others already said, understand the phrases is quite impossible if u don’t know the grammar, so get a book to get started :wink:

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You’re over exaggerating a bit much here. Its most certainly possible to understand part if not all of what some sentences mean without knowing the grammar, especially if you know the context. I speak from personal experience on this one.

WK is a kanji study application. When they say that “you’ll be able to read”, they mean that you’ll be able to read kanji (figure out the reading/meaning -or at least get an idea of what it coould be- even if it’s a new word and know enough to look up words in kanji in a dictionary). So, you will be able to read aloud and “pronounce” what you’re seeing but without proper grammar comprehension you will most likely not be able to understand the full meaning of sentences.

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I‘d say that depends on the context and what you define as grammar and as just vocabulary.

In sentences where there ar negative verbs and such, you could easily end up completely misunderstanding the the sentence on vocabulary alone because you would not understand that the verb or adjective was negated and you probable wouldn’t know the tense and such things. There are definitely cases where it is possible to get along by just knowing the words, but that I would say that flys in your face once any grammar higher than beginner is present and that will happen pretty fast.

Which is why I used the word “some” rather any definitive absolutes like the other person did.

Thanks for treating me as “the other person,” it feels really nice and comfy and welcoming. Humanizing, even.

And understanding some sentences in a paragraph amounts to nothing. I can tell you, by own experience, that you’ll run into N4 and N3 level sentences rather soon if you try reading and vocabulary alone won’t be anywhere near enough to get those without studying grammar first. I’ll fetch a few phrases for you:


Sure anyone with lvl 15 can understand “夏休み,” “国,” and “帰る,” but that そうです? Though luck. You’ll know there’s something about summer holiday and returning and a country. You might be able to infer the meaning of the particles に and へ, although then again maybe not. But at best you’ll think it says “I’ll go back to my country during summer holiday,” when the phrase actually has uncertainty woven into it. And that little detail could well make the difference between understanding something or not.


Same as before. 明日, 雪, and 降る are WK-level vocabulary. The かもしれません, however, which is what gives the whole sentence meaning, isn’t.


Same issue. “ようです”? What is that?


There’s something pretty about looking at the sea and taking a stroll. Even assuming the reader knows the past tense, if you don’t understand “ながら” the actual meaning of the sentence will fly above your head.


Anyone with some WK experience can read all kanji there. But without grammar you won’t know that 降って is present continuous, that 降っていない is its negative, that のに means “even though”, or that 差しています is, once again, present continuous.

There are even worse cases, cases where knowing the vocabulary but no grammar will make things worse. Example:


Somebody who knows WK vocabulary but no grammar or extremely basic one will think this says “The match starts in a place. Quick, quick.” They won’t ever consider that ところです has little or nothing to do with 所, and that its meaning changes based on whether you use dictionary form, te- form, or ta- form of a verb before it.

All examples taken from my N4 textbook. All of them basic Japanese.

So my point stands: At early levels grammar is actually even more important than kanji or vocab. Grammar is king to understand a language - and it’s much easier to look up words you don’t know in a dictionary than trying to look up/understand grammar you never studied while reading something.

I really don’t get why so many people around here believe just cramming word after word after word equals learning a language. Vocabulary helps, and once you reach a basic/medium level of Japanese it becomes THE main thing you need. But first? Knowing how to say “Imperial palace” in Japanese won’t mean anything if you can’t even ask where the bathroom is at. Knowing how to read the kanji for “I” won’t mean a thing if you can’t understand sentences using it.


Some sentences, yes. And especially with the context. Recently I’ve been able to understand a bit of Chinese because of my WK studies. So clearly, knowing kanji (or vocabulary) alone isn’t useless.

But I’m a Spanish teacher, and for one-on-one tutoring, I specialize in the adult who says, “Even when I understand every word in a sentence, I often still can’t figure out what it means!” There are only a few grammar concepts which tend to get in their way, but those few concepts become a huge obstacle, one that prevents most students from ever making the leap into being a Spanish speaker.

And many times, when those students think they understand a sentence, they are mistaken.

Grammar alone gets you nowhere. Vocabulary alone gets you substantially more. But to reach any level of true understanding, you need both.


You didn’t at all touch on what I said, but thats ok. Either way it doesn’t change either of our answers to this thread so just PM me if you want to continue talking about this. Which of the two is more important is a different discussion.

Agreed. For some reason, I think the “some” part of my reply was skipped over. Ive never actually tried to read any chinese, but I guess that would be an example of how knowing vocab alone would work. Never thought of that.

Agreed again. Obviously to be fluent you need both, but there are some things you can get by with understanding just by knowing the words. Some people seem to think that they know more about your personal experiences than you, though.

You must have the puzzle pieces first, before you can learn how to build the puzzle

That’s me every time I try to read real Japanese.


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