Is Wanikani really just practicing japanese reading?

Hi there
I was reading some comments, which mentioned that WaniKani is basically just for improving japanese reading, and not really about learning how to speak, since it does only challenge you to recall the meaning of japanese kanji (of course, the reading too). But they said the app should also show english words and ask for the japanese word since this process is involved when you want to say something in japanese.

What is your opinion on this? By doing just WaniKani (and ignoring the reverse userscripts/kaniwani), were you able to recall and use the learnt vocabulary when you just think about the english word, and without being presented the kanji?

As for me, it does seem to work so far. When I think about “Moon”, I do come up with "Getsu/Tsuki), because when learning the kanji, I first think about the english meaning, and then the japanese pronunciation.

PS. let’s ignore grammar. Of course grammar need to be learnt in addition.

Just by knowing the kanji I am sometimes able to recall the words I want to use in conversation, and when I hear a word I am usually able to recognize it if I have learned it on WK. Many of the words also come up in my grammar book, and I will learn the subtleties of its usage through grammar practice and such. A good example is 大した. You learn it on WK as just meaning important and might consider it interchangeable with words like 大事 and 大切. But once you get into grammar and idioms you’ll realize that is only used in certain expressions and it won’t make sense in other contexts.


WaniKani’s main purpose is to teach you the kanji and an armful of words to go along with them. I wouldn’t recommend that you use WaniKani as your only source of Japanese study, because you’re definitely not going to be able to read or speak Japanese very well if this is the only resource you use (although you would be halfway there).

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If you want to do English to Japanese, you can use an app called KameSame. It shows you the English word and asks for you to input the Japanese correspondent word.

EDIT: by the way, to use KameSame, you still need to keep doing WaniKani, since it only unlocks levels as you progress in WK as well. It’s a companion app.

Yeah, without practicing in other ways I doubt you’ll be able to recall much in terms of eng -> jap vocabulary. IMHO Wanikani is indeed only good for learning kanji’s and their reading, definitely not fit for learning vocabulary (also because a lot of very common vocabulary is kana only and hence not ever shown on here for obvious reasons, and the vocabulary taught is not by frequency but only chosen for having certain kanji’s with certain readings).

If you want to learn Japanese, at some point you have to let go of “thinking in English and then translating it to Japanese”. You have to think in Japanese and then speak in Japanese.


I talk more in detail about this recalling thing on chapter 3 of my Guide for Wanikani :v:

One thing to add is that everyone needs to learn vocab outside of Wanikani eventually. This implies using a SRS system like Kitsun or Anki. If having an extra SRS tool (like Kaniwani or Kamesame) is too much, one thing one can do is doing EN => JP directly on Kitsun/Anki. No need for a 3rd app.

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Just maybe to add a bit of reference to that statement, since it is widely used and I always wondered where it came from, you can consult this article (it will either open a pdf on your browser or download it, found through google scholar) for reference, the conclusion (albeit very short compared to the article itself) gives :

So this article seems to suggest, if we wanna apply it to language learning, that we need to understand and internalize this linguistic influence so as to be able to understand and express ourselves in a similar fashion than a native speaker.


There’s passive and active language ability. Former is the ability to recognize what’s being communicated, the latter is the ability to actually use it yourself. Even in our native languages, we likely have a larger passive vocabulary than active. E.g. if we see a word we can remember the meaning, but if we wanted to use it ourselves, with some words you have to think a minute to recall them.

Using the language is an important part of learning it and promoting things form passive to active. You could potentially do this with a “reverse WaniKani” approach, but I think the best thing you can do is use the language for real. Make posts in the Japanese-only area of the forum. Use HelloTalk or similar to do language exchange. Whatever it might be.

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