Is WaniKani SRS adequate?

Let me preface this by saying I just finished lvl 3 and am debating whether to continue. I really enjoy the pacing and ease with which I can learn with WaniKani, but…

I’m not sure if it’s the correct form of learning. First of all, it seems to strongly prioritize the mnemonic, which is great for recollection, but not for usage. The thought process becomes Word->Mnemonic->Meaning->Sound. With flash cards, I’m able to eventually drop the mnemonic and immediately know the meaning/sound, with thorough repetition. But the SRS in WaniKani is so spaced apart, I’m not sure that will ever happen. The longer the mnemonic is used as a crutch, the harder it is to get rid of it.

Secondly, the review format is focused purely on reading. It’s great for seeing a word and being able to understand it, but doesn’t develop the ability to recall and speak words. I think knowing the vocab for speaking is just as important.

Now, I could solve both of these problems by making anki decks and using them for additional reviews, and reverse style reviews. However, I’ve seen many people state this will mess with the SRS learning process. Is that really the case? I’d rather have complete knowledge of the words than only being able to read via mnemonics.

Any input on how others have overcome this or supplemented their studying would be appreciated!

3 Likes

Rest assured, you will forget the vast majority of your mnemonics once you get used to actually using the kanji :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t quite get this. Kanji is a form of writing. Its primary usage is to be used in reading and writing, not spoken language. But generally I haven’t found much disconnect between being able to read a word and being able to say it out loud. A number of words taught tend to be used more in written speech though and I would certainly recommend finding additional vocab resources outside of WK.

By far the most useful thing for me has been lots of reading, once you get to the point where you have enough grammar, vocab, and kanji knowledge to start tackling it. The best reinforcement is when you can actually see things used in the real world outside of an SRS.

5 Likes

The mnemonics work so well for me personally, especially when I get to a lot of similar-looking kanji. It never hindered my learning or made me think I was wasting time. It helps so much when you encounter kanji that use long and unfamiliar kunyomi readings, so I’d strongly recommend sticking with it for a little longer to see how it goes. If the number of radicals per level has you like uGHH, they reduce after level 10 and then drastically reduce from there in the 20s and higher. In any case, once the item is in your head and you can recall it a few times, you won’t even think about the mnemonic.

For recollection practice, you can sync WK with KaniWani or KameSame.

Good luck!

5 Likes

“Is WaniKani SRS adequate?”

I agree with you and say that the answer to this question is definitely “no.” I use Wanikani strictly for the memorization of kanji meanings, readings and some miscellaneous vocabulary…
… and that’s it. Nothing more.

The emphasis of mnemonics is great, however I always make my own. Also, to read faster, I separately train my ability to recall meaning and on’yomi reading as fast as I can. If you do this, you won’t be applying the mnemonics at all, but if you have to slow down, then I’d put at least an 80% chance that the mnemonic will help you remember the kanji again.

I’d go almost say that Wanikani’s only purpose is for reading and literally nothing else.

This all being said, I still completely recommend Wanikani. You have an organized set of over 2000 kanji laid out for you to minimally insert into your Japanese learning schedule and if you stick to what the average Wanikani user does, then you’ll be far higher than average in your speed of learning compared to other Japanese learners.

My main motivation for using Wanikani is because I know for a fact that wouldn’t be doing a single thing else to actually learn kanji. Wanikani is just a plant that you have to water everyday. (Which also has arms and will punch you in the gut if you stop for any more than a day.) Hope these cluttered opinions and info helps.

11 Likes

Imo, the mnemonics are Not a crutch. I’ve had sessions where I just enter the reading on autopilot and after it pops up that I got it correct I start wondering how I knew it. Eventually the mnemonics disappear and you’re left with just kanji knowledge which I HATE it because it freaks me out but means I’m learning.

Here’s what WK tells us the stages are supposed to mean:
Guru: You know an item fairly well.

Master: You should be able to recall these items without using the mnemonics, usually.
This is really where the mnemonics disappear for me.
Enlightened: You should be able to recall these items without the mnemonic, fairly quickly. The answer should appear without much effort.

Burned: This item is “fluent” in your brain. The answer comes with little-to-no effort. You will remember this item for a long, long time. Even if you don’t use it and “forget” it sometime in the future, it should come back to you quickly after recalling it.

5 Likes

My advice is to stick with it.

I have been at it since early November and am now at level 18. My perspective has changed a lot as I have worked through the units.

The mnemonics will just go away with time. They are good to get you started on certain characters but you will find that they lose significance over time.

I have found that vocabulary words are the best mnemonics and trump all of Koichi’s creative effort to make silly and memorable mnemonics. The WK mnemonics just get you in the game. List to Japanese talking about kanji and you will hear them describing which kanji they are talking about by saying, ‘‘common word x’ no ‘onyomi’ desu’ or some variation of that scheme. Example: 'kansya no sya desu". Hundreds of years experience have taught them that system.

The problem is that it requires a bit of vocabulary. That’s where Koichi’s mnemonics come in.

I predict that you will look back and realize that level 3 isn’t even a toe-dip. Your outlook will change as you continue. That has been my experience.

I think that wanikani is a really good way to learn kanji and get an introduction to some vocabulary words. I find, however, that to complete the picture it is important to practice Japanese with a native. That will make the new vocabulary “yours”. I find that the most practical and economical way to do this is online.

I gave my teacher access to wkstats so she knows what I am learning. She molds our conversation around the current vocabulary. Sometimes we talk about kunyomi (or whatever) that aren’t in wk but that she thinks are important. The conversation seems to cement things in my head.

2 Likes

For whatever it might be worth, I’ve been using WaniKani as my primary source of vocab learning for a little while, which I was unsure about myself, but having recently taken a trip to Japan I was amazed how much spoken Japanese I could get the gist of. Was still useless at speaking but there you go!

The purpose of WaniKani is to learn to read kanji. If you only want to learn vocabulary from English to Japanese, I really don’t think it’ll work for you. If you want to learn to speak and to read, you could combine it with another resource specialized on teaching you vocabulary for speaking.

As for the spacing, the first interval is four hours. So, as long as you get it wrong, it will show up at least twice every day for you if you study in the morning and the evening. Isn’t that enough?

You also don’t have to use the mnemonics, but I find them helpful in the beginning. But usually, I don’t need them anymore after a while.

Hahahahaha… This is the point where I start using the mnemonics…

5 Likes

If I followed most standard SRS cycles, my retention rate is in the low 70%'s. It can be frustrating, and WK isn’t enough to get short term memory to mid or long term memory for me. Usually I use Anki for SRS because I can change the intervals to get me closer to around 87-94%.

If OP is experiencing what I am, then I recommend also using a supplement, Others say Kaniwani, KameSame, or Anki which are all great options, but I actually use iKnow for vocab and for the Radicals and Kanji, I use the Self-Study Quiz addon and manually go through my Apprentice list so my memory doesn’t hold me back via the SRS’s spacing. iKnow’s spacing is smaller for short term, and it shows and quizzes the vocab word in multiple ways which helps me retain the knowledge better.

The mnemonics are absolutely necessary for me and worth all the effort. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if I didn’t use them. They fade over time but for WK its usually still the the Master section that I need them or wont be able to recall most.

2 Likes

Learning Japanese requires studying with multiple resources. If you want to learn to read, WK is absolutely a great contributor to that goal because it teaches you to read kanji.

If you want to learn to listen and speak Japanese, you will need different types of resources, like listening practice and a speaking partner (or shadowing).

The bottom line is that there is no one resource that provides you with everything you need to learn Japanese. But WK does a damn good job of helping you with one of the things you do need - kanji.

8 Likes

You’re right, people learn at different speeds and need different intervals. But I also understand why the WK people try to keep it the same for everyone.

1 Like

I was going to say exactly this. I have very little retention after a single lesson and the default Apprentice 1 interval. So I immediately drill new radicals and new kanji repeatedly with the Self-Study Quiz until I actually have them in short term memory to begin with.

It’d be nice if WK supported people with bad memories better, but the user scripts make it usable.

1 Like

I second this. I don’t even learn with mnemonics any more at this level.

1 Like

I don’t really understand this question or concern given the preceding statement that you are enjoying the pace and ease with which you are learning.

You ask whether WaniKani SRS is adequate - adequate for what? Will you master all of Japanese with WK on its own? No, for sure not. More on that in a bit.

In any event there are so many ways of learning a language or components of it. There’s no explicitly right or wrong way.

Indeed, you need a way to “promote” things like vocabulary and grammar from passive to active. You need to use the language. How you choose to do so is up to you.

1 Like

Totally Agree! They have to accomadate as many as possible with their standard, and I am all for it. I’m just also thankful for people who work on the various scripts/addons, as they make a huge difference for me so I can keep using WK’s site itself, as its more appealing than Anki lol.

Yup, Those scripts make such a great impact. When I was doing WK many years ago, I pretty much stopped because there wasn’t really anything like that and I was having so much memory issues. I actually was manually working through rtk with a frequency vocab list but it was just so much work to do it all on my own and then life lifed me, but now with the scripts and taking iknow with it, it’s not felt like trudging through mental knee high sand. I wish I could high five and throw a party for all the script makers and WK team for doing their part and making scripters have access to do their part.

On a side note, do you happen to also share in a medical condition that affects your memory too Timh?

I dont know if its sufficient to you but WK does have native audio. I usually say the word out loud for vocab during reviews then listen to the audio after. It helps to judge whether you “knew” the answer for typos too since I just compare what I said to what I typed.

WK’s intention is kanji recognition. The idea is that you are able to read native material and be able to come up with a general meaning and reading without having to immediately look it up, so you can learn through the examples. There are so many words with the same vague definitions like “soon” or “at once” that you aren’t going to get nuance from in the SRS.

I find that even if I’m shaky on a kanji, if I keep up with vocabulary it reinforces the kanji so the SRS isn’t a big deal. It’s at least a good week’s worth of daily exposure.

Also, I don’t think you “ruin” the SRS process if you review material somewhere else. The idea behind SRS is that it brings things up right before you forget. If you were to review twice as often, you aren’t going to be more likely to forget something, you are just going to be doing more work.

Wanikani should be treated as a starting point. It will give you a base to build your studies on top of. I’ve found that it’s really helped with my comprehension because I can tie a concept to words filled with these homophonic syllables like “kou” or “shi”.

More people need to be aware of this.
WK isn’t designed to teach you how to incorporate ~2000 kanji into your everyday vocabulary, it’s designed to teach you how ~2000 kanji are used and read in ~6300 words. WK is an excellent primer for Japanese reading literacy, but for literally every other aspect of the language (even writing, if you care for it), you’ll need something else.

8 Likes

Consuming and producing are two totally different skills. WK isn’t concerned with helping you learn to produce. I think the recommended path is to start studying grammar around level 10, and start reading native media around level 30.

The nice thing is that the more you consume, the more you become familiar with common expressions, sentence structures, and how words are used. All of that is going to be a massive help when you start producing in earnest, because you’ll be able to avoid making some of the mistakes that come from trying to map concepts in your native language over into Japanese.

Essentially, WK is a valuable tool but it’s a specialized tool. It’s not a be-all-end-all.

1 Like