Is WaniKani sub-optimal?

Tell me I’m not the only person who mumbled 文学の天才 to himself then wondered if that was even remotely correct?

purely in terms of learning only kanji, not readings, not words, anki is faster. you really can learn 2900 kanji in a year with no problem, if thats what you’re into, and post-wanikani everyone here could readily use anki to work in more kanji, as well as vocab, cause you’re no longer following the strict linearity of wanikani and have to be adult members of language learning society

in terms of memorizing readings, you really need to do it along with the vocab to be optimal, and who has the time to manage all that? wanikani is optimized for exactly one thing, and the ordering algorithm is that thing. even porting all of wanikanis cards into anki wont give you that effect, trust me i tried. the care thats put into ordering and annotating everything cant be replicated as such

i really do wish there was a fast mode for wanikani, though, for those who may have used the heisig/anki combo before arriving here especially. you’re guaranteed success here, but not speed or freedom or options. in that way, i miss anki a lot, the way you become part of the algorithm and is in total control of every card. anki is optimized to optimize you, and trust me its beautiful and magical, its like being part cyborg


I had everything in Anki. The kanji, stroke order, examples, readings, mnemonics, audio… (sorry wk team; but I did not share that deck anywhere…). And it STILL was not the same. The levelling up system and community aspect of WaniKani are what make it so unique in my perspective. It is not just about the content and whether the website looks nice or not.

WK will always come before my Anki reviews because it does a significantly better job at motivating me to do so. That is what makes it the „optimal“ solution for me.


Another point is that WK is not just reviews. All the items are nicely cross-linked, you can browse kanji along radicals and check all the kanji that look similar, or go from vocab to other words using the same kanji, …

Learning kanji is all about finding connections and shortcuts, “just Anki” doesn’t really help you there.


This is an excellent point… no other resource lets you customize the experience like WK does.

Arguably Anki has some rudimentary level of customization, but I found that I probably spent more time tweaking Anki than actually using it. When I wasn’t tweaking it, I was fighting bugs. At one point, it completely screwed up my deck and the status of each item and I haven’t used it since.

I’d say overall, in language learning its about finding the least sub-optimal way.


Even if his method makes him learn more Kanji (with Anki?), us WaniKani users have thousands of radicals that help us learn Kanji, even ones that are not in WaniKani. Also, WaniKani is just easier to use, you have more control, and there’s a huge community that makes you feel great and comfortable. I doubt he knows
2,900 Kanji. You should test him (and watch him). Don’t listen to him. Follow the way that makes you feel the most comfortable and happiest. :smiley:

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@snow-pine Is he the random guy who owns this youtube video? I saw some nasty comments from him on some vloggers who are also using WK like us.
Here is the link.

And here’s the counter from the WK guy:


Even if you give into his framing and Anki is superior, optimization is not the goal of language study, period. The end goal is fluency in the language and no matter how you wind up learning how to speak/read/listen/write Japanese, as long as you’re furthering yourself to that goal in good faith you having nothing to defend as that in and of itself is the best defense I can think of. It’s not like you’re trying to engineer the next innovation for a marketable product, you’re trying to learn something.

Expanding on that last point, who is to say that Anki is the optimal approach for YOU personally? Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight and someone you know lost a bunch of weight eating nothing but one kind of food. Sure that might work for them personally with their unique tastes and nutritional needs, but to say it’s the end-all-be-all of dieting is an insane claim. What if you’re allergic to one of the key nutrients to this proposed diet? By definition it’s not optimized for you. Don’t let people trick you into doubting things that are working.

If WaniKani is sub-optimal for you, then add or replace it with other resources to reach your optimal approach. Even granting him his framing, it is unwise to unilaterally mock something that by all rights and accounts has yet to be shown as harming people.

Finally, let’s look at this excerpt from the conclusion of this study. Pg 358

  1. Most of high-frequency and mid-frequency Japanese words are composed of limited number of Kanji, therefore, the burden of learning Japanese vocabulary may not be heavy as expected from the text coverage studies, once the learner knows:
    a)the most frequent 1,000 to 1,500 characters.
    b)forms, meanings and compounding rules of Kanji.
    c)metaphors of Kanji compounds.
    d)different readings (e.g. On-reading and Kun-reading) of each Kanji.

WaniKani likes to advertise based on learning “over 2,000 Kanji.” Also, in the Tofugu Podcasts, Koichi and Kristen (sorry if I spelled your name wrong!) claims, and I am paraphrasing here, that they are more interested in getting you to reading as fast as possible so you can be learning Japanese from Japanese resources. Either way, I’m pretty sure with the research and intention put into this program, those 1,000 to 1,500 are covered. In other words…

I can cherry pick data points too.


This here is a great point. If I hadn’t at least lurked on the Wanikani forums, I wouldn’t know all that much about the Japanese resources that others have recommended. There’s even a thread specifically for outside materials that you can study including places to learn even more kanji than you learn on here. Heck, I didn’t even know about the JLPT before coming on to the Wanikani forums (not that I’ve TRIED to take the test yet).

P.S. It’s nice to listen to others and their opinions from time to time. But what do YOU think. What is your opinion of Wanikani? Has it helped you? Have you been able to read more? Ask yourself the all important question before anything: What do I think? I love Wanikani, but there are some who don’t and prefer to study in other ways, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just keep on the journey and don’t give up. And above all remember:



Sounds like a prick to me. And trust me, I know a prick when I see one- glances at myself in the mirror-


The one who told this, is clearly a troll.
I’ve met such individuals before. They believe that what works for them - would work for everyone and what doesn’t work for them - is rubbish.
The truth is, if you keep studying, you’ll most certainly learn Japanese.
One of the greatest things about WaniKani is that it provides a daily routine, a core for your studies. Something to start with.

Anyway, anyone talking down to people and using words like “shitty resource” is not worthy of being considered. He claims to have learned a lot about Japanese, and yet he hasn’t even learned that politeness is very important in Japanese. Are you really going to listen to such an individual?


I had my sights set on passing the JLPT N2 in December 2012.

Anki’s bland interface quickly became tiring and it was a pain to customize and make the changes I wanted (I wasn’t lucky enough to have wizards like @hinekidori around to help make them pretty). Heisig’s Read the Kanji was only providing me with the meanings of the Kanji and no way to review the items I was learning, except to create my own flashcards or switch to an Anki deck.

I took the test and scored 64/180, with an appalling 1(yes, one)/60 on “Language Knowledge” which assesses your vocabulary and grammar abilities. This devastating blow was a wakeup call.

I joined WaniKani in April 2013 and in just over a year I had reached level 37 and was ready to give the JLPT N2 another shot. I took the test in July of 2014 and nearly doubled my score, receiving 122/180. I was ecstatic. Doubling my score, however, was not the only thing to blow me away, I had increased my “Language Knowledge” score by an unthinkable 48 points, receiving 48/60 just in vocabulary/grammar recognition.

Without WaniKani I do not think that it would be possible to learn, let alone retain, as many Kanji and as much vocabulary as I did in such a short span of time.

As @Leebo, @DaisukeJigen and many others have said, that guy is not worth your time. As @lopicake said, if WK is working for you and you feel like it is helping you retain kanji/vocabulary then don’t let trolls on the internet discourage you from continuing to use it. Cheers!


And speaking of other useful resources… I have a lifetime subscription to you guys as well. Thank you and the other Bunpro devs for you work on your very useful tool! #NotSponsored #ActualOpinion #JustSoundsLikeanAd


I’d never heard of RTK before. After reading some reddit threads on it, it seems to me it’s probably too good to be true.
I fundamentally didn’t see much of a difference in methods. The implementation of WK’s system seems much more practical, though, with an SRS system and high user flexibility.

well put, there’s no value in tearing down someone else


The catch is that with RTK 1 kanji = 1 English word, that’s all. No multiple meanings, no nuances, no readings, no vocab. So yea, RTK is really fast but very shallow too.

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I get why they do that, but it does seem ridiculous, because sometimes they have to go out of their way to use kind of weird words so they don’t overlap with each other.


That Matt guy, like almost every other AJATTer, is nuts.

The worst thing in his video is that he praises Remembering the Kanji for things that Wanikani also does, and criticizes WK for things that RtK also does. (for example, “RtK is better because you create your own mnemonics”, but RtK actually has very detailed mnemonics created by the author for the first hundreds of kanji; and he doesn’t acknowledge that WK has an editable field in every kanji so the user can write their own mnemonics). But for him WK is garbage while RtK is perfect. I can’t take him seriously.

What’s worse is that now he’s trying to popularize is own “method” of learning japanese…


WK is optimal for studying Kanji sub optimally which you should be doing unless youre already fluent in speaking. If that was the case, then WK is not a good option.


I tried using RTK with Anki before. Me trying to do 20+ Anki lessons per day doesn’t help either. I thought the lessons were easy, I kept on cramming lessons after lessons. Little did I know back then, short term memory =! long term memory. Just because you can recall them 1 day letter does not mean you can recall them a week later. As someone said before, the reviews did bit me back, and boy do they bit hard. With work and family, I just cannot keep up. Kept restarting lots of times.

A few years later, I found WaniKani. Tried the free levels, found out the deliberate/forced slowness of the lessons works to my advantage. The timing of me finishing the free levels and the new year lifetime offer couldn’t be better. Straight to lifetime.

So far, even though currentIy my speed is in the 7-8 days per level, I don’t feel any burnout (knock on wood). So yeah, I repeat: the deliberate/forced slowness of the lessons works to my advantage.

You do you.