Is WaniKani sub-optimal?

I’d also like to point out that this is good for him, not just good by default. When I was doing WK, if the pre-made mnemonic didn’t stick, I did rote memorization, because I don’t like making mnemonics. The most I would do is look at the radicals and see if I could get a clue to the meaning or reading out of them.

So for me and other people like me (because chances are I’m not the only one), “creating your own mnemonics” is not at all a positive point.


The default mnemonics also often don’t stick for me and I stick to rote memorisation (mostly).

A good mnemonic (for me) forms strong connections with existing knowledge, which requires short leaps of logic.
“恋 -> red + heart -> romance” is perfect (of course, it’s unusual in allowing such a good mnemonic).
The random complicated WK mnemonics just don’t work for me because they require too many leaps of logic to get to the meaning/reading.
It’s easier to just do it by rote.
(The WK “memes” such as Charlie Sheen (RIP) or Ms Chou are actually kind of good at that: once you’ve learned a few kanji using them, other ones will attach strongly.)

Similarly, semantic-phonetic decomposition works wonders for me, because it lets me “reuse” the reading of a kanji I already know. I really love the WK plugin for it.

(Yes I know some people work well with story-style mnemonics.)


Everyone has their own ways that work for them (though some people are more “die hard” about their choices, sometime without giving other workflow a try). You will find out your own ways to learning Japanese too.

Anki works, but I found myself cheating quite a bit in there (I’ll be like, that’s a close enough answer, let me just press that spacebar). Also I got lazy and usually end up memorizing without mnemonics in there. WK keeps me honest (I don’t have any plugin to redo my answer, etc). I do use both though, especially now that I’m picking up reading Japanese source material.

I guess, bottom line is, try both (and other ways) over time and see what works for you. (It’s like dieting – was reading a news article where specific diets stick better with some people but not others. ;))

Also, at some point in the past, I got stuck spending so much time doing WK reviews in my limited studying time (at that point), that that’s the only thing I did. I don’t think that was healthy. I imagine learning kanji and kanji compounds without advancing your grammar, listening, and reading won’t be too effective. Nowadays, I limit my WK apprentice items to a small-ish number and try to spend time doing non-WK stuffs like reading news, manga, and going to Japanese classes at nearby community center.


Hahaha… during my Anki days, 20 lessons was the minimum. Usually I did 30+ lessons per day. There were times I did 20 morning and 20 evening. Just because I can recall them 15 mins/one day later. Nobody stopped me from learning more kanji. When 150+ reviews/day came, I just couldn’t keep up. Besides, Anki’s just… dry.

In WK, if I can’t remember what I learnt, no new kanji for me. Now maybe it’s 7-8 days per level (I’m just starting level 11 anyway and the first free levels are fast ones), but later when I get to the higher levels, who knows it might take me longer. WK forces me to stop learning more kanji than I should, and I like it.

edit: I should clarify, I don’t count learning radicals as “lessons”, because it’s easy (to me, again knock on wood :sweat_smile:). Only pink ones count, blue ones get free pass.

I actually would like a version of WK with a “defanged” level system which gives you lessons for some items beyond your current level.
(I haven’t worked out the details of how it would work. You’d still level up to keep some of the gamification but you just don’t get the reward of a whole bunch of lessons at once.)
I don’t like the “burstiness” of WK lessons and I’d rather have N kanji per day than having 30 kanji lessons on some more or less random day.
Of course, I can spread out WK lessons myself, but then I get penalised by a dearth of lessons a week later or so…

In general I think there is a lot of potential to explore ways to make WK a bit less ruthless and a bit more adapting to people’s individual learning speeds (which of course varies with time!).

WK leveling isnt random. Normal levels (most of them) have 2 sets of Kanjis. The first set which is made available right when you level up then the second unlocks when you Guru the radicals for the first time on that level. Only Kanjis (and by necessity Radicals) are required for levelling.

You can already set your own levelling schedule with WK. Read this guide to learn more. The only thing you cant do is going faster than the Max speed set by WK.

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It’s not technically random (that’s why I wrote “more or less”). I meant it more in the common sense meaning of “unpredictable” (which is actually closer to the actual technical definition of random but I digress). Yes, if you look precisely at what’s going on you can exactly determine why postponing lessons on day X lead to no lessons on day X+N, but if you look precisely what’s going on, you can also predict perfectly well what side a die will come up with (it’s just Newtonian mechanics, after all).

And I don’t think what I want is really achievable with the current system. You can go slower, but as soon as you spread out your lessons, you get penalised because will end up stuck on your current level for a few extra days. So you can either go slower or faster than you want to, but not at the actual desired speed.

I don’t mean to sound too negative about this because overall I still think it’s a good system but I think tackling this issue has a chance to make it even better.

I’m not sure the minor effort needed to make on-time reviews 6 or so times in a week is quite the same as knowing all the conditions for a dice roll. I can tell you exactly when I’ll level up with if I maintain punctual reviews. It’s right on wkstats.

The system is predictable though.

Perhaps you can expand what exactly you want to do. It may actually not be possible but more likely than not it probably is. Also, you keep using the word penalised but I fail to see how youre being penalised.

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The real question is how do I get one of those highlighter-ink kanji calligraphy pens in Matt’s video


I agree that it’s probably good from a learning perspective too keep people from learning too many definitions at once for every kanji. But that neglects the reality that some kanji mean very different things in different vocab. A simple examples would be 調. The WK approach I feel is correct here, requiring only one definition for reviews, but informing the user: ‘watch out, this kanji might mean something completely different’.
I don’t have any trouble at all remembering one meaning plus the fact that there are other meanings. After a few reviews the alternate meanings are in my head anyway. Going out of your way to expose yourself to only one meaning seems counterproductive, like learning incorrect technique of a musical instrument; you have to correct it sooner or later.

And the other discussion:
The only thing that makes leveling up random is your own performance. I don’t think that’s a great attitude…

Randomness is not a binary property.
Lesson days are less random than a dice roll but more random than Wednesdays.
And, yes if you keep up with the system 100%, it is very predictable.
I’m explicitly talking about the (for me) realistic case where that is not possible and every minor setback has consequences down the road in a way that is both difficult to predict in practice and hard to keep track off mentally.

I have good days and I have bad days; all I’m really saying is that it would be nice if I could do lessons on good days and not do them on bad days, without having to worry that not doing lessons on a bad day may lead to me not being able to do lessons on a good day.
(Not that it has to binary either, maybe I’ll do a few lessons on a bad day and more on a good day, etc.)

The radicals actually saved me. They make studying kanji a million times easier for me so I’m really glad wanikani teaches them thanks wanikani

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i personally dont give a feckle about the community aspect lol, tho i vastly appreciate how it might have led to hell, even my main online dictionary cites wk levels. i think thats pretty neat

wanikani has a sort of monopoly on quality kanji/reading/vocab learning, thats why its even more annoying that it refuses to let its users meddle with their own algorithms and cards. if wk could have a little button to press that’d forcibly release batches of 5 cards from the current level thatd be so nice, and once its out of cards for the level, another press could force the treshold lower so that the new level can enter earlier, while keeping the review schedule of the previous level intact, oh gosh, a bit more overlap yess, that should keep the ordering algorithm satisfied if all you’re doing is lowering tresholds for release, man i can dream

This is why I use @seanblue’s Lesson Filter script:

This way I can tell WK I want to learn 10 items in which 3 are kanji and 7 are vocab (or 6/14, or 2/3 if I’m pressed for just one batch), and I find that that keeps things rather even with regarding to how many new lessons I have waiting for me.


It’s good to hear you made it to the end (of WK) with that! While I do sometimes remember mnemonics especially for the pronunciations, mostly I do the same. Was kind of afraid it might become… too much? at later levels learning more and more Kanji that might be similar in meaning/form.

So, thanks! :smiley:

Also, I’ve been doing Kanji first (after Radicals of course) using the reorder script, which means really on the first 2 days after lvl since I try not to do more items than 25. (if most of the radicals are ‘the same as the Kanji you already learned’, well, I sometimes do a couple more :stuck_out_tongue:)

But really, I just realized (:sweat_smile:) I can actually spread them out evenly over the first 3 days until the 2nd batch is unlocked without affecting lvl up time in the slightest, averaging about 10 per day most levels probably. I think I’ll try that this level. :slight_smile:

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It’s also worth mentioning that I haven’t used mnemonics since “graduating” from WK, and it’s still working fine for me :wink:

I wouldn’t worry about it being a problem unless you start to feel it’s not working well anymore. But then, I’m not one to anticipate problems and take measures before they happen.


:+1: :sparkles:

I like that approach. It makes the procrastinator in me very happy. :slight_smile:

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“I want to go slower but I don’t want to level slower” bruh…


Anyone who tells you there is only one way to do things is usually short sighted. Someone that degrades you for doing something a different way is not trying to help you.

Like others have already said it’s really about what’s best for you. In the short term I can learn Kanji faster by looking at them on Anki or looking at flashcards. However I burn out and I won’t learn kanji vocab as easily that way. WK keeps me more motivated to study. It also keeps me honest with what I know and what I don’t know. I feel more pressure to keep up with WK and more motivated to do so. The forum helps a little too. Is WK perfect? No. IMHO it has many flaws and for the cost of it I feel like it should be a better product. However there isn’t a better option out there for my needs. I also respect that it seems like a small team working on WK with a niche market.

As for learning 2900 Kanji in a year…sure it’s possible, but who really knows what he means by learning that much Kanji (maybe he only knows what it means and not the reading or any vocab), how much time he’s spent on studying, if he’s had other advantages (he knew Chinese before studying, he’s living in Japan, he’s really good at learning these types of things), if he’s just a troll (maybe just to be a jerk, maybe he couldn’t afford WK and was ashamed so he hides it with anger), or maybe he has some legitimate issues with WK, but is unable to communicate that properly. You should do what works for you. It’s about your journey. It’s good to hear what others have to say, but it’s important to form your own opinion based on your own experiences.

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