Is WaniKani sub-optimal?


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.


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.


My personal experience with RTK (well, first one only) is that you can learn to recognize those 2200 Kanji in 100 days or so, but they don’t stick all that well long term. You don’t get much vocab or links between the Kanji themselves and can only really rely on the radicals to make any kind of meaningful link between words. Not knowing any reading also means you’re still 100% dependant on a second language to do anything whatsoever in Japanese.

As for criticism like the confusion caused by じん vs にん for 人, my “trick” for pretty much everything like that is “does it sound like shit”, and it works like 95% of the time. The 人数 example from the video is easy to remember for me because it sticks out like a sore thumb, じんすう would sound far more natural IMO. I tend to learn fairly well using sounds though, so I know that’s not for everyone.

At that speed, I think you average about 22-23 lessons a day, so it feels kind of weird that you think it’s slow compared to when you went 20 a day on Anki :stuck_out_tongue:
Radicals and vocab do tend to be easier lessons though.


I try to read the toilet paper and bleach packaging when I’m sitting on the throne.


Can’t like this enough. If learning all the joyou kanji asap is not your top priority, WK is 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.