Is WaniKani suited for not native English people?

So I am still at the very beginning of WaniKani but I know in a few days or weeks I will need to think about whether to invest in WaniKani Premium.
The thing is I am German and my English is not that bad but I am not anywhere near a native speaker either.
Since all the Mnemonics are in English and I assume they will get more complex as the Kanji will get more complex, I wonder if it makes sense to stick to this learning method.

Are there any other German or not native English people here that could tell me about their experience or give me some advice?

Thanks in advance


The mnemonics do get more complex, but the language used in them not so much. For non-native speakers the issues I would see so far are:

  • using (debatably) fancy words like “hegemony” for some English card glosses

  • relying on US English pronunciations for the vocal component of mnemonics

I bring out the full potato strength, @latepatate


You might not be that much of minority here.


A couple of things. As a fellow non-native but Swedish WK user that’s made it to lv 60 before. I think it’s a valid concern to say that not all mnemonics that work in English, also works for non-native users. That being said, I also feel that not all mnemonics works for all people, period. At the end of the day, whether something helps you learn or not is individual and I think most long-term users tend to start making their own mnemonics suitable for their cultural references and knowledge in their own language as well as in Japanese as they go. Having the WK mnenomics as a baseline/default is great, but the more effort you put into things, the more likely you are to memorize things. :slight_smile:

I also think you’ll rely less and less on the mnemonics as you progress. For one, you’ll learn how to guess the reading due to the presence of radicals that denote reading in themselves. That happens both by itself but is also vastly helped if you install a userscript like the Keisei Semantic-Phonetic Composition that helps you identify when kanji reuse the same reading due to radical components.

Another tip is that as the upper level items become increasingly specific in meaning, you might wanna start generously add synonyms in German, like I did but in Swedish. It’s not hard to learn an English flower name or juridical term short-term, but to remember that exact name or phrase in English months later for the burn-reveiw, that’s when my memory falls short. At the end of the day, I’m not here to learn English, but Japanese, so as long as you understand the meaning, it doesn’t matter if you use German for some items.

As you go along, you’ll get better at identifying which items might help get a German synonym and where it’s not necessary. But, generally speaking, words that you have a very vague feeling/understanding about in English is not a great foundation to build meaning understanding - better to just fall back on your native language in those cases and be generous with those user synonyms.

Finally, I think a huge part of the user-base on WK are non-native English speakers. Lots of people before you have gotten to lv 60 even so. If your English is truly terrible, this might not be the tool for you, but just from reading your comment, I’d say you’ll have no problem completing WK as long as you keep doing lessons and reviews.



I am german, however, I would consider my english level to be close to fluent. The mnemonics don’t really get super complex, however there are some cultural things that are very americanized and pop-culturized that make it hard sometimes for someone who had no interest in US culture, media and popculture growing up. Some mnemonics very obviously cater towards an american audience. Others feature american people that I am not familiar with (possibly also due to different age group and/or interest). “Mr. T.” comes to mind. Using him as a radical that appears so often really bothered me in the beginning. I found my way around it by creating my own mnemonics for many things. You don’t need to follow the ones presentend to you. A useful way to come up with new mnemonics is looking up what other people thought of. I am using the “KanjiDamage Mnemonics 2” script for example.

The true charm of wanikani is the the way it uses SRS and with scripts you can really modify it totally to your liking (before you dive into scripts please note that there was a major update a few days ago that broke many scripts, so the script creators will need time to fix their codes now)


I didn’t read the mnemonics after the first few levels :woozy_face:


Hi Nadarina,

as a fellow main german speaker i can tell you that wanikani is a good choice to invest. I like how through day you can do some reviews and be always in contact with some kanjis :slight_smile: . Like the other people said, there are some confusing words, but i take it as an additonal lesson to expand my english vocabulary. :).


Spanish native here, I find that the mnemonics are okay to follow, but you can always create your own with the radicals info or add synonyms in your own language to make the concept clearer in your mind.
Some of the kanji I previously learned the meaning on my mother tongue so the meaning comes faster in that language and sometimes I add the synonym.

And don’t forget scripts, the undo button is crucial for all the times I’ve written “lluvia” instead of “rain” with 雨


I had your same concern before starting. I did it. It was the right choice. WK is awesome


Well, I’m not a native English speaker either and can use WaniKani without any problems. Occasionally, I find a word I’ve never seen before, but such occasions are very rare and are easily fixed by looking up the translation.
Then again, my English, though far from perfect, is still not the worst possible… But overall, I’d say, those who can read this thread – shouldn’t have much problems with WaniKani :sweat_smile:

P. S. Also, tagging @latepatate さん who is from Germany :de:


I am fairly new here - but even as a native American English speaker, I find that many of the WK mnemonics are ‘less-than-helpful’ to me - but no problem, I just invent and use my own.


I’m a native English speaker and sometimes I have issues with the US pronunciations for the vocal parts of the mnemonics!


I do as well, though mostly because my non-native pronunciation leans more towards British English. So all of the “highly exaggerated” US English sounds don’t work to my ears.


I am a native English speaker and I have to say I don’t use the mnemonics at all. I find them mostly pretty silly and also culturally quite strange as I am not an American teenager and I find it hard to relate to some of the connections. I prefer to make up memory jogging references based on my existing knowledge of Japanese.


I (a swede, although one very good at english) think if you can get through the first 3 levels (the free ones) without issue, you’ll do fine.

As for mnemonics, I barely look at them these levels. I never found them particularly helpful, and only less so the more practiced I got at learning kanji. A lot of them I always found a bit anti-helpful (I get that roe and ろう sound vaguely similar, but roe also transliterates to ろえ so…).

I second the recommendation for the semantic-phonetic composition userscript, it obsoletes around half the reading mnemonics anyway.


Another non-native English speaker here. I haven’t had issues understanding the mnemonics, but I have found that a lot of them just aren’t very memorable. So you’ll probably have to think up your own mnemonics for at least some of the items.

And I’ll third the semantic-phonetic userscript recommendation. If you are confused about what the script is showing you and have some spare time, then I’d recommend reading the thesis the original script was based on. It’s quite interesting.


I don’t think it would matter too much, while I am a native speaker, I did encounter things I didn’t know and didn’t get, sometimes I’d search it up and that’d be enough, other times I ignored it and made my own mnemonic, or I just used the mnemonic without searching it up.

Though I don’t think the complicated things were too common.


I’m a spanish native speaker and I’ve been using Wani for a year now…
Sometimes i find a weird a meaning of a kanji or a memonics that doesn’t have any sense to me but it’s not the usual. If it’s a word i don’t know i use it for learning 2 words in both languajes and if it’s a memonic you can make one that makes sense to you ( tha’s the whole idea of memonics in first place)
Don’t worry to much about it, just by reading your question i can tell you have more than enough english leve to use Wani at his full capacity

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brazilian here and not native in English and here I am in the finish line to conclude wanikani this year



Fellow German speaker here, and yes, it is suited for non-native speakers, but your English has to be on a level where you would be able to read English novels easily (that’s my assessment at least).

  • WK sometimes uses some pretty obscure English words, so if you don’t know the English word, it’s hard to remember the Japanese word as that meaning.
  • When similar English expressions are used to express nuances between similar kanji/vocab, not having a feeling for what the difference is in English makes it hard to understand what the difference in Japanese is.