It feels like WK somewhat loses its way partway through

Hello all,

As I’m getting close to the halfway point I feel like offering some feedback regarding the experience. While I do have some qualms with WK, I’m absolutely convinced that I wouldn’t have been able to learn that many kanji (close to a thousand now) with any other traditional method.

Yet, I have one big peeve with WK at this point:

So basically, WK’s whole concept is that it teaches you Kanji by starting with simple components (or “radicals” as they’re called on this website) in order to build increasingly more complex Kanji. I feel like that’s the whole thrust behind this entire thing, as outlined by Tofugu in this foundational article. I think that’s a great idea and one of the main reasons I subscribed to the website in the first place.

But then, why does it seem like WK doesn’t actually do that for a huge number of Kanji?

Here are a few examples:

  • 例 is taught at level 14, and 列 immediately after at level 15. Why not do it the other way around and use 列 as a radical for 例? Instead they’re both taught as “yakuza” + “knife”

  • Then at level 29 we get 烈 which again contains 列 and on top of that shares the same reading レツ! Surely WK will point out the relation between the two? Nope, it’s “yakuza” and “knife” again.

  • And then at level 43 裂 which again has the same 列 component and the same レツ reading, and once again it’s yakuza with a knife.

  • 崎 is introduced at level 23 with the “lip ring” and “big” radicals for 奇, but then at level 28 奇 itself is introduced as a radical and all other kanji containing it (including 奇 itself) are introduced using it. Why is 崎 alone treated that way? I actually find it confusing because it forces me to reinterpret the kanji when I encounter it again (it’s no longer a mountain with a big lipring, it’s a strange mountain). Why not introduce 奇 first as “big lip ring” and then use it as a radical for all the others? Seems a lot more consistent that way.

  • 警 is introduced at level 17 and it contains the 敬 component, which also carries the reading ケイ. But it’s not taught that way, instead it’s “poem” + “winter”. Ditto for 驚 at level 31. Meanwhile 敬 only pops up as a kanji on level 33.

  • 怖 at level 29 is taught as “narwhal” + “towel” instead of just 布 (from level 19) which, again, carries the same onyomi フ!

  • Same situation with 左 (level 2) and 佐 (level 47) (same on reading too)

  • 皆 (level 13) is taught one level after 階 (level 12) and are both decomposed as “compare” + “white”. They also both have the onyomi カイ but admittedly WK doesn’t teach that reading for 皆 so it’s not immediately useful.

  • 葬 (burial, level 37) obviously contain the death component 死 which semantically makes a lot of sense and is very easy to remember. But WK teaches it as “yakuza” + “spoon”. I mean sure?

And just off the top of my head, there are dozens of other examples.

It’s just so inconsistent, because sometimes WK does reuse kanji like 制 (level 21) introduced as a radical at level 24 for one single kanji 製. Why does this one deserve a standalone radical but not 列?

For this reason at this point I basically completely ignore the provided “radicals” because a huge portion of the time they’re suboptimal if not outright misleading because it obfuscates many phonetic components that make it much easier to remember the onyomi of many kanji.

I just feel like it goes against the whole spirit of WK as described in the above article.


I agree with you and could provide more examples if I cared. For all its claims that it’s following a structured approach, I feel like it WK falls short. Maybe the lesson to be learned is that really there is no big structured approach to learning Kanji; there are individual shortcuts here and there, but in the end, a lot of it is just memorising arbitrary squiggles.

That said, they could incorporate the phonetic component of radicals in a better way, in many cases. But I found that at some point I was just able to predict what the reading was going to be by myself even without having to be told explicitly.


Yeah that’s another big missed opportunity IMO, WK insists on these English-based mnemonics instead of pointing out that “hey look, kanjis with 工 are often pronounced コウ!” which is a super useful “trick” to notice. Of course eventually I expect that most learners will spot these themselves, but it wouldn’t hurt if WK mentioned them somewhere because I’m sure I’ve missed a couple.

Like just for my current level 29, I can list these kanji whose onyomi I memorized thanks to these shared radicals:

  • 閣 (各)

  • 寄 (奇)

  • 板 (反)

  • 怖 (布)

  • 烈 (列)

  • 江 (工, although WK only teaches the kun え so it’s a freebie)

  • 促 (足)

  • 請 (青)

  • 僚 (尞, which isn’t taught on WK but I already know 寮 with the same on)

  • 積 (責)

That’s about one third of this level’s kanji whose reading I remember trivially just by spotting these components!


And also perhaps that with 2000+ characters it’s difficult to catch all the instances of this kind of thing; user-submitted content, mnemonics and suggestions can help with that (I’ve seen this with RTK-adjacent stuff) but is of course its own can of worms.


yeah i think i saw this somewhere else… i think we should contact the devs, but i’m not sure if that’s easy; what do you think?

also here i am with my level 1 ass nervously reading the entire thing

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I wonder if one of the problems is not that WK’s “radical” system is too strict and limiting. They can’t introduce radicals at will without risking messing with the balance of the progression, too many radicals in a level and it messes with the kanji unlocking, not enough and it turns into a “fast” level.

That’s why I personally think that radicals should exist outside of the SRS system, I don’t think it’s super useful to learn them on their own generally (I use scripts to autopass them every time personally).

In particular I find it extra silly to reintroduce learned kanji as radicals, then force you to go through 4 SRS steps for them. I’m level 29, I don’t need to drill ’s meaning 5 times in a week!


Don’t worry about it, it won’t become an “issue” until you’re well into double digit levels, and even then it’s more of a pet peeve of mine than a true hindrance.

By the time you get there you should find that you don’t need as much handholding for studying kanji anyway, so you’ll be free to decide if you want to keep using WK’s mnemonics as your main method or switch to your own tricks. Personally I ignore them almost entirely by now.


oh good! i tend to work myself up for nothing anyways

omk3 made another list a while ago.

Wiktionary might decomposes into better largest components, but then it often come down to relatively rare Kanji, or ones practically not used sometimes. Even so, non-font components might still be seen as a missed opportunity.

It can go pretty far. Still, perhaps what matters can be told better when writing. Component-building can’t be perfect all the time.

Semantic-Phonetic information is interesting, but just opinionated. So, I prefer to give myself a pet theory.


i noticed this for the first time on level 10 with 失. it’s introduced as a kanji in level 9

it was definitely a bit easier to reason about as a radical because i’d already done the kanji reps and learned that it’s in 失礼. so i thought “ok, cool, i know this one”.

to your point though, the way it’s all setup is likely too inflexible. perhaps grinding radicals should take less time, or perhaps radicals that are also standalone kanji have less reps.

i also wonder if maybe some of this stuff got moved around over the years.


I think the biggest f*ck you in all of Wanikani is when they introduce a kanji first as a radical with a made up name (like 各 “kiss”) then later you get the kanji with the proper meaning (各 “each”) and then finally you get a burn review for the radical and you answer “each” and it fails you.



yeahhhhhhh. that seems goofy. thanks for the tip lol, 各 as kanji must be coming up…

honestly i’d rather just learn the kanji first and later and be told “cool guess what this can be a radical”

but i mean, if you know the kanji and you see it as a radical, wouldn’t it be obvious that, hey, this can also be a radical?? but then that destroys the model/progression of “radicals are the fundamental legos”

the only other thing i can think of is if they’re special casing kanji that are abstract, but that’s a wild guess since i haven’t seen enough of these instances yet

i dunno, unfortunate edge of wanikani

I can confirm both “each” and “kiss” will work for the 各 radical. Likewise, “kiss” will give you a grey shake for the 各 kanji quiz. This is one of the features introduced with the grey shake update.

@simias, I appreciate the examples and context you provided here. I’ll let our content team know about this thread. You’re welcome to continue adding further examples to this thread, but generally the best way of getting feedback/requests to us is emailing That way, we can ensure nothing slips through the cracks.


Ah ok, I actually added “each” as a synonym but maybe I was being extra cautious.

I definitely had this issue with the 十 radical refusing “ten” instead of “cross”, but that was six months ago now, maybe it’s been fixed/improved since then.


“Ten” gives a grey shake for the 十 radical. We did have an issue a while back where user synonyms that were also on the grey shake list were causing some items to be marked incorrect, but that’s since been resolved.

Again, thank you! Your feedback is always appreciated.


Ok that might have been it then

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You expect too much of us. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ok but seriously, is this a thing? Is there a good resource online with more information on this kind of relationship? This is the first I’ve heard of it. I know polv mentioned a userscript and listed a bunch of links, but they’re all in some bizarre language I don’t understand. :confused:
I did a quick google search for Semantic-Phonetic kanji, but I was hoping for something like those Tofugu articles.

Going through WK for a second time, I spend most of my time in lessons adding the kanji meanings and readings as synonyms for radicals, since I have no use for them anymore

And let’s not forget 働 which is less common than 動. More complicated than 動. And even has 動 as a phonetic component.

WK teaches you 働 first


Yes, there are loads of examples of Kanji like that. I believe that you maybe only start to see this pattern a bit later, level 22 is maybe still a bit early.

In general, many Kanji have one component that is there only for the sound (the phonetic component) and one that is there for the meaning (the semantic one).

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