Every Wednesday between May 17 and June 28, 2023, we’re adding small batches of Kana-Only Vocabulary to WaniKani. That is, words written 100% in hiragana or katakana. We’re adding it because, though kanji is an excellent method for learning a lot of vocabulary, there are still plenty of common, useful words that don’t contain any kanji. To reach Japanese fluency, you need to learn these words, too. And soon, you’ll be able to do that on WaniKani.
All you need is to do what you’ve always done: complete your Lessons and Reviews. They will be spread throughout the levels just like other vocabulary. As you progress through WaniKani, you will learn new kana-only vocabulary. Once you’ve completed your Lessons, they will start appearing in your Reviews and you can study and burn them as normal.
There are some differences between kana-only vocabulary and kanji-based vocabulary, though:
Kana-only vocabulary only have an (English) “meaning” side to them. In that sense, they are similar to Radicals.
Kana-only vocabulary use a different mnemonic method, the Keyword Mnemonic. Since kana-only vocabulary are not based off kanji you already know, we instead use the sound of the word to trigger a mnemonic. You just need to read the sounds (the kana), and use that to remember the image or story, which will guide you towards the word’s meaning. For some katakana words, it will be even easier, because they sound (more or less!) like the English word they come from, so they won’t even need a mnemonic. We’ll still give you a bit more context on the meaning if it differs from its English equivalent, though.
Kana-only vocabulary unlock when you reach a new level. They don’t have any kanji prerequisites to unlock, because they don’t have any kanji. So if you meet the level requirements, they will unlock.
This time around, we’re going to publish sixty kana-only words, spread out over seven weeks, to avoid overwhelming higher-level users. To be extra careful, we’ll only publish three words in the first week as a test, followed by seven in the second week, and then batches of ten for five weeks after that. Here’s what our tentative schedule looks like.
Wednesday, May 17 2023 - Published
Wednesday, May 24 2023 - Published
- Level 2: おはよう - good morning
- Level 2: ホテル - hotel
- Level 3: いつ - when
- Level 3: コーヒー - coffee
- Level 3: これ - this one
- Level 3: こんにちは - hello
- Level 3: する - to do
Wednesday, May 31 2023 - Published
- Level 4: うん - yep
- Level 4: こんばんは - good evening
- Level 4: さようなら - good-bye
- Level 4: テレビ - television
- Level 4: どれ - which one
- Level 4: ノート - notebook
- Level 4: はい - yes
- Level 5: あなた - you
- Level 5: いいえ - no
- Level 5: コンビニ - convenience store
Wednesday, June 7 2023 - Published
- Level 5: すみません - excuse me
- Level 5: それ - that one
- Level 5: デパート - department store
- Level 6: あれ - that one over there
- Level 6: カバン - bag
- Level 6: この - this
- Level 6: タクシー - taxi
- Level 6: どの - which
- Level 6: ドル - dollar
- Level 6: ない - not there
Wednesday, June 14 2023
- Level 7: その - that
- Level 7: あの - that over there
- Level 8: ここ - here
- Level 8: どこ - where
- Level 8: でも - but
- Level 8: まだ - still
- Level 8: もしもし - telephone hello
- Level 9: ガラス - glass
- Level 9: キロ - kilo
- Level 9: そこ - there
Wednesday, June 21 2023
- Level 9: あそこ - over there
- Level 9: ほとんど - almost
- Level 10: サービス - service
- Level 10: しかし - however
- Level 10: タバコ - tobacco
- Level 10: ちょっと - a little
- Level 10: とても - very
- Level 10: パン - bread
- Level 10: ビル - building
- Level 12: もう - already
Wednesday, June 28 2023
- Level 13: マンション - apartment building
- Level 13: ワンピース - dress
- Level 15: オノマトペ - onomatopoeia
- Level 15: トランプ - deck of cards
- Level 16: ふわふわ - fluffy
- Level 17: ペラペラ - fluent
- Level 18: ドキドキ - racing heart
- Level 25: まぐれ - fluke
- Level 30: バイキング - buffet
- Level 36: レントゲン - X-ray
Q. How do I start learning kana-only vocabulary?
A. Just do your Lessons as normal. Kana-only vocabulary will be included in there.
Q. What kind of kana-only vocab are included?
A. We’re including both hiragana and katakana-based kana-only vocabulary.
Q. How do I unlock kana-only vocabulary?
A. Once you get to a new level, you will unlock that level’s kana-only vocabulary. There is no kanji prerequisite, so they will just unlock once you’ve met level requirements.
Q. What are the “answer” fields for kana-only vocabulary?
A. You only need to answer the (English) meaning side of the card. We don’t think it’s as good a use of your time to type in the reading, when the answer is right in front of you (the reading answer would just be a copy of the kana that’s right there). That means kana-only vocabulary will be cleared more quickly, similar to Radicals.
Q. What happens if I accidentally enter the reading instead of the meaning?
A. You’ll get a shake and message if you enter the reading instead of the meaning — for example, if you accidentally answer “un” or “unn” for うん.
Q. What am I going to be able to do with kana-only vocabulary?
A. Learning more vocabulary will help with your entire Japanese language ability, whether it’s speaking, reading, listening, or writing. Vocabulary and fluency go hand in hand, and these vocabulary words will help you to get closer to that goal.
Q. Why only sixty words?
A. We’re starting with sixty words as a test, but the ultimate goal is to add all the words you need to be able to read Japanese comfortably.
Q. How are the levels decided for kana-only words?
A. We’ve set the levels primarily according to their frequency and their usefulness for reading. For that, we used corpus data combined with native speaker intuition. We also considered how easy the “concept” of the word is - which includes things like how close its range of use is to its English equivalent. (That’s one of the reasons リンゴ is a lower level than ふわふわ, for example.)
Q. What about all the missing kanji-based vocabulary?
A. We’re working on those too! We add more every year, and we plan to keep doing that until we have all the words you need for Japanese reading fluency.
Q. Why isn’t kana-only vocabulary in a separate track?
A. Kana-only vocabulary is still vocabulary, so we think it makes most sense as part of WaniKani itself. It also allows for better interleaving (alternating the testing of unrelated items to improve retention). The idea here is to help as many people as possible get to Japanese fluency as quickly as possible.
Q. Will kana-only vocabulary be opt-in?
A. This initial round of sixty vocabulary is not opt-in. We’ll evaluate whether to make them opt-in later on, though.
Q. Is kana-only vocabulary available to everyone?
A. Yes. Kana-only vocabulary that we add to the first three levels will be available to everyone with a WaniKani account, and kana-only vocabulary from levels 4 and up will be available to everyone with a subscription.