Kana-Only Vocabulary is coming

Hi Everyone

Late last year I started working on adding a new Kana-Only Vocabulary subject type to Wanikani. It allows you to learn useful Japanese vocabulary even if it doesn’t contain a single kanji.

I have been deploying updates since late last year in preparation for when we start publishing the new Kana-Only Vocabulary content. Most of these changes went unnoticed, but adding this new subject type was one of the catalysts for the recent updates to lessons and reviews. It was getting harder to add new features like this without addressing the technical debt that had been accrued and not paid.

We are now at a point where we want to start publishing the Kana-Only Vocabulary but I am in the unfortunate position again where I am not sure what impact this will have on user scripts and more importantly (because they take longer to update) third party apps.

We are going to start publishing the new Kana-Only Vocabulary around 2 weeks from now (some time after May 17th 2023). I have updated the API and the documentation, so please read up, make any changes as you need, and let me know if you have any concerns.

Here are the important things you need to know:

  • This is not considered a breaking change to the API, so it will not get a new revision number.
  • We only test the meanings for Kana-Only Vocabulary (the same as we do for radicals).
  • Kana-Only Vocabulary don’t have readings but they do have pronunciations.

As a heads up, we do send out emails to the developers who are registered to the API mailing list to make sure the developers who don’t hang out in the forums know about these kind of changes.


Cool and oh no.

This will probably kill Flaming Durtles, no?


Awesome! Just wondering how many you plan to add in total?

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I don’t know is the unfortunate answer. It is code outside my control. This would be a question you could asked of the author. We will be sending an email later today, so if the author is on the mailing list, they should get a heads up.

We will be releasing the Kana-Only Vocabulary in batches to not overwhelm people. We have about 60 to start with, which will be released in batches of about 10 per week.


If this breaks Flaming Durtles (which is currently unmaintained) and/or if this new vocab is significant enough in size and not opt-out, then this will mean that I’m going to suspend my subscription, as I have zero desire of learning new vocab I already learned through Anki and I’m not going to change the way I do reviews on my phone either.


Are those new words coming as new levels? Or included in the existing levels?

This seems like a really good addition but I have two questions.

So if we use もう (already) as an example, it would display the hiragana and we need to type the meaning, but it wouldn’t show “Already” as the prompt and ask is to type the hiragana?

Just curious as to what the difference is? Is this referring to the recorded audio?

That is wonderful news and long overdue if you ask me. It is a bit silly to learn 6000 words but be clueless about stuff like ‘パソコン’


I am really sorry to hear this. I am not sure what you mean by “significant enough in size”, does my prior response about how many Kana-Only Vocabulary there will be not answer this? The Kana-Only Vocabulary is not opt-out. We will be starting with smaller batches though to hopefully not overwhelm people.
I understand it is tough if Flaming Durtles breaks, but the best I can do is make sure the developers have the information they need to rectify any issues. We want to continue to add new features, and we can’t be held back from delivering these features because it breaks something out of our control. I hope you can understand that point of view. It is a tough position.

They will be mixed into existing levels. We have a range that are currently between level 2 and level 48.

That is correct. More details will come in the general announcement closer to the time. This announcement is more about making sure scripts and apps have a heads up.

Yes it is referring to recorded audio and I was referring to the new Kana-Only Vocabulary data structure


Sure, as long as you understand the point of view that this would make the service not worth my money any more.


I do understand that, and I will try my best to help Flaming Durtles however I can.


I think you’re doing the best you can. Giving advance notice about changes so scripts and apps can be updated. If a script or an app is un maintained there is nothing you can do, and certainly it wouldn’t be right not to introduce new features that are long overdue: the service has been quite stale for too long, and it really needs new content to keep the edge.


I have absolutely zero desire for kana only vocab. This will only slow down my learning kanji with words I most likely already know. Mixing it with levels based on kanji doesn’t make any sense. If wanikani is insisting on this new feature, it needs to be opt out of at least a separate lesson pile.

Waking up to this news honestly makes me angry. I don’t understand why this is a priority for wanikani.


I dont want to sound too rude, but can i ask what is the point of this?

Has the direction WaniKani is heading changed? I cant see how 60 vocab will help anything, you would need at least a few thousands to also double down as a vocab learning site and not just kanji learning site. However since its not optional side thing, does this mean that you want to make levels contain significantly bigger amount of items?
Already as is, many people consider levels to be bloated with uncommon vocab, many people also complain that they know some basics and while WK seems appealing, they dont want to go through stuff they already know (since there isnt any “suspend card” option), this will possibly make both of those problems worse.

It is especially insulting that a popular feature was removed just to get “eh, we will look at possible solutions” without any specific estimate to all the complaints and this is the first thing thats gonna be added to offset it?

Maybe at different time with different imlpementation, this could be a hit that would eventually make WK all rounder tool, but now as is? This is more of an downgrade. (Not to mention that this will probably break some scripts and possibly even apps again)


I think you are right, it would seem that the direction has changed, and personally I think that’s a great thing. Wanikani was far too limited and a ‘kanji only learning platform’ is not what most people need, especially if they are early in their Japanese learning path (in fact in my experience starting wanikani early has been detrimental to my learning). Teaching some common vocabulary might change that and I applaude the effort.

I would think making it optional so people can opt out would make everybody happy, but other than that I am more than happy they started doing this, and I hope in time they also add the remaining N1 kanjis and a few extra levels. Again, ideally with an opt out option, if possible.


Before this post gets too out of control, could I ask that general feedback about the feature is held off until the general announcement is made sometime next week? I really want to make sure I can listen to and help the developers, and while your feedback is appreciated I want to have this post focused on the development side of this topic.

I do want to address the sentiment of these 2 posts though.
Like I said, I started work on this last year, and this feature has actually been completed (from a development perspective) for sometime. We held the feature back because we realised that it would not be well received at the time it was completed. Delivering this feature now clears the path to focus on delivering the features that people are missing from the old summary pages. You can follow along here for updates on that topic. I just want to assure you that we are all busy working on improving Wanikani for all users, and releasing this feature now is so we can keep the proverbial house clean and not cluttered with undelivered or half done features.


Make this optional before you go any further, it’s gonna cause hell.


I think this is awesome!!! I wonder if onomatopoeia will be included as well: there are so many and are so funny! Looking forward to it! :blush: