Kanjis with not enough vocab?

Hi all, I’m sure this thread has been done before but I couldn’t find it… I was wondering if I’m the only one finding there is a definite unbalance in how often you get to review some kanjis? I just had a few kanjis come up for burning, amongst them the kanji for “achievement” that I swear I’ve barely seen, and when I checked there’s all of two vocab associated with it, one of which I haven’t learned yet. Compared to some other kanjis that you see over and over in vocab, often with the same pronouciation, I’m wondering if it is a reflection to how often those kanjis are used in the language? But I assume kanjis learned in level 11 should be frequent enough that I can see them a little more often in review through vocab?

Just wondering, as it really feels when some kanjis come up for burning that I’ve never seen them at all. It’s fine as in this case I would have gotten it wrong anyway since I’d learned the kun’yomi back with the old system, but I just wonder why some kanjis are barely present in vocab compared to others.


Interesting. And yet, people are constantly complaining about how there’s too many vocab or obscure vocab for some kanji that just slow WaniKani down.

Perhaps it is a reflection of how often they’re actually used. I’m definitely not qualified to say though.

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Yeah, I don’t care about speed, more about how solid the knowledge is in my brain, so I actually like all the vocab, even if obscure, as it helps me secure the the kanji. I’m sure it would be different if I had more time to spend on dissecting native material, but as it is I’m relying mostly (not only!) on wanikani to offer context for using the kanjis I’m learning with the system.


I hear that. When they switched to the new system I realized half the time I wasn’t sure if the one reading I knew was on or kun. While not imperative to know this all of the time (especially if one reading is basically never used), the switch kind of tripped me up, and I was unsatisfied with how solid the kanji knowledge was/was not in my brain. I’m glad the system seems to work for so many people but apparently the kanji/vocab balance wasn’t quite right for me personally.

I’ve since been making flash cards with my own quicker/denser mnemonics, which usually include more readings and which is on/kun. Still trying to get through WK because it’s a cool program but I’m making much faster progress on my own now.

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Wanikani is primarily for learning kanji. It does teach vocabulary, but a lot of that vocab is to enforce the remembrance of the kanji and its readings. The vocab tends to teach you the on/kun’yomi that wasn’t covered by that specific kanji. It will also teach you exceptions. Some of it is useful, but other parts are not as much.

It would be better to use another source for learning vocab as many words in Japanese are only written in kana alone. While Wanikani is very useful for kanji, it’s not as useful for vocab.


I know that… I think you misunderstood my first post. I wasn’t saying I wanted more vocab to learn words, but to reinforce the kanjis. Some kanjis have dozens of vocab words associated with them, which means you’re going to see them repeatedly and they will stick much better, while others have 1 or 2 words associated, which means that by the time they come back for burning, you’ve only seen them a handful of times. I was merely commenting on the imbalance of that.


Some extremely common kanji only appear in a small number of compounds, or only appear in a small number of common compounds.

努 is a kanji that Japanese kids learn in 4th grade. It basically only ever appears in two words, 努力 (どりょく effort) and 努める (つとめる to make an effort).

Still worth knowing on the basis of the commonness of 努力.


Yeah, my bad. Definitely misunderstood. And yes, I will agree with that as well. Some kanji really don’t have that many vocab words with them.


And it only gets worse from here! Wait till you get to the kanji that have no vocabs!!! Some Kanji basically only show up in names. Others are for words most commonly written in Kana. Others literally only show up on the Japanese constitution and are therefore part of the Joyo Kanji. Etc. Etc.

Law of diminishing returns is very real when it comes to Kanji. For those rarer Kanji you’ll have to just remember through more exposure (reading Japanese) and/or letting SRS just work its magic and keep making you review it.


Speaking of the law of diminishing returns, at about what WaniKani level (if any) would you upper-levelers say there’s a significant drop in kanji that you’ll find in the wild for, say, children’s manga or other “easy” reading material? I wonder about this a lot. I imagine the upper levels of WaniKani being a lot of work for not a lot of return unless you’re starting to pick up novels or something. But I need to make it another 50 levels before I have any right to say haha.

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You can check at https://wkstats.com:10001/charts/frequency how many of the most frequent kanji are sorted to WK levels.

Let’s say 95%+ should be covered by WK, then with WK level 25 you know most of the 500 most frequent, and with level 38 the 1000 most frequent. I don’t have data, but you can be certain that the frequency will drop fast, so the top 1000 are a vast majority of kanji you will find.

When you go to https://wkstats.com:10001/charts/joyo you also see the WK level to grades in Japanese schools. The publishers of the books know exactly what kanji their age group should be able to read, so for example WK level 44 should enable you to read books for “elementary school graduates”. [You already got 85% with level 34, and I’m not so sure that all Japanese children would really score 100% after finishing school :slight_smile:]


I recently encountered . There is no vocab for this kanji in WK. Shouldn’t there be at least one vocab for every kanji, so that we can get a feel for the words where this kanji is used?
I found these words in Jisho, that use 亮:

I don’t know how common they are, but adding one of them would be useful, I think.


ah, thanks!

It seems like levels 16-27 is a sweet spot (fairly thorough coverage of early JLPT, Joyo, and newspaper frequency).

The 20s has definitely felt like a big levelling up in my reading ability, at least as far a kanji goes. If only my grammar and ability to parse sentences was at the same level. Working at it, though.


Yeah but the way WK is laid out you still learn relatively common Kanji once in a while at higher levels. And then there are some VERY common Kanji not even on WK. Something like level 40 will be enough for most things, and then you can learn other Kanji slowly / by experience if you see it often.

EDIT: Also, just looking at % coverage of the top frequency / Joyo / JLPT is a bit misleading IMO. Even if you know 75% of the most frequent Kanji, reading can be a very stop and start experience. If a Kanji you don’t know is an important part of the sentence (i.e. not an adjective) you HAVE to look it up basically.

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And yet, people are constantly complaining about how there’s too many vocab

I, for one, love the fact that we have a lot of Vocabulary to learn alongside the Kanji, wouldn’t even mind if there were more of them. They “slow down” the levelling up process a lot, this is a fact, but at least I think they provide a better feeling of accomplishment and progress than what memorizing pure Kanji would.


is it? only kanji determine whether or not you advance to the next level, and i always clear my reviews (or lessons) entirely each day. the only case where i slow down is if i get the kanji wrong… do others not do this? :eyes:

anyways, a bit more vocab would be appreciated, even if it were only an option or something

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I clear my reviews every day, but only do 10-25 lessons a day.

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Well yeah it does: I can level up and still have 50+ vocab lessons to get through in order to get to the new level kanjis, and the days I spend doing those lessons are added to the days spent on the new level, even if I haven’t even started it yet. I don’t mind, and I don’t use a reorder script because my goal is not speed, but I see how it might bother other people.
Also, kuddos for clearing your reviews everyday, but do you really do those 80/90 vocab lessons the day they come up? I personally often have to skip a few days of reviews but it doesn’t change the rhythm at which I go through those vocab lessons, which is about 5/10 a day. I would expect any more would become unmanageable in the amount of daily reviews in the higher levels.

I think the pace that people can go does depend on a number of factors, but probably the most impactful is how much of the new content the person already knows.

If you are learning both the words and the kanji, then vocab can take a really long time. If you already know the words, and are just learning the kanji, it doesn’t take much effort to go through new vocab.

That could be one factor.