Learning English on WaniKani

The title of this post probably looks weird, as WaniKani is a website dedicated to learning Japanese, but hear (well, actually read) me out.

English isn’t my native language, but I speak and understand it fairly well.
Still, when I try to read novels in English; I find some unknown vocabulary. It is often said that reading is a great enrichment for vocabulary. One can learn a lot from context, without even using a dictionary. Yet, I don’t really read novels in English.
However, I just realized something. Over the past 2 years I’ve been using WaniKani, not only did my Japanese improve; but my English improved as well. WaniKani almost feels like a very weird novel full of short stories.

Let’s take a look at this hint for the kanji 維 (maintain) I just learned today:
“Now you and the turkey and the eagle are all bumbling about in pandemonium. You try to maintain order but it’s not possible. What a kerfuffle.”

I found here three vocabulary I wasn’t familiar with before: bumble about, pandemonium and kerfuffle.
I could kind of guess their meanings based on the context though.

I never see such vocabulary in other English things I consume, such as YouTube videos. This is why WaniKani almost feels like a novel to me. Not only do I actually read much more in English than I used to, but WaniKani’s variety of words actually seems incredibly rich.

Did other non native English speaker here have similar experiences with WaniKani?

TL;DR: WaniKani is actually a web novel and Koichi best boy.


If you want more exotic vocabulary, look at fantasy novels (or if you’re not up to that, fantasy games). The fantasy genre has adopted a large number of previously obscure words and also tends to use lots of fancy or previously-archaic words to sound cool.


I remember there was a thread about all the English words people learned thanks to WK, like ford and the like. I think even native speakers mentioned learning a word or two.

Also, 100% agree with your tl;dr.


Yep. I didn’t even know what geoduck was


I had to look up loiter, cleat and geoduck.


English isn’t my native language too and I’ve experienced the same thing as you!

As example, I didn’t know what a ladle was before WaniKani (but tbh, it took me a while to learn it in my native language too, oops).


Similar experience as a native English speaker. 200iq Thonk am bigdumb


I haven’t experienced this myself (yet, I’m only level 5) but I think it is really really cool that you have!

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As a native English speaker, I’m more than a little intimidated by your written English!

I’m finally studying Kanji for the express purpose of reading Japanese novels (and thus indirectly improving my spoken Japanese).

I enjoy reading WK’s Japanese sample sentences for much the same reason. They are quite conversational, idiomatic, and funny.

This is a bit out of the blue, but I’d highly recommend Elmore Leonard if you’d like to read “conversational” novels in English. The man was a master of the English language (and dialog) and quite easy to read. His novels are kind of the other end of the spectrum from Melville or “classic” American literature.


For those who want to experience looking up lots of words when reading, native speakers included, there’s Ulysses by James Joyce :wink:


Yes, just recently I had to translate “proper noun” to my native language to understand the word.

There’s been some others too, but that’s the one I remember since it seemed I should have known that.

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I rarely read English novels too and when I do, I don’t really look up on unknown words - I just guess what it means from context. And yeah, wanikani introduced a lot of foreign words to me: geoduck, molotov cocktail, ford, brandish, etc.

I won’t say my English improved, but its sometimes hassle because you need to remember both the English meaning and what the English word itself means :sweat_smile:

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It’s one of the reasons I’m motivated to learn kanji too, it’s such a great motivator!

I’m just curious, do you have any specific recommendations? If I read books, I mostly read Japanese manga for practice (and for entertainment), but reading an English novel doesn’t seem like a bad pastime either, so maybe I’ll check some of his work out.

Same. Loiter and Yonder


Definitely. I learn some words here and there. Not a lot since I do read a lot in english but words/things I didn’t even know in my native language like geoduck (in my language a geoduck is apparently called elephants trunk clam).

It can also be a bit annoying if you don’t know exactly what the english word means because your own language has several different words for it and therefore you are unsure what exactly the kanji means.

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Are you German? That’s a great name for an animal haha

I couldn’t even find a name for it in my native language, which is Hebrew. I looked at some Israeli forums, and no one could find anything there. I couldn’t find anything in the dictionary either, so apparently it has no name in Hebrew.

I definitely agree. WaniKani also does a weird thing sometimes. A kanji/radical has one meaning in Japanese that is translated into something in English, but another meaning of the English word is used, one that doesn’t suit the kanji.
My explanation is messy, so I’ll give an example.
From the meaning mnemonic of 諾 (agreement):
“You say something and the flowers are right in agreement. The flowers see where you are coming from when you say what you say. You and the flowers are in complete agreement.”

It doesn’t seem to me that “right” is used here with the meaning of the radical 右 - right direction. I think it’s similar to this one: Right In | Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster
doing something with enthusiasm.
This has nothing to do with the meaning of 右. Even if I’m wrong about the meaning of “right” there, it still doesn’t seem to be like 右 at all.

I’m pretty sure it happens with other vocab, but I can’t find more examples. When it happens, I usually try making a mnemonic myself.

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I don’t know if I hit the mark with that suggestion, but Moby Dick which I listened through a couple of days ago completely annihilated my English and my self-esteem. I think it is a good book for learning many of those archaic words which you will never hear nowadays.

Also they say that the game called “Disco Elysium” has quite an intricate English but I didn’t try it myself.


Ditto! I fear the burn review on these.

Yeah there’s definitely some stuff that I didn’t know, most notably plants/animals, different parts of the human body and grammar.

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Okay, we’re wayyyyy off topic here (laugh) but so many of his books have been made into movies that you might want to start with a movie you’ve already seen. Jackie Brown was based on the novel Rum Punch, and Get Shorty was one of his novels. Both are excellent.

I’m also a fan of his early Westerns like Valdez is Coming.


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