Learning Radicals

Is there a way you can learn more radicals before moving onto Hiragana which Wanikani recommends after learning the 1st 25 radicals, prior to moving onto Kanji where I assume after completing the first Kanji lessons more radicals are revealed.



I don’t exactly know what you’re getting at, so in case the answer is not useful, I’m sorry. :pray:
If you want to learn more radicals from the start, nothing stops you from going to the overview of the second level and click through the radicals there. I don’t really know how that can be useful, but you can absolutely do that!

Apart from that: You should know at least Hiragana from the start, don’t try to rely on Romaji too much, it will bite you down the line. Hiragana is absolutely necessary for anything japanese which involves written content. I don’t know why WK says you should start with that after the first batch of radicals because honestly, you should know the scripts before even starting WK in my opinion. :slight_smile:


I don’t think Wanikani says you should learn the radicals before hiragana. They tell you should at the very least know hiragana already before kanji shows up. Meaning, you should get started on that ASAP before moving on with anything else because it’s the absolutely fundamentals of reading anything in the language. When kanji starts being introduced, it’s going to expect you to be able to understand the readings in hiragana already.


I didn’t say Wanikani told you to learn the radicals before Hiragana, my experience of Wanikani so far as a beginner. I dived straight in and using the SRS have memorised the 1st 25 radicals, I then came to the next lessons on level one which were Kanji, following the pop up I read this. Screenshot below.

As someone that follows the rules I have gone to Tofugu and downloaded the Hiragana learning material and am studying that.

The reason for my question is, if the radicals are the building blocks of Kanji, shouldn’t I learn all the building blocks first? I know its a bit more complicated than that.

I can go to Level 2 radicals but you cant take them as lessons therefore you are not using the SRS method which works well foe me.

Needing to learn all the radicals first would make sense if every individual kanji used every single radical. But that’s not the case. So no, you don’t need “all the building blocks” to move on to learning basic kanji after knowing some radicals.

The system Wanikani uses is to help you get familiar with how kanji is broken down into individual parts as you’re learning them. So you can tell them apart better over time as they become increasingly complex. Which also helps later on when you want to look up characters you don’t know yet when seeing them in the wild. It eases you into it.

1 Like

I think you are misunderstanding the writing systems.

Hiragana are characters that represent sounds. There are few hiragana relative to the number of kanji. Similarly, katakana have the same purpose (they represent sounds only), though they’re used most often for loanwords and transcriptions of foreign words. There are only on the order of 50 hiragana and on the order of 50 katakana, but there are tens of thousands of kanji and WaniKani will teach you on the order of 2,000.

You should definitely learn hiragana first. They are used extensively on WaniKani to give the reading of kanji. The kanji lessons won’t make any sense if you don’t know hiragana, because the reading requires knowledge of hiragana. For example, you’ll learn the reading of the kanji 上 as じょう, but you won’t be able to read that if you don’t study hiragana first.


Radicals and hiragana aren’t related. You don’t need to study any radicals at all to learn hiragana. The radicals are nothing more than a set of shapes that appear commonly in kanji. You need both the radicals (introduced as needed by WaniKani) and knowledge of hiragana to do the kanji lessons.


Thank you and sorry I didn’t mean to sound rude.

Learning Hiragana is a bit more involved and is taking me longer to grasp including the correct writing which is definitely helping though.

Im itching to get on with the Kanji lessons but want to complete (not really complete) my learning of Hiragana or at least have a good understanding before moving onto the Kanji, as this would seem the right thing to do.


No worries. Misunderstandings happen on the internet. Especially when entering a field you’re new to. Good luck getting Hiragana down. That on its own goes a long way to understanding how the language functions.

1 Like

I know they aren’t related, Im following the steps on Wanikani, learn the 1st 25 radicals, move onto learning Hiragana before moving onto the Kanji.

The reason for my intitial question was, obviously the radicals are one of the first things you need to know when looking at Kanji, I learn quickly with the SRS method and thought that being able to recall more would be an advantage to my learning. Not that it would help with learning Hiragana,

Since you’re someone who follows the rules, if you haven’t, please read the wanikani knowledge guide (this links to Radical Names explanation, but you’ll be able to read the entire guide as well).

No. The whole idea behind wanikani is breaking a massive number of items (kanji) into small batches based on the complexity of said items. The level of complexity goes up every level, and it builds upon itself, a radical build a kanji that becomes a more complex radical that builds a more complex kanji. It’s a gradual progression.
Hiragana and katakana are similar to abcs, kanji in themselves are more close to a pictorial representation of a concept. And radicals are simply an aid.

That’s fair. I would recommend spending your time and effort on learning hiragana and katakana until you are comfortable with both reading and typing.

If you really want to learn kanji at this point, you could potentially learn readings with Latin characters, but you’d have to use some other resource that gives the readings without using hiragana. Personally, I would not recommend this.

I think this is the right way to go!

WaniKani will teach you the radicals you need at the beginning of each level. I don’t think there’s an advantage to learning radicals in isolation. Even if you learned every radical, you wouldn’t really know Japanese.

An important thing to realize is that the radicals don’t necessarily tell you anything about the meaning of characters. Some do, but many don’t (characters with the “scooter” radical, ⻌, don’t have anything to do with scooters; it’s just a way to help you memorize the kanji with a mnemonic device).

1 Like

I apologize if any of my previous posts seemed confrontational. I was confused by your question.

In short, I believe you should spend as much time as you need to learn hiragana (and, in my opinion, also katakana; WaniKani teaches vocabulary like ホテル, リンゴ, and アメリカ人, and you’ll encounter words with katakana as early as level 2) before moving on to anything else. Just trust the order WaniKani uses to introduce new topics for now; there’s no need to learn more radicals.

Thank you very much. I expected it to be daunting as a self learner, there is so much out there and I was getting a bit lost. I have a plan now.


Yes and no. WaniKani is going to take care of that for you, by only showing you kanji with the radicals you already know, and slowly introduce more radicals (so then more kanji) as you go along. You don’t have to learn all the radicals all at once.

It’s a good question, don’t feel bad for asking.


Good luck! Learning Japanese is not easy. It will take a lot of time, which can (very understandably) be quite frustrating. Since you like the WaniKani SRS, I’d recommend finding something similar to cover hiragana and katakana. There are tons of options for this, including apps and flashcard decks.

I’m still a beginner, but I’ve been interested in Japanese for a long time and I’ve started studying and given up multiple times over the years. I think I’ve finally reached a critical point where, though I’m still a beginner, I’ve found a stable footing and I feel like I’m just walking with a headwind instead of being blown around by a tornado.

If you already have a plan in mind, you can disregard the rest of my message. If you’re not quite sure where to go next, read on.

  1. Your first priority is, as we’ve discussed in this thread, to learn hiragana and katakana. This is very important for several reasons.
    • First, there are many Japanese words that are written with hiragana and katakana—with and without kanji. For example, 大きい (an adjective meaning “big”) has both the kanji 大 and hiragana きい. Many words use katakana, like リンゴ (apple). This is especially common with words of foreign origin.
    • Second, the readings for kanji are very often given with either hiragana or katakana, either in dictionaries or in the texts themselves. In the latter case, this might look like おおきい, where the text above the character tells you how it’s read. (If you’re curious, this is called “furigana.”)
  2. Many people have different opinions about exactly when and how you should approach kanji. It is my belief that you should start early—as soon as you know hiragana and katakana—and be consistent, but that you should also include other things in your study regime.
    • You need to be patient with this. Learning the 2,000 or so kanji on WaniKani will take at least a year, and you can count on it taking several years if you’re not going at a breakneck pace (which I personally wouldn’t recommend unless you have a lot of time, as you should also spend your limited time and energy on other aspects of the language).
    • I believe WaniKani should become a daily (or, ideally, even more frequent) habit. If it starts to be overwhelming, you can reduce the number of lessons you do, but you should always keep up with the reviews and you shouldn’t let this fall by the wayside.
  3. I think it’s important to include grammar study after you’ve learned hiragana and katakana, and maybe after you’ve learned a few kanji to see how they work.
    • There are a gazillion options for this and there’s no single option that everyone will agree on. If you’re not opposed to spending a little more money (I know the lifetime WaniKani subscription is expensive!), I would recommend using the Genki textbooks simply because they are very commonly used and you’ll be able to find a lot of resources online.
      • You can follow along with someone like ToKini Andy if you tend to find textbooks boring.
      • I use Bunpro to study grammar. It allows you to view and practice the grammar lessons in the order of several different textbooks, including Genki. Plus, if you enable beta features, you can also study the vocabulary from the textbook in order, which I think would be really helpful since you seem to like SRS.

I think learning hiragana and katakana, then following up with consistent use of WaniKani and a grammar resource is a tried and true way to learn the fundamentals. You can get pretty far with that combination.


Hiragana, on the other hand, you DO kind of have to learn it up front all at once. Trust it will make everything easier though, to not have to struggle with that all along.


Mmm. I think a useful thing to know here is that hiragana are a small complete system of writing – you “only” have to learn fifty-odd symbols and some rules, and then you can read anything written in them. So it’s feasible to learn them all up front and then you get constant practice in using them as you go along that reinforces that learning. Kanji, on the other hand, are a massive system (WK teaches you thousands of them) and not a fixed “I’ve learnt them all, I’m done now” system. When you start you’ll be learning kanji that come up very often; by the time you get to WK level 30 or so you’ll have enough to be making a start on reading real Japanese books or manga (sometimes looking up or guessing or skipping kanji you don’t know yet), at level 50-60 you’ll be learning some pretty obscure kanji, and even after you’ve finished level 60 there will be kanji out there that WK hasn’t taught you, and you’ll likely occasionally run into one you don’t know for years and decades after that. That means that (a) it’s definitely not possible to learn “all the kanji” ahead of time and (b) luckily you don’t have to! I second @northpilot 's view that “hiragana first, then kanji and vocab alongside some kind of grammar resource” is a pretty solid well tested approach.


I recommend this video. It explains radicals better than Wanikani


Thank you to everyone for all their replies, it has all been very useful and the video was very good :slightly_smiling_face: