Learning to read with WK

I understand that WaniKani is primarily a kanji learning tool, but I’m curious about how effective it is in the long run for learning to read Japanese. Of course grammar study outside of WaniKani is necessary to be able to read Japanese, but I’m mostly asking about vocabulary. Out of curiosity I went to a Japanese newspaper article and looked up all of the vocabulary in the WaniKani search tool, and immediately found a lot of vocabulary words in the article that are never taught. An example is 体調 (たいちょう meaning physical condition). Both kanji are learned by level 10, and if I were level 10 I would have been able to guess the reading just by knowing the on’yomi readings. But there is no way I could have guessed that this means “physical condition.” So, for people who have progressed farther in WK than I have, how much difficulty do you have in reading Japanese text where you know all of the kanji but possibly not all the vocabulary? And if you have gotten to a point where you are able to easily read most Japanese text (newspapers, books, etc.), how did you go about learning all of the vocabulary that is not taught in WaniKani?

Why do you think you wouldn’t have guessed it? On WK you will learn things like 調子, which means “condition”. It’s reasonable to think 体の調子 from that.

Anyway, you would absolutely be able to read it based on what WK teaches you, you’d be able to guess that it was read たいちょう and that’s the primary focus of WK. The vocab reinforce the readings and teach more.

This makes looking up words you don’t know much easier, and you don’t have to stop every time you see a new word because you can probably at least take a stab at pronouncing it.

And a way you learn new vocab is to encounter it in the wild. If when you encounter a word you already can take a stab at the meaning and can guess the pronunciation, you can look it up quickly and it probably won’t stop your flow much.

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Before I looked the word 体調 up outside of WaniKani, I assumed that it would have something to do with investigation since that’s the meaning given for the second kanji. However I have to admit that it isn’t the best example since I haven’t learned all of the WK vocab such as 調子 yet. I can see that it would clearly be better to see this word for the first time after having learned the kanji and related vocabulary in WK than to see it while knowing absolutely nothing.

I feel it is very effective. In the same way learning phonics gives you the tools to be able to sound out words in English, WaniKani helps to develop one’s sense of how to decipher the readings of kanji you encounter. Granted, there will be times when you will encounter exceptional cases and times when you can’t guess the meaning of a single kanji or compound, but with practice those abilities will improve.

There’s a lot of vocabulary WK could teach using the kanji you learn on this web-application but doesn’t; there are also a lot of kana-only vocabulary that never gets addressed here either (for obvious reasons). The vocabulary on WK mainly serves the purpose of reinforcing the kanji readings you study here.

As for me, I can’t say that I can “easily” read any newspaper article because I don’t really read newspapers in general, I can say that I can easily read books about subjects I enjoy. I can also comprehend day-to-day things that require reading (instruction manuals, various websites, etc.) quite well.

Just like any language, reading is a skill that takes time and effort to develop. You learn vocabulary in the areas that you read a lot about (in my case, linguistics and psychology) but when faced with other areas you’ll need more time to build your vocabulary if you don’t already speak Japanese at a near native level. In fact, a friend asked me to read a couple articles about the US mid-term election and give my opinion, and there was an inordinate amount of words I didn’t know because I don’t read or talk about politics in general with Japanese people. Despite those articles being difficult to read, I still was able to do it.

In other words, WK will give you the building blocks you need, but whether or not you’re able to read things easily entirely depends on you practicing reading, learning grammar, etc…


Thanks for the reply, I think this answers the question I was trying to get at. I understand that learning to read any language will take a lot of time and effort, but I just want to make sure that I’m not going to memorize thousands of vocabulary words and then feel just as helpless as before when faced with a real-life Japanese text.


Pitching in, you’ll also have to practice reading the vocab you learn out in the wild, which isn’t always something you can do at will. But, encountering a word you learned in the wild can sometimes solidify it really quickly. It’s a mix of everything. :3


kanji don’t add, they multiply. learn one kanji with 3 words here, pick up more elsewhere (i’m doing the iknow core 6000 in wk-order to help cementing in the kanji, and maybe pick up some vocabulary i couldn’t have read because
of strange readings, such as 台詞). both kanji and words reinforce each other, and at some point, you reach the critical mass and pick up stuff on the fly, often without even looking it up.

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