There are many threads recently about how certain mnemonics suck or are in some way “offensive”.
What people don’t usually realize is that it’s not easy coming up with thousands of mnemonics for kanji. Consider:
- the sheer number of them (2000+ kanji plus thousands more vocabs that use a reading not previously learned)
- the English phonology is very different from the Japanese one, and so sometimes a Japanese pronunciation of a certain word cannot be satisfactorily mimicked by (an) English phoneme(s).
- the mnemonics have to paint a story in your brain; sometimes an absurd one, but the story has to be somewhat coherent nonetheless
- the mnemonics have to be somewhat comprehensible to people all over the world, even those whose first language and background is not American English; there is no perfect solution for this because there are always people would complain that they don’t know Charlie Sheen or Wolverine, but then there are no references that everybody understands
- the mnemonics cannot be offensive, e.g. using racial slurs, words that are used to denigrate minorities, words that would be bleeped on American TV (Cf. George Carlin)
- the mnemonics have to be memorable
WaniKani’s mnemonics are certainly not perfect, but nobody can make an application to learn 2000+ kanji and 6000+ vocabs with 100% perfect mnemonics. Even they admit this by giving us the possibility to create our own user notes. They are also planning to overhaul the mnemonics system by creating better ones, although that cannot be an easy task because of all the interconnections with radical names.
Still, it takes a lot of group effort to come up with all these mnemonics. And many people like me who are too lazy to come up with their own just use them to learn this odd language with squiggly worms who each has multiple meanings and multiple readings. That is no ordinary feat, and we shouldn’t let this go unappreciated.
So props to the WaniKani mnemonics crack team, thank you for all the sleepless meetings deep into the night in Portland, Oregon, powered by caffeine and lots of chocolate cookies and potato chips. Thank you for all the shower-inspired ideas and endless brainstorming sessions. Them 'monics didn’t write themselves!