Mnemonics are often Useless - Need simplifying

Does anyone else find the premade mnemonics useless? I often find they are random, convoluted, far too long and don’t particularly connect together. Pretty much 99% of the time I don’t find them useful and resort to my own one.

For example the Kanji 止:

Reading Mnemonic: When we need to remember the sound し, we use the word “Charlie Sheen.” - When you think stop, do you also think “stop sign”? I hope you do. You’re coming up to a stop sign, and on top of it, standing straight up and down, you see Charlie Sheen, saluting the sky. Even before you come to a stop, Sheen starts yelling “STOPP! STOPPP!!” and jumps down onto the hood of your car, breaking the windshield in.

I would much rather a simplified version like:

Reading Mnemonic: し (she) stops.

To me that’s so much easier rather than piecing together something to do with charlie sheen and stop signs and all manner of other random things. I really think mnemonic needs to be much shorter and to the point.



I like the mnemonics, specially the creative and weird ones. However, I also agree that making your own mnemonics may prove more useful, as you’re actively engaging your brain to find a creative way to memorize something. Also, I think that the more silly or weird something is, the higher the likelihood you’ll remember it


There’s a way of thinking about mnemonics that says the more crazy, outrageous, funny, disgusting, etc they are, the more they will stick.

WK thinks you’ll have stronger feelings about Charlie Sheen than an anonymous “she.”

But then there’s also the issue of Charlie Sheen being a pop culture reference that many don’t know, but they’re reworking a lot of the mnemonics so this will be moot eventually.

And the obvious answer to your questions is “no most people don’t find one of the main features of the site useless.”

But we do see topics like this now and then.


Do you have a reference for this? Using the forum search yielded nothing.

Okay, I shouldn’t have said “soon”

It’s been in the works for like a year.

I wouldn’t think that’s obvious though :sweat_smile: I’ve seen people saying that they stopped using the mnemonics at some point and find WaniKani worth it for the SRS system and the determined group of kanji and vocab, strategically organized.


And there are plenty of topics praising the mnemonics. People tend to be less worked up about praising than complaining.

My point is it’s not the consensus by any means.


Something that I have yet to do with wanikani, but do on my Anki flashcards that I have obtained from third parties, is to add notes to them with additional information I want/need to remember about the items in question. As such, I suggest that you use the “Meaning notes” feature to jot down your own mnemonics, when you feel that the ones provided by WaniKani are ineffective.

I think this is something that varies heavily from user to user. Your simplified mnemonic isn’t memorable at all to me, so if I were learning that kanji from scratch, it wouldn’t stick around in my brain. But thinking about Charlie Sheen dancing on a stop sign does (or it did when I first learned that kanji) because it provides specific imagery that my brain will store away for later, and thus I learned the reading.

Mnemonics are really just used for learning and reviewing the kanji initially, though. Now 止 just looks like し to me (in its appropriate vocab, anyway).


However, the beauty of a good mnemonic is that you can remember it for years after first encountering it, refreshing your memory even after you have “forgotten” the item it was referring to.


Koichi mentions the mnemonics rework in this reply.


Luckily, i believe you can insert your own mnemonic in the “notes” section of a word, correct me if im wrong

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I personally like the mnemonics and they work for me, but I do think they need a rework for uniformity’s sake. I’ve seen the ‘ku’ be both ‘coo’’ and ‘cookies’ and I think they would be better if they firmly attached each reading to one pnemonic so that whenever that reading is used, that pnemonic’s presence will make that clear. For example, I think Ken is reliably always Ken from Street Fighter and Kyo/u is Little/Kyoto and those work fine for me, but there are others like ryo/u and sa that give me a bit more trouble.


I am one of those who doesn’t use the mnemonics, but for a very specific reason – I have no ability to visualise pictures in my mind (Aphantasia), so any mnemonics that ask me to visualise things just don’t work.

I find I have to use mnemonics that use wordplay, conceptual connections or some aspect of the kanji itself together to memorise things. This has meant renaming some radicals for easier connecting. And sometimes I have to just brute force it.

Between aphantasia and ADHD, I struggle with self-learning, so the SRS system is definitely the biggest sell for me.

But I always figure everyone else has no problem with the mnemonics. These threads are like watching blind people describing elephants. :smiley:

One of these days I should write “an aphantasic’s guide to successful mnemonics”.


What you describe is actually the definition (almost) of a good mnemonic.

A good mnemonic should be extremely expressive and memorable (1), but also not really be related to the material you are trying to remember so it doesn’t cause any cognitive interference (2).

This is a well researched topic in cognitive psychology.


I am using both KKLC (which uses short and to the point mnemonics) and WK (which usually tells you some long ridiculous story as a mnemonic) and I greatly prefer WK mnemonics. In fact short and to-the-point mnemonics don’t work for me at all, but WK stories do wonders.


To me, mnemonics the way Wanikani has them would be just one more thing to memorise. They’re much harder to memorise than simply remembering the reading and the meaning of the kanji, and I usually forget them completely in the next hour. So I skip them.
When I do remember them, I remember them in vivid detail, but can never recall any connection between them and the reading or meaning of the kanji or vocab they supposed to be helping with. So they’re utterly useless for learning to me.
I don’t know how one could possibly remember these stories for years… I don’t remember my own vacation a year after it happened, and that’s a week or two I have lived through, not just a few words in my mind.


I’ll second this. The mnemonics on here are often seemingly random vignettes that are – on their good days – only loosely related to kanji’s meaning or reading. I have a harder time trying to remember which random story goes with which kanji and then trying to remember which part of that story was supposed to be important than I do just hard-memorizing a meaning or reading. Vocab are also usually straightforward enough that mnemonics aren’t needed in the first place.

@darkhawx I might recommend getting your hands on the Kodansha Learner’s Course. When I’m doing kanji learning, I make a point of having my copy next to me for any kanji that seem like they might be tricky. Their mnemonics aren’t perfect either, but I find that most of the ones I look up are pretty useful. Even those that I wind up not liking tend to provide a useful way of thinking about that kanji (looking at the image, drawing relationships between aspects of different kanji, etc). As a rule, they try to produce mnemonics which have memory queues which are in the kanji itself.


I am genuinely curious: If you use the Kodansha Learner’s Course to learn kanji, why did you decide to use WK for SRS, and not, say, an Anki deck based on this specific book?

To be perfectly honest, I learned about Kodansha after I was already subscribed here and 8 or 9 levels in. However, I’m not sure I’d switch even if sunk cost weren’t an issue. For all its flaws, I really like Wanikani’s focus on readings, something that Kodansha (and most other resources I’ve encountered) tend to neglect, and having a bunch of curated vocab is pretty useful toward that and other ends. Additionally, the aspects of WK that I don’t like can very easily be ignored (e.g., most of the mnemonics) or be modified through scripts.