Mnemonics are often Useless - Need simplifying

Not really. Now any time you see a kanji you know is pronounced し you gotta figure out whether the mnemonic is gonna involve She or Charlie Sheen.

I am using KKLC in parallel to WK when I have nothing to learn in WK. For example, now I’m on level 15 and I already know almost all kanji and vocab from this level (either from KKLC, Genki, HJI or other places) but I still have to wait two more days before the next level is unlocked. In such situations I just go over KKLC and add their kanji + vocab to HouHou SRS, which gives me a very similar experience to WK but with different items. Now I’m on kanji 308 in KKLC and according to wkstats have 512 kanji Guru+ on WK.
Here are my impressions about two courses:

  1. WK mnemonics work much better for me. Lately I tend to not even read KKLC mnemonics and just try to remember the shape, or look up the mnemonic for kanji I want to remember in WK even if it’s still locked.
  2. Ordering of kanji in WK is better (almost all of the 512 kanji I’ve learned on WK are quite frequent, while among the 308 first kanji that I’ve learned from KKLC, 31 have frequency rating > 1500 and 8 are not even in top 2500)
  3. WK vocab is also better, I double-check the “recommended” KKLC words before adding them to SRS and often encounter words with frequency rating > 20000.
  4. On the other hand, having an overview of all readings and learning vocab together with kanji works better than learning them separately. Here I prefer the KKLC approach.
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But it’s the other way round. When I’m doing reviews, I don’t see the kanji, know its pronounced し and then work out whether the mnemonic involves Sheen or She. I look at the kanji, try to remember the mnemonic and then work out the reading from there.

Maybe it’s just an issue with the Charlie Sheen mnemonic. It’s really hard to think of celebrities from the combination of radicals because it’s so generic. Charlie Sheen could be attached to almost any kanji because he could be doing anything.

I’m glad they’re adjusting some mnemonics.

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I guess this is just something you pick up intuitively later on.

A lot of kanji that share radicals with other kanji have the same on-reading. So you can look at a kanji you don’t remember well and guess the reading. If you keep your mnemonics limited to Charlie Sheen, as opposed to She or whatever pops in your head, then you get a free hint any time you look at a kanji pronounced し. You know the mnemonic involves Charlie Sheen. Because all し mnemonics involve Charlie Sheen.

On the other hand if you name stuff willy nilly then you no longer get that hint, because a mnemonic for し can now be about anything. It could be about She or Shi-tzus or Shitpostbot 5000.

So like, even though you may not look at a kanji now and know it’s pronounced し you will be able to do that in the future. As long as you keep your mnemonics consistent then knowing the reading will always be able to provide you with a hint that will help you remember the reading mnemonic and the meaning mnemonic as well (since they’re usually linked).


I agree, one in every 50 may be useful for me. I usually go with the easiest, shortest way - using the Japanese sound to make a sentence highlighting the meaning. I also think of the Onyomi in the Kanji Damage method of giant capital letters.

使 - SHI used me!
早 - I have to get up SOU early
足 - before you put on your shoes on your feet you need to put on your SOKUs (this is WK’s mnemonic)
走 - He runs SOU fast.
… 確 - be certain not to knock over the lamp with your KAKU


I think the “problem” might be in particular with the more pop culture mnemonics - to keep using the same examples, is Charlie Sheen that important or present in pop culture nowadays that he is a useful mnemonic?

He certainly was super popular (or infamous, I guess) during a good while a few years ago. “WINNING” and that sort of thing. But now…? I guess he might still be helpful to some people, or maybe to some people it doesn’t matter who Charlie Sheen is as long as they have an idea of a character called Charlie Sheen doing random stuff.

I feel the same about Hard Gay and せい, btw. I was only barely aware of this character and finding him all over WaniKani was a bit confusing. Like, I get that most people that come here will probably know who he is, so I’m not complaining, but for a good while I was trying to remember just who the hell this “hard gay” man was :rofl:

The zany, weird mnemonics and radicals do work wonders for me. I will never in my entire life forget boob grave. I still see it everywhere in kanji and it helps, as I go into higher levels and start getting a lot of similar looking kani… “oh it’s the one with the boob grave” is actually a phrase I said out loud, to my boyfriend’s confusion.

I wonder if the mnemonic rework will walk away from pop culture and just redouble the zanyness? It would be what I would do, but obviously some people might find Sheen and Hard Gay helpful in ways I didn’t.

Oh Mrs. Chou is good too. There’s a non-pop culture (as far as I know) “character” that is everywhere in WK!


is not this Mr Chow (ちょう) they are refering to?? I’ve went over almost half WK thinking it was :sweat_smile:

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Charlie Sheen would be a very adequate mnemonic for the kanji Tiger and Blood though

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It…could be?? omg maybe I just didn’t get it :rofl::rofl::rofl:

There you go, you obviously remember all of that better than me! Was it he had tiger blood and stuff? Man. Those were the days.

I will never die because I have TIGER BLOOD! Yes, that was it…

That’s the thing with mnemonics, whatever works for you. Since we are all from different cultures and generations, it is very hard to have a one size fits all mnemonic.

Being only level 9, I have a feeling that many kanji are “kou” or “shi”. So whenever I really don’t know what to enter, kou or shi are my default guesses.

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In my experience, the best mnemonics are the ones you construct yourself. I see wanikani’s mnemonics as suggestions when I can’t come up with one myself, but even when I use the site’s mnemonics I’ll modify them.



I find it’s better not to get it right by guessing, especially after a certain point. If it’s one I don’t know, I try to guess something I KNOW it won’t be.

Well… not quite.
It is MRS. Chou, not Mr. Chou, although that could very well be Mrs. Chou’s husband!
This is more like it.
(No joke I just Google Image searched “angry Japanese lady” and used the clip art filter.)

add “uri geller” as a note

We weren’t thinking of him, but if that helps you remember it (or is just firmly stuck in your mind by now), then go with that! :wink:


I learn well when I am able to amass many connections about kanji character - which words it’s used in, what those words mean, where it’s used more frequently, where less.

For readings, many characters borrow readings from each other, like for example 健 that of course reads ‘ken’ because 建 reads ‘ken’, even if their meanings are unrelated - but no, Wanikani has to ignore all that, and instead supply a completely unrelated mnemonic for each reading.

For meanings, many kanji can be straightforwardly understood from their components - if those components are sensibly defined. WaniKani decided for 月 to always mean ‘moon’ as a radical, and never anything else. Surprise, in most kanji it’s actually a modification of 肉 - it’s used in so many kanji for body parts to indicate that we are talking about a body part, but all that is lost on the learner, because of course you have to remember a story with a moon in it instead. Same with 貝 - yeah, sure, it’s a clam, but did WaniKani mention anywhere that those have been originally briefly used as money back in the days when they were creating kanji in China, because clams were quite hard to fake? Clams didn’t last as money, but most of the kanji that have anything to do with finances, savings, money have a clam in them. But sure, please do learn stories about talking clams instead…

Ok, I could go on, but I guess it’s better to just say - mnemonics are all fine, even if not for everyone. But I think there is a lot of quite valuable connections that are being missed, and could be there instead, or at least in addition to random mnemonics.


I completely agree. My subscription is ending soon and I think what I’m most going to miss is @acm2010’s script.

This is one of the few times a topic is posted about this that asks us for our thoughts instead of making sweeping generalizations and insulting the system. Yes, this topic has been hashed several times, but nonetheless, thank you for being thoughtful in your phrasing

Personally, I stay away form mnemonics unless absolutely necessary. Or I make up shorter ones that don’t go off on what, I feel, are ridiculous tangents. Seems to me that some make a sweeping generalization that most people don’t find the mnemonics useless. On my end, I have absolutely no idea what the general feel is. I know that some people are very vocal on both ends and that neither side necessarily represents what “most people” feel about the site.

Fortunately, to satisfy both sides of the argument (somewhat), we have the ability to add our own notes.

To me, the strength of WK is not, at all, the mnemonics, but the SRS.