My wife seems to be skeptical of the usefulness regarding some of the vocab on Wanikani

So far I love everything about this place, but sometimes I ask my Japanese wife, “do you ever use this word?” And she says “no not at all.”

An example of this is recently is いちもんじ . It"s supposed to mean “straight line”, and is a level 4 vocab word on Wanikani, but she says this word is extremely rare and that she has never used this word in her entire life.

My question to the creators of this site is what is your justification for including a word that is so rarely used by Japanese people? I’m sure you had a good reason for it, and I wouldn’t have bought a subscription if I thought otherwise.


The primary reason for the vocabulary is to teach you more readings and teach you the kanji within the context of a word. So it’s basically all there to help you learn the kanji. Some words might be a bit more obscure, but they do reinforce the kanji knowledge nonetheless. The vocab is basically just a nice bonus.

A lot of the vocabulary is actually useful to know though. Although you might not use it in everyday speech a lot, I’ve encountered a significant part of the lower-level vocabulary items when reading, so I definitely recommend paying attention to the vocabulary.


Aside from what’s said above, it’s probably also worth keeping in mind that in most cases when people say stuff like that they seem to mean that they don’t use it in everyday speech, not that they wouldn’t know it if they saw it and that it never will show up when writing and in books and media. For instance 一文字 is definitely a word that does show up if you read the right books, or at least I’ve seen it multiple times myself when reading various light novels, including in a chapter title once(I’m afraid I can’t recall the exact book though, just that it was written by an author with a penchant for very geometrically inclined chapter titles)

Edit: In fact I also tried searching for it in the book I’m currently reading on Kindle and it shows up twice in just that one book :slight_smile:


even if its rare, down the line when you do come across it you’ll know it and wont end up checking google translate to figure what it means


I think every new word learned is enriching to your vocabulary, so definitely not a waste. 一文字 has a nice ring to it, at least to me, and I can see myself using it in a conversation, even if only to try to make use of the word :stuck_out_tongue:


Tofugu phrased it this way in their “rules for choosing the vocabulary that goes on WaniKani”:

Sometimes a kanji will only have one “good” word worth learning. But, the act of learning vocabulary words helps you to learn the kanji as well. In cases like these, we suggest you add a couple “less common” words to your study stack, because it will help you in the long run. Even “uncommon” words will pop up where you least expect them.

You can read more about how they chose the vocab words in the “Kanji + Kanji = Vocabulary?” section of this article about mnemonics.

Hope that answers your question, straight from the Crabigator’s mouth!


Also worth keeping in mind that just because one person says something isn’t used, or isn’t useful, doesn’t mean everyone thinks that way.

Most would tell you nobody uses the term ‘water closet’, but I have encountered it plenty now that I think about it. Is it ‘common’? Not at all. Is it useful to know? Yes.


Interesting, I could have written a post with exactly the same title. There have been quite a lot of occasions where I have used vocab I have learned through WK and my wife (or coworkers or customers or whoever is sitting next to me at my local watering hole) has had no idea what the word is, or at least not at first.

About 1/3 of the time she does know the word, just did not get what I was trying to say and lets me know that “We/Japanese people never use that word” and then teaches me the word(s) that would be used. So useful exercise for sure.

About 1/3 of the time she does know the word, just did not get what I was trying to say and lets me know that “Maybe my grandparents, or great grandparents, would have used that word” or “that is a very old and rarely used word”. Again I get a lesson on the word(s) she thinks shoud be used.

Of course, in both of those cases, they are words she does know, they just are not used much, or at all (depending on who is correcting me).

Of the remaining1/3, about half of the time she is convinced I am making a mistake (see note below) and I am sure I have pronounced it correctly and I look it up in a dictionary to show her. When she sees it in Kanji she goes “Oh yeah, sure that is what the word means, but I have never heard it used before” sometimes with “it might be used in some old writing sometimes”. The other half of the 1/3, after looking up the word in a dictionary, or writing it out (typing actually - aside from my name in katakana I do not handwrite at all) in Kanji she will inform me it is the first time she has ever seen it.

Note: To be fair (and honest full disclosure) it is more often the case that I have indeed made a mistake and ended up pronouncing a word that does not exist or is actually something else entirely.

Sometimes, if I really like a particular word, I insist on using it in conversation (at home with her)… just because. She will correct me a couple of times then just switch to calling me various versions of crazy or idiot :smiley:

On a couple of occasions, when I have repeatedly made the same mistake over and over again and ending up making up a new word, it has just entered our private vocabulary and we both sometimes use it, as an inside joke.


変な言葉を使える男? :smiley:
That would be a great descriptor

Sounds like you two are having a great time with the language, though! Nice! :slight_smile:


I agree with everybody said above, the goal for some words is to learn different kinds of reading that a Kanji has, which may not be the most useful.

I’d say so far 80-90% of the vocabulary I have learned has been quite useful and with every level I feel like I unlock a great understanding of the language.

Every language learning method is imperfect and won’t solve all your needs. Don’t let a couple of odd words discourage you from using a tool (it can be wanikani or anything else). Take all the good parts of it, improve your knowledge and polish your learning with other resources.


Did she know the word? Then she obviously encountered it at some point too.


Bouncing off what @Ditto20 said, 一文字 also showed up in something I read recently.
I can’t remember a single word on WK I haven’t seen or heard before. That does not mean that they are common, obviously, or that they can be used in regular conversation, but they are still good words to know and they serve their purpose of teaching readings.


Words that you may consider to be rare such as 一文字 are outliers. I always look up any new word that I’ve learnt through Wanikani on the Takoboto Dictionary app and About 95% of the vocabulary on WaniKani are common words, so don’t worry too much about it and don’t second guess yourself for subscribing :grin:

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It’s over 70% of the content, that is one hell of a bonus! :laughing:

I’ve heard common usage comment over my shoulder quite often while doing WK. The issue wasn’t whether something like 一文字 is useful or not (it can show up in unforeseen ways in the future), it is more like you are spending alot of time on WK and this doesn’t seem like a high priority item compared other material which is true, at least for me. And if you have native SO, there is a chance you have more immediate conversational goals rather than reading so there is a frustration on their end. I’ve largely ignored the commentary because WK helped alot with reading and vocab building which is the intent…plus you can’t really skip content here so there isn’t really a choice if you want to go through the program.


Something to consider with the uncommon vocab is there probably ARE other words that have those readings but at the level you’re at, you haven’t yet encountered those kanji. The only other time I encountered the “mon” reading was 縄文 at level 36. I can’t speak for WK but maybe the rationale was they wanted you to know the reading via an easy word first? I mean, that word has TWO uncommon readings in it.


100% this.

Translation guide from Native Speaker to Reality:

“I don’t know that word” means “No one uses that word”

“No one uses that word” means “People definitely use that word sometimes because I friggin recognize it”


But also, more importantly, as others have said, Wanikani isn’t a vocabulary teaching tool. It teaches you vocabulary to teach you kanji readings. 一文字 is a good word for remembering もん

Edit: it might seem like I’m dunking on your wife, but I’m not. Native speakers are just trying to help and they don’t know they’re not. Odds are you’d say the exact same thing to a language learner asking about English words, until you’ve had this experience and consciously changed your thinking on it.


I actually had to double-check, but 注文 and 注文する are also taught by WaniKani and these are super common, right? :slight_smile:


Yikes! You are absolutely right. My eyes glazed over at seeing all the “bun” readings in the list. Super common. You can’t order in a restaurant without them!

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It’s funny… I just heard this word the other day (at 3:00):

Don’t get me wrong, some of the vocabulary here is certainly not the most frequent, but save a few words in late 50 levels I think I have heard or read nearly every word I learned here by this point.


WK is an extremely well-optimized Kanji learning resource, nothing more, nothing less. Vocab is there solely to teach various readings and reinforce the Kanji memorization. There are plenty of words that don’t use any Kanji, and WaniKani doesn’t include a single one of them. There are a lot of words that can be written with Kanji, but typically aren’t. WaniKani teaches the Kanji form without ever mentioning that.

Using the radical method you can learn 2000 Kanji in a few months. This guy did it:

But he only learned the characters themselves with no readings. The main benefits of WaniKani’s method are that you learn multiple readings so you can guess how to read (or write) new words most of the time, easily retain that knowledge when your guess is off, and comfortably recognize each Kanji in new scenarios since you’re already reinforced recognition of them in multiple words each.