Opinions on WaniKani radical and kanji names?

They used to be hilariouser

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I wish there were a more formal ‘definition’ section for each kanji/word where they would give a more detailed description. The examples are useful, but not really sufficient. It is important that the meanings be short and concise for ease of entry, but that leaves a lot of nuance on the table. When they do try to shoehorn nuance into the meaning, it often ends up awkward.

I imagine writing 8000+ definitions would be a big undertaking, but it would be a huge value add. Maybe they could just link to an online dictionary or three? That’d save everyone a lot of trouble and confusion.

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I think even pulling the definitions from Jisho or Weblio would’ve been sufficient and I think for some entries this might’ve been done, because they overlap.

This is not a part of the main topic, but I noticed that sometimes context sentences feature a more colloquial meaning of the vocab item. I don’t think that happens often, but not sure.

I reported the 豪 kanji, because it started bothering me a bit :slight_smile: . Let’s see whether we get somewhere with this. What I would be especially interested in is the reasoning behind picking a specific meaning over another. So far it seems like the meanings of kanji are kept very tightly coupled with the available vocab items, but sometimes this is to the detriment of the broader spectrum of meanings a kanji can cover. I think this is not bad per se, but if a secondary nuanced meaning is picked as the main one, it might point people in the wrong direction.

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I thought of that, but there might be legalities involved with scrapping that much data that the WK team doesn’t want to get into. I don’t know what type of license Jisho or any of the others use. Linking also would have benefits to maintainability if things change and also provide that ‘deep dive’ option of following one word to other related words that a single copy/paste wouldn’t.

But it’s kind of outside the scope of this thread, so 'nuff said. :wink:

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I’ve gone back and forth on this a few times myself and I’m still not sure whether I prefer the precision to be front loaded or whether I’m fine with something that’s “technically” incorrect but that gets corrected with time.

This has become especially true I’ve started reading more and running into more secondary meanings and refinements of nuance.

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The meaning, to me at least, doesn’t necessarily have to be precise upfront. If it’s just an approximation, that’s also fine. Some kanji like 番 are sometimes in context were they theoretically no longer mean “number” or “turn”, but when one thinks about the word a bit more and tries to go from A to C, the secondary meaning can still be traced back to “number/turn”.

I think the cases that are more tricky are when a kanji like 豪 has a clear primary meaning, but a secondary, derived meaning C was picked because of a limited context. From a broader perspective that may potentially be misleading, right?

Of course, because of what you said later, in the long-long term it probably matters little, though:

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I’ve found Chinese dictionaries stick to this principle with much more religiosity. It makes looking up hanzi a pain in the ass.

This is likely true, but when I was an “official” Japanese student in the early aughts, my physical copy of Spahn/Hadamitzky was practically my best friend. Easily the most useful kanji dictionary one could find before Jisho. I still use it about once a year when Jisho just won’t showing me what I’m thinking.

I feel the same way. If I ran WaniKani, I’d have all the Jisho words and the Heisig word for each kanji pre-loaded. I often find myself looking up a word that I just got wrong, thinking, “Come on, vindicate me, Jisho!”

This is another thing I’d do differently: add a field on each vocabulary item with a translated & paraphrased definition from Daijirin or Meikyo. Every once in a while, I’ll think of the right word but picture the wrong thing in my head.

For example, the Meikyo definition of 究極 is, 「物事をつきつめて、きわまること。また、そうして最後に到達する所。」 DeepL translates that as “It means to reach the end of something. The place to reach the end.” That’s a bit more specific than how we use the word “ultimate” in English. Lists of near-synonyms are fine for inputting an answer, but I’d argue that one doesn’t really know a word unless we know how to use it correctly (but it’s been a while since I’ve read Wittgenstein)…

… But I agree with this too. Looking up definitions is good, but remembering them verbatim every time isn’t necessary or probably even desirable. From all my years of studying grammar, I’ve found the best way is like drawing or sculpting: start with broad strokes, then go back for the nuances later. Or just don’t worry about it until a native speaker laughs at me.

EDIT: Holy crap, this just happened to me again! I got 納入. Meikyo’s definition is, 「金銭や物事を納めること。」 Daijirin’s similar definition is, 「品物や金を納めること。」 Either way, it seems to mean to supply/store money or goods. That’s kind of a tricky, hazy concept to pin down in English since 納める is one of those annoyingly ambiguous verbs.

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I’ve gone back and forth on this a few times myself and I’m still not sure whether I prefer the precision to be front loaded or whether I’m fine with something that’s “technically” incorrect but that gets corrected with time.

The thing that kills me is when there are 3 or 4 sample sentences… and not a single one of them uses the word in a way that even remotely resembles the given definitions.

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Same here, I even made a topic complaining about this a long time ago, More vocab synonyms in general? . The only outcome was others recommending userscripts.

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Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. I actually had to go back and look up what WK used for 豪 since I couldn’t remember. I guess they went with the meaning from 豪華 for some reason. I actually think I’ve seen it more often as an alternate kanji for 偉い or 豪傑 but that’s probably selection bias.

For me it’s less the ambiguity and more the fact that the core concept needs a sentence or two in English to convey the meaning. The derived meanings are much easier to remember once you’ve got the core down.

Haha yeah. I can’t remember which one it was, but I’m sure somewhere on WK is the equivalent of “vocab です”

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I agree with this statement, but cannot think of a better system for looking up hanzi in a paper dictionary. Perhaps they could also sort it by hanyu pinyin, but then it would be less universal because not everybody uses pinyin romanisation.

Also, sorting a Chinese dictionary by pinyin probably makes as much sense as sorting an English dictionary by いろは order…

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Actually the Chinese dictionaries I saw didn’t use radicals sorting, but first stroke type ( dot, horizontal, descending left, etc) then total number of strokes as second sorting.

(radical sorting index, and pinyin abc index as annexes too)

My first kanji dictionary (Memento des Kanji utilisés dans la langue japonaise) used total number of strokes as first key then radical (the traditional 214 radical) as second key.
Also as annexes an abc index of ON and kun readings, and interesting index (in abc) of phonosemantic components (eg GEN 原 源 願 (GAN)
and also sometimes info on simplifications:
TÔ 豆(TÔ-ZU) 登(TO-TÔ) 痘 短(TAN) 澄(CHÔ) 頭(TÔ-ZU) 闘 灯(abbr. of 燈)

In the main part, each kanji has a small etymology, with a picture and a seal style.
And a couple of pages with statistical data on repartition of kanji by number of strokes, by key, etc.

I have you and @AndyMender here to thank, by the way. You both reminded me to look up 豪 just a few minutes before I burned it!

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Replying to my own reply as I think it could come across as overly negative.
A typical response when people have questioned the WK mnemonics is along the lines of “Well the method is the mnemonics so WK may not be for you.”
I think this kind of answer undervalues the platform. I have problems with the mnemonics/radicals used, but I think the actual SRS, design and execution is excellent.
I have also found, some WK mnemonics do work for me, but in general the further I go. The more I need to use my own mnemonics.
I think this was understood in RTK that people would reach a stage where they would want to use their own mnemonics. I think the option of user-synonyms largely solves this.
Of course, one size doesn’t fit all, so I think there are people who are happy to accept the whole WK system. However, there is a significant amount of people who find the radical names etc. troublesome and so I hope a more meaningful naming of radicals becomes an option in future iterations.

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I would kind of expand on this and say that eventually one reaches a stage when it’s more important to understand what a kanji or word means rather than trying to remember the gloss for it in WaniKani. That’s absolutely not WaniKani’s fault :slight_smile: . But yes, one has to start adding user synonyms to not get tripped by something during a review session.

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They’re working on changing such sentences, so if you go to the content updates thread and @ the mods about a specific vocab word, they may change the sentences faster.

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I think WaniKani’s staff could mitigate this by encouraging the use of the “Click to add note” feature on each item. I never use it because I don’t feel like I know how to use it “right.” I’d be interested to hear them say what they envisioned users doing with it.

I agree that the “maybe it’s not for you” argument is dismissive and reductive. It’s a bit off-topic, but WaniKani’s staff openly admitting this SRS wasn’t for everyone was, ironically, what sold me on it. I respect sellers who are transparent about their own products’ limitations.

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Exactly this. One size will never fit all, people come from different backgrounds and will have different pedagogical preferences. I just feel that some things like radicals/mnemonics come up very often as weaknesses in the system and could be addressed better as a large percentage of users highlight this as a problem.
To me there are a few basic flaws (more appropriate for other threads). But as a developer myself, it’s better for users to give feedback that can nudge a project into a better direction. It would be good to have a poll on various features to see if there are any significant consensus on improvements.
Implementing what people want is rarely easy in such an integrated system, but the creators do seem to be continuously developing which is great to see.

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