Persuade me to give mnemonics a try!


I started using WaniKani because a buddy of mine, who is also learning japanese, recommended it to me. But WaniKani is all about mnemonics and I am fiercly against mnemonics, so I am unsure on how I should proceed.
With a little bit of searching here in the forums I found that I am not the only one who doesn’t like using mnemonics, but I also found people who changed their opinion after giving it a try. Yet, I’m still not convinced.
Here are my reasons why I am so fiercly against them:

  • There’s a lot of extra material that has to be learned.
  • I’m afraid that, when I learn with mnemonics, I will always associate the kanji with that mnemonic, which I don’t want.
  • I’m a fast learner and I’ve never really needed to use mnemonics to memorize material before.
  • Using mnemonics feels like cheating to me. You only remember the kanji because of the mnemonic and not because you actually know it.

I’ve recently achieved level 2 after 10-11 days, which is how I understand it a bit on the slower side. So not using mnemonics would just mean that I take a bit longer than usual, which I’m totally fine with since I’m not in a rush to learn japanese. I’m in this for the long haul.
So, if all this mnemonics stuff really is so amazing as everyone says it is, I challenge you to persuade this stubborn bloke to give it a try!



Okay, well don’t do it if you don’t want to. I don’t see why I, or anyone else here, should really care.


The whole point of mnemonics is they eventually fade away and you are only left with the fact, and it’s been ingrained.

But like Syphus said, do whatever you want.


Not really. The mnemonic helps at first, but over time you don’t need it, and often forget what the mnemonic even was. Not like I still look at む and think ‘Hey, its a cow’

Good for you?

But like @Syphus said, why do I care how you study? If you don’t want to try them at all, cause you’re too good for them, whatever. Someone offers a tip/tool on how to learn, and you come back with ‘Convince me to try it’. No thanks. Not going to try and force you into taking advice or trying anything. You do you.


Another way is to learn vocab before kanji. Remember all kanji-associated vocabs first.

The more I dive into WaniKani, I tend to learn vocab before Kanji, rather than the default Kanji first.

After all, WaniKani wants you to remember “both vocab and Kanji”.


it is not cheating to use mnemonics. It is not cheating to use pen and paper to write the kanji out and test yourself on them. These are all legitimate study techniques.

If you don’t want to use mnemonics, why are you asking us to sell them to you?

I use mnemonics for all the new kanji I am learninng. With repeated reviews, I can recall both meaning and reading without the mnemonic. It is harder (for me) to learn new kanji without breaking it down into manageable parts and making up a little story with them.


Mnemonics is all about speed. It adds another layer to the learning procces that helps you trigger your memory. It’s as if you tied or glued a piece of information you need to something that is already in your mind, keeping it from slipping away. The alternative to mnemonics is learning through osmosis, which can be a slow and repetitive proccess.

In a way it is kind of like cheating, like a note you carry arround to help you remember things, except it is in your mind. It is a technique used in one way or another by everyone in history who got great academic achievements.

Learning through mnemonics can take more work if you have to create the mnemonics yourself. WK comes with all the mnemonics ready to use.

You might have studied other languages in your life, like Spanish, a language full of cognates with English. But how fast do you think you will learn a language with a writing system and lexicon that resembles nothing your have ever seen before in terms of language? Have you seen how many similar-sounding compound words Japanese has?

If you want to understand how useful mnemonics are, maybe you should take an Anki deck with thousands of jukugo words from levels 3 and 2 of JLPT and try to memorize them and see how that goes.


A lot of us use our own versions of mnemonics to learn. We create our own interpretation of the item and study it that way. That’s also a mnemonic.


2 weeks ago, I didn’t know my 50 states. Like, no idea. Then I decided to use mnemonics and not only do i know the placing of said, I learned landforms and body of waters. In 2 days. USING THE POWER OF MNEMONICS.

Mnemonics help you with everything in general. You’re being impatient. At first you know the kanji based on the mnemonic, but once you keep seeing it over and over you’ll know it based on kanji itself. I mean, after doing WaniKani for like 4 months, I can recognize almost all of the kanji meaning and readings I learned completely without mnemonics. I know the kanji very well. Everything comes with practice. WaniKani has a system where you can get to Guru, Master, Enlightened, then Burned, where you have truly mastered it. It doesn’t happen overnight. It needs training. Mnemonics are a tool so you can train yourself to use it without it.

(i suggest saying it aloud and using KaniWani and 100% encourage you to write, because writing does help improve memory and you’ll be grateful for it in the long run)


Thanks for all the replies!
I just wanted a little push to give it a try, but it seems I got a little carried away with my original post and caught some of you on the wrong foot. :X Sorry for that! Didn’t mean to bother!


Oh right, WaniKani, in contrast with Anki, have a solid system that Enlightened->Burn period of 4 months (and Master->Enlighten of 1 month).

This is where mnemonic is lost, and leeches start to appear.

For long Kun readings, I sometimes create my own mnemonic based on other Japanese words (I don’t associate with English or my native language.) For example 訪れる(おとずれる)–>おとす–>to fall. So that, you can avoid thinking in English. You can create mnemonic in Japanese too, if you know enough vocab.


I’ve always been a VERY fast learner, though…

Took me 2-3 days to learn hiragana without mnemonics. I also was misreading ね, め, ぬ, れ.
After that I found tofugu and learned katakana in 3-4 hours with mnemonics. Without misreading them. I also looked up mnemonics for those hiragana i was always reading wrong.

After couple days training those on the website I don’t need mnemonics anymore. I sometimes remember them just for lulz, because they are funny, but reading comes first. Mnemonics are good for the start, to be able to recall by yourself, using only your memory, how this should be read, but then purpose (reading and meaning) start to come first instead of the story.

I’ve also been against mnemonics, but now I feel like it’s a good way to learn kanji.
Doesn’t matter if it’s cheating or not. If I can memorize those and use them faster, it’s good for me.


@Powerpuncher, like Leebo said I agree that mnemonics have been fading away for me. I only remember the meaning and reading sooner than later. I find them indispensable for learning complicated kanji quickly. You might not need them at level two when the kanji are simple and radicals don’t repeat but they are necessary later.

Also we don’t exist to convince you of anything…

Jk… I saw your later posts… yep as you progress you will definitely find yourself needing them but you’ll see eventually.


I can attest that I cannot recite a single mnemonic I’ve learned through WK. Not to say the system was ineffective, but that the transfer from not knowing a reading or meaning of a kanji character or vocabulary word to knowing the readings was pretty seamless. If you’re constantly exposing yourself to Japanese to read eventually your brain will stop needing the crutch (the mnemonic) and go straight to the knowledge that you’re aiming to acquire. Whether or not you choose to use their system is up to you, but I don’t see the point of accepting someone’s recommendation and not at least try the resource the way it is presented. If you later feel it could be tweaked to serve your needs, at least you’ll have an idea on whether WK mnemonics system works for you or not.


My problem is with the radicals, and that the mnemonics WK uses are pretty bad. For an example, I just started, and the mnemonic for 台 (dai) was something about a mouth eating a bunch of mechanical things, like cars, because the bottom part looks like the “mouth” radical. It just didn’t make any logical sense, and sure enough, when I got to “dai” again in my review, I completely blanked, because the mnemonic was completely useless.

So I then made my own. 台 means machine, and it looks like a machine press. The top part is a moving part that presses into the flat base. And if you were ever in a machine press, you would definitely die (dai). Easy to remember, and it makes sense, unlike the WK radical. And that seems to be a problem for a lot of them. The stories just don’t make any sense.

Which brings me to the radicals. WK uses the whole “mouth” story for “machine”, because you learned that the square radical means mouth. That’s fine for that one, because the mouth radical and kanji are the same. But if other kanji that use the mouth radical aren’t related to “mouth” at all, then why even bother learning the mnemonic for the radical that way? And why is it used that way for 台 when “machine” is in no way related to “mouth”? It just happens to have a box in the kanji. At that point, it’s better to just learn the kanji and ignore the radical, as knowing the radical doesn’t help with learning future kanji.

And as for the radicals that don’t have kanji that are the same, they usually make up completely nonsense names like, “triceratops”, “nailbat”, and “raptor cage”. Again, if these names are actually going to build on later kanji, why are we learning them that way?

And if you add both of these points together, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that the way WK teaches radicals is completely pointless. There’s no need to learn the radicals that don’t have kanji, and it would be faster to just learn the kanji first, without the radicals, for the radicals that do have kanji. It just adds an extra stem for seemingly no reason.

The only thing that actually seems beneficial is the spaced repetition system, and moving things up or down in priority depending on well you know it. Everything else seems to be poorly thought out, or completely not needed.

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For me, some of the mnemonics are excellent, and sometimes I have to make up my own. That’s ok. Having radicals like naillbat, ikea and boobs is very useful for creating mnemonics.

The way WaniKani teaches radicals and builds on them, along with the mnemonics, is what makes it great. I’m not saying it works for everyone, but if you don’t like the radicals and mnemonics, wouldn’t Memrise be more practical?

I think the mnemonics are somewhat less useful if you already know Japanese and just want to learn the kanji, though. Whenever I come across a kanji used in words I already know, I just go “aah, that’s the kanji for that” and that’s usually good enough for me to remember it. Unfortunately, these are few and far between.


I love it when we get people complaining in the complete opposite way that most people complain. Just goes to show that you can’t please everyone. We’ve got someone mad that WK is using the “real” radical’s meaning, even though the made-up ones are the usual complaint.


Say what you want but I now know that 久しい means long time, because JarJar Binks says Hisa, and it’s gonna be a long time in the raptor change…

The mnemonic being ridiculous it exactly why I never need a refresh on that or 久しぶり… long time no see… and I’m fine that I always think of JarJar binks when I see it.

When I see people who haven’t been around that long complaining about mnemonics I just think… but you guys don’t even NEED it right now… not in the same way as when I’m trying to tell the difference between 空 and 売. The hemit and legs standing on construction to try to reach the SKY… but the the くうties knock you down. Vs the samurai that SELLS everything but his forehead and legs.

Why would we try to convince you to use this site? I knew this site was for me from the beginning and if it isn’t for everyone that’s fine too. But don’t get so caught up with HAVING to use their mnemonics and somehow judging the site as completely useless if a few don’t work for you.

  1. Japanese people learn kanji over the course of their entire schooling. People on this website are trying to learn it within a couple years. And they have the benefit of being immersed in it in all of their media. We’re going to need different techniques if we are to achieve that speed.

  2. The meaning of words is attached to memory. That’s how you learn. When you grew up, I doubt you were drilling English words by repeatedly writing them. The most common way we associate language with meaning is immersion, which is a form of memory device. After the experience is completed, you still get to keep the word. There’s little difference between that and mnemonics. You are creating imaginary memories.

  3. The early levels’ speed doesn’t match later levels. Things will slow down. And, it’s not a race. I would get comfortable with how much time you want to spend per day and make a commitment you can keep rather than trying to treat the levels like a competition.


Oh wow I totally forgot about the JarJar Binks mnemonic! I just read 久しい as normal. I guess it goes to show that it goes to show that the mnemonics eventually fade, and all that you’re left with us what you wanted in the first place.(the meaning, or reading of a kanji)