Please fix mnemonics with conflated English meanings

I recently got to level 30 and I am getting increasingly frustrated with a specific type of mnemonic on WaniKani. I will use as an example, but there are many others.

The kanji means “the following”, as you would use in “the following day” (翌日) or “the following month” (翌月), but for some baffling reason the WK mnemonic goes:

There are some feathers resting on a stand and you and the following of the feathers are following the feathers. The feathers have a following, and you are one member of the following. You and your fellow followers follow the feathers wherever they may go.

Do you see what the problem is? For some reason, whoever came up with the mnemonic thought it was ok to use the English words “the following” in a completely different sense vs the Japanese meaning, simply because the surface level English words are the same.

“The following of the feathers”? That just tells a learner that 翌 means “the following [of someone]/[of something]”. If I hadn’t figured out that what they really mean is “the following [time period]”, I would have tried to use 翌 in a sentence like 仏教の翌, which obviously makes zero sense.

A huge part of why Japanese is difficult for an English speaker is that it often aggregates meanings that are split into multiple English words into a single Japanese word and separates meanings that are aggregated into a single English word into multiple Japanese words. You cannot in good conscience make this issue even worse by conflating meanings like this when teaching people. This laziness isn’t just unhelpful, it’s straight up detrimental.

I think WK should fix mnemonics like this one.


My mistake is irrelevant. “The following” in “the following of the feathers” isn’t the same as that in “the following day”. Learning the meaning of the kanji as “the following of the feathers” will confuse a user as that’s simply not the meaning of the kanji.


You can “personally dislike” this thread as much as you like, but unfortunately your personal dislike won’t change the reality that this is, in fact, 100% due to laziness.

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I asked for an issue to be fixed. I am sorry if you didn’t like the way I did. I’m sure you’ll be ok.


I ignore and create my own mnemonic

the “official mnemonic” in the meaning tab could work for someone who knows


There are times I don’t use WaniKani’s mnemonics and just come up with my own (by I do get inspiration/ideas based off their mnemonics and looking at the radical parts the kanji is made up of.)

Also the word is just a kanji. The learner could easily conclude that it’s the following time period because below the kanji is shows that kanji used in vocabulary words.

For example

翌月 meaning is next month/the following month


Yeah I just checked the vocabulary and in this case yes it would eliminate the source of confusion.

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That’s entirely beyond the point. 翌月 is in fact how I also figured out the mnemonic was wrong. The vocabulary being there, however, doesn’t make the mnemonic any less wrong.


Mnemonics are there to help you remember things. By the way, I personally don’t find the one you brought up all that bad. The meaning is ‘following’ (as in “next”), and the mnemonic evokes an imagery of a chain, where things follow each other in sequence. No problem whatsoever.

The issue here is with what visual queue you are creating yourself. And unfortunately WaniKani can’t get into your brain and create things that are tailored to your own needs, that’s on you to do. You will see many mnemonics that don’t agree with you (there was someone the other day who had trouble with the “kouichi” mnemonics, for example). Learning is a very personal journey. In fact, because of that reason, personal mnemonics are so much more useful than the pre-written ones because they evoke your personal, unique imagery.

You cannot ask a service to fix something that is just your own problem because it’s not like WK is a service that creates a personal system just for you. For that, you’d want to get a teacher (there are a bunch on italki, I heard). Otherwise, like everyone else said – either create your own mnemonic that works for you or use the vocabulary provided to remember the meaning.

At the end of it, WK is just a spaced repetition system where all the work has been done for you at creating a coherent reviewing system with some examples and vocabulary to instill readings. The idea is that it would be a tool on your way to eventually start reading on your own. However, because the tool appeals to a huge audience of different people, it will never be 100% perfect for you. It’ll be a great help, but that’s about it.


You are entitled to your opinion, but I fundamentally disagree. It costs absolutely nothing to provide a mnemonic with the correct meaning rather than the wrong one, resulting from a pervasive issue in language learning (and specifically Japanese). That’s it. Happy to agree to disagree!


Well, I explained to you why for me the mnemonic works and it fits 100% with the actual meaning. So… I guess we do have to agree to disagree! Have a good day.


No, you absolutely didn’t, but that’s ok. A good day to you!

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That’s why the associated vocabulary exists. They teach you 翌朝 翌月 etc very same level.


I think we all have those moment when something is not design just the way we would like or frustrated because something is confusing / unclear. At those times, I take a break, breath, maybe drink a cup of coffee (I love coffee) and realize for one damn item, there are dozens of item that I learn just fine. What I mean by that is the following (see what I did there :stuck_out_tongue: ) :

Any studying method goal is never to make you remember 100% of the content. That’s just plain impossible, or at least there might be some kind of pareto effect taking place or logarithmic learning curve. So maybe accept the fact that some things are just not going to stick with you.

I won’t talk about the benefits of personal mnemonics since it has been discussed previously by several fellow learners.

However there’s one thing I want to add, Wanikani is not reality. When I want to acquire real Japanese and get the real feeling for a word, I need to confront it. Out there, in context. That’s because words cannot be reduce to a translation : They are a spectrum of meaning, conveying different information, emotion and used in specific scenario and that is something you cannot get from a dictionary

An example would be 面白い this word has a variety of meaning, most known being “interesting”, but it also cover the meaning of “fun”. And you probably already know that. But do you know it because you learned a list of meaning ? Probably not.
Most likely you have seen it in situation where you could understand the nuance.

And by the way, the only translation Wanikani gives for this word is “interesting”. Which if we apply your reasoning would be misleading. But once you see it in context you might think, “That’s weird I thought it meant interesting but here, it seems to carry a different meaning” and that’s how you learn :slight_smile:

Many times, a word I learned in wanikani only start to make sense when I see or hear it somewhere

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That’s… not the smoothest rebuttal I’ve ever seen from you, Leebo.

The idea of the mnemonics is not to create knowledge, it’s to create understanding. There are absolutely mnemonics in the WaniKani repertoire that use the English translation in the wrong sense, which result in an incorrect understanding of what the word means. Unfortunately, none presently spring to my mind besides the old 続く/続ける “Unfortunately, there’s no good way to differentiate the two “continues” using just the meaning” chestnut. And that? That’s definitely laziness.

More than one mnemonic used to be something that was basically “uh… I dunno how these components create that meaning… come up with something yourself”. The old 交番 mnemonic, for example. It took me all of five minutes to google up an actual etymology. That’s laziness.

Well, it’s true that it does use the word correctly in the mnemonic. However, it also uses the word incorrectly, in the sense of “a body of supporters or admirers”, but 翌 doesn’t have that meaning.

In any case, hi @Vikkio92, welcome to the forums! People aren’t usually so sulky, I promise. It’s just that criticism of WaniKani can unfortunately sometimes hit a nerve. Your best bet is probably to e-mail your concerns to the WaniKani team directly at


I don’t know where this idea comes from. Mnemonics exist to commit something to memory (knowledge). It can be the meaning, reading, or otherwise. And it’s not the idea to study a language anyway by translating words. I’m in full agreement with @Makushi_Rutsu over the fact that no matter how good the mnemonic on WK will be, it cannot humanly encompass the exact meaning of a word, even with simple expressions. Understanding comes from repeated exposure to the words and kanji “in the wild” and in its proper context (knowledge vs understanding).

Because mnemonics are supposed to create a visual image. The way I see it, is that you’re supposed to see a body as in a chain of things following one another (which is, to me, not a problem at all to see the meaning of following in the precise way that it was meant, I presume). Maybe for some people it just works, while for other it doesn’t. I don’t use mnemonics on WK in general (because there are better ways to remember Kanji meaning and readings in my opinion), but I use them a lot when I need to recall things for university exams and such, and no, the meaning doesn’t have to translate 1-1 as long as I can derive all the information needed from the mnemonic.

I never understand this argument about WK or any other service. I signed up virtually two minutes ago to this service, I give zero cares about it and I was even reluctant to pay for a long-term subscription because I wasn’t sure if it’ll be a useful tool for me. So I wouldn’t say people are sulky (I certainly am not, since I have no attachment whatsoever to WK). People just give their opinions, and they were quite civil in my eyes (as opposed to the user, who was very hostile). Disagreement and giving someone guidance about changing his point of view when he might be wrong on something doesn’t mean that people are coming from a negative place.


It’s not english you are learning, it’s japanese. Who cares if it makes sense in english or not, make it make sense and move on.

I can almost guarantee that a mnemonic is the least of your problems japanese-wise.


Well, it’s to help you remember it. Heisig’s RTK has a few of these “wrong sense of the English word” or “wordplay” mnemonics too. I think they tend to be more justifiable when the meaning of a kanji is a more abstract concept. Abstractions are hard to make memorable mental images for, so sometimes for some people the route “strong mental image → English word in a ‘wrong’ sense → wordplay to the abstract meaning” works better as a memory trigger than trying to go directly to the abstract.

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Ah, I remember another kanji like this. (とう) = “board, embark” as in “to board a boat”.

Then we have the word 搭載(とうさい) = “built in, equipped with”. Here’s the mnemonic:

That board is not a verb anymore which confused the heck out of me. Imagine saying “you nail an embark (yes, that concept) to the wall of the house…”. Doesn’t make any sense to switch up the meanings like that. Then the kanji should have the meaning “plank” in the allow list for it to make sense, which isn’t exactly correct either.

Actually, I’ve already complained about this before, haha: