Question about the radicals and book recommendations

Like the title says, I was wondering if there is any reason to memorize the radicals since most of them are just random things anyway. And what is the difference between vocabulary reading and kanji reading, I just reached lvl 4 and the word stone appeared again but its the same kanji for right

Also, do you guys use any other app to learn japanese, or have book recommendations?

The kanji for “stone” 石 and “right” 右 are similar but not identical. I’m prone to having to pause for a bit when I see either one of these and remember which is which.

As for why the readings for some kanji are identical to the reading of the word that uses just that kanji by itself, a number of words just work that way. But not all of them do. For example, the kanji for “right” 右 has the ゆう reading but the word for “right” 右 has the reading みぎ.


On WaniKani specifically, kanji reading is the one reading for a kanji they taught you in the lesson. It’s not a special category of reading that generally exists in the context of all Japanese education.

Kanji can have many readings, but WK generally doesn’t want to overwhelm you, and so they teach one and ask you to give them that one when you answer.

Vocabulary reading is different, it’s the way you would read that word when you see it in a sentence. Those usually have just one way to read them, and it’s usually not something WK specially picked or something like that. It just is that word.


Wanikani radicals are components used to make the kanji mnemonics. Once you have memorized the kanji the mnemonics fade away and with them the need to remember the radicals disappears.

The kanjis are building blocks for words. Their meanings are used to construct the meanings of the words they are part of. Sometimes a word is made of a single kanji. When that happens meaning may or may not be the same as the constituent kanji depending on the specifics of the word and kanji. But the single kanji word is not a constituent for other words. This is the job of the kanji. Therefore the meaning of words is not normally used to construct more complex words.


90% of the time, if it’s a single kanji, vocab wants kun reading and kanji wants on reading.
just a tip tho. not how it actually works

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Your mileage will vary as far as the “meaning” of the radicals go. If you use the mnemonics, then it’ll probably be helpful. Otherwise I’d say it’s more useful to try to learn the shape and how the strokes look. Like it was previously used, (いし) and (みぎ) look very similar. Memorizing that that top part is different can help you to more easily identify/read more complex kanji down that might use those as radicals. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but just earlier this week, I was talking with a coworker about a meeting leaflet and she let me know that I had misread a kanji (and therefore a word) because it was just 1-2 strokes off from what I had thought it was.


the radicals are standard building blocks for kanji. so remembering them is quite useful.

though WK does play a bit loose with the names they give the radicals, many (if not most) are actually reasonably close to their “standard” meanings. WK’s “fingers” radical is the left-side variant of the “hand” radical. “tsunami” is the left-side variant of “water”.

“scooter” doesn’t, as far as i can tell, have a single official name, but it generally refers to forward movement. as such, many kanji with the scooter radical have some aspect of movement. kanji with the “shellfish” radical often refer to wealth (perhaps because certain sea-shells were once used as a form of currency). kanji for body-parts often have the meat radical (which looks identical to the moon radical, as far as i can tell, and WK doesn’t differentiate).

as such, learning the radicals can be helpful not only to remembering the shape of kanji, but also as hints to the meaning of kanji.


The wanikani radicals are made up. They are mandatory so their method works, but feel free to forget them.

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What Wanikani calls “radicals” are basic building blocks. Knowing them is very useful to understand how a kanji is built, in order to be able to recognize or write it.
Your inability to tell appart 右and 石 is because you didn’t pay enough attention to the two WK radicals.
Now, the names WK uses are not always easy to remember or useful. Myself I cheat on the first review, then add a personal synomym, and use it to remember.
右(みぎ, right) for example is made of two radicals : ナ on top of ロ. ナ I call it “na” (because it is like katakana ナ) and ロ I call it 'kuti" (because that is what it is : ロ (くち, mouth)).
For 石(いし, stone) it is also made of two radicals, the top one can’t be written on computers, I call it “itino” (because it looks like ー(いち, one) and katakana ノ).
Note the differences : in “na” the oblique stroke goes THROUGH the horizontal one. In “ichino” the oblique stroke starts UNDER the horizontal stroke. That is actually a huge difference for a kanji.

Another radical that you may see as similar is the upper part of 每 (that I call “noiti” as it looks like katakana ノ and ー).

Not all radicals can have such descriptive names, but then they have either a meaning like 木(き, tree; I call it “ki”) or are part of common kanji (like the left part of 朝, I just call it left part of 朝 : “asanohidari”), or they are a part used for phonetics (the kanji using it always, or very often, has the same (or similar) reading). I use that reading as personal synonym. For example, the radical 能 I call it “nou”.

Lastly, there are about a hundred that actually are “real” radicals (not only building blocks, but also using in traditional kanji classification) and as such have well established names in Japanese. For them I use those names as synonyms. Those names also tell where they appear in a kanji. And knowing the name, you can type it on a computer to get it亻is 人偏 (“ninben”, left-side human), 辶 is 之繞 (“sin’nyou”, left-bottom enclosing ressembling in shape to 之 ), etc.

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It is hard to notice the difference unless I have them side by side. Thanks for the reply tho!

There you go! It is so easy to misread them. I was struggling with the direction and ten thousand but after carefully looking at them next to eachother, it is much easier to identify!

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