Radicals learning are too restrictive

Sometimes I feel frustrated with the radicals learning.

Associating a radical to a particular English word is not good, and it feels like another kind of rote learning.

For example, associating 一 with ground and 土 with grave is just not really helping. I would rather think that 一 is “one” and 土 is “ground”.

We should be able to set our own radical, or at least associate it with a specific kanji that is constructed from the radical. With kanji association, we could memorize it in a better way.

Because we’re using radicals to construct what a 字 (character) means. It will speed up our kanji reading skills by actually associating it to where and what is actually using them.

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You can do it. Just add a synonym. I did it for the same radical examples you gave.

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You can add a synomym (edit =P) so you can answer whatever you want in reviews, but the mnemonics for the kanji rely on the meanings they’ve given the radicals.

Of course, you could use your own radical meanings and then come up with your own mnemonics for all the kanji. That would be a pretty big undertaking.

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Okay, I wasn’t aware of synonyms.

Thanks a lot.

Alternatively, you might find the Override Userscript helpful.

It allows you to ignore a wrong answer giving you another chance to get it right. It can help you push through the slow early levels when you are getting items wrong for silly reasons. Typos for instance.

More on how to use userscripts here:

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I disovered that knowing the names of the radicals was adding useless information in my head and sometimes confusing me.

The ‘Toe’ radical for example. I kept guessing that the ‘above’ radical was pronounced ‘To’ just because toe was in my head too. So now I never miss radicals. If I don’t know the name I just lookup the name in another window and move on.

What helps with radicals is knowing their shape so that later kanji doesn’t just look like a bunch of squiggles but is instead recognizable shapes. So they are good. But I don’t need to recall their names instantly. Thats useless mental junk I think.

Hahahahahaha you know what people always complain about the WK radicals but OP actually makes a particularly good point with this…

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Don’t know m8. Never actually bothered me. And 土 is much more like a grave (err, christian one) than just a ground for me.

On the other hand, the real problem is the Japanese meaning for a radical VS WaniKani meaning. That’s what should worry you, not having +1 association with something in your head (especially considering the marvelous capacity of our remembering system).

In any case you stop thinking about mnemonics and what not once you’ve remembered the meaning 'cause the symbol (well, character) starts to associate with the meaning in your mind w/out the English as interpreter.

So, I’d advise to just learn more instead of wasting time on making new synonyms. It’s a quickly passed part.

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I agree. I knew a set of names for all the radicals before I started WK but if you’re going to use WK you should follow WK’s path. If you don’t use WK’s radicals the its mnemonics won’t make sense. Sure, you might already know other names of the radicals, you might even know a few hundred kanji, but WK teaches thousands of items and they have chosen to use whatever they think makes the more sense long term. If you don’t learn the WK radical names you’re going to have it harder on later levels.


As many said already, you can add synonyms… I wanted to add that you can also think of your own mnemonics as well, if you find the ones provided to be confusing.

I’d echo Kuri-Gohan’s point. You wont be thinking about the radicals as you become more fluent with the kanji and vocab. The advantage of Koichi’s radical names is you can use the mnemonics he’s already made so huge amounts of kanji learning becomes as simple as doing the reviews. You can of course come up with your own names or even use some of the official ones and develop your own set of mnemonics but that’s a lot more work than temporarily associating a few hundred words you already know with stuff you’re trying to learn.

That said there are good reasons to make up your own mnemonics in some cases, many WK mnemonics contain cultural references that don’t cross boarders very well and if this affects you you’ll certainly notice.

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For any radicals that are a kanji, I’ve been adding the synonym of the actual meaning of the kanji, all along, from the beginning. The OP isn’t alone in this thinking! (And since I rarely look at the mnemonics, it works for me.) Especially now that I’m getting radicals that were kanji first (I add the on and kun readings as synonyms, so I can type any of the three in!).
A few of the non-kanji radicals I’ve given other names to, though, because I thought they look more like something else… Like I think they call something “creeper” but I call it “porn stache” because it’s a mouth with a straight line above it. The radicals that look like katakana (or are katakana?) I’ve given the phonetic readings of the kana.

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I don’t understand what are you trying to say.

From my example what does “一” radical means in “Japanese” vs “WaniKani”, could you explain that please?

Also for example, what does ナ radical means in “Japanese” vs “WaniKani”?

What’s the harm in spending like a few minutes adding synonyms? A waste of time?

Well, registering for wanikani itself took time, progressing through the levels and such. I’m not a complete beginner. I have studied Chinese Simplified 汉子 and Japanese 漢字 for a while in and outside class. I am okay with reviewing radicals, but I don’t want to be stuck on their names, I want to learn more vocabularies and kanji readings.

If I want to really save my time, which I’m not so worry about, I wouldn’t explore wanikani at all, and keep using my other channels for learning.

Some of the mnemonics are extra information that I don’t need if I could not change or skip them. But, synonyms are good enough. I could not understand what exactly is your advice.

This actually makes me think of an API request… having radical synonyms we add show up on the kanji pages. At least for me, that would be really helpful.

My advise is to not worry about ‘strange’ radicals’ meanings and just use them because you’ll get past them fairly soon anyway.

As about WK VS RL, well, it’s a long somewhat hot topic. WK uses silly funny meanings for radicals to make you remember them (one of the most important things in memory system is emotions). But some people find this way frustrating because a lot of radicals have quite some real meanings and it’s rarely the same as the one WaniKani offers.
I’ve seen a lot of threads about it on Reddit when I was checking out all this WaniKani thing. You can find it if you search.

This might be possible with the new API! … From what little I understand of it, anyway…