Radicals, Useful or Useless?

So, I was wondering, from your personal experiences, do you find the radical bit of WaniKani’s teaching process useful or useless?

I’m making this thread because, contrary to my experience, I’ve heard some people say that it was infuriating having to learn a bunch of useless radicals when they could have dove straight into the kanji.

You can vote in the poll if you just want your opinion counted, but I would appreciate explanations and replies.

Radicles, Useful or Useless
  • Radicles are Useful
  • Radicles are Useless

0 voters

I’m aware that I spelt ‘radicals’ as a Greek governor. I already feel like a moron, no need to tell me!
And no, I cannot change the poll, my stupidity is immortalised for all eternity… :expressionless:


I thought I’d start the ball rolling: I, thus far, have found them useful in helping reduce the complexity of seemingly intimidating kanji and readings.


I’m a simple fresh level 3, but so far they’ve been helpful. Wanikani in general tuned down the fear I had about learning Japanese because of kanji.


I wonder who would find them useless! :scream:

I can’t imagine learning kanji without them - especially, as you said, those kanji that have seemingly 48262836 components in them at first glance…


Hmm, probably people who already have some foundations on it and are just looking for learning more kanji, I can see radicals, specially wanikani’s radicals as they generally aren’t the oficial ones, being useless.


You need the radicals to make the kanji mnemonics. Therefore I find them very helpful.


Radicles are not necessarily pivotal to making mnemonics, however I’ll concur that it makes them significantly easier to remember because they break the kanji up and are consistent.


I wonder how else they learned to… learn kanji then! =0 (Genuinely curious)

I thought breaking (complex) kanji into smaller components (radicals) was the way to go :thinking::thinking::thinking:

Edit: or I guess just repetitively seeing a kanji over and over again until it sticks… But I found that way to be kinda bad because I would confuse them with visually similar kanji :sweat_smile:


Radicals would be useful if they were based upon actual meanings rather than random “Lip rings” and such. Or if they were organized in a way that gave you useful skills (dictionary lookup comes to mind). As is, they’re a distraction. Since many, perhaps most, of them are actual kanji, I’d much prefer to learn the kanji itself, where the meaning is actually relevant in cases where it applies.

They’re also a delaying tactic. I have a good visual memory. Once I’ve seen the shape and stroke order a couple of times, I don’t need that much repetition to start seeing kanji that use them as a component.

The only value I really see to how WK sets them up is they use them in the mnemonics. I don’t because I found in my last go through that there were too many inconsistencies in how WK does its mnemonics, so I just make up my own which I know won’t lead me astray.

Honestly, I’m tempted to give every one of them a synonym of “radical” and skip the whole thing this time. I haven’t quite done it, but I’m really tempted.

Side Note: For anyone interested here is a thread I started a year or so ago talking about a different way to do mnemonics which I find much more reliable.


Without them you’re basically just trying to memorize a bunch of lines. If you assign the parts some meaning, no matter how ridiculous, it becomes a lot easier to memorize them.


They are more useful than paticles.


Assuming that by “Radicles” you mean “WK Radicals” - yes, I think they are useful.
If you mean something else - then it depends on what you mean :sweat_smile:


You’re right, some radicals get some very weird meanings :sweat_smile:
I guess the WK radicals are useful mainly for… WK users

Thankfully for me it’s working!

But it’s so cool that you have a good visual memory! Mine is a tad crap, so the WK radicals and mnemonics are essential :grin:


I think a lot of people can remember the image or profile of a kanji better than they can the reading. That’s certainly the case with me, the radicles are incredibly useful when remembering the reading.

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Is that Pericles’ brother? :wink:


They’re not that useful in the laters level, imo, but quite good the first 20 levels.


I visually remember most kanji and skip the radical mnemonics. But they’re not useless. Many kanji are visual and incorporate, in some way, the meaning of the radical (which WK doesn’t always teach accurately).

I guess one’s specific “usefulness” of them would depend on your learning method and what you plan to do with the knowledge. Good luck properly writing kanji by hand without knowledge of them. Many learning methods besides WK focus largely on the “why” aspect of why each one is in each kanji. Even WK does this sometimes, which really helps you visually understand the kanji’s meaning and understand it better going forward.

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I can’t believe I did that; oops… :expressionless: :expressionless:

But be honest, how many of you noticed that?

(Also, I can’t change the poll, so my stupidity is immortalised for all eternity… yay!)


Yes, it’s readings where mnemonics are valuable for sure, but I’m not sure the radicals WK provides helps much with that. A combination of the Kisei Phonetic-Semantic scripts and a consistent mnemonic framework is more useful.

But everyone’s brain is different, so you should do whatever you find is best for you.

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Meh, we all need embarrassing stories to tell our grandkids someday!

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