Radicals, Useful or Useless?

I agree with everything else you said, but しんにょう is fine…? しんにょう appears to be older than しんにゅう as well.

Well, I’m not the one who wrote the Wikipedia radical list so…

Not sure where you’re referring to, but this page doesn’t seem to list しんにゅう, while it probably should have it in addition to しんにょう.

And this page, which I was looking at initially after your post, of course lists both.

Ah, I see. That history is what I was exposed to first. It didn’t occur to me either that linguists, teachers/teaching websites, and the average Japanese person probably have different terminology. I just figured WK’s use was wrong after seeing some topics about it. It’s silly now that I think about it to not have considered that.

That is good to know. I’ve used components to look up kanji before but it is good to know there is at least a degree of standardization.

I see, I see. Thank you!

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Lemme just clarify @alo’s point before you start a crusade. The distinction is this:

Let’s take the kanji 闇, say.

Under the official, technical definition, the radical for this kanji is 門 and nothing else. The components are 門, 立, 日 and 音.

However, since all of those components are also radicals for other kanji, they’re generally just regarded as radicals all the same - for example, in Jisho’s search-by-radical function. But that paragraph above, where I made a distinction between radicals and components? That was pedantry.

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I’m referring to this one List of kanji radicals by stroke count - Wikipedia

… i mean, Wikipedia being internally inconsistent and / or wrong is definitely not unheard of…

I know it as しんにょう, here is called that way.
I understand what you say, I just didn’t think enough about it, still don’t agree learning something that is just wrong, as the real name indicates how it is written in the Kanji.
Can’t be helped, it is necessary to level up anyway.

I understand alo’s point and agree with it. If you think I’m starting a crusade, maybe re-read the bit you’re quoting.

Oh, didn’t realise you were joking. You tend to come across a bit strong.

… Like this post, for example.


I didn’t see this being mentioned anywhere but I feel like people have missed the point on the usefulness of radicals. They can be extremely useful for remembering or even guessing the onyomi pronunciation since they’re borrowed from Chinese, which also generally has similar pronunciations for similarly written words. For example:

荘、装、壮 (sou)
姓、性、牲、生 (sei)
製、制 (sei)
政、征、整、正 (sei)
精、清、静、青 (sei)
漂、標、票 (hyou)
被、披、彼、皮 (hi)
版、販、板、飯、反 (han)

And this is just off the top of my head. There are a lot more that follow the same pattern. All of these onyomi pronunciations basically come for free once you memorize the major contributing radical (I’ve listed them at the end in all my examples). Yes, there are some that break this rule but it is still a useful shortcut for those times where you just need to guess. Don’t be lazy, learn your radicals!


Aye, that’s the purpose of the Semantic-Phonetic Composition script. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I picked up on all of these patterns and more (such as 召 しょう ) just from using WaniKani. I haven’t had to learn radicals from other sources.

Exactly, radicals are a shortcut. Once your reading gets faster than 5 characters a minute, you don’t even see or parse every stroke. You end up looking for radicals. It’s kind of like how in English you can scramble the middle of a word, but as long as the fsirt and lsat lterets are the smae you can slitl firuge out the mneinag of the secentne. Imo this is not even a debate. Not learning radicals will seriously handicap learners once they go from intermediate to advanced.

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No doubt recognizing radicals is important, but I don’t think which names you give them or the size of the radical set matters that much.

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I agree for some of the more complex radicals, but a lot of the simple ones actually tell you something about the word. I wrote an old post that I’ll copy and paste here:

The one big example I can think of that annoyed me quite a bit at the time is the “fish stick” radical. In China/Japan, it’s actually taught as the “heart” radical because almost every character it’s associated with has something to do with emotions (情・快・懶・懐). That way when you see it you’ll know it has something to do with feelings.

As long as the radicals are named properly, it can help with comprehension and reinforcement of word meanings.

I’ve looked for unknown kanji using radicals I have learned on Wanikani, so for me, pretty damn useful.

I believe it’s taught as the heart radical because it’s a simplified form of 心. WaniKani has changed the radical name since you started, I know it as the soul radical. WaniKani likes to give different names to different variations of radicals which I think is a good idea.

But the name doesn’t really matter once you’re reading fast enough because you don’t stop to think of the name of the radical, your mind just uses the radical’s shape to make a guess as which kanji is being used.

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Sure, but you don’t get there overnight. Memory is all about reinforcing different pathways. If you can recall the same thing in 5 different ways, you’re developing long term memory faster than someone just brute-forcing one memorization tactic over and over again. This is why learners are encouraged to dive into real-world materials as soon as possible, because seeing a word in context develops yet another pathway. Almost none of the mnemonics or tricks you used while learning will matter once you become fluent. The question is what’s the fastest way to get there?

I’d say that a memorable mnemonic is a fast way to get there.


I’d say this is the main reason radicals are useful. There are just too many kanji that really only differ with a single radical. So unless you recognize them, you’ll run into trouble knowing which kanji is which.

Saying that you can somehow just “know” the kanji just upon seeing it, sounds like a farfetched fantasy. There are over 50 000+ kanji out there.

Good luck with that I say! >_>

(some people have perfect visual memory, but even then, surely knowing radicals will help A LOT :sweat_smile: )