Really wish radicals were more flexible to memorize

I really wish there was more leeway to interpret radicals that has no kanji (ナ,丶,ハ) your own way, because it’s quite annoying that you get wrong on a radical because you don’t follow wanikani’s interpretation.

Like for instance ナ = narwhal, even though the radical itself has no connection with narwhals let alone the sea and for me personally I got a hard time associating it with narwhals.

Also would be really helpful if wanikani could explain why kanji’s are the way they are (like why is 一 + 十 = 土(do))


Well, lots of the mnemonics for the kanji use the radicals to tell a (usually absurd) little story. So if you didn’t use WK’s radicals, you couldn’t use their mnemonics either, and at that point why use Wanikani at all?

Of course, you can add a synonym for all the radicals, which I think would achieve making WK more “flexible”, but I’d beware that it might come back to bite you when memorizing kanji.

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You can always add your own names as synonyms. That’s pretty flexible.


tbh I think this should be avoided with the more fundamental radicals (the lower level ones especially) because they’re used in so many mnemonics. Somewhat ironically I have found the narwhal to be one of the most striking and useful mnemonics. The higher level ones are kinda whatever, I just mark them correct with double check every time after guru, because they’re used so infrequently.

Anyhow the OP might find the keisei phono-semantic composition script (in addition to wikt) to be useful if they’re planning to continue with wanikani.


Agreed on completely changing the meaning/context - but there are plenty of radicals with names like ‘garbage’, where ‘trash’ or ‘refuse’ keeps the same meaning. Adding in those types of synonyms has saved me a ton of headaches :slight_smile:


Yes, this is an incredibly useful scripts and I second that opinion. I didn’t mind the mnemonics being a bit out there. But, I also didn’t focus all that much on them in the end. Visual recognition is key. Naming them - not so much.


yeah, I think there are basically two routes to dealing with wk’s dearth of gloss synonyms — either make user synonyms or keep double-checking. personally i use double-check, but synonyms are of course also an option.

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I don’t use mnemonics for kanji meanings (only some readings), so I find it kind of useless to learn the names of the radicals. Luckily I remember most of them no problem but for the ones I don’t I just use the “ignore answer” button script and cheat on them so I’ll eventually burn them ASAP and get rid of them. I’m probably not the only person who does this.

I am only level 5 but I don’t anticipate this causing me any issues.

Just add user synonyms. But then you’re gonna have to make your own mnemonics for the kanji that use those radicals.

Not to be rude, but isn’t this counterproductive to the whole system? Burning them and getting them out of the SRS queue isn’t the point, learning them and effectively internalizing them is. I feel like you’re conflating the two.

It is true that for most kanji you can just memorize their readings from the associated vocab. However, if you do this and just trash the kanji-only SRS items, it will become somewhat more difficult to read and understand the function of the kanji in unfamiliar words, as you’ll have to go through circuitous paths of “oh, this kanji in this vocab, which is different from that vocab, is read X, but not Y, but Z sometimes” when it’s just simpler to associate the reading and meaning with the individual kanji. Even though they’re just glosses, they’re fairly helpful ones.

I used to think like you did, until the 10-20 range. Then kanji started to get more similar and I had a hard time distinguishing them from each other. Something similar will probably affect your progress as well, though likely not at the same stages as me; to avoid almost getting burned out entirely, I strongly advise you to remember readings and meanings (glosses) properly and to each individual kanji.

Oh, and don’t abuse level-reordering. That can also affect your real-world performance, especially if you’re planning to speed through the WK program.

This is a common misconception. Radicals are not related to the meanings of the kanji they are in. The one exception to this is kanji made by a process called phonetic semantic composition, where one of the radicals is tangentially related to the meaning and the other to the on’yomi… but in the general case most of the radicals inside of any kanji will be pretty much random, for historical reasons. Think of it like the letters of the word “earth”… if someone asked you what “h” or “a” meant in the word “earth” you wouldn’t have a great way of answering them.


tbh I dont even care for the radicals anymore in reviews, since they are subjective to each methodology.

vocab and kanji I really pay attention and even a slight mistake in thought before typing, I mark it wrong and correct it next time.


I use the Wanikani Double-Check script and utilize it to re-input the answers for radicals that don’t mean anything so I can eventually Burn them. I tend not to use the wanikani mnemonics (making up my own ridiculous things works better for me) so it doesn’t affect me much. Some of them I just can’t ever remember (like 冋 = mustache)

Narwhal is used because it is the same as katakana “na”, as in NArwhal.



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