Rethinking WK

Has anyone tried transitioning from WK to Anki, using the available WK decks out there? I hope that’s not a touchy subject, but since I paid for a full year, I think it’s appropriate to use those resources as well during my subscription.

The reason I ask is that I am in a hurry to learn as much Japanese as possible due to a job opportunity next year in Japan, and I would like to trim some of the fat from WK. As it stands, WK is taking far too much of my study time while giving me redundant out of context vocab (how many undifferentiated different ways to say “performance” do I need?), making me review super easy old stuff, and limiting the number of new kanji I can learn.

So I need to simultaneously pick up the pace and reduce the workload to focus on, ya know, learning actual whole-grain Japanese. I’m at the level now where the reviews and lessons are piling up too quickly, and I think it is appropriate to re-evaluate the usefulness of the content itself. I believe words need to be learned, or at least reinforced, in context to be useful, otherwise they are just ammo for humorous mistranslations (“eihongo”), and WK is significantly cutting into that time that could be spent on more holistic material that teaches real usage.

Has anyone gone down this road, and how did you fare?


While WaniKani does teach you some vocab its primary goal is to teach you kanji. So all vocab you learn is basically there to reinforce your kanji. That’s why thinking of other ways to retain vocab isn’t a wrong approach - in fact, it’s the only right one. I wouldn’t even bother trying to find a special WaniKani Anki deck, but instead pick one of the extensive Basic Japanese Vocab ones (10 000 words or something like that). Maybe you can find a deck where WK vocab is excluded.
I know I didn’t really answer your original question (transition WK → Anki), but I hope I still could be of help.


(Just the 2 cents of newb with some language studies bg)
As Zeus said WK is pretty much a kanji learning tool, and I think that the slow burn level might be beneficial for most : you get intuition for the kanji, which makes skimming through text easier ( which is a really useful skill when you’re at a intermediate level in a language.
The biggest issue with WK is that it’s sort of a one size fit all, it tries to progress through commonly used kanji as it will allow you to consume a wide array of sources , but if you have a specific need there might be better lists out there.

So I think that the bigger question is what is your goal with your studies.

Do you want to pass an accreditation test to get better visa condition ?(In which case use the relevant anki decks)
Do you want to be able to converse in Japanese ? ( focus less on kanji and more on vocabulary and speaking / listening).


I think I got something!

This short thread has a core 10k with the appropriate tags as well as a link to a tutorial on how to properly suppress those tags.

I had found that deck a while ago but couldn’t figure out the suspend tool so I actually gave up on trying it and just kept learning vocab from reading and textbooks, but having just found this thread while searching for OP I will hopefully go back to it.


Adding more SRS is definitely not the answer, since the looming spectre of WK will still eat up the same chunk of study time. I know the vocab is just there to reinforce the kanji, but there really should be more user control involved. There are serious redundancies in there, and the best way to reinforce kanji is through seeing them again the real world. Reading real material takes time…time currently eaten up by WK.


The goal is to learn Japanese for living in Japan. I’m intermediate level now, but need to spend more time on listening, conversation, and proper usage. This was working fine until recent WK levels became overwhelming in terms of time required. Other people tend to slow down or pause when this happens, but I need to keep up the pace.

When you encounter the “redundant” words (i.e. words that happen to have similar English glosses), are you going and looking them up in monolingual dictionaries or thesauruses to see what the differences are? Did you want WK to do that? The creators are trying to avoid letting the scope of the site grow out of control. They give you the tools to be able to understand the gist of a word and quickly look it up if you need to.

Or is the idea that they shouldn’t include those words in the first place.


From my experience studying a language that I didn’t know before I moved to the country (Dutch, a bit harder to practice as everybody speaks English in here xD) you’ll get a huge boost in listening and speaking once you start doing it daily, raising your vocab is harder to accelerate though.

I will say go for the 10k vocab list and try the WK Anki list to see if the style works for you. If you’re going to be immersed in the language I think that there is less value to the “repetitions methods” as you’ll get that in spades from your surroundings once you move.


No, because that would take even more time and introduce all kinds of branching. I understand that the English meanings are vague and do not give idea of usage, which is why I prefer full sentences to isolated vocab in general. I do think the users should have the option to sacrifice repetitive vocab for leveling speed while allowing more time for whole grain content outside WK.

Just so this doesn’t come off as lazy or complainy, I want to note I have been hitting my level-ups in under 8 days since level 4 or so and have not had any review or lesson pile ups over 200. Even that would be rare.

I definitely expect the immersion effect to help quite a bit. I’ve spent a number of months in Japan before and it has been beneficial even short term. I would like to focus a bit more on complete thoughts than just fueling up out of context words (I mean, throw us some collocations at least). But sitting down with a book is a whole day thing, and WK can’t be taking up multiple hours.

I’m hesitant to dive into the Anki transition because I have 25 levels of steady progress already. If I don’t find it better, I’m screwed.

Are you reading the one to three sample sentences WK has available for each vocabulary word?

Yes, but they are not SRS’d, are not i+1, and have the tone of flippant teenagers. :slight_smile:


Sadly, I can’t give WK-specific advice because I’ve never used it (I’m here for the forums), and I also can’t be certain about what the fastest way to learn kanji from scratch is, because I’m a Chinese speaker who started learning Chinese when he was a toddler. I can give you my opinion on what the most ‘holistic’ way to learn kanji is, but I can’t guarantee that it’ll be fast or necessarily useful for your aims. (Apologies in advance for the long post.)

Now that that preamble is out of the way… since you mentioned this:

I think your priority should be to learn vocabulary and grammar. Especially grammar. You can’t really separate the two or you’ll be bored to death memorising grammatical structures, but the more grammatical framework you have in your head, the more easily you’ll get through texts, even complex ones, with just the help of a dictionary. Kanji are still very important, but they’re honestly secondary: extremely common kanji aside, I don’t think it’s rare for Japanese people to be unable to write certain kanji, even if they can recognise them. As such…

I guess you need to ask yourself what you’ve been using to learn vocabulary and grammar up to this point, and how well it’s been working for you. I’m personally at a level where I feel I don’t encounter many new grammatical structures while watching anime, but I know I’m lacking a ton of (spoken) vocabulary, which is making listening difficult for me. (Reading and writing is tons easier because I can make guesses based on the Chinese I know.) I’ve been using online reaction blogs with transcriptions and screenshots to help me, and I find I can really learn a lot of words per anime episode (say at least 25?), but the problem is that the words are fairly specialised for the field in which they’re used (school, fantasy, work, sports etc). I personally think newspapers are probably the best source of everyday vocabulary that goes beyond concrete objects like food and drink, and I suppose I should study those a bit more often. Honestly though, I don’t know if what I’m saying is any help, because only you know what works well for you.

The other thing you need to tackle is, of course, kanji. As much as I have a rather strong dislike for flashcards (which is why I probably wouldn’t sign up for a programme like WK for another language even if it had rave reviews), I have to admit that they work. I used some very briefly to learn French, and they were effective, even if I dropped them after a while. Thus…

I understand your sentiments about something else (WK in this case) taking up much-needed reading time, but I’d argue that it’s not always true that ‘real Japanese’ is the best way to remember. Something that you care about, that triggers your emotions and puts you in an attentive state is what will make kanji (and vocabulary and so on) stick. I searched a few hundred words (I’m fairly sure) while watching the first twenty episodes of Shield Hero. I wouldn’t dare to say I remember all of them. However, I think there’s a good chance I will recognise them. Why? Because I enjoyed the series and I was paying attention. However, which ones will I definitely remember? Well, the ones in lines I enjoyed the most, whose sources I can recite by heart. The more interesting something is and the more I care about it, the more I’ll remember. I think that’s what really will make a word stick, more so than just encountering it in context (though that is of course very important and is something I advocate as well).

I guess the other question you’ll have to ask yourself about kanji is, is WK really helping me? I’ve heard that it’s a very good programme, and it certainly seems pretty good, but it may not help you specifically.

As someone who studied a language and achieved full fluency before moving long-term to the country, excluding a few two-week immersion programmes (I’m in France for higher education now, and I started six years before the end of high school), I’d say the only way to become fluent without much outside human help is to immerse yourself in meaningful, interesting native material and absorb it as often as possible. The idea is for certain patterns to become so familiar that they become second nature. I did that by reading French newspapers for fun for around 3h a day. At the same time, the most unique expressions will pop out at you and begin to stick, provided you enjoy the language. My problem with Japanese is that I can’t seem to find the same sorts of articles on NHK, because I love reading about developments in science and technology, and I have no idea how the NHK site is organised. I don’t have much science and tech vocabulary in Japanese anyway. Whatever it is, TLDR: there are two big phases to learning a language to fluency:

  1. You learn core vocabulary and grammar and build up familiarity with it. If you’re familiar with the CEFR levels, this is what happens until the B2 level, and that’s how you get to everyday conversational fluency, a level which I call ‘tourist fluency’ i.e. you could go for a holiday and get around without any linguistic help at all.
  2. You learn a broad range of words in order to be able to discuss specific ideas and complex topics. This is the C1-C2 range of the CEFR levels. To do this, you have to dig into the fields you want to learn about and see how native speakers discuss them.

I’d say you’re probably about 3/4 of the way through stage 1 now. A good textbook with some furigana for new kanji and lots of grammatical explanations should help you. Tobira might be something to look into. Some other people recommend… the Shin Kanzen series, I think? But that’s JLPT-focused. There’s another intermediate textbook somewhere, but I’ve forgotten the name.


I think the point of these is for them to be fun and hopefully memorable. I think it’s hard for them to be i+1 since WK is a kanji-teaching resource, not a vocab training resource.

I think what you should do is a sort of meta-analysis: what about WK has helped you memorise new kanji so far? What has not? For me, as someone who started Chinese as a toddler, I learn new kanji by writing them. A few repetitions is enough to make at least the general shape stick. Afterwards, I know I’ll probably have trouble with the meaning or the reading at some point, so I try to come up with ways for them to be memorable, but if it’s obvious or there’s something I can easily tie those elements to, I just force myself to absorb it as-is.

PS: It’s hard to explain in a concise fashion, but I don’t really do ‘normal’ mnemonics. For example, my way of memorising the meaning of the French word “éclater”, which means ‘to burst’ (among other related meanings), is to see the word exploding around the letter T, with four page corners peeling away from the intersection. This mnemonic popped into my head spontaneously, and I didn’t need to make it up. That may be what helps me forcefully absorb kanji without detailed techniques.


While I cannot speak to the topic question (moving from WaniKani to Anki), if I were in this position (needing to learn a lot in a short period of time), I’d ask myself:

1) Do I need what WaniKani is teaching me?

How well do you need to know how to read kanji on day one in Japan? Maybe, for example, you can stop WaniKani lessons but keep doing reviews. (Although you may feel you are not getting your money’s worth, and may not feel it worth resubscribing for just reviews.)

2) Are there tools that can help with reading kanji in the environment I expect to be in?

If your main required reading is, for example, e-mails at work, you can use software to help with the readings.

You can always return to WaniKani later if learning kanji weren’t the best use of your time in the short term.

3) Can my time be better spent learning other things?

As @Jonapedia wrote, vocabulary and grammar are the main things. Vocabulary can be difficult to learn when you don’t know the kanji, unless you learn it apart from the kanji (with just hiragana).


Funny, my Tobira lesson on iTalki starts in about 20 minutes, so I will return later to respond to your thoughtful post. :wink:

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面白いですね。Have fun, and I hope it’s enriching. :slight_smile:

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Are there really that many completely undifferentiated words (that it would take a lot of time during lessons)? It’s been a while since I went through, but they usually do have some subtle distinctions in their full list of meanings.


I haven’t kept a tally, but I have the impression that some words are vague enough to require more context, or are very similar to other words that use the same kanji. My impression may be wrong, though, which is why I’m asking if anyone has tried to do it differently.

So, the Tobira class went well, despite my exhaustion today. I like this book quite a bit due to its very thorough approach integrating reading, vocab, conversational styles, and grammar. The site has video content as well, which serves the listening function. I did also pick up some Shin Kanzen Master books for extra exercises in both listening and grammar, but haven’t jumped in yet. I really want to dedicate more time to these things, which was the goal of starting this thread.

I agree that focusing on grammar and vocabulary is the way to go, and while WK has been a great help in boosting vocab itself, as well boosting the capacity to understand new vocab, it’s really just down to the amount of time in a day. I also agree that material that sparks an interest is the best way to learn, so I have found some manageable readings on Satori Reader and am reading a music article way over my level with the help of another iTalki teacher. It’s a workout, and I’m not sure I retain enough, so the textbooks are still my primary focus right now.

Oh, by the way, if you are looking for news that is tailored to your interests, the Google News app lets you set language and region independent of your device, at least on iOS. Coupled with a reader app like Manabi, you can generate furigana and flashcards as needed on your own articles of interest. Pretty powerful combination.