"Seeing Radicals" vs "Seeing a Kanji"

Hey everyone,

When you are reviewing Kanji, do you consciously parse the radicals and get to the meaning? Or do you comprehend the entire kanji as a whole, and trigger off of that?

I am mostly only reviewing the radicals during the lesson and the first one or two reviews, and then recognizing the kanji on sight after that. My worry is that every once in a while a Kanji pops up and I completely blank and all I see are the radicals and I have to try to recall from that. Since I don’t go through that process every time, it can be hard to recall.

On top of that, I’m worried that I am learning the font as much as anything. Might be time to setup the font randomize script.

So do you force yourself to review the radicals, chain that to meaning, then reading?

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I use the random font script, I recommend it :+1:t3:

At first, I totally link the radicals to the kanji. Once I get the kanji to guru, I try my best to not think about the radicals and use the whole kanji and answer as quickly as I can, because when I’m reading I want it to be fluid and not like I’m piecing together every single kanji, every time.

If I end up forgetting a kanji multiple times, I’ll definitely go back and check the radical mnemonics to try to solidify it more; but the goal for me is recognize the kanji as quickly as possible, trust my judgement, and move on. The SRS will do it’s thing eventually


What is the random font script? How can I use it?

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It’s called Jitai. You’ll need the TamperMonkey extension for your browser, then to install the userscript, then you can install more Japanese typefaces on your computer.

I’m mostly the same as you, except taking a little longer to truly have the kanji itself in memory- especially with rare ones/ones I don’t often see in the wild.
the radicals are certainly a good fallback when I have a brainfart and fail to recognise low-level kanji that I should absolutely know by now!

sometimes I even have it the other way around, not being able to recognise a kanji that I absolutely know while doing WK reviews just because I expect to be able to use mnemonic recognition-
“what the heck is a private grain…? …oh, it’s 私”

it’s almost like, to me at least, WK reviews and real-life reading are two completely different parts of memory. WK certainly helps to get familiar with them and be able to get a “head-start” on truly being able to recognise on sight, but it doesn’t do the whole job alone!


I actually just try to memorize it, however, when it comes to writing it, I cant rememeber it.
I dont generally use the radicals for anything and, when I search in a dictionary, putting the pieces together doesn’t generally give me the right result anyways.

I’ll find that certain radical pieces are not available with others, so, I dont see a real function with radicals other than maybe helping to piece the kanji together.

No, if I feel like I know kanji, I type the answer right away (and pay the price of the error sometimes). I consider radicals and mnemonics being training wheels. Once you don’t need them, they will slow you down. Radicals probably have separate use to look up unknown kanji in the the dictionary.

There is also separate case for semantic-phonetic compounds, when you can guess correct reading from the part of complex kanji. But it’s not a part of regular WK workflow, you can use a script to help with that.

So long story short, they’re useless.

Imho, Radicals have limited use, in the beginning of learning process.

By the time I get them to guru I’m definitely just looking at the radical and I know it well enought to not need to remember the mnemonic or the radicals.

But it’s totally ok to not always remember and go back to the radicals… do you never forget a word in english or whatever you native language is? I’m sure you do :stuck_out_tongue:
And by having the mnemonic and radical you can remember it as opposed to, if you don’t remember it, being stuck with it.

They are literally the reason why are able to remember the kanji without them… so no, they are not useless, it’s just that their purpose is limited, in that it’s just a help to remember while you’re learning

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Thought I’d chime in from the perspective of someone who’s been through the higher levels. I do look at the radicals for those kanji that I don’t instantly know on sight. There are so many of them, and many use different combinations or radicals. So that it becomes more helpful later on to keep track. Also, the radicals are often helpful in that they give clues to the reading or the meaning. For example, kanji with the “soul” radical (formerly “fish stick”) usually have to do with feelings.
And kanji with the radical “charcoal” (formerly “ox”) are usually read as りょう.

Of course, ideally, and eventually you may be able to recognize all kanji on sight without thinking about their component parts, but in my personal experience, that takes a while. More than just WaniKani, it takes a lot of reading and encountering the same kanji in different contexts.

In the meanwhile, I find the radicals are a good place to begin. If you have a truly photographic memory, though, perhaps you can bypass radicals entirely.


Unless I’m reviewing a kanji that’s become so ingrained the response is unconscious, I have to recall it based on its component parts. Over time this becomes less and less necessary. Also as Sezme points out above, when multiple similar looking kanjis are in the review queue, you find the different components to differentiate them. So, I’m not forcing myself to review the radical, just leaning on it a bit until the kanji is settled in. Long story short, this is an expected part of the learning process. Trust it.


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