The old “Unofficial FAQ” is archived, but I thought maybe it’d be a good time to bring it back.
First of all, many questions are answered in the official FAQ and the WaniKani guide. If you’re taking the time to learn Japanese it is worth it to read through those official resources and this FAQ to understand the workings of WaniKani. While the official resources are geared towards answering a lot of the overarching questions about the method by which WaniKani teaches radicals/kanji/vocab, this FAQ is meant to help answer specific questions about how lessons/reviews work, and to help you get past some roadblocks that you may run into.
The Most Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I’m level 1, why do I need to wait so long for my reviews? I am only reviewing radicals, when do I get kanji?
A: Good question. WaniKani uses a system known as Spaced repetition. You can read more about the specifics of the SRS (spaced repetition system) algorithm used here in the WaniKani guide.
Here is a brief summary of the info in the guide: To unlock kanji, you must first “guru” all component radicals. To guru a radical means that you answer it correctly in a review after a two day SRS interval (this is what your level 1 radical review intervals will be: 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours, 23 hours). So it takes a while (minimum 37 hours) to see your first kanji! Eventually, once you start to guru kanji, you will begin to unlock vocabulary as well. Everything on WaniKani builds on previous things you have learned, so your reviews will ramp up dramatically as you level.
The bottom line is that the timing of reviews is tuned to help maximize memory retention while minimizing study time. Doing so requires testing the limits of your memory retention, and that takes time!
Q: So what do I do while I’m waiting??
A: Since Wanikani’s main focus is learning kanji, check out this thread for a bunch of other resources to help with other areas of Japanese, such as grammar and listening! Bunpro is a SRS grammar resource that many have recommended. Check it out!
Q: Half the time during reviews I’m typing in Japanese and half the time in English! WaniKani never accepts any of my answers! Help!
A: WaniKani will quiz you on both the reading (Japanese) and meaning (English) of kanji and vocab. Be sure to notice what WK is asking for (it says on the review page “Kanji Reading?” or “Kanji Meaning?”). Also, you should probably read the WaniKani guide.
Q: When do you need to pay?
A: WaniKani is free through levels 1, 2 and 3. You need to pay to allow your level 4 items to unlock.
Q: Why doesn’t kanji X have meaning Y?
A: If it is an obvious omission, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, you can just add it yourself!
Q: I see an issue or have a problem with the site. What do I do?
A: First, check out the Bugs List. If its not listed there use the Contact button at the bottom of the page (or the Report Errors button at the bottom of the review page) to email Koichi and Viet.
Q: I already know all the kanji up through level X, can I skip ahead?
A: Right now there is no mechanism to skip levels, and there probably never will be. The method here at WaniKani uses mnemonics that are repeated throughout the levels, as well as a unique set of radicals. It also partially abstracts the on’yomi/kun’yomi readings of kanji (instead relying on which reading is most common), which is useful in being able to more easily guess vocabulary readings. So, even if you already know tons of kanji, by starting at level 1 you are training yourself on the mnemonics and radicals and the general WaniKani methods, which is invaluable to your future learning on this site. Advanced learners will just have to suck it up and repeat some material.
Q: How many kanji will I learn at WaniKani? And when will I be able to read my favorite manga/light novel/whatever?
A: Some community members have compiled some very useful data that helps equate kanji learned on WK to some real-life metrics. Check out WK vs JLPT, vs Japanese school grades, and vs. usage frequency. Also, check out wkstats.com!
Q: Is studying outside of WaniKani detrimental to the SRS learning process?
A: This has been discussed many times, and while there isn’t a definitive answer there is a consensus (see below). The idea is that the SRS depends on testing the limits of your memory, so studying in between SRS intervals and refreshing your memory prematurely could be harmful to your long term memory.
Some people think extra studying helps, some people think it hurts, and some people don’t think it matters. As has been pointed out, WaniKani already contains items (radicals/kanji/vocab that share the same characters) that essentially “pollute” the SRS system as you see related items before they are truly due, so no one can be an absolute purist. However, it seems plain that reviewing an item just before it is due could easily give you an otherwise undeserved correct answer.
The consensus is that specifically studying kanji/vocab outside of WaniKani is pointless at best, and counterproductive at worst. However, stumbling upon kanji “in the wild” while studying grammar or reading Japanese should be fine.
Q: I’m using TextFugu and WaniKani at the same time, should I skip the kanji in TextFugu?
A: The consensus is to skip the TextFugu kanji decks (and probably vocab too). Everything covered in TextFugu will also be covered in WaniKani, and it doesn’t make any sense to study the same material using two different SRS systems. You can still do the sentences/phrases if you want.
Q: Why am I getting the reading answers to 大 (たい, だい) and 力 (りき, りょく) wrong?
A: Some Kanji have multiple acceptable readings, you should only enter one of them when answering. The other readings will be reinforced in future levels with vocabulary.
Q: Why am I getting meaning questions for vocab like 上る wrong when I type “climb” instead of “to climb”?
A: That’s how WaniKani tests to make sure you know you are looking at a verb. You’ll need to get used to typing the “to” when answering vocab for verbs.
Q: Why can I not type 1000 for 千or 10000 for 万?
A: Because WaniKani has a automatic spell-check, it allows answers with one letter, or character wrong. Thus, For the vocab 10000, if numerals were allowed, 20000 and 50000 would also be accepted, which are wrong.
Q: Hey, I just got the answer right, why am I being down-leveled?
A: WaniKani quizzes you on reading/meaning pairs. So if you got the answer correct but were still down-leveled, that means you got the other item in the pair wrong earlier in the review.
Q: I just leveled up a Kanji but it is still Apprentice, why?
A: The early categories have multiple SRS levels within them. Apprentice has 3 (4h, 8h, 24h), Guru has 2 (2d, 7d), but then Master, Enlightened, and Burned each have 1. So sometimes when you advance to the next SRS level you stay within the same category.
Q: Ok, what are all the SRS intervals then?
A: Here is the full list of the SRS intervals, along with the level you achieve when you get that review correct:
For Level 1 and 2 radicals:
2h, 4h, 8h, 23h (guru), 1w, 2w (master), 1m (enlighten), 4m (burned)
For Level 1 and 2 kanjis and vocabs:
4h, 4h, 8h, 23h (guru), 1w, 2w (master), 1m (enlighten), 4m (burned)
For everything else it is:
4h, 8h, 23h, 47h (guru), 1w, 2w (master), 1m (enlighten), 4m (burned)
Q: Where can I learn hiragana or katakana?
Q: How do I type the “ー” in ビー玉?
A: It’s just a dash or minus sign: “-”
Q: Why am I getting the reading for 入 (enter) wrong?
A: Many readings use small や, ゆ, or よ (ya, yu, yo) to create new single syllable sounds like にゃ, にゅ, にょ (nya, nyu, nyo). In this case, にゅう (nyuu) is the correct answer. You will need to type like that in order to get this one correct. See the IME guide for more info.
Q: How much audio is there on WaniKani?
A: Yes, there is audio on all levels.
Q: Why are “G” sounds pronounced like “NG” on WaniKani?
A: There are a lot of different dialects/accents in Japanese, and the nasal “NG” is the Tokyo accent.
Useful WaniKani Tools
Q: Is there a way to test how well you can remember a kanji when you see its English meaning (recognition vs recall)?
Q: Is there a way to test how well you can remember the Japanese word when you see its English meaning (recognition vs recall)?
A: Please check out kaniwani.com. Kaniwani is like reverse Wanikani, and asks you to recall the Japanese word given the English one, in the same format as WK!
Q: Is there a way to test my listening comprehension?
A: A member of the community has created a Chrome extension that uses your API key and can test you on this.
Q: Cool, what are some other useful things?
A: Some awesome WK users have created some scripts to help improve your experience. Check out your level-up graph, and some of these browser add-ons: WaniKanify, Real numbers, Real times,Wanikani customizer, Wanikani improve. You can find a comprehensive list (and guide) here.
Q: These Wanikanians seem interesting, what’s their learning background?
A: Members have learnt from all over the place! You can read more about some of them, and post your own info.
Q: I’m having trouble with a Japanese grammar point, can anyone on WK help me?
A: Possibly! Ask your question here.
How to be successful in Wanikani
The most important thing is to build a routine. Not doing WK even for just a few days can lead to a big backlog of reviews… @jprspereira wrote a fantastic guide, which you can read here. Also, go at a pace that’s comfortable for you!