Using WaniKani exclusively to learn Japanese (eventually)

There are downsides to studying from a vocabulary list or from a dictionary in general anyway. Also, in particular, Wanikani is not a dictionary. It focuses on Kanji count, rather than vocabulary count.

Kanji would help to guess vocabularies, and in Japanese, vocabulary boundaries aren’t as distinct as in English. I might say that Kanji have their own special value, and many vocabularies simply make sense by guessing.

If you want to eventually read those things (like light novels), you will just need to try and guess your way; and some grammar is a requirement.

Not to mention Wanikani might not teach enough Kanji readings, so truly burning that many Kanji in Wanikani is a lie.

As for what to learn first, insufficient immersion (partially stemming from insufficient grammar), would result in leeches; and that would make finishing Wanikani impossible.


Yes, you’re going to regret that approach. People can get to level 60 without opening a single grammar book because WK is made as a game with a specific goal, which is teaching you kanji and related vocabulary.

But this is sort of building a wall only with bricks but no cement or other structural elements, it’s way easier that the wall falls down (that is you forgetting) if you don’t use the tool along other stuff.

while studying japanese and practicing you’ll find and use words you learn here or will learn here in context, so when the word, or kanji, or radical appears you will have some base to adhere it to (sticking to my cement analogy) and of course it would be easier for you to remember, improving your overall performance in WK

WK is just not meant to be used as a single resource for learning japanese.


A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.


Minna no Nihongo starts throwing kanji at you right away (学生、会社員、etc.), though mostly as vocab with furigana. It has a few supporting books devoted to learning kanji itself.

As to the OP’s question, you’re surely not getting much out of the sample sentences without grammar (though granted some are pretty tough for beginners anyway).


Thanks again for the replies! @Escalus @taiyousea thanks for the bunpro reco. Will look into that once I get on with few more WK levels. I think bunpro maybe something that I will find relevant if grammar there can be tailored with WK API to show sentences with relevant words.

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And if you want to “gamify” your reading a bit too… Natively ranks manga/books by difficulty, and going for higher levels feels pretty nice.


I did WK only for a few months before starting grammar in class, and continued before getting into kanji in class as well.

It was good to not have to worry about kanji, but I knew a lot more kanji than I needed, I didn’t even need to worry about kanji for the N4.

But it was basically just that, it helped, but anything else I did would have also helped, and probably more.

Kanji was easier to just SRS and get it done in any break I had at school or work, so it helped me get something done throughout the week, plus WK is pretty addictive.

So it depends on if you want to spend the time now or later. If you even need to learn kanji for your purposes.


Mmm, but I think even there the assumption is that you learn the kanji alongside the textbook, not that you memorize a thousand or more characters up front before turning to page one…

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I think the internet learner emphasis on kanji is exactly this, plus reading generally is more accessible for independent learners. But if general fluency is your ultimate goal, such a heavy focus on kanji can be a trap.

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I don’t think it’s universally true. Yes, people do often run a whatever-core 2-10k Anki deck, but at least online I noticed so much emphasis on immersion that I don’t think kanji specifically is the focus. It’s getting to understand as much Japanese as possible, as quickly as possible to be able to enjoy content in it more.

That would suggest the priority is listening comprehension.

You don’t need WaniKani to watch anime without subtitles. You need to grind vocab to be able to understand what’s happening in the series and/or watch the series with Japanese subtitles to grasp how the phonetics relate to the kanji. Before any of that you would need to know hiragana and katakana very well.

Grammar and WaniKani are different things. If the overarching goal is watching anime without subs, grammar is way more important than WaniKani.

Here the problem is the overall approach. It’s the gamification, not the actual learning process that draws you to WaniKani. There are apps like that for grammar, but it’s way better to learn some grammar and then learn its usage from native context - watching/listening/reading. Apps are based on whatever 1:1 gloss/card matching which is by definition imperfect and the variety of input you get from them is limited.


I was considering buying this manga and reading along, but Natively describes it as level 20 which they describe as about N3, which puts it squarely in the intermediate camp, which seems above absolute beginner level. I’ve completed Minna 1 and 2, but have not started Tobira. Does the community think this would be a frustrating experience?


Yup. Sample bias in this forum with respect to Japanese learners focusing on kanji first.

My first textbook, used at a community college was all romaji. It was a garbage textbook. But even still you can get through all of Minna 1 and 2 and learn only a small handful of kanji. Kanji remains an afterthought in the mainstream textbooks.

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As does Genki, they both ease you into kanji (at a similar pace) as they teach you other things. Which is different from trying to learn kanji as quickly as possible via Heisig or WaniKani.


Pretty much anything native material you read, no matter how easy, will include N3 grammar, vocabulary, and kanji.

Some ABBC books that I felt went well for new readers include 「からかい上手の高木さん」 (Natively L19), 「それでも歩は寄せてくる」 (L20), and 「三ツ星カラーズ」 (L20).

I haven’t read ルリドラゴン yet, but flipping through it, it looks like the first few chapters are light on dialogue, so it should help ease readers into it.

This should be enough to jump into native material with.

If you’ve never tried reading native material before, any native material will be difficult because you need to read in order to build up your reading ability.

Go into first reading native material with the expectation that you won’t feel that you are reading so much as you are deciphering the dialogue, learning vocabulary and grammar as you go.

Keep at this deciphering long enough, and your brain will start to recognize patterns of what grammar, words, and expressions are used in what scenes and scenarios. Only then does it begin to feel like you’re able to “read” little bits and pieces. Keep going, and it’ll become more and more “reading”.


Probably a better question for this thread:多読extensive-reading-challenge

But to answer your question right away, I wouldn’t pay super high attention to the level rating on Natively. For instance, my current profile shows コンビニ人間 and 世界の終わりに柴犬と. Both are level 29 and both have no furigana. コンビニ人間 is vastly easier, because unlike the shiba inu manga, it revolves around daily topics.

Most manga is going to require as @ChristopherFritz mentioned, at least ~N3 level, and a fairly good grasp of casual language. However, if you’re level 26, you should probably be okay with the kanji and maybe vocab, with time, if you’re using Anki :slight_smile: .

The first couple of mangas are always hard. Once you get into it, however, it gets easier with time.


Apart from what @ChristopherFritz mentioned:

  • The JLPT level assignment on Natively doesn’t really mean much. If I had to say, I’d probably be somewhere around N4, but I can easily read L21 without having any grammar problems that can’t be solved with a quick google search. (My struggle is vocab, but that’s easy to look up at least.)
  • You won’t be reading alone. You’ll be reading with the club, and can ask as many questions as you want.

I’d say it’s probably a better question for ルリドラゴン ・ Ruri Dragon 🐲 (Absolute Beginner Book Club) [starting Feb 18th!] or Absolute Beginners Book Club // Now reading: Cells at Work! // Next: Ruri Dragon


Thanks folks. I have よつばと! and have read a good portion of it. I’ll likely pick up this book. I really do need to start reading more as my pace is slow, and I am totally afraid, as people have mentioned here, of forgetting the almost 3000 kanji/vocab that I’ve burned.

The chapter vocabulary lists in the reading club threads are invaluable.

Are there any chapter specific anki decks for ルリドラゴン? Might be a good way to start prepping.


Learning through a gamified method that works is 100% the idea. I have no deadlines to meet and no urgent needs (anime and LNs are distant future stuff that I have enjoyed for 15 years with subs anyways). That’s why Bunpro seems like a good option for me once I have moved on to level 20-30.
And gamification is a proven way to improve learning in people that are attuned to it, much better than traditional methods of rote/class learning that is practiced in almost all learning environments. Gamification is an essential learning tool when created with proper research, and I would assume this is why WK is used by many here rather than just using Anki. Here is a review on gamification-

Edit - WK to learning kanji only of course, not the entire language. Tldr point being getting grammar gamifies grammar resources would be more useful for me since they will be more fun.


No one ever achieved fluency in any foreign language by using flashcards exclusively (i.e. WaniKani). I need to balance my Wanikani time with reading real live Japanese.


Oh yeah, definitely. It definitely makes sense to consume relevant media to grasp better understanding. I guess the better way of paraphrasing what I meant was gamification works in learn kanji for me, so I would like to see a similar approach to learning grammar.

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