Vocabulary choice

I am now heading towards the end of lvl 48, therefore I can say I saw a good amount of Kanji and vocabulary.

I have found very often that the vocabulary choice is not useful, and when I checked with my Japanese wife and Japanese friends (I live in Japan), they confirmed that such vocabulary is not useful/not used in Japan, on the other hand I found that often vocabulary for a specific Kanji which is useful is missing.

I do not know the criteria that you are using to select the vocabulary for each Kanji, but I wanted to share that often your choices could be better.

An option could be to allow users to remove unwanted vocabulary so that we do not waste time on vocabulary that we will never use.

Thank you for your time.


The option to remove vocab has been wanted for as long as this site exists, I fear…
But yes, WK should never be someones choice for learning vocab, it is clearly focused towards giving you a few items for every reading of the kanji, it’s no “most frequent” deck of words. So if you already know most readings, the whole batch of vocab regarding that kanji is just filling your queue and stealing you time. :slight_smile:


The criteria is that it reinforces the kanji. That’s it. Literally, WaniKani is a kanji-learning app, its selling point that users can learn most of the jouyou kanji with minimal effort through mnemonics and SRS, and learn to recognize and differentiate them via components (not always radicals, even if that’s what they’re all called on WK) and gain the skills to learn any other kanji they need to on their own. It’s not a vocab-drilling app, so the vocab they choose doesn’t necessarily need to be “useful.” It was always the intention that WK would help users get over the hurdle of kanji and then pick up vocab elsewhere (textbooks, anki decks, immersing, etc.), not be a one-stop shop.

Sure, some of the choices can be questionable—there’ve definitely been times where I’ve looked at the WK vocab for a given kanji and gone, “But this other one is literally right there” —but from the beginning, the priority has been kanji. With the recent addition of kana-only vocab, though, the focus might be shifting to “kanji + vocab” rather than “kanji (with supplemental vocab),” but though words have been removed before, I doubt all the “useless” words will be even if WK fully becomes more generalized. What’s useless to one person is useful to another, after all.

I’m not sure how high my hopes for anything like a skip button or auto-burn ever getting added are, but in the meantime, there are other sites/apps that allow users full control over what they learn, including ones with an interface inspired by WK’s. (Aside from KameSame though, I don’t remember any of their names…)


I understand that.
There is way more useful vocabulary that can be used to learn the kanji, and I feel it’s a pity as about 10-15% of the vocabulary at very least is not really useful nor used by Japanese people in Japan in the daily life.


You’re not wrong. I have been saying that for a long time now, but people just typically parrot the same “its for reinforcing the kanji” line without any critical thinking about what that really means.

Tofugu the company is actually a lot more aware of it than the community it seems if you look at their trends of vocabulary changes and item shifts, but the wheels of change turn very slow.


Can you tell me what these sites are? I am a WK lifetime subscriber anyway. But I feel like I’ve wasted my time with the vocabulary here. My wife is also Japanese and she is quite often at a loss when I try to use my newest vocab on her. I feel like the vocab I’ve learned through WK makes me sound like a weirdo.


Honestly I don’t have the time to go to check them all one by one, and yes I totally agree with you.
Yes, “how about reinforce the kanji with vocabulary that is actually useful”? That is all I am saying.
You can reinforce the kanji, and at the same time learn vocabulary that you will actually use.

That’s it :slight_smile:

1 Like

I run into the same thing. Usually it starts with me using a vocab word I learned, her not understanding it and thus presuming I am making a mistake, me showing it to her in written form, her now knowing what it is and telling me that it is an old word or a very uncommon word that no one uses. I have not kept any stats on this, but in the grand scheme of things I expect it is quite a small percentage. To be honest, I do not mind learning the words, but I would like to be made aware of when they are of this sort. There are a couple cases I recall where it was pointed out in the lesson,


When talking about how “useful” a vocabulary is, it’s important to consider the context. Is the context tourism? Is the context living in Japan? Is it consuming manga or light novels? Some vocabularies are useful for one, but not the other.

One might come across outdated vocabulary if they want to watch period dramas, for example.

Of course there are still vocabulary words that are very rarely useful compared to ones that can be used in a variety of scenarios, but I wanted to bring more attention to what actually defines how “useful” a vocab is.


The closest option for ignoring vocabulary you don’t need is using the lesson picker they’ve soft launched a few weeks ago. It’s going to be a permanent feature when they finish working on it.

This is your best choice for communicating with WaniKani staff directly about your issues with specific content you want to add/change/remove.

There are indeed several, this is used only in official document, or that you don’t use it for speaking it exist only in writing. So it would probably help if you point out such vocabs specifically , so they’ll add that caveat.


(All links are to the respective threads here on the forums.)

KameSame is a website that was originally created to reinforce stuff you’ve learned on WK by testing EN>JP, but it’s since expanded beyond that. They’ve got various lists you can do vocab lessons from, as well as a field where you can enter text and it’ll search for the vocab in the database and you can add those to lessons. It doesn’t test on JP>EN meaning like WK, but the reading and meaning cards are completely separate, so you don’t have to do them both. You’re also able to ignore any card, even after you’ve added it to your review queue. You get a limited number of undos, but if you donate, you unlock an option to toggle in settings that allows unlimited undos.

And then there were two that were applications you download onto your computer rather than websites. Houhou also functions as a dictionary, and it allows you to edit cards and even make your own if a word or phrase isn’t in its dictionary. Reviews look a lot like WK, but there’s no lessons, so no quiz before an item goes into the queue, which for me meant my retention was awful. I think the other one I gave a shot was Torii? I don’t remember anything about it though.

If you don’t care about it looking like WK, the big one of course is Anki, but I don’t remember any others I’ve heard people mention. But then there’s also BunPro. I don’t know if their vocab is still in beta (though any user can opt in in settings), but they have multiple input methods, including meaning and fill-in-the-blank (I think you can only have one per card, but I also think you can change it per card? unless it’s only per deck), and you can freely add and remove cards from lessons and also auto-burn them from the item page at any time. By connecting your WK account, you can also choose to auto-burn all vocab you’ve already encountered on WK. I think the only vocab they have though is JLPT and/or textbook vocab, though they do still have a ton of it. I haven’t exactly looked at vocab in a while, though.


There’s also jpdb.io – its big strength imho is that it has a bunch of pre built decks for light novels etc, so you can work on vocab that’s going to come up in what you’re about to read. Anki style “rate yourself” rather than “type the answer” style interface.

1 Like

If wanikani is a kanji-learning app, then why is it adding kana-only words to the vocabulary? It seems to me that wanikani is trying to kill two birds with one stone, but these two approaches are at odds with each other.

I don’t understand wanikani’s strategy here.

1 Like

Because while it was originally created to teach kanji, with the main goal of the vocabulary to reinforce those kanji (which is why a lot of the vocab is considered “useless” by a lot of users because it wasn’t necessarily intended to be immediately useful the way a top-frequency word deck is, even if they do have quite a bit already that’s in there specifically because it’s common), they’ve apparently decided they want to expand into a more general “help you learn to read” rather than merely “help you learn to read kanji.”

I mean, I get why. You need kanji to read Japanese, but not everything is kanji—and not everything has even a rarely used kanji form. So while you’re here, why not learn those other words too? They likely think becoming more of a one-stop shop would appeal more widely and grow their userbase—if you get everything in one place, that’s fewer things you have to worry about. I’m just not so sure the execution is the best. You can’t skip words, you have very limited choice over what you learn when, and it’s needlessly unforgiving. They’re not exactly the best about semantics and nuance, either, which they should get better at if they’re not just gonna be like “We gave you the tools to get started, now go out and read and pick up the rest on your own” anymore. Plus, you also need grammar to read, and it’s not like WK ever intended to teach that either beyond part of speech and some (and not always well-done, at that) transitive vs. intransitive…

If they are going to continue down this route, they should probably rethink the system. Which they may already be doing, I know they released a lesson reordering thing recently, but, hm. We’ll see. I feel like it may come to a point where they’ll have to give up either the strict leveling or the “you can technically complete this in a year” selling point.


Have you used yomichan before? There are a bunch of different frequency dictionaries, including one based on jpdb’s corpus. With that you can just hold shift and hover over any of your vocabulary items to see a frequency rating. No frequency list is gonna be perfect, jpdb is based on manga and fiction so the vocab choice is gonna be skewed in that direction, but it should give you a pretty much immediate ballpark of how useful the word is.

Should mention yomichan isn’t maintained anymore but I was able to install it just the other day with no issues. And there are similar programs for mobile too.

Too bad Tofugu gave up on its grammar resources- textfugu and etoeto. Almost like they might have decent companions. Or maybe not. I never got to try either.

By the way, I’d suggest using yomitan instead which is a fork of the original yomichan because yomichan is no longer supported as of Feb 2023.

Yomitan also has various bug fixes and foundational improvements over yomichan.

1 Like

I agree. What’s appealing to me about WaniKani is having a barebones kanji-learning system and these ingenious mnemonics. It makes zero sense to me to rely on wanikani for all my learning needs, because of course I do other things in parallel, like practicing grammar and reading.

Does it help that once in a while a super basic word like こんにちは or これ pops up in WaniKani and I can’t even skip it? No, it doesn’t! At my current (still very basic) level I’m learning to read words like 来ました and 高かった, combining learning to read with studying grammar, because these two are interconnected. And a system like WaniKani can’t help with that. So why keep showing me これ again and again for the next 6 months?! I see no use in this.