WaniKani but for Japanese speaker

I really like the way wanikani introduces new words with mnemonics, however I’m looking for something like wanikani for japanese speaker to learn english words, does anything like that exist?


iKnow.jp has English courses for Japanese speakers if I remember correctly.


I’m not sure the WaniKani approach would work for English. Once you’ve learned the alphabet, English doesn’t really have “primitives” like radicals and kanji that you can use to build up more complex vocabulary.

A more helpful approach to English vocabulary building might be to pick a topic that you’re interested in and learn as many words as possible relevant to that topic: words about baseball, or finance, or architecture or something like that.


Sure it does: all the affixes and roots in polysyllabic words.


If we’re talking specifically about learning words using mnemonics, then that applies to any language.

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I thought of that, but unless you already know Latin and/or Greek I’m not sure how helpful they are in core (as opposed to specialized) vocabulary.

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Does a Japanese person have to learn Chinese before learning kanji? You don’t have to know Latin nor Greek to learn what un- or -ic mean when they appear in English words. Do you consider a word like ‘unacceptable’ to be specialised vocabulary?



I feel like a lot of native English speakers drastically underestimate the value of learning English words in a “Kanji-like” style (e.g. via latin/greek prefixes and suffixes). Of course, not all words use such structure, but not all Japanese words are on’yomi compounds either! I feel like they map better to each other than people realize.

As a native speaker, I remember – even all the way back in elementary school – my English classes taught the greek/latin suffixes and prefixes as core curriculum.


I think you can use mnemonics to learn words (which I’m looking for)

What would you make the mnemonics out of? If you did the letters, mnemonics would get unwieldy for any word longer than about 5 letters, and would there just be one Japanese keyword for each letter?

I am having trouble imagining a “WaniKani for English” working much differently than that while still being “WaniKani for English.”

If you just make mnemonics from some outside component, then it’s just “Mnemonics for English” I guess.

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Learned latin and greek roots as part of my english class in 7th grade, and I can tell you right now they are one of the most useful tools when I’m facing vocabulary I don’t know.

I’m 24 now, and still use them.


You could chunk out English into it’s common consonant clusters such as ‘sm’ ‘sn’ ‘sl’ ‘sr’ etc. And you could also cluster together common CV combinations such as ‘ta’ ‘ba’ etc. Having mnemonics for each of these isn’t too crazy. Then clustering together prefixes and suffixes would open up a plethora of new vocabulary for stuff already built. I’m an English teacher and if you do that your CC (consonant clusters) and CV (consonant vowel) combos wouldn’t really be that much more than the amount of radicals to learn in Japanese. At my school we have charts of these clusters and play games with them to help the kids learn the pronunciation of these clusters.

I’m not saying it’ll work but it definitely would be interesting to tackle.

How so? English isn’t my home language, but like most South Africans, we just “know it” at some point without realizing how or why. For me, there’s no line where I can say I didn’t know English and after some point, I did. So I don’t understand how you find these “roots” useful. Can you explain, if you don’t mind?

Well, for example, consider “audi,” a Latin root meaning “hear.” In English, you see it in audible and auditory, but also in audience, auditorium, audit.

But look at that “torium” ending, meaning a place where a verb – the base word – happens. That also gives dormitory, lavatory, crematorium, laboratory, and so on.

Or you can make the negative of many words by simply tacking “in” on the front: inaudible, invisible, inerrant, incognito, etc. (In some of these, English kept the negative but not the base word. We don’t talk about people whose identities are known being “cognito,” though we do talk about cognition, cognitive science, recognition, and so on.)

English gets all of these words thanks to the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 AD: the Normans brought French with them, and an enormous number of Latinate French words were absorbed into Anglo-Saxon on its way to becoming modern English.

(This is also why French and Spanish are much easier for English speakers to learn than, say, Japanese.)

Edit: Also, I think I just disproved my own comment upthread about not being sure how useful the roots are. :slightly_smiling_face:


I picked up a fun little book on my latest trip to Japan, called 英単語の語源図鑑 (“the illustrated book of etymologies of English words”).

It shows how various roots come together to shape English words, not unlike how kanji come together to make compounds.

I do think that, unfortunately, the Latin alphabet is less mnemonic in nature than kanji are, and not quite as exciting to Japanese people as kanji are to us.


I think I can see how they may be useful, but wow. Those are things I’ve never noticed. They are also those little things I want to ignore in Japanese, rather than focusing on every little detail, I just accept that some things are the way they are.
Rather than learning that something with “audi” is used in words with relation to something… well, audible, just learn that this particular word just means whatever. Don’t mind the small details, they can sometimes cause you to over analyse.

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That is a brilliant book! Thanks for showing us.

These aren’t ‘small details’, it is how 50% of English words are put together. If it doesn’t interest you, that’s fine, but as BroccoliPanera wrote, knowing them means you can understand the meaning of newly-encountered words without having to look up each and every one in the dictionary.

Props to you for learning an additional language purely by exposure, though!

@BroccoliPanera - I’m nearly 50 and still use them :nerd_face:

I wonder, though, about the extent to which native speakers pick up the patterns without being deliberately taught. Some of them are so common and so obvious that they’re hard not to notice. My own education was long enough ago that I don’t remember how I learned about them.


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