I understand your point of view, and I agree that this should be optional/additional info, but I still think being able to discuss radicals verbally with friends, family, and teachers is surprisingly important.
I’m not sure I buy that the majority of learners wouldn’t benefit. I’m specifically requesting something additional like the expanded info sections on kanji and vocabulary lesson/review pages.
The importance of radicals to a character’s meaning becomes even more obvious the more characters you learn. Most visually similar characters boil down to different radicals. The difference between にんべん and いとへん, for example, is critical to anyone learning the language – the characters will mean utterly different things. This doesn’t seem arcane to me at all.
The names for the seven parts of a character are far less arcane than many of the vocabulary words taught on WK:
偏 the left side (taught only as “biased” on WK)
旁 the right side (not taught on WK, usually kana?)
冠 the “crown”
脚 the “legs”
構え the “surrounding”/“structural”/“organizing” bits (taught as “set up” on WK)
垂れ the bits that “dangle” or hang down from the top and left.
繞 the “surrounding” / “returning” bits on the left and bottom (not taught on WK, usually kana?).
Trust me, every schoolchild in Japan knows these words. Most probably can’t imagine learning to read the language without knowing them. Having words for those concepts is useful.
This morning I had both 怪我 (injury) and 軽蔑 (scorn/contempt) in my reviews. I often confuse these if I don’t pay attention. Note the visual similarity in the first character of each.
Even the readings of 怪 (suspicious) and 軽 (lightweight) are similar due to the, uh, what words would I use to describe the bits on the right part of the character? The right side? The “tombstone”?! Oh, the つくり！ There’s a useful term for discussing kanji characters themselves.
If you try saying something like “the one with the soul radical on the left” to a Japanese teacher, you might be understood, but calling the other one the “morning” radical might cause more confusion than anything (it’s 車偏 in Japanese).
On wanikani, the word “meaning” with radicals is a bit of a misnomer. Only vocabulary words have true, less ambiguous meanings. Even individual kanji don’t have single meanings necessarily.
For radicals, WK uses “meaning” to refer to the mnemonic association for a given radical. As you know, these mnemonic devices often use visual characteristics: hence “jet” for 未 (it looks kinda like a jet). Those aren’t meanings at all! The mnemonic device to aid recall has nothing whatsoever to do with the literal meaning of any kanji or vocabulary that use the radical, it’s purely a mnemonic device.
Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s good and useful that WK uses their own radicals with their own unique (and fairly consistent) mnemonic associations. I’ve no complaint with that whatsoever. Their mnemonics make it easier for most people to memorize kanji and learn to read vocabulary. I’m absolutely NOT suggesting WK eliminate, replace, or even de-emphasize their mnemonic “meanings”.
I’d just like them to add the Japanese names for at least the most common radicals (person, string, wheel/car, sun, moon/meat, etc.), especially when the mnemonic “meaning” they provide is quite different (like “morning” instead of “car/wheel”).
Personally, I’m leery of scripts that add content (though I use a few myself: notably the confusion guesser, and the keisei and niai scripts).
Radicals are particularly challenging (I believe some of the radicals on WK are actually images rather than unicode characters!).
I think content should remain Wanikani’s responsibility. They do an awesome job and are far more knowledgeable than me (or most of the other script writers here).
Would you find it confusing to refer to the “legs” of a character? Do you find the 5th meaning listed here confusing?
There are only seven terms. I still think it would be extremely helpful to teach them to anyone learning kanji.
The reason I’m pushing so hard on this is because WK is all about kanji. Meta-vocabulary for discussing kanji itself seems particularly important to me.