WaniKani teaching somewhat rare vocab first

Hi everyone!
With some vocab I already knew before starting with WK, I noticed that WK seems to teach some less frequently used vocab before it teaches a more common word with the same meaning (which also has a lower JLPT level).

For example, for “world”, 世界 is N4 level, but WK teaches 世 (よ) first, which is N1 vocab and much less frequently used (I get that they don’t teach you 世界 before the 界 kanji is introduced, but then they shouldn’t teach a “rare” vocab for the same meaning before the more common one in the first place)

Another example would be 友人 (N3) vs. 友達 (N5).

This thread is less complaining than asking if you are aware of any similar cases one should know where in lower WK levels they teach you some vocab that is less frequently used than some synonyms?

(by the way, it would be really helpful if WK had some lists of synonyms or words with similar meanings, kind of like the “similar grammar points” section in Bunpro!)


This has come up maaaaany times, WK is a kanji learning website first and foremost, vocab is just to reinforce the kanji, that’s why.

I’ve also noticed this (especially since I’m studying for the JLPT) and it will happen a few times that you learn higher JLPT stuff first, especially with vocab. They also like to teach easier kanji first I think, that’s why you’ll also see it happen with kanji.


It’s true, you will start seeing more common words at levels 5 to 10, that’s what the email I got today said atleast.

But since my goal is to learn japanese as a whole i’m not worried about which words correspond to which level. In the end in the real world there are no levels but conversations.
You will learn the most common ones by simple repetition anyways.

So the only way to learn the uncommon ones is by studying them.


Just learn it and keep remembering it for later. I am already JLPT N5 certified. Taking the N4 test in July and plan to take the N3 test in December. Most of my Japanese skills came from direct contact with Japanese people and they do not care what level you are at and will use what words they think fits best when talking to you. If they think something is easy and it is actually N1 level then they will say it.

As far as I am taking things the more vocab the better it will be. When I took the N5 test I knew I would pass it because I had already studied up to N3 level. The benefit is that the vocab comes in useful later.

However I do ignore all their fictitious radicals and add synonyms as fake just to get through the radicals as quickly as possible and gain access to new levels and Kanji without wasting time on non essential items.

I have noticed that there is vocab that I have no come across yet but have heard of but didn’t fully study. So on the one hand I am finding a strange balance of things I do like and Things I don’t like probably as you are finding things.


Are you proposing that even though 達 is taught later than 人 and 友, that 友人 shouldn’t be taught until after you learn 達? Or perhaps that 達 should be taught sooner?

WK has chosen, for better or worse, to roughly order the kanji taught by the complexity of the kanji. Some people can of course disagree with this, but once you’re operating under the general scheme of “simpler kanji come first regardless of what words they make” then this is what is going to be the result now and then.

You have to choose some kind of ordering system, and a different one will result in other things that “feel” out of order to another person’s learning system.

WK isn’t recommending that you use 友人 instead of 友達 because of the order it appears in the system.


The makers of the site also have a bias towards thinking that you shouldn’t bother to learn grammar or anything else practical for reading until you’ve been memorizing vocabulary terms out of context for several months and gotten to level 10 or so. Following that plan, you wouldn’t be reading your first sentence until well after you’d learned 世界, for example.

友達 not so much, I suppose… but isn’t that one written as 「友だち」pretty often anyway in basic reading materials? (The kanji 達 itself is N3 on Jisho.)


I remember reading something like this in the old FAQs, but cannot find it in the new knowledge.wanikani.com

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The quickest example I could find is Tofugu’s Japanese learning guide. It doesn’t directly address WK levels, but does suggest starting grammar after 2-4 months using SRS for vocabulary.

Edit: Actually, I was wrong; they do say more explicitly a bit earlier in that same article: At this point, you have a strong base of kanji and vocabulary. If you are using WaniKani, you should be at level 10 or above."


Someone made a chart of the vocabulary that’s in every single level, and it showed that N1-level words are scattered throughout the earliest levels, then become exponentially more common as you progress. Similarly, the N5-level words slow down exponentially, and the last few ones trickle in over several levels.

I wish I could find this chart again, but I’ve searched several times already and wasn’t able to.
TL;DR, WK eases the user into the rarer vocabulary.


are you by any chance talking about the table at wkstat?

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It is addressed in level 10’s email. Here’s an extract of the email:


I think people may be taking the “Level 10 is also a really good time to start learning grammar” too literally to mean that the WK staff are telling you not to do it until level 10. Which isn’t really the way I’d read it especially with the “Anyways, if you haven’t yet” sentence.

It just reads to me as saying it will be easier at level 10 to begin studying grammar as you will know more vocab, not a hard-and-fast “Don’t do this until level 10” rule as it often gets parroted. It’s their way of saying, if you hadn’t already started you really ought to be doing it now.


Like others have said vocabs are mostly here to help memorize the readings. And for the choice of words they strived to find a balance between kanji stroke order complexity and frequency of use. So sometimes a slightly more formal version (like 友人) is introduced before the casual version (友達), but following the WK plan, you would learn them a couple months apart at best. Is it really that bad in the grand scheme of things of learning a language ?

Btw, 世の中 is marked N3 on Jisho. So it’s not like 世 is a high level philosophical word or something, it’s very common.

However I still think it would nice to have some information about the frequency of use of a word… mostly for the opposite reason ! Many time I underestimated how common a word is truly is, because the English gloss use a fairly rare word. For example I had never heard of “calisthenics” before so I discarded too quickly 体操, which is actually very common in Japan.


Well, isn’t it common everywhere? >_>


I don’t see it saying that at all. It simply says:

If you followed this guide to the letter, you’re probably 2-4+ months into your Japanese studies.

That’s not the same thing as discouraging people from studying grammar earlier. You seem to be taking a far more hardline reading into what the staff of WK is saying about grammar study then what I get out of their recommendations and guides.

There is also this:

  1. A lot of a beginner’s time when using a textbook is spent looking up kanji and vocabulary. This takes your focus away from the grammar you’re trying to learn and makes progression slow and frustrating. Learning (some) kanji and vocabulary first makes learning grammar a lot faster and, more importantly, easier. Think of it this way: you’re losing a little time now to save a ton of time later.

But again, that is also not saying “Don’t you dare study grammar at all!” It’s just a very true statement saying that grammar study is easier if you know some kanji and vocab beforehand.

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To be fair, we get a lot of questions/comments from new users about waiting on grammar until level 10 based on WaniKani’s recommendations. So maybe WaniKani intended to say start by then if you haven’t yet. But a common interpretation is that you should wait until then.


My understanding is that current theory for language acquisition is to first acquire vocabulary, and only later start with grammar. This doesn’t really happen in a classroom setting, however, because teaching grammar is easy and teaching vocabulary is very much not.


Yeah, seems like their recommendation should be better worded if a lot of people are taking it as some sort of active discouragement of studying grammar earlier than level 10.


The way the program works is that it introduces kanji based on lowest symbol complexity first, rather than the complexity of the meaning or the frequency of usage. We’re not learning things in order here, we’re learning the building blocks from the ground up. That’s why a lot of the vocabulary you learn in the beginning stages isn’t all that useful. It’s just a collection of vocab consisting of kanji with the fewest strokes.


I don’t know if there is always a rhyme or reason. The other day, I noticed and are a full 30 levels apart and yet all radicals learned by level 10. So much for chivalrous customs!