WaniKani: The Good, The Bad and the Snuggly

The Good: Lessons followed by timed reviews provide a great format for learning. The light tone is a worthwhile attempt to make the learning process enjoyable.
The Bad:
While most of the radicals are given meanings that are at least close to their actual, original meanings, some, perhaps in an attempt to be clever or funny or innovative, are assigned meanings that are at best unnecessary alternatives, and at worst downright foolish. A good example is the radical which traditionally means “thread”, and which it helps to understand and remember that way when creating one’s own mnemonics for various kanji, but which inexplicably is assigned the meaning “poop” by some puerile bad boy at WaniKani, and which must be remembered that way if one is to progress in the program.
The Snuggly:
A Friendly Suggestion: It would help if the kanji program were co-ordinated with some very specific reading material so that knowledge of them could be applied regularly in a practical way.


I think they’ve said they’re working on changing the names of the radicals already. But since it involves also changing mnemonics and what not it’s not a quick thing.

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I think you’re mistaken… the radical traditionally called “thread” (糸) is still “thread” in WaniKani. It’s in level 4 (so you’re not there yet).

幺 is called “poop” in WK, yes. It’s traditionally called “short” or “tiny” in other resources. It is not used as a kanji character on its own.

Is this really a crime against kanji? I’m not that bent out of shape.


I do like the reading that idea for extra practice because it would give us some real world skills in reading.

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For me it would be:

The Good:

This thing teaches you kanji like it’s nobody’s business. I started out in January and now I know over 400 kanji, including all of Joyo G1 and Joyo G2, along with roughly half of G3 and assorted kanji of the rest. I had never before, in several tries, managed to learn just G1 (The meaning of some kanji simply refused to stick, and let’s not even mention readings), let alone G2 and G3. Usually I only knew those few Kanji I regularly used in lessons, the rest be damned.

The Bad:

As others said, radical meanings are quite bad at times, and some of the mnemonics are, let’s say, not the kind of stuff I’d rather think of due to puerility.
I also have sort of a bone to pick with how it chooses to teach some vocabulary - Giving me vocabulary for “Friend”, “close friend”, “acquaintance”, “associate”, “partner”, and “assistant”, all of them within the span of two levels or so is just a war crime. For me most of those words mean the same. Same for giving me vocab for “Talk”, “Chat”, “Discussion”, “Argument”, “Consultation”, and “Speak” within two levels or so. I end up just using “talk” for everything (Adding it wherever it isn’t), or making heavy use of the ignore wrong reply button. If many items have roughly the same meanings ideally you’d want to space them out a bit more, particularly since most of these words I’ve never ran into while reading. I’ve just taken to ignoring their nuances right now, choosing to learn them later on as I need them since there’s just no way I’ll be able to tell which is which with no context or regular use of said words whatsoever.

The Snuggly:
I’ve heard Koichi is rather snuggly, tho I’m yet to confirm that myself.
Oh, if this one is about suggestions, I’d say it would be really useful to have a mode that makes us write the Kanji. While many people defend that WK is about reading and understanding, the best way to make sure you won’t forget a kanji or confuse it with a look-alike is by knowing how to write it. I’ve sorted this out myself with Anki decks, so I’m good on that, but it would be great if it was a feature of the system.


Traditionally, just the top part is also “thread”. If I were “bent out of shape” about it I wouldn’t continue with the program, but I do find it annoying when I have to memorize unnecessary and sometimes foolish meanings in order to progress.

Maybe someone calls it thread, but it’s a separate radical. The English names are not “official” anywhere, so it’s really not a big deal what they’re called.

The “puerile bad boy” at WaniKani is こういち. I think you’ve met him in the mnemonics. He runs Tofugu.


Besides, I was under the strong impression that some of the mnemonics were intentionally puerile and/or offensive because associating strong feelings with them like that makes them easier to remember??

Plus, it’s fairly easy to use your own mnemonics when something really doesn’t work? The format of wanikani (by which I rn mean p much repeated contextual reaffirmation) works then, too.

excluding the radicals specifically, i guess.


Someone hasn’t read Taro Gomi’s classic “Everyone Poops”

Poop is natural! Poop is for kids and adults alike. Embrace poop.


Keep in mind that you aren’t required to use WK’s radical names at all if you don’t want to. You can assign synonyms. Yes, this breaks the ability to use WK’s mnemonics regarding those radicals, but I think we all create our own mnemonics at some point. It’s not that difficult, just takes practice.

My point is, you shouldn’t feel like you have to memorize WK’s silly radicals just to progress with the program. Do whatever helps you memorize the kanji.


I totally agree, writing is closely bound to memorization. However, I think it would be better fit as a userscript, or side part, not affecting the SRS.

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Speaking of poop, Japan has some fun words for it:

「うんぴ」 : Diarrheal stool. Could be connected to overeating, having a cold, or stress. It is usually a yellowish-color and it has a very strong smell.
「うんにょ」 : Soft and tender poop, but not diarrehea. It comes out when you are feel some indigestion. Yellow-ish or light brown in color.
「うんち」 : Nice poop. It comes out when you’ve been eating healthy balanced meals. It has a clean brown color and doesn’t smell very much.
「うんご」 : Comes out when you’ve not been eating enough vegetables, and you’re probably constipated when you squeeze out an ungo. Ungo is dark black and really stinky.

Seeing as they all start with うん, which is also the word for fortune or luck in Japanese, they sometimes send poop emoji for luck :poop:


If your stool is black you need a doctor because the probability of internal bleeding is unusually high…


Yes, that would be pretty appalling. I have to admit I didn’t fully read each poop description, I just copy and pasted it ha.

The Snuggly:

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I’d pay extra for that.


I second this suggestion.


Sadly, it’s quite likely the original reason ancient Chinese people drew most of their kanji as they did is lost to time.

Not to mention many kanji have changed quite a bit over the centuries so even then the original reasoning likely wouldn’t apply.

I kinda miss how in the first few levels there are always two sample sentences, one simple one to get to the point and a longer, harder one (which is usually also where the staff has a bit of fun I think). Nowadays in lessons I just get mostly very hard, long sentences that I can’t read since it has so many kanji I haven’t learned in it :cry:

Sure, sure, I can go elsewhere to read sentences, but I mean, they did it for the lower levels, so it IS possible to be done on intermediate levels too :confused:

@anon20839864 any plans for improvements?

Not at the moment. We have other, much bigger things in the works, and the hope is that after level 10 users have studied enough grammar to understand the context of the normal sentences. We may do more simple sentences in the future, but right now it’s not on the list.