What should my goal be with WaniKani?

So I’ve been doing WaniKani for a little bit now (level 2 baybee :muscle:) and lurking the community both for immersion and fun. Good stuff. But I’ve seen some “WaniKani is not the right way to learn” topics. Which are often met with critical and civilized enough discussion. But it does get to me, of course. I understand that WK is for learning Kanji, that much is obvious. But much like everyone else here, learning Kanji isn’t so much the end goal but more like a… Hmm… Something like a detour? Or maybe that’s a bad way to look at it.

Anyway, I think the FAQ suggest WK should give you a baseline of Kanji knowledge, to be used to read as much as possible once you’re ready. But I feel like that’s not everyone’s favorite advice. I tried reading. But got discouraged when I couldn’t read the titles or the first sentence of the book. And I saw the Resources Thread which is a dang godsent. That’s where I got the reading from in the first place.But I don’t feel ready for most thing.

So the question is, what should my goal be with WaniKani in relation to learning Japanese? Is WaniKani even a tool for learning Japanese at all, or should I look at learning Kanji and learning Japanese as two seperate studies?


Personally, I look at WaniKani as a solid a foundation start learning kanji. Japanese (grammar, pitch accent, additional vocabulary, reading, writing, listening) are pretty much separate. You won’t learn all those exclusively from WaniKani.

Um, yes.

Kanji and Japanese go hand-in-hand, don’t you think? Like the alphabet and English? :upside_down_face:


Three other people replying? The race is on!

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head:

I agree entirely with gojarappe, but with the caveat that WaniKani is most definitely not a comprehensive Japanese study tool. It is for learning kanji, which is just one aspect of Japanese. They go hand-in-hand, but you’re not going to “learn Japanese” just by learning kanji.

I wouldn’t expect you to be able to read a whole lot of anything by level 2. You are definitely going to need a textbook or some equivalent approach (whatever suits you) to learn grammar and so on.

Edit: you’ll probably find that an awful lot of people here were learning Japanese, and started to use WaniKani because they realised it filled the ‘kanji-learning’ hole in their lives. It’s difficult to learn kanji without some kind of aid, and WaniKani does provide that pretty excellently. You do need to learn them.


I had a very basic understanding of Japanese grammar when I started WaniKani and up until recently I didn’t really use any other reasources to study Japanese. Hence my grammar and basic vocab knowledge was very poor compared to my Kanji knowledge. You get really good at reading Kanji using this website though so my suggestion is to use it for that purpose.


Well, I suppose that depends on your goals. But it’s definitely my goal to be able to read proper Japanese. So yeah, that makes sense.

Yeah I figured as much… Grammar books scare me. I used Duolingo before and it got me somewhere regarding grammar. Since you gotta write the sentences and all. But now I believe my vocabulary is too weak to read anything. So on one hand I’m like “gonna WK until level 10 before I try anything” but on the other hand I’m like “why wait”? You know? :thinking:

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Could you try BunPro? I haven’t used it myself, but it uses an SRS like WaniKani, and links you to grammar explanations online :slight_smile:

I’d also highly recommend graded readers to start out with - I started at Level 1 with these, but there’s also a Level 0 :wink: You’ll still need some grammar and kanji to start you off though.


Every learning method has their critics, rightly so. Unfortunately the critics you see here largely consist of people who don’t understand the WK system or don’t yet have enough knowledge of Japanese to understand the value of the system.

Only two different things to study? Japanese as a whole is much more difficult than that, you’ll have to study grammar, listening, speaking, writing (up to you on that), vocab, kanji, reading and probably more that I’m not thinking of right now. Every part of it is separate but will feed into each other to create a complete picture.

From WK standpoint, it teaches Kanji (and Vocab but only in relation to Kanji). That Kanji will help you understand how words are formed and therefore pick on patterns, it’ll also help you understand how verbs are conjugated (grammar) and help with acquisition of vocab. You also won’t be able to read much without it and as a result will struggle to find intermediate and advanced study materials.


I don’t think there is an issue with waiting a little bit with grammar if you know how to make super basic sentences already like 水が好きです。これは私の本です。これから勉強します。Etc.

I mean, starting at lvl 10 as recommended is probably not a bad idea if you feel overwhelmed.
Studying grammar is for sure much more pleasant and exciting when you can focus on grammar instead of kanji interfering every other sentence.


“Kanji are tough. Kanji are challenging. Kanji are mysterious and fun and maddening. Kanji comprise one of the great stumbling blocks faced by Westerners who want to become literate in Japanese. But kanji have nothing to do with grammar or sentence structure or thought patterns or the Japanese world view, and they are certainly not the Japanese language. They are just part of the world’s most clunky writing system, . . .

To this, I can only add that banana skins provide one of the best surfaces for writing kanji if one is using a ball-point pen. Since this book is intended to help with an understanding of the Japanese language, it will have nothing further to say about kanji.”

-Jay Rubin, Making Sense of Japanese

Wanikani isn’t going to teach you Japanese by itself. You should be doing some intensive grammar study right now to learn the actual language. Plenty of young Japanese children know Japanese quite well but know little to no kanji. Prior to the 20th century most Japanese people were, in fact, illiterate, but I’m told their Japanese was still quite good. There’s plenty of material aimed at younger or general audiences that you can read with only kana knowledge, provided your grammar and vocabulary are strong enough.

should I look at learning Kanji and learning Japanese as two seperate studies?

I would look at them as separate, but related. The more kanji you know the easier it is to find reading material you’re comfortable with and enjoy, which in turn helps you practice grammar and pick up more vocabulary. The more vocabulary you know the easier it is to relate it back to the kanji used to write it and remember those kanji. A language is composed of grammar and vocabulary, so to learn a language you need to study both together. In the context of Japanese vocabulary is probably best studied along with kanji since it’s more efficient, and that’s exactly what Wanikani does.

Is WaniKani even a tool for learning Japanese at all

Sort of. It teaches vocab, but that’s only part of the language. You have to pick up the grammar on your own.

Just keep up with Wanikani and your vocabulary and kanji knowledge will just keep increasing, almost in the background. Start studying grammar alongside it. It’s ok for grammar study to be somewhat inconsistent since once you really grasp something it tends to not leave you, but you really need a structured system if you want to learn kanji effectively and that’s what Wanikani provides.


I saw that website before! It looks a little intimidating, but I’ll give it a shot. Maybe I’ll like it.

Yeah graded readers seems like just the thing. I had found another one in that resource thread. That’s the reading I was talking about that I failed at… Probably should at least try harder!

Haha :slight_smile: Well, an alternative might be Tae Kim’s grammar guide?

Based on how easy the Level 1 books are, I don’t think you should need too much grammar to tackle the Level 0 books. It would probably help to study a little though, because that will probably naturally expose you to some useful vocab that you’re likely to need, like the common movement verbs and so on.

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Hehe, I could read most of that… Except for the Kanji in the final example.

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Somehow that “writing on banana peel” thing seemed really profound. Like making a strong statement about the disconnect between learning Japanese and just Kanji.What you say about learning grammar is pretty encouraging.

Thanks for the advice guys. I’ll definitely try to pick up some more studies on grammar and vocab on the side, but keep up WaniKani consistently because I’m going to want to be able to read Kanji anyway.


Good luck! You can do it! :sparkles::crabigator::sparkles:


Think of kanji as a boost. You’ll be learning vocab that uses kanji. Knowing the kanji makes memorizing the word a lot easier. Same with grammar (because it involves reading example sentences, for example). You’ll also be able to increase your reading speed because kanji won’t be a problem. If you increase your reading speed, you’ll learn more. It’s pretty much a domino effect.


I think the Iknow! core 6000 set is quite good for vocab and comes with example sentences and full audio.
There are some Anki decks which are essentially rips of the entire thing, but the Iknow! site itself has each vocab split into 1000 and each 1000 split into 100, ordered by regularity of usage.

It starts off pretty simple with stuff like “please” and “thank you” and “you”, “this”, “that” and works up to stuff like “import”, “export” by about 3000.
I would recommend doing the first 2000 for a good core set of vocab.

You have to pay for it, but they have a couple of sample sessions too.
I think as exposure to the language, it will be a good start; only problem is all the vocab uses kanji; but this is not bad in and of itself as exposure breeds familiarity.

I would also say, despite what others have said, for me learning kanji seriously has made learning Japanese a lot easier. After a certain point trying to disconnect vocab and kanji and just learn one or the other is self defeating.


There, I clarified your sentence for you.

Jokes aside, I second iKnow’s Core 6000. The variety of ways it asks questions is nice, and they recently added hundreds of new example sentences. Besides, it’s good to support the actual content creator so they can continue to improve their content for current and future Japanese learners.

Is there a good way to search the site for specific vocab?

Not that I know of. It’s my biggest complaint about the website. Though now that you mention it, I think I’ll submit a ticket suggesting that.

I didn’t know you could do that; I’m just used to devs being none existent.
Maybe I’ll do the same.

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