Why do context sentences use Kanji you don’t know?

As the title says…why do context sentences use Kanji that you don’t know? For me at least it would be better if I could read and understand the context sentences.

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They’ve been adding new ones to address this since early this year. They just haven’t gotten past level 20 yet.

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Sentences using unknown kanji are still definitely present even up to level 8.

That’s the main reason I just skip them and don’t bother with them. I would lose a lot of time trying to understand what each word means.

There’s a couple of books that do this really well, called “Learn to Read in Japanese” (Vol.1 & Vol.2) by Roger Lake & Noriko Ura. I’ve been reading the first volume and I think it manages to successfully present you kanji in a progressive way. Each chapter has about 10 new Kanji and the sentences only use these new kanji plus any from past chapters.


You shouldn’t completely skip over them! At minimum you should glance over the English translation so you have an idea of the formality of the word and context that the word can be used in.

I recommend getting a chrome extension called rikaikun. You can hover your mouse over the word and it will give you a reading an definition. So useful.


You mean the ones that already existed before they started adding the ones that don’t include not-yet-learned kanji? You want them to remove them?

I don’t see why having a mix of easy and hard sentences is a big deal.

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I understand what you mean. But when I see over-complex sentences, I tend to shy away from them. I will try to do your suggestion with the rikaikun ext, though. Might be useful for other things :wink:

The point is, there was no need for them to do these complex sentences in the early levels. They should’ve start with simple ones and do it in a progressive way as we leveled up. That would certainly encourage people to read them more often.


Note that you will always find unknown kanji in whatever you read. There’s only so much that can be expressed in an example sentence when all you know is これはペンです and even at level 60, you will still need a dictionary.

Get used early to perusing a dictionary.


I have enough difficulty finding time to do all my lessons and reviews without having to look up Kanji and words I don’t know in the context sentences.

Just seems odd to me. I’ve never seen a textbook where the example sentences use words you don’t know (Japanese being the fifth language I’ve tried to learn so I’ve seen a few textbooks in my time!)

Not everyone is starting wanikani with no or low-level kanji skills. For people who start with a higher kanji level, the complicated sentences are very useful.

Also, the sentences aren’t just there to contextualize kanji. They reinforce grammar too!

Get Rikaikun if having kanji you have to look up is too bothersome for you. Language learning isn’t easy but putting in the time to read all the sentences might turn out to be really helpful–it is for me. It also might not be, in which case, just skip it and move on.

Sorry but I don’t understand that argument at all. If the context sentences just used the Kanji and vocab from for the current or lower levels then they would be readable by everyone. In fact by utilising vocab you have already encountered that would help reinforce what you know.

Your argument suggests that language textbooks should also assume that readers have studied the language already and so can use grammar covered in later chapters from chapter 1. I suppose that is possible but not something I’ve seen (not would want to see as it would put me off).

And this is why they are adding new context sentences, which can be utilised by everybody.

I don’t see the harm in keeping the existing context sentences, so long as they are working to add new ones which cater to everybody. The context sentences are not exactly integral to the main purpose of the resource, and tend to serve their purpose (to disambiguate between meanings) even if you can only read the English. I certainly don’t think it’s a good use of time for most people to bother looking up kanji they don’t know.

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Yeah, WK has heard this feedback and is in the process of handling it. There’s nothing to discuss.


So the way I’ve figured it out is that the first context sentence I should be able to read with my existing WK knowledge, I am also now getting to a place of starting to figuring out the meaning (like I recognize words better and can piece together how they interact better because I’ve read more sentences now than I had at earlier levels).

The second sentence I can usually get close. Like it tends to have words I don’t know, but I recognize all the kanji, usually. The meanings are very hit or miss since it entirely depends on if I know the verbs used in the sentence or not.

Third sentence I’ve learned not to bother with because it is usually full of kanji I don’t know to such a degree that I might as well read random kana and I’d get as much out of it.

However, it took me until somewhere in level 5 to realize this. That meant because the sentences were so all over the place for the first few vocab I saw (level 1 and 2), I skipped them for the first 3 or so levels. During level 4 I started glancing at them sometimes, and by late level 4 or sometime level 5 I started reading them regularly enough that I eventually figured out the above.

If someone had told me (aka the guide or FAQ or tutorial (is there one? I can’t even remember)), then I could have started reading sentence 1 for each vocab from level 1 and started looking at sentence 2 when they started to make more sense. But no one told me they were different levels (and more or less consistantly 1st only known words (more or less), 2nd some unknown words, 3rd just full on Japanese no holds barred (or if there are holds barred I have too little knowledge to realize; yes, I know I massacred that saying)).

So a mix of easy to hard sentences are good, but it might be worth it to mention that somewhere. (If it is in the guide or the FAQ then I forgot it by the time I started seeing the sentences because I read both fully.)

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Ah. Sorry. Hadn’t picked up on that. I look forward to the new context sentences…although somewhat nervous about how the changes to the radicals will impact me (maybe I just opt out from any changes).

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They haven’t finished rolling this out to most of the levels yet, only the lower ones. Maybe after they are finished (and they continue to create a mix of easy, medium, hard), they will add it to the FAQ. Though at higher levels, many of the sentences are already readable, save a few characters that can usually be inferred through context.


Context sentences are a total mess atm. Some of my biggest peeves with them are:

  • Very often they use idioms which can considerably change the meaning
  • The main English meaning listed on WK isn’t even the one they use in the context sentence
  • Use of complex topics or advanced kanji/vocab as previously mentioned by others etc.

Tbh I don’t really care though. I’d rather they just add more Kanji or give us the ability to use their infrastructure and add our own cards once we hit 60 or something. I can learn vocab and context myself, but I hate using Anki.

This! Yeah, I agree completely. I use other resources to learn kanji in context, so I don’t care much about the sentences here. I’m here to basically learn the kanji and the vocab is a welcome added extra. I’d also prefer if they added more kanji or vocab, at least to be more in tune with the N1 kanji list.

By the way, if you hate Anki, have you tried Kitsun.io? It’s possible to add our own cards and import other decks.

This is a discussion board.

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Go ahead and discuss something that has already been resolved if you want. But there’s no content worth discussing there.

I’m pretty sure you knew what I was saying though.

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