WK, Genki, AND Heisig RTK, or is that overkill?

Hey, folks!

I started my language learning experience within the last few months. I learned all of hiragana, and have a decent grasp of katakana, and am now using WaniKani to learn kanji and vocab.

I’m planning to start Genki in the next few weeks, once I complete level 10 of WK.

My question is whether it’s worth my time to also do Heisig’s RTK (maybe 10 kanji per day) on top of the rest of it? I see a lot of people who swear by it, but I’m curious if it’s beneficial on top of WK and Genki, or if it would just get confusing to have too many avenues.

Does anyone have experience mixing all of these together?


It’s say choose either RTK or WK


What Kumirei said!

Why do you want to do RTK as well? RTK 1 doesn’t teach readings, so I’m not sure what you hope to get out of using both RTK and WK…
(I did about 1/3 of RTK before switching to WK, and am glad I switched)


The only thing RTK can provide you that WaniKani doesn’t is information on kanji origins, but even those are sometimes simplified for the same of making mnemonics less complicated. You’re better off searching ‘kanji etymology’ on Google and looking for some free resources/courses online. There are a few of them, and you’ll need to do a little digging, but since they include videos that start with an analysis of ancient characters before linking them to modern kanji, I think they’re well worth the effort (provided that etymology interests you, of course).

Also, when you become more advanced in Japanese, you’ll be able to look up kanji origins for self-enrichment on sites like Kanjipedia, so really, unless you want to use the etymology to help you remember, there’s no point.


It really didn’t teach me much in the way of kanji etymology…

It’s too much.

Don’t do RTK and WK at the same time. They will interfere with each other b/c the order of kanji in RTK is set and necessary, and you have to do them all before moving on. Whatever you choose, please read Heisig’s intro if you haven’t. It has a lot of great reflection on Westerners learning kanji that will help you on your journey: https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/en/files/2012/12/RK-1-6th-edition-sample.pdf

Minority Opinion: Do do ALL of RTK before WK then ignore the WK radicals (Autofill Radical Script) and ignore the mnemonics. You can do all of RTK in 3-4 months if you make it your main focus, then it will make WK much, much, much easier. (I did this, though I did RTK about fifteen years ago. Still remember most of it.) I actually think this is the best way to use WK, but the advice seems bizarre because it looks like more work and nobody wants to wait to learn the readings. The benefit is getting the kanji pre-installed as a system in your head so when you go through WK they don’t just slide out of your brain like soft bacon grease. WK is a really heavy lift that’s inconsistently good. Having RTK in first eliminates the WK mnemonics, radicals, and lessons, which are some of its weakest points. I see WK as a supplement to RTK’s not-great second volume, not a all-in-one solution in itself.

Or just do WK, but take your time.

Also: I think it’s good and even necessary to run through another textbook/grammar course/something when doing WK. Doing just WK is too linear. You need to come at it from more than one angle for stuff to stick.

I did RTK and “learned” 1000 kanji in 23 days. Obviously you’re going at a slower pace than I did (35+ a day, 2 hours a day), but I don’t recommend doing it. The reason why I don’t recommend it is because I was only able to get a general idea of what the kanji looked like. When I saw similar looking kanji I had a very difficult time distinguishing which one was which. This may have been due to my studying methods and going too fast (which it probably was), but I ultimately saw low retention rates the longer the intervals got. My short term was great, but once I got to the 2 weeks, 1 month intervals I could barely remember anything. I also couldn’t recognize a lot of kanji I knew when I encountered them outside of my Anki deck.

I ultimately stopped doing my RTK Anki deck because my retention rate was pretty poor, and I had decided to learn kanji a different way. Now, I am somewhat glad I did RTK in such a short amount of time. Since I flew through it pretty fast ended up not wasting much time, and it’s made relearning them a whole lot easier (obviously).

I suggest with just sticking with WK. Put your extra time into other things like reading, grammar, listening, etc.

Wanikani and Genki is what I am using currently, they work well together, since Wanikani focuses on kanji and Genki is primarily for grammar and sentences. Also, as most people have said, RTK and WK is just redundant, they teach the same things.

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Did you write them out by hand and use the book?

RTK isn’t an SRS and there no intervals. If you were mainly using an Anki deck then I wouldn’t expect you have great retention.

Before WaniKani, there was Reviewing the Kanji. I think it’s still there, but I left it behind years ago as several moderators and … prolific posters in the community were using the forum to perpetuate some very damaging myths about depression, so I was quite happy to find WK where y’all seem cool and supportive and I can learn and reinforce readings and vocabulary along with the kanji (without getting too distracted by “Someone is wrong on the Internet!” in the forums).

Reviewing the Kanji had an SRS that follows Heisig’s method, and I can say it did help me retain my kanji knowledge (I started with handmade paper flash cards and Heisig’s book). It is definitely frustrating to go through WaniKani after Heisig and deal with conflicting radicals and keywords, but I can add the Heisig keywords or radical names as synonyms as they come up (if I weren’t so lazy about it).

A downside of Reviewing the Kanji is that other users can enter their mnemonic stories, and at least when I used it, they were hard to hide (if you wanted to look at your own or the “official” story) and some people chose to use racist caricatures and make up some pretty awful stuff. Which, fine, Heisig does say that the more shocking and vivid the image, the better, but I wish they’d kept it to themselves or that the moderation had been better.

The one thing I’m glad I did with Heisig is to write the kanji by hand. If you write them out, it really helps you to distinguish between similar-looking kanji. If I were starting now, with the benefit of hindsight, I would do WaniKani but make sure to write the kanji out, at least for the first lesson and possibly each time it comes up for review, or each time you get it wrong. (Pro tip: it is more fun if you get a brush pen.)

Also, get a conversation partner. This is essential! You can pay for a lesson, or likely find someone who’s willing to trade English conversation for Japanese conversation. My conversation partner had a great idea that pushed us both out of our comfort zone - she carried on her half of the conversation speaking only English, and I spoke only in Japanese. It was weird at first but helped a lot!

This is also a really great time to take a Japanese class, since colleges all over the world are bringing their courses online. A community college class is a really great investment. A lot of the folks (not here, I’m thinking of prominent immersion “experts” who market their courses online) who are all “I learned Japanese and never took a class!” … actually did take a class, but they claimed it was “boring” or they “forgot everything.” Having tried to learn Italian through immersion without a class, then jumping in to a beginner’s class at my community college, I can tell you it made a huge difference to have a group of learners, some structure, and an instructor who could answer all my weird questions. You can probably get by with a textbook or some grammar videos, but don’t discount the value of a class. Check the community college listings, starting in your home state as they will likely be cheaper for residents.

Remembering The Kumi


Well, perhaps I was wrong then. Ultimately though, as a few other people have said on this thread, I think it’s important to write the kanji you learn. I don’t know if it has the effect of subconsciously slowing down the recognition process though, but I strongly doubt it… it’s probably just that I never had to use my Mandarin enough to be as fluent as someone from mainland China. Let me explain what I mean: as someone who learnt kanji together with their readings (in Mandarin, of course, but I do the same thing with new kanji in Japanese) and did so by learning to write them, every time I hear a kanji reading/name, I see the kanji being written in my head. The reason I say that might be slowing me down is because it might be better if the character just flashed into my head like a photograph each time I heard a kanji pronounced. That process in reverse would make me a much faster kanji reader. However, the two sorts of recall might be different though, because when I read Japanese now, I recall readings in Chinese almost instantly. It takes more time to access readings in Japanese… and in any case, meaning recall is instantaneous as well. To sum up, I still think knowing how to write every kanji one learns is valuable and good for kanji memory.

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I mainly followed the Mass Immersion Approach for RTK. So I didn’t write them out. Ultimately, I guess their approach is to just get the 1000 somewhat down (which is what it did), learn readings through vocab, and then learn to write them later on. So, I didn’t follow RTK how it’s typically meant to be done. Even so, if I had to choice of doing it over, I would have liked to have stuck with WK.

Oh, okay, that makes sense. From what little I’ve read I think those guys are generally correct about language acquisition though on this it sounds like they just want you to get as much kanij in your skull as quick as you can, so you can start on other stuff. I’m down on SRSes in general but I think RTK’s building-on-what-came-before structure doesn’t fit one well.

Thanks for answering, best of luck.

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Or WaniKumi?


One lifetime subscription for me, please!


This is basically how I started out about four years ago.I did the first RTK book along with the two Genki books and Tae Kim’s grammar guide before I started WaniKani - I think there’s better grammar guides on the internet these days than Genki.

I did RTK in SRS form through Supermemo over six months and I can still remember most of the writings, probably because some of the mnemonics were really good and I still use them for the meanings of some kanji. I think I went at about 30-60 new kanji each day, going slower as I tried to average at about 100 reviews each day going from the meaning to the writing and writing each kanji out as it gave me the meaning. Along with the mnemonics it teaches you, it’s great for not confusing similar looking kanji and might have improved my recognition (I don’t think it helps that much with recognition though, besides reducing confusion if you do it from meaning to writing), but other than that it didn’t even really help with learning the meanings of the kanji due to the fact that connections formed in SRS are mostly one way, so if you plan on doing RTK I’d suggest going from the reading of the kanji in a sentence and provide the writing for the kanji in Anki since this type of connection might still be useful if you already know the meaning or reading from WaniKani.

I know Anki isn’t that great of an SRS system for harder to remember items like RTK if you do meaning to writing and you might end up with a lot of leeches if you use it like that, so keep that in mind if you do plan on using it.

The other thing that started to bother me is the fact that WaniKani and RTK doesn’t alway use the same radical names which might end up confusing you more, but if you use the auto fill script, I’d suggest going with the RTK radicals and mnemonics.