WK kanji/vocab choices

First of all, I find WaniKani helpful to learn what the kanji mean and eventually the pronounciations. HOWEVER, I have a couple concerns…

  1. What determines the order of the kanji being taught? I’m level 4 and have learned nearly 100 kanji, yet if I look at a top 50 list of the most commonly used kanji in Japanese text, I have yet to learn at LEAST half of them. I wish the learning order of kanji was prioritized so we could start to understand Japanese text sooner.

  2. There seems to be an assumption with the vocabulary examples that WK users already know Japanese vocabulary. What’s with the random, useless sentence examples?
    Here’s an example for 入力 (input/entry): ここに王子のソーシャルセキュリティーナンバーを入力してください。(Please enter the prince’s social security number here.). How is that going to be useful to me next time I go to Japan as a tourist? I just wish the examples were more practical to every day life.

Anyone else agree with either of the two issues above? Do you think WK kanji and vocab examples should be focused more on learning the common kanji/phrases rather than the random kanji order and mostly useless phrases? Do you have any other platform/app suggestions to learn the most common kanji first?

Thanks all!

I’m really struggling with WK because of this!


The quick answer on the kanji is, it has very little to do with frequency here - due to the teaching method, it has to do with which ones are simpler to write (to some extent) and which ones share the radicals that are being taught first.


Before you complete level 30, there will be a lot of unknown kanji in anything you read, no matter what order WaniKani presents them. WaniKani aims to teach simpler kanji first. I don’t think there would be much to gain teaching more common kanji at (for example) level 5 versus level 20, but there’s a bit to lose if more complex kanji show up early (making the earlier levels more difficult).

I highly recommend anyone who is starting WaniKani, but hasn’t started reading yet, to start their reading journey with easier material containing furigana, such as the various books/comics we’ve read in the Absolute Beginner Book Club.

Learning basic grammar and then starting reading will help you build the pattern recognition necessary to really get to know the kanji WaniKani teaches and basic vocabulary regardless of whether WaniKani includes it or not.

I think the context sentences are meant to give a better example of the vocabulary word’s usage/nuance, which the English translation helps with even if you don’t know all the Japanese words. Later levels have various words that seem to have the same meaning, but the context sentences show their differences, even if you’re only reading the English translations.


There is a lot to say about the example sentences, and I’m not a fan of them by any mean, but this is the weirdest choice you could do to make a point. You don’t see how “Please fill [something] here” is relevant to you as a tourist?? How can it be more practical than that!?


I highly recommend an app called JA Sensei. It has all kanji and vocab sorted into JLPT levels. You can make custom lists and quiz yourself on them as often as you like.

I also think common kanji should be taught first. The whole ‘lots of lines will scare people away’ argument doesn’t resonate with me. I think it’s likely more people drop WK because they are asked to learn less useful material at the beginning. I almost did.

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I think his point is that it’s unlikely he will be entering the prince’s social security number anywhere and that a sentence which includes possible real world situations for a tourist would have been more helpful.


Right… But that’s just like only removing a few words away and this makes the example sentences a lot more interesting. Teaching set phrases for a tourist is really not WK’s goal.


It’s not that it scares people (even if that’s true) - it’s easier to memorise the **** things if they’re presented in increasing order of complexity.

KanjiDamage follows a similar(ish) structure: not teaching a more complex kanji until all its components have been covered.


WK Stats has the correlation for level vs relative frequency. You may need to enter your API key first. wkstats


There are are countless real words that could go in that place instead, so listing any one of them in the sentence where that isn’t even the focus would get you a tiny fraction of the way closer to covering the possibilities you could encounter as a tourist.

What’s actually helpful is seeing the framework, not the one thing that gets slotted in, so suggesting the sentence is useless is strange to me.

An actually useless example sentence would be something like 入力と言いました (he said “nyuuryoku”) where it doesn’t tell you anything about the word.

Some people enjoy the quirkiness of the sentences as well and look forward to reading them for the little storylines that various recurring characters have and whatnot. So there is value in not having them all be standard textbook sentences for some people. If others find that unappealing, then that’s something the creators are willing to trade off.


It’s worth pointing out that the frequency list wkstats uses is not very balanced, the data originally comes from a corpus of Japanese newspapers and so it’s not really a good indicator of how common characters are outside of that context. For example, 党 (political party) is in the top 50, which is not exactly the most common character you’ll see in everyday life.


Almost all kanji learners start with basic shapes before moving onto learning by frequency. 犬 is one of the first kanji you learn here and a 1st grade kanji, but it’s number 1326 by frequency. You learn it early because its meaning is simple, and you learn to differentiate it from 大. 議 is the number 25 by frequency, but it’s taught at level 20 and is a 4th grade kanji. Do you really think it makes sense to learn that complex character early on, especially when you only know simple Japanese?

Give it some more time. Wanikani is structured nicely in my opinion, and I have done quite a bit of independent kanji study before discovering it. You’ll see that it streamlines quite a few things.


A good point to note :+1:.

But in the bigger picture, any data set is biased. A manga/anime data set would probably skew words toward words like 能力 or 魔王.

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