WK's sometimes unhelpful vocabulary choices

Working my way though level 19, I’m wondering why I’m learning the word for “aversion to hot foods” (猫舌) but have not been, and apparently never will be, presented with a great deal of common, useful vocabulary. Just a few random examples of vocab that doesn’t exist in WK, using kanji I’ve learned in previous levels: 正式, 取り組む, 部下.

One of the things I enjoy about WaniKani is how you can sense Koichi and Viet’s sense of humor and cultural preferences through the lessons. I’m guessing it was for humor’s sake that 猫舌 made the cut, but I’m wishing they’d err more on the side of pragmatism… I have limited brain space and prefer to save it for things I can actually use.

I’ve also been discovering that a lot of the vocabulary you learn are words that are either very uncommon (to the point of mystifying my Japanese teacher) or are only used in contexts like news reporting, governmental publications, and academia, meanwhile there are much more everyday-use synonyms. Of course I realize the vocabulary we get is dictated by the order of the kanji. But learning uncommon words for common concepts is ultimately kinda unhelpful, and knowing that a lot of common vocabulary has been omitted leaves me wishing some different choices had been made.

Anyway, this is a criticism but it’s made in the spirit of enjoying WaniKani and wishing it could be even more useful and comprehensive.


Any other common words that use the rendaku’d version じた?

WK isn’t teaching you japanese, but how to read.

There is a constant balance act between teaching common words and readings of kanji. They can pick all the common words and you’d end up multiplying the workload and never get to start reading, or they pick what makes sense and have some odd ones out there in order for the system to work.

Now they are listening to the criticism though, which I think is a mistake, they will end up with too many cards and the gap to get into reading will get harder. “Jack of all trades, master of none” kind of deal. The fact that they added hiragana words boggles my mind, it makes NO sense whatsoever.


How much backlash would they receive if ⅓ of vocabularies are removed and replaced with a better selection of vocabularies, I wonder? It’s unlikely that they would remove major amount of vocabularies, in fact, only adding more.

But yeah, this comment has been for a while.

About (した), truthfully, I feel they don’t teach much about it if they don’t teach a (ぜつ); but Rendaku isn’t a big issue. (した) is already a qualified vocabulary, and everything else are extensions.

About this, I think it is fair to know more. WaniKani always has vocabularies of mixed difficulty in a level, and I think that is generally good.

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猫舌 is a very very common word when you dont like to eat hot food and people call you that.

Still remember first time in japan a classmate called me that after we went to a yoshinoya and I waited a moment after being served to start eating.


I think 猫舌 is a fine word, but why do you feel that it’s important that learners see a word with the typical reading of した being rendakud? Could you maybe elaborate on the value you think that offers?

How to read what?

I’m not sure specific anecdotal situations like this should have very much pull. 林間学校 is a common word you’ll hear if you are an ALT at a middle or elementary school. If wanikani’s goal is to prepare people to be able to read the content that they want to read, then its prevalence in that written content is more relevant, I think. For VNs and Narou, its in the 99+% percentile for rarity. JPDB has 34491 words on it that appear more often. Its not exactly far fetched to call it “unhelpful” especially compared to certain other choices.



Kanji. The primary objective is not to teach us new words, but to teach us how to read kanji when we find them in new words.


Do you have a source for this claim?

Tofugu seems to recently have been pretty clear that they want to teach people the words they need for japanese fluency. No mention that kanji is the primary objective.

And them adding kana only words doesn’t necessarily seem like kanji is their main objective.


I don’t disagree that WK is centered on teaching kanji, but it’s not only about that… in fact you ultimately get a lot more vocabulary value out of WK than kanji value. My assertion is just that there are choices being made about what vocabulary to include and what not to, and those choices often seem questionable. Perhaps my example of 猫舌 is inept, perhaps I’ll be surprised to hear people calling each other that all the time. But even in the case of 舌 there are other compounds and colocations—e.g., 舌打ち—that seem way more useful and are not included in WK. There is a need to reinforce the kanji with vocab, but even in this very specific case you can see the exercise of choice, and those choices are feeling a bit haphazard at times.

It seems like sometimes a kanji doesn’t have supper common words, but you want something and so we get those more difficult examples. I may be wrong.

猫舌 is definitely common and useful spoken.

Also native speakers have all different levels of vocab. It’s hard to say if one of your native friends doesn’t know a word, it’s useless. I know a good many English words your average person doesn’t know.

Not saying anyone is wrong. Just another perspective. I can understand not caring about less common vocab especially when we are still working on basic fluency.


This is a recent change though.

I switched to mobile to share a reference to WK being for kanji learning in a mnemonic but found another when prompted to log into the forum lmao.

That aside, I think 猫舌 is more useful than 二枚舌, both of which use the rendaku’d reading and their other kanji are already well represented, but 二枚舌 pulls up 300k google results while 猫舌 pulls up 1.7 mil, so it’s pretty easy to see which is more common.

Just to add another anecdote, I use 猫舌 pretty often whenever I go to a cafe or restaurant with Japanese speaking friends and I order something hot.

I do wish that WK would give preference to words with higher frequencies.

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A change is a change. We are in the present, so their present stance matters. Setting aside if that even was their past stance really.

Again, I am curious what your guys’ take is on the value of specifically learning a word with した rendaku’d is. And whatever that value is, does that then apply to every other possible rendaku of a reading on this site? Especially for し, where theres only one rendaku possible?

How much value do you think we should place on how much japanese learners who learned a word, use that word? I’m personally inclined to put little to none, but do you feel differently?

Yes, you probably don’t run across 毒ガス much in casual conversation either (secret agents aside).

I suspect that some vocab words were chosen simply because they reinforce a kanji character with particularly fun, vivid imagery. I think 猫舌 certainly qualifies there, even though a more mundane term like “kitty litter” might be more useful.

I also like this word because it helps to illustrate the notion that sometimes a literal translation will only get you so far.

A change is a change sure, but if we’re only focusing on the present, then it’s pretty easy to say that WK fails to teach people to read Japanese, even if they have plans to expand in the future because the future is the future.

Personally I think it’s better to learn about how rendaku works in general and common blocking and encouraging factors, but for that to be included in WK, the whole structure of the website would have to change.

How much value do you put on being understood by and answering questions from native speakers?

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In English at least, I’d be way more likely to think of someone as being duplicitous than I would their being averse to hot food. I’ve never looked at someone blowing on a spoonful of soup and thought, “That person has a problem.” Anyway I guess this is an odd bit of cultural insight, maybe Japanese people have some different threshold for tongue-scalding.

For me, importance is (1) likelihood to hear it, (2) likelihood to want to say it. Seems like I’m hearing that 猫舌 is more likely to be heard than one would guess, and now I’m much more likely to say it just to show off ridiculously esoteric knowledge.

Anyway, as I said in an earlier reply, 猫舌 might be a bad example but it’s just an example. There are many others, surely others have noticed their own. One of my recent lessons was 等号, which even the lesson says is “a pretty formal word that’s used in advanced math.” So likelihood to hear it, near zero, likelihood to use it, near zero except that now thanks to WK I’m more likely to accidentally fetch it from memory than I would be イコール and thus sound weird.

Quite a bit more common in anime though!

Exactly, because they do. Which is why I think its important to point out why they fail to do so and perhaps talk about what they could do to be better moving forward :grinning:

I agree. Maybe it should. Hey, thats an idea!

Me personally, I’d say I care about half as much as I care about understanding. I don’t really care about what words other learners use in their conversations. I’m more interested in what natives use, personally.


Yes, don’t worry, I’m very familiar with the interesting vocab choices here on wanikani. I knew you were just giving an example. Vocab selection has been their weakest area by far for a long time despite claiming they have hand checked all of them to be useful or common, but heres to hoping they get better.


I think this is great, but given past responses about many things, I don’t have much faith in the team making such changes.

That’s very fair. I think it’s one of those words that is commonly used and known (heck, there’s even advice on how to avoid burning your tongue as one of the first images), but you’re not going to hear it unless you or someone else is 猫舌(ねこじた). I’ve only met one Japanese person who was also 猫舌(ねこじた) (explicitly at least. There are many people I’ve never eaten/drank with lol) and I’ve seen a scene about it in an anime adapted from a ln. But then, that’s how a lot of words work, don’t they? You’re unlikely to hear/see them outside of certain events/places/situations.


I think they prioritize(d) reinforcing kanji onyomis / kunyomis / rendakus / weird readings first, and common usage / general Japanese skill a distant second.
Still waiting on 疑う(うたがう), though. That’s a word people use with a kunyomi that’s not included with the “疑 / doubt” family


Also a very fair claim…lol. I’d like to hold out hope, but I can’t really blame other people for not

I completely agree. I did mention earlier I think its a fine word honestly. Though seeing the frequencies I don’t think OP is wrong to call it unhelpful relatively speaking.

I think thats also a very good point and something that needs consideration in and of itself. When you have word A thats very common inside context B but very uncommon outside of that, how do you weigh that? I’m inclined to just base it off of the frequency of context B and take the frequency of the word as a whole, but I can see arguments for otherwise. This happens even across entire mediums and genres, and I think that will be a massive problem wanikani will face if they decide they want to be some big one stop shop for vocab. JPDB and Koohi (which I used) targeted wordlists to the exact content you were consuming. WK doesn’t…