After reaching the halfway point, level 30, of WaniKani, I thought I would share some of the ways that I make sure that I get more out of the program. Or, rather, some of the ways that I wish I would use the program.
There are some things that I do while studying, that I think assist with memory and learning the kanji and the kanji readings. Don’t know what WaniKani is? You can read a short WaniKani Review that I wrote.
1. Remember the Radicals.
When you learn the radicals, be sure to remember them. Radicals are very important parts of kanji that will assist with determining the meaning of a kanji. They can also help you find kanji in dictionaries. Sure, WaniKani sometimes doesn’t teach the actual meaning of some radicals, but they teach an easier way to remember them. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know the real meaning if you only want to be able to read Japanese, or know what the kanji means. See here for additional information about radicals. Remember the the radicals helps immensely with telling the difference between similar kanji (see #5).
2. Remember the mnemonic.
The next WaniKani tip is to be sure to remember the mnemonic every time you see the kanji in a review. Keep reinforcing the mnemonic that you use in order to facilitate remembering what the kanji means. You can always make, and use, your own mnemonic if you don’t like the one that WaniKani provides. The WaniKani mnemonics aren’t always the easiest to remember, and it is beneficial to make and use your own. I think you have a better chance of remembering it if you came up with it yourself, and you can make it mean something more to you than the one that WaniKani gives.
3. Come up with an alternate meaning of your own.
The 3rd WaniKani tip is that it gives you the opportunity to provide your own alternative answer to kanji and vocabulary meanings. What a kanji translates to in English is not always straightforward. In a lot of cases, there is not one English ‘meaning’ for a kanji. WaniKani will only provide a few, at most, different definitions of a kanji. In addition, sometimes WaniKani might only provide one meaning for a kanji that is slightly off, or different, than what dictionaries provide. Or, a dictionary may provide many meanings for a kanji, while WaniKani only provides one meaning. Or, maybe you want to be able to answer “ticket book” instead of “book of tickets” for 回数券 (かいすうけん). While they are slightly different things, you will still understand the meaning.
4. Do a full review of the Kanji or vocabulary.
When you are doing your reviews, take a look at that kanji and do tip #1. Check out the vocabulary word and ensure you recognize all the radicals if the kanji is made up of more than one radical. Then, do tip #1 and remember that mnemonic again. Every time you review kanji or vocabulary, take a run through the radicals and mnemonics for the kanji that you are reviewing. Running through everything each time you review could help you with retention. It will certainly help you with tip #4.
5. Pay attention.
For this WaniKani tip, pay attention! Take a second look at the kanji and/or vocabulary that you are reviewing. Take another look. A kanji, and by extension vocabulary for that matter, can have multiple other kanji that look very similar. Do tip #3 and identify all of the radicals in there to ensure that you are thinking about the correct kanji, and the correct answer to the review. I can’t tell you how many times I have answered incorrectly because I wasn’t really paying attention and I misidentified a kanji. WaniKani attempts to show you ‘visually similar kanji’ on the kanji information pages; but I think they do a poor job of it. Take a look at the kanji in this example:
I would say only two of these are visually similar. The third has the ‘squid’ on a different side of the kanji. I can think of a few more kanji on WaniKani that look more similar to the first two than the third one. There are also many kanji that are similar for which WaniKani doesn’t even identify one single similar kanji. For instance, these two kanji are very similar to me: 病 and 症. Try to answer too quickly and you’ll likely get it wrong.
Here is a better, although still poor, example of visually similar kanji. While the radical on top is the same for all, the rest of the kanji are significantly different to me. Again, don’t look close enough and answer too quickly, and you may get it wrong.
6. Read as much Japanese as you can.
And the final WaniKani tip (for now): While spaced repetition certainly helps with retention; the more often you see something, the more likely it is to stick in your long term memory. Take it from me, I have been stuck on level 30 for 60 days at the time of this writing. (It actually took me just under 114 days to finish level 30.) I have not been learning any new items because I am trying to get my apprentice items down to a manageable level. I am not able to recognize a lot of the kanji and vocabulary that I haven’t reviewed in a while, so I get them wrong. The problem is, that I don’t see most of these kanji outside of the WaniKani reviews. If you don’t see these items for a while, you can forget them. Especially when you start mixing up similar vocabulary meanings like あげる・あがる、まざる・まぜる、etc.
There are many sites online where you can practice reading Japanese. Here are a few:
NHK News Web Easy (Easy Japanese News)
NHK News Web Easier (adds popup definitions/pronunciations to the page when you put your mouse on a word)
Watanoc.com (Web Magazine that categories stories into JLPT level)
Mainichi Shimbun Maisho 15 (News stories for 15 year olds)
** I paid full price for WaniKani and do not receive any compensation from the company that owns WaniKani. I write these posts because the program has helped me learn kanji much quicker than I could have on my own. WaniKani does not have an affiliate program. **