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What are the downsides of using WaniKani?

October 27, 2022 — Tatsumoto Ren

TL,DR: Instead of Wanikani do this.

WaniKani is inspired by Remembering the Kanji. Similarly to RTK, in WaniKani kanji are presented in an efficient order, and mnemonics are employed to aid memorization. The pros end here. Let's list the cons.

  • The mnemonics are pre-made. WaniKani doesn't let you write your own stories.

    Other systems like KanjiDamage use prebuilt mnemonics as well, but while you're going through a KanjiDamage deck, you can change them to your own personal, vivid mnemonics if the ones given to you are not sticking or you simply don't like the stories.

    RTK encourages you to create your own mnemonics. Personal mnemonic visualizations tend to improve learning and recall compared to premade ones.

  • It forces you to use it's personal built-in SRS. The fact that you can't use Anki with WaniKani is a huge downside.

    Note that on the Internet you can find third-party Anki decks ripped from WaniKani. If you want to try WaniKani, download them instead of using the site and paying for it. They should be easy to found on AnkiWeb or other places.

  • It's a paid service. It costs money. It also means that if you want to keep reviewing so that you don't forget what you've already learned then you have to keep paying which is pretty lame.

    Learning Japanese from the zero to fluency without spending any money is the main idea that stands at the core of our method and this site. I cannot approve of things that contradict it.

  • It makes you learn isolated kanji readings and vocab out of context. Learning a bunch of similar information at the same time out of context is a recipe for memory interference. WaniKani users end up being unable to read kanji with multiple readings. On top of that, this sort of knowledge is impractical because in Japanese kanji are always used to write words. You either know in advance how to read an entire word or you can never guess with 100% certainty based on readings learned out of context. If you decide to learn kanji out of context, it is more efficient to create a mental dictionary entry for each character by only learning its meaning so that extensive knowledge of readings and meanings can then be easily gained intuitively through context.

  • WaniKani's built-in SRS never has you write out kanji from memory, it only has you recall the meaning given the kanji. Anki lets you easily create production cards to train writing out kanji if you wish to do so.

  • You are forced to go through WaniKani at a snail's pace. Apparently if you learn as fast as the WaniKani system lets you it will take you around 18 months to get through the most common 2,000 kanji. On the other hand, it takes less than 3 months to get through KanjiDamage or Remembering The Kanji.

  • Isolated kanji study is outdated. Today there's the JP1K method which is built around the idea of learning Japanese words from the beginning. When studying kanji out of context you have to learn English keywords, and that's never going to be as efficient as learning words.

Tags: faq