Getting back to learning Japanese with WaniKani


I’ve stopped learning Japanese (and never tried WaniKani before) for over a month now. Not because I lost my interest in Japanese or Japanese culture, you probably know the feeling when you’re just a little lazy sometimes. I went to Marseille, France for a week together with my girlfriend and we had a wonderful time there. It’s a beautiful country and especially the south with the good weather and the food was pure bliss in late August. What most people from abroad probably don’t know is that France and Japan share certain similarities and interests.

Both countries like good food and beautiful books. Many Japanese publications like cookbooks and comics are nowhere available abroad except in France. In terms of the huge manga selection that is available in France, people like to refer to the “French exception”. Because it’s the second biggest market for manga and comics.

After Japan, of course. I picked up the first three volumes of Master Keaton by my favorite manga artist Naoki Urasawa. And even if my French could be far better I still really enjoy these short amusing stories which are far deeper than one would think after reading a couple of pages.

For a short moment, I thought that I should focus on learning more French but after two weeks I neglected that thought. I shouldn’t stop learning Japanese just because it would be more simple to learn or perfect another European language. It’s always been my dream to understand simple, conversational Japanese on a basic level and that is a goal that one really can achieve.

While reading different manga the Kanji was always some kind of a problem. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But I reflected on my Japanese skills today and concluded that I should focus on learning some Kanji. And learn them with their on Yomi and kun yomi readings.


A friend of mine always spoke so highly of WaniKani a website by the mighty tofugu-team who already made a virtual textbook called textfugu. Their new site should make learning kanji and vocabulary a breeze. I already had a quick look around WaniKani a few months back when I was still using the Heisig method for learning kanji and concluded that WaniKani is practically a rehashed, more polished version of Heisig. But I was so wrong. WaniKani is far more than that.

You have to input each word or radical by yourself which makes the memorizing process even more intense. Sounds silly but I think it’s a really big thing. Apart from that, you learn the different readings and actual vocabulary for the learned Kanji which is oh-so-important.

Honestly, I’m hooked and biting my ass that I didn’t start earlier with WaniKani. Japanese video games were a small factor in why I wanted to learn Japanese in the first place and I’m probably not the only one with this as a motivational background. The guys over at tofugu like their video games as well and made the genius decision to make learning Kanji and vocabulary more like playing a video game. With different levels to reach, lots of statistics to look at, and a tight community to connect with. Well done boys!

Comments 18
  1. Been using WaniKani for a while now, in parallel with Heisig and I find the two reinforce each other really well.

      1. Yes. I definitely experienced some “conflicts” with radical names in particular. ALthough also with some kanji meanings vs Heisig keywords. Mostly I’m able to keep the two steady now though, and sometimes in my Heisig drills I even substitute some WaniKani primitives instead of Heisig ones. Although before that I would also sometimes make my own if something wasn’t sticking and I felt I could do a better job at the mnemonics. So throwing some WaniKani ones in wasn’t a huge leap.

        1. I completely stopped doing Heisig maybe a year ago. I was nearly done with it and not quite sure anymore why I didn’t pull it through. After that I completely focused on learning vocal and learning the Kanji readings together with the new words. Wasn’t a bad idea but not the best after all.

          But I really like your concept because I always think that the WaniKani Kanji mnemonics are a bit weak compared to Heisig.

          1. If you think some of the mnemonics are weak now, just you wait…

            Not to say it’s still not worth using. The whole SRS system itself they have going makes it more than worth it, with other parts ere and there just boosting what’s already there.
            Definitely, I owe WK a lot. It (and it’s wonderful community) has helped me leaps and bounds with Japanese, and I honestly have no clue how good I’d be now without it.

          2. I definitely agree with you. It’s the best thing that happened to me for my Japanese studies. hands down.
            And the community is just great. First thing I learned about proper learning Japanese: Motivation is key. Especially when the way to learning is that hard.

  2. I’ve been using Wanikani since the end of June and it has been a great decision.
    I’m level 9 right now and I’m impress by the amount of kanjis I’ve learn so fast. My bf and I bought a Japanese 3DS in June, to play, for exemple どうぶつの森 and I’m starting to understand a lot more stuff! Just need to keep up the motivation, but I find the app quite addictive, so that’s not too much of a problem. :)

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Amelie. I’m now addicted to WaniKani as well. It’s such a great website/program. But what really makes this the perfect way to learn Kanji and a bunch of vocab is the community behind the website. It’s just great to connect with all these fellow Japanese learners and talk about videogames and all this Japanese nonsense. And you are so much about motivation being the biggest obstacle when trying to learn Japanese. It’s really tough sometimes. I bought a Japanese 3DS myself and played とびだせどうぶつの森 for quite some time. Charming little game.

      Did you check out Fantasy Life too? We’re currently talking about this one especially in the WaniKani Japanese 3Ds meeting point :)

  3. I have been using WaniKani together with TextFugu for a few months. It’s really great! I am at level 3 right now, and it is still fun learning kanji.

    I like WaniKani more than traditional Anki decks, partly because of the website’s look and feel, and also because it is convenient to have access to a website where everything (mnemonics, pronunciations, readings in kun- and on-yomi, etc). is stored in one great package.

    Also, the community there is really nice with lots of activities in the forums :)

    People who are interested should definitely try out WaniKani, especially since the two first levels are free (about a month or so of daily studies). However, it is fairly slow in the beginning, but that is on purpose. After level 2 things will start to go faster and faster.

    1. Thank you so much for your insightful comment Wikzo. Great to hear some experiences from a more experienced user of WaniKani.

      I have to say that everything around WaniKani just seems so very well made and thought through that I believe there is no way to beat Kanji and Vocab learning with WaniKani. And you’re so right when you’re saying that it is much more fun than using a traditional SRS like Anki. The leveling system got me.

    2. Just what I think about that online program. I add it to my recently started real life lessons. Due to the combination of both methods I see when the kanji start making sense (and to be honest, wanikani alone wouldn’t bring me further in talking and grammar). I love this website – but do not use TextFugu yet. But I will try this as well as soon as possible.

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