Learning and having command over the Japanese language without having a mastery of kanji is the equivalent of attempting to climb a high snow-capped mountain in a t-shirt and shorts. Without a thorough grasp of kanji, you will not make it very far. You want some new high tech gear, and a group of Sherpas? Then you want WaniKani.
What is Wanikani?
WaniKani (literally “alligator-crab”) is a new kanji learning tool, developed by the masterminds at Tofugu. It helps you develop an identity for thousands of kanji, making words come to life.
Imagine a system so effectively structured that you are spoon-fed all essential kanji necessary to assist you in reading any popular Japanese publication. A system that takes you on a 50 level journey to conquer 1,700 of the most highly used kanji and a total of 5,000 vocabulary words. On this journey, the most highly prized weapons you can carry are your diligence, motivation, and self-determination.
Similar to one of my favorite learning tools, Remembering the Kanji, you are trained to learn kanji through highly livid and detailed stories. A highly effective SRS system (similar to Anki) then organizes the kanji to present you daily reviews. These daily reviews vary in content and length, depending on your level of kanji mastery (as you increase levels your daily reviews increase).
WaniKani also pairs up kanji that you have previously learned to create new vocabulary words, enabling you to expand and strengthen your vocabulary. This is an efficient process to get the most out of every kanji you learn. During your daily reviews you will be challenged with different kanji groupings; you willl quickly accumulate an abundance of new vocabulary words that will aid in your conquest over written language.
Who is this program for?
WaniKani is made for those that are serious and devoted to learning kanji.
The system accommodates those who may have busy schedules. You can complete your reviews anywhere, just as long as your phone is within reach. An iPhone app has also recently been created for this program. Now what is your excuse?
What is the cost?
Wanikani has two payment options:
1. One-time yearly charge of 80 dollars (which is about 6.6 dollars per month) or
2. Monthly recurring charge of 8 dollars.
Kanji pronounced by native speaker
The majority of vocabulary words are recorded and there is an option to have words spoken. This is helpful for memorizing the correct pronunciation, and ultimately identifying it in everyday conversation.
Prepared radical stories
Most stories are very graphic, and shocking; the stories for the most part will remain with you until you firmly memorize the on’yomi, and kun’yomi readings.
Personal Evaluation charts
Evaluation bar graphs are prepared for each WaniKani user. This feature allows you to gauge your average speed per level, and your anticipated date of completion for the entire program. It is also possible to see which kanji has tripped you up the most, and how many total kanji/vocabulary words you have learned.
Customized notes section for each kanji
If you want to make a note under a particular kanji, a textbox is provided. I sometimes like to input a Japanese sentence into the text box for words that have tricky meanings. This is a really useful tool.
Koichi (founder of Tofugu/WaniKani) and his team have done a superb job of giving timely feedback. I have emailed the team on various occasions, and have received prompt emails always within 48 hours. Koichi has answered personally any question I have had on how to use WaniKani. For example, he told me sentences with vocabulary words are currently being developed, and sometime in the future they will be implemented into the program.
WaniKani has a great online community and message boards. From these boards, I have picked up fantastic tips on manga, textbooks, classes, and other really neat resources.
The community presence is also great because it keeps you competitive and motivated. You can view anyone’s profile and see when they signed up, what level they are currently on, and the kanji they consistently get wrong. You can race a friend through the levels while also working diligently (to avoid errors because you know your errors are publicized).
What I think Wanikani still needs to improve upon
1. Lack of sentences
WaniKani’s words are not featured in sentences, which may prevent you from getting a deep understanding of complex words. However, you can simply use an online dictionary to find sample sentences.
2. Can’t begin on your desired level
Each level is composed of about 100 vocabulary words and up to about 30 kanji. The levels progress from simple to more difficult kanji. If you are already at an intermediate or higher Japanese level, it would be great to have the ability to select your level eliminating the need to go through early levels. However, the review can be a good refresher, and you will advance quickly. Levels fly by the better you become.
WaniKani for the win?
Any of you guys ever use WaniKani? What did you like? What didn’t you like?
Written by: James