I wrote about WaniKani a few days ago but neglected to get into detail. Instead, I spent most of that post going on about my failed attempts at learning Japanese. There’s still actually a lot of fail going on since I’m focusing on vocabulary and kanji only and not grammar. Having noted this, I’m not going to get all that far in terms of comprehending actual sentences. 😛 Still, it’s a start and I already know more kanji and kanji compounds than I ever did.
As for what WaniKani is, here’s an explanation of the site: http://www.tofugu.com/2012/04/26/wanikani-sneak-peak/ While this was written over a year ago and the site has gone through some cosmetic changes and tweaks, the fundamental teaching method and mechanics still remain the same.
I took some screencaps (after receiving permission from one of the founders) and will now share them with you. 😀 Each image can be enlarged if clicked on.
I should note that only the first 2 levels are free. To access level 3 and beyond, you will either need to pay a monthly or yearly subscription. For what it’s worth, I’m at level 6 now but only on a monthly subscription due to financial issues. :X
Anyway, as things are right now, WaniKani is a great source for what it provides. However, there are some shortcomings:
- There are no thorough explanations of why certain readings are read one way or the other. An example is the 日 (sun or day) character where it can take a じつ (jitsu), にち (nichi), or か (ka) reading when following another kanji. It depends on whether the compound deals with counting days or not (among other reasons). I didn’t know this until someone on Twitter mentioned it. Of course, if I kept up with grammar lessons, it may have saved me the agony of trying to remember which one to use. However, because I don’t, I have to rely on mnemonics or memory to remember what reading I should be using.
- Inconsistent mnemonics for radicals. I have raged many times when a radical name didn’t make sense. For starters, a good deal of them in level 1 dealt with what a radical looked like which meant that I can figure out what it was just be looking at it. However, there are also a few radicals that are kanji themselves and thus, their radical names take on the kanji meaning. This causes me to blank sometimes since I couldn’t associate what I was looking at with anything.
- Ridiculous mnemonics. ナis Narwhal, ムis Pile, 久 is Raptor Cage, and ヒ is Spoon. WTF? None of them invoke the imagery of the words they’re based on. Maybe I just lack imagination. Due to this silliness, I ended up making up my own mnemonics for three of them; ナbecame the katakana “na”, ムbecame “a pile of mu”, and ヒ is the katakana “hi”. Don’t ask me how I can figure out their names this way. 😛 Well, with ムit’s easy since “pile” is a part of it. As for raptor cage, I just had to remember it as such. I’ve yet to figure out something although I do remember the part about Jar Jar going “hisa” for its kanji reading. 😛
- Site slowdowns. It happens rather frequently when doing reviews. 😦 You’ll end up waiting a good many seconds before an evaluation is complete. If you’re impatient, you can reload the page which will either have you retype in the answer or it will move onto the next item in the review. Apparently, they’re still trying to optimize and accommodate load and such. Let’s hope they’ll figure out something before WaniKani comes out of beta.
Regarding the radical mnemonics and WaniKani’s teaching method — From my understanding, some of the radicals are based on the ones from Remembering the Kanji? And the method itself is inspired from Heisig’s method. I point this out since I believe WaniKani shouldn’t take all the blame for the odd mnemonics. 😛
Hmmm~ I suppose I should have the following as a separate blog entry but it’s not that long so I’ll put it here:
I. Hate. Japanese. Readings.
It drives me mad that, for a language that relies so heavily on context to understand meanings, why does it have SO many changes in pronunciations based on compounds? Even with the excuse of rendaku, it seems pretty annoying and even seemingly extra work overall. I mean, if there’s already one or two readings for a kanji, why introduce 3 or 4 MORE? For example, why in all flying fuck is 今年 (which means “this year”) pronounced ことし(kotoshi) when just about every other compound where 年 follows or proceeds a kanji is read as ねん (nen)? It’s not explained in WaniKani and this YouTube vid doesn’t know either. I guess it’s just something that’s lost in history or is explained in some obscure Japanese book that no one’s read? Thankfully the exception seems rather rare as seen in this current vocab list that involves the 年 character. I’m not sure the curator will add more as time goes on though.
In general, the year kanji can be a slight pain in the ass since the meanings can be annoying as well. :E Examples: 先年 (sennen) is former years, a few years ago, past years … everything is PLURAL so past YEAR or last YEAR isn’t accepted. Hell, last year isn’t even one of the meanings because there’s 去年 (kyonen).
Aside from the weirdness of the year kanji, other ones also encounter pronunciation changes. One of the strangest ones to date is 行う which doesn’t use an i or yu reading or have anything to do with “go” or “going” or “journey”. Its reading is おこなう (okonau) for some bizarre reason. I suppose this reading is just something that happened somewhere in Japanese history and they kept it since. Without explanation or associating it with a kanji meaning, the only way to remember this is through mnemonic or simply pounding it into your head. Incidentally, it means “to perform” or “to carry out” or “to carry out a task”. Japanese is wonderful, isn’t it?
Anyway, I’ll complain more next time about the insanity of the language. :3