Abysmal reading accuracy

Hey everyone! I started my journey to learn Japanese about a week ago, and it’s been very fulfilling for the most part. Learning hira/kata went smoothly and I came here ready to throw myself at kanji: the radicals were a breeze and I thought “hey, this might even be fun!”

…Until I had to start remembering the pronunciations. My brain just short circuits.


I don’t know how typical this is, even for someone with close to 0 Japanese experience, but I feel like something’s way off.

For example, I just can’t get 入力 to remind me of “new lock”, and I can’t get “new lock” to remind me of にゅうりょく/nyuuryoku. It literally just bounces off my head the minute I read the answer.

Even with just TWO review items left, I’ll sometimes get both of them wrong multiple times with absolutely zero recall, to the point where it makes me feel like I have early onset dementia :smiley:

I mean, I straight up just type あ in the review text box just to see the answer because I couldn’t even think of an approximation, nothing comes to mind at all. Over and over again.

Should I try to bruteforce it by doing more extra study? Coming up with personal mnemonics seems very difficult.

I think i’d have an easier time, at this early stage anyway, if I could see the romaji and make a mental picture of it. I can read hiragana just fine, but I don’t think I can remember it yet, if it makes sense. Would this be a bad habit?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!


64.3% for just starting seems perfectly fine to me. :thinking:

Mnemonics are not for everyone, and if you’re adding a step in between actually useful information and it’s not helping you, I’d suggest maybe trying without it.

Bruteforcing it by just doing more reviews when they come up instead of extra study would be my suggestion, and instead of using romaji, maybe take some time to better learn hiragana with other common vocabulary and come back? It usually goes hiragana → katakana → kanji for a reason.

Also, you don’t need to remember the hiragana, just the sound of the word, then you write that. Don’t know if it makes sense.

Also, typing just あ is a pretty common strategy, use that frustration to fuel you towards remembering, if that’s a thing you can do, but it sounds like frustration is not your thing, so maybe try with taking a step back and handling it with patience.

As people love to say, it’s a marathon, not a race.


Thanks for the reassurance - I know what you mean, it’s what I first tried, but it just… disappears into thin air very quickly. I just never had this type of strange memory black hole hit me before. I think I’ll just slow down the lessons and practice more hiragana, it should hopefully help with recall.

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Considering you just started, there’s no real reason to get super worried just yet, you can ignore your stats for a little while, a very small amount of data doesn’t produce accurate results after all.

And it may seem like an obvious thing to say, but are you making sure to read the mnemonic carefully and fully? Or are you just looking at the answer and clicking next? Because the latter definitely causes this issue.

For specifically 入力 and other similar things you can always make your own mnemonic that you would remember.

I found pronunciations pretty hard at first, but the good news (which is also a terrible news) is that 90% of Japanese kanji seem to share a dozen or so unique readings between them, so very soon you’ll be able to remember the reading of new kanji by relating them to readings that you already know instead of using broken English mnemonics.

Also 入力 took a while for me to stick since its meaning is somewhat surprising (you have to think of 力 as “capability” more than “power”) and the reading is also a bit tricky since 力 has two possible readings (although protip: the りょく reading is vastly more common, at least within WK vocab and perhaps in general).


My situation is different from yours, in that I came to WK after having many years of on-and-off Japanese language practice, some formal, but lots informal (such as watching anime with English subtitles, practicing with anki decks, and more).

But, I also often find that my short-term memory is poor - “I just looked at that one ten seconds ago and poof, it’s gone” happens distressingly often.

The keys that I’ve found to getting over that include:

  • realizing that getting things wrong, even multiple frustrating times wrong, is key to later-on solidifying the pronunciation or meaning after it finally ‘sticks’

  • I find that many (most?) of the WK-offered mnemonics do nothing for me. While I may try and remember some of them, I often end up either making use of my own, typically-shortened versions of the WK mnemonics, or else I invent my own ones that either make more sense for me or otherwise have a ‘hook’ to remembering that may be missing from the WK ones.

And my reading percentages are currently running in the 90’s. No guarantee that I will be able to maintain that as I cross into future levels where a higher percentage of the words that I encounter will not be ones with which I was previously familiar - but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

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I’ve never had this issue and typically have high accuracy. I either use WK’s mnemonics or make my own. I read the word combinations, and the context sentences. If I notice myself getting a word wrong or feeling like I don’t fully understand it I just search it on the immersion kit website to see how the word is used in anime. I also just practice reading in Japanese all the time even though I’m a low level. I read graded readers, Crystal Hunters, manga, and tweets in Japanese.

There’s also a ton of good hiragana practice stuff if you don’t want to just do the old “write them 100 times each”.

Here goes…




you just started. don’t worry about it, it can only improve with time.


It’s a skill that gets easier with practice, and I think it’s valuable for the trickiest items. 60% reading accuracy in your first few weeks doesn’t seem bad to me. Give your brain time to digest the concept of “kanji” and things will get easier in time:)

If you’re open to using userscripts then there is one for explaining the semantic-phonetic composition of the kanji. Basically patterns of certain radicals going together with certain readings and semantic concepts. I think you’ll naturally develop an intuition for these things as you go, but being made aware of these at the beginning might help a bit.

The information looks like this:


This is absolutely worth looking into in the long run but realistically it’s not going to be very helpful at level 2. You need to know a bunch of kanji already to make these phonetic connections worthwhile.


Thank you everyone for the kind replies and tips - I actually predownloaded the semantic-phonetic script already, even though it doesn’t really do anything yet since none of the kanji I’m studying are compounds, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared!

The day after making this post, after a good night’s sleep, I had a much easier time remembering things, especially 入力 since I complained so much about it :smiley:


Totally fine. Hang in there! Gotta get the brain used to the new sounds

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Edit: Turns out, learning styles are BS, which I did not know when I wrote this. My strategies are still working for me, though, so take from this what you will…

Depending on your learning style (visual/auditory/tactile), there may be a couple extra things you can do for yourself to help solidify the mnemonic. I’m more auditory & tactile, so I like to read the lessons out loud, and practice saying the readings out loud a couple times. I also like to rephrase and condense the mnemonic into a little snippet that reminds me of the rest, such as “Mr. Mountain” for 山, “trees like to mock you” for 木, etc. If I feel like I need extra reinforcement, I’ll write that phrase down, too.

If you’re more of a visual learner… well, I’m not one and idk what to suggest.

One thing I can say for sure is that the mnemonics do get more effective over time, because they use the same mnemonic catch-words* for kanji with the same readings.
*I don’t know if there’s a proper term for this and I’m not going to look it up.

ちょう is Mrs. Chou, た is taco(s), しゃ is shaman, etc.

I noticed that the second time I encountered a reading (excluding 口 and 工 from level 1, as they were presented to me back-to-back), connecting the reading with the mnemonic was wayyyy easier.

That said…

入力 was a difficult one for me too, especially because I had focused on the りき reading when I learned 力. Lock & りょく just didn’t fit for me, and I had to learn that one by brute force.

Now, when I run into an issue like that where a catch-word doesn’t do it for me, I take a little while to work out an alternative, which I will re-use on any subsequent kanji with the same reading. It doesn’t have to be as complex and involved as WaniKani’s extensive mnemonics, as long as it gets you where you need to go.

I haven’t come up with anything for りょく but I have used a couple alternatives for other readings.


hock > hawk
“the Hawk flies North”

bay > BAE
“Rice is BAE”

mugging > Mugen (Samurai Champloo)
“Mugen’s chewing on my Wheat”

And so on… It’s not perfect, and I’m not amazing at creating scenarios around the words, but if I say the reading a few times, usually something comes to mind and I can connect it.

Anyway, this is turning into a novel about how I use WK, so I’ll just cut myself off here. Hopefully there’s something in all this mess that you can use!


Hey OP! I started recently too (a few months ago) and had a lot of problems like this, e.g. I could never remember whether お母さん had a long or short vowel (おかあさん or おかさん).

My advice to you is not to worry too much about any one item! A lot of items just ‘clicked’ for me as my brain got better at processing Japanese sounds and as I understood what it ‘feels like to learn a word’ better.

So just keep going and you will encounter other words with the same readings of 入 and 力. Probably one will be easier to remember, for weird brain reasons, and then you’ll in turn find it easier to remember 入力! Or if not, then you have more data to understand your problem!

For example, I just can’t get 入力 to remind me of “new lock”, and I can’t get “new lock” to remind me of にゅうりょく/nyuuryoku. It literally just bounces off my head the minute I read the answer.

I’ve seen it said here that mnemonics are like ‘scaffolding’, just to help hold things in place in short term memory, but eventually they fall away and you just recognize the item naturally. So if the WK mnemonic doesn’t work for you, no need to use it! You just need to find some way to remember the item a few hours later at your next review. Other people have given lots of tips for that, and also you’ll just get a lot better at figuring out what works for you once you experience success with other items!


I think when I now started, listening to Nihongo con teppei’s podcast while following along with the subtitles was an important part of improving accuracy on kanji. It may sound weird but listening to Japanese cements a lot of things. Even when your understanding is low. And as others said, you are really early into your studying so give yourself a break. Good luck


I do believe this has been debunked, fwiw

EDIT: Relevant video


Wow, you couldn’t be more wrong! I type い.


Welp, that’s… upsetting in ways I’m gonna need a little while to process.

It’s 8:30 AM and I’m just thinking about the literal hundreds of notebooks I’ve filled with notes that were never studied later but that I can still actively remember writing out and wondering why the hell that worked. Is it just because I put it into my own words? Is it because this forced me to slow down and think? Were the notes even necessary?

I’m sure I don’t seem grateful now, what with the spiral I’m experiencing and all, but thank you for saving me from future embarrassment.


There is some research around how writing stuff out does help you remember it, so perhaps. Part of it also is believed to have to do with putting things in your own words, iirc. Because it forces you to do a sort of internal processing of the information to isolate and summarize the important parts in order to paraphrase. So maybe these two were the case: