[Warning & Summary: Unfortunately, my explanation ended up being very long again. I tried changing explanatory strategies halfway in the hope that it would be clearer. If at the end of it all you still don’t get it, erm… perhaps try to tell me what exactly is unclear, or what sort of advice you’d prefer (e.g. concrete steps, more visual representation, more examples…). At the end of the day, my thoughts are essentially that you need to closely associate reading(つける), writing(点ける) and meaning (e.g. ‘to turn on’) in your mind while only using kanji knowledge as a memory aid, potentially while relying on a lot of repetition. I literally stare at kanji forms like 残る and say のこる while visualising the kanji 残 in my head every time I say the first few syllables, and then proceed to read example sentences or think about the anime line in which I heard them. I ‘accept’ the reading as a ‘truth’, something that ought to be self-evident: if I see 残 next to る, it’s のこ. Not ざん or anything else. のこ. It has to become intuitive. That’s all I can say. Do it in whatever way works for you.]
Full explanation, in which I attempt a visual analogy in the second half and essentially re-explain myself.
Sorry, I guess my explanation did turn into a bit of a mess at some point. It’s true that trying to associate something directly with what it is or what it means is probably the best strategy, but it’s not always easy or practical to do. What I intended to say is that when we learn a language formally, especially when it comes to learning abstract words, we tend to learn words themselves first, and then their meanings. What I was suggesting was that you focus on associating words containing kanji with their sounds. @skymaiden’s suggestion sounds like a practical way to do that, particularly if you’re not getting much exposure to WaniKani words outside of WaniKani. I quite frequently do reading practice, and I regularly watch anime while checking the transcriptions on reaction blogs, so readings just have to stick at some point because I keep looking the same words up (and because I can imagine, say, how an anime character said certain words in a certain scene). You need to find your own way to strengthen the word-pronunciation associations if you’re not getting that kind of practice.
Your idea of using a ‘hiragana’ deck sounds like another way to associate words with their pronunciations, though personally, if I were using flash cards, I would try to put all three elements on the same card e.g. kanji form on one side, reading and meaning on the other. However, I still feel like the word-pronunciation link is the most important, since you can try to guess the meaning from the kanji. To use your example, you need to get to the point where the moment you see 点ける or 付ける, you know it’s つける, and the moment you see or hear つける, you know 点ける and 付ける are possible kanji forms. Thereafter, you can attempt to recall meaning, since you seem to have no trouble learning kanji meanings/translations.
If you prefer a visual representation, think of it as a triangle: word, pronunciation and meaning. You need to identify which of these associations you’re having trouble with, and in which directions. From what you’re saying, I feel you have no issue going from word (kanji) to meaning and from word to pronunciation. However, you’re having trouble going from pronunciation (hiragana) to meaning. There are two paths you can take:
- You build a new road between pronunciation and meaning. You can do so using, for example, your hiragana + meaning deck idea.
- You go backwards from pronunciation to word, and then from word to meaning.
To me, given the fact that you’re going to be seeing a lot more words in kanji first as you continue learning Japanese, and the fact that you already seem to be able to go forwards, from word to pronunciation, I think #2 will require the least extra effort. Also, it’s much more practical, because when you look words up in the dictionary, you will always see the kanji form and the pronunciation before you see the definitions. Getting used to making these word-pronunciation associations now will save you a lot of time later. Also, I might be completely wrong, but based on your first post, I get the impression you’re using a list of possible kanji readings in order to guess the pronunciation of a word. That makes no sense, in my opinion, because especially for kun’yomi readings, you’ll never know when to use which reading. There’s nothing in the kanji that tells you what to say. Once you’ve learnt one reading that you can use as a name (say てん for 点), all other readings should be learnt in context, as part of a word or kanji compound.
Anyway, I feel like I’ve repeated myself several times in what I’ve just typed, and I realise I’m not sure how I should phrase things because IDK how you’d like me to present them. The short version is this: in my opinion, you have to link what you see to what you say/hear in both directions, and only then learn meaning. 点ける should look like the sound つける. The sound/hiragana chain つける should immediately bring to mind 点ける. Link them as closely as possible in your mind. Read a passage on light switches over and over if you have to. Switch your voice assistant (Siri, Cortana, Alexa or whatever) to Japanese and say 明かりをつけてください over and over, even if your device isn’t actually connected to the light switches, and each time you say つけて, see the kanji in your mind: 点けて. It has to become that natural. Thereafter, no matter which way you learn the meaning of the word, you will only strengthen your understanding (by comparing it to the kanji) and hearing the word in your head. When you start learning the meanings, you’ll have to contemplate the three components at the same time as much as possible, and not think of them separately.
I’m sorry if this still isn’t clear. Perhaps the other assumption I’m having about how you’re approaching this right now is that you’re relying too much on the kanji. As much as using the kanji can help you guess the meaning of a word, if you find you need the kanji to make things clear, then maybe you should learn the translation of the words themselves (in hiragana? IDK), and only then say, as an afterthought, ‘Ah, that makes sense given what I know about this kanji.’ Whatever it is, make as many associations as you can, and make sure they always go in both directions. I’m sorry if I’m not giving enough concrete steps, because I’m not really a flash card person, and the way I’ve been learning kun’yomi since starting (e.g. in verbs) is simply by looking it up in the dictionary, repeating it a few times, trying to find some way to associate the sound of the word with the meaning, which is itself tied to the kanji, and then waiting until the next time I encounter the word in a passage or in an anime in order to test myself. Each time I discover I’ve forgotten, I go, ‘Ah yes, that was the word. How could I have forgotten?’ and then I repeat my steps again and wait for my next encounter. The more memories you have built around the word, regardless of how you write it (with kanji or in kana), and provided you always think of reading, kanji form and meaning together, the better you’ll remember, and the less likely you’ll be to have problems with listening.