Aha Moments

I learned the limited [spoken] Japanese I know by immersion, simply by being here. I didn’t go to a language school or spend hours and hours in textbooks. I knew some Kanji, but not many, and not all of the readings. Years ago, I hit a wall and my learning stagnated. I had pretty much accepted that this was it. I knew my two biggest limitations were vocabulary and my reading ability but never made a conscious decision to actually study.

In November 2023, I decided to change that and bought a subscription to WaniKani. I am currently on Level 5 and, so far, have run into no Kanji I didn’t already know, or at least have not seen and had a general idea of what it meant. But I am learning some new readings of the Kanji and some new vocabulary from the Kanji combinations.


  • My wife often uses sousou when speaking. It was one one of those words that my brain just chose to ignore as probably unimportant. I recently learned 早々 in my vocabulary. She has used it two or three times since I learned it; now her sentences make much more sense to me. I knew 早い was hayai, but didn’t know it could be read sou or that doubling it up would mean quickly.

  • There was a YouTube video on the TV the other day, but I wasn’t watching it. I had headphones on and couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I happened to glance up and the word 台風 popped up on the screen; I knew the discussion was something about a typhoon. Seconds later, there was a video of an actual typhoon. Prior to WaniKani, I would have looked at that read “nantoka kaze” or “nantoka fuu,” and wouldn’t have figured it out until I saw the video of the typhoon. Then I may or may not have guessed it.

  • I knew the spoken words “tariru/tarinai” and “fusoku” but I had no idea they were all written with 足 (ashi). I had seen 不足 a couple of times and I remember thinking, “Not foot? What the heck does that mean?” Now when I see it, I automatically read it as “fusoku.”

I know, these are only very small things, and they may seem insignificant to some but, to me, it feels like the start of something good.

So now I am wondering, would any other beginners like to share any experiences where, thanks to WaniKani, you’ve had an “Aha!” moment?


Nice! Living in Japan and hearing Japanese all day you’ll probably have a lot of “aha” moments with kanji!
I don’t live in Japan and I think my biggest “aha” moment so far was (e)文字 :confetti_ball:


Good one. I actually left Japan after ten years and went back to the US in 2000. I stayed there for 22 years, returning to Japan only after my retirement in 2022. I remember when emoji became a thing in the US. First of all, most Americans I know pronounce it like イモジ so I thought it was a fusion of English “emotion” or “Emo” and Japanese 字 or 文字. It wasn’t until later that I found it was actually completely Japanese and was “絵文字” meaning picture letters.


For me some of the a-ha moments happened when I realized where some greetings come from, such as:
おはようございます => comes from the very polite form of 早い
こんにちは => 今日は (I think this spelling has been removed from WK due to confusion with きょうは)
こんばんは => 今晩は (same logic as the one before)
おめでとうございます => comes from the very polite form of 目出度い/めでたい

Also at first I had no idea that じゃ is basically では’s shortened form, e.g. じゃない/ではない。(maybe this is clear to most learners even at first glance, it took me quite some to time to connect the dots :sweat_smile: )


Well, I actually had such an Aha-moment on the tenth day after I started studying Japanese.

When I started, I knew nothing but こんにちは and ありがとう, so I think everything that I was able to do was a huge accomplishment for me. Well, when I was listening to a song, I suddenly heard (not in a row, just in the same song :wink:) the three words 入り口, 女の子 and 大人. When I realised that I was able to understand what these words mean, I was so happy and super motivated to study even more! (I think I did like 50 lessons that evening lmao)


It’s fun putting these pieces together, isn’t it? I thought for a long time that just being able to speak would be enough, but it isn’t. Learning the Kanji opens up a world of deeper understanding to the things you are saying.

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Wow. Starting right off with Kanji when you only know a couple of greetings must have been daunting. I came in with years worth of conversational Japanese and it’s scary. Good luck with your journey.

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Thanks :slight_smile: But I actually enjoy learning kanji, probably because I know that I am now finally learning something new in the language I’ve always wanted to learn :smiley:


Just adding a new one.

For years I have heard, gasoline-dai, denki-dai, nantoka-dai, and I knew it meant the cost or, in some cases, the money allotted to a particular expense. I am in level five right now and I learned the Kanji for daikin (代金) which is the cost or the payment for something. It uses 代, which is a substitute or replacement, and 金 which is money, so it means the money in exchange from some good or service. I was immediately struck with the revelation that the dai in denki-dai is from daikin.