Already having trouble at level one

I just started learning Japanese (I only know hiragana and katakana) and decided to use Wanikani for kanji studies. I was doing fine until now but I got to the vocabulary portion of the level which I found extremely hard. I fail to remember the correct reading for each word. How can I memorize what to use in what situation?


Might help if you are a bit more familiar with the language before you start leaning kanji. I would suggest you do some grammar first, so you have some context for the kanji


What Kumirei said would probably help a lot, but you could also make your own mnemonics for vocabulary using the kanji you learned


Don’t worry. This will sink in with time. Let the SRS do its work.

The idea is you will be asked to review items you have trouble with more often. If you see them often you will eventually remember them. Once you get acquainted to them you will see them less and less often to test your long term memory.

More information:


Also, vocabulary gets relatively easier over time. The level-1 vocabulary has a lot of kun’yomi (native Japanese) readings, so the readings for the vocab don’t have much to do with the readings for the constituent kanji (WK usually teaches on’yomi, imported Chinese readings, with these).

From about level 3 onwards, more and more of the vocabs are going to be jukugo, so the readings are just the kanji’s on’yomi readings stringed together. Once you internalize how this system works, vocab lessons become easier. (At least in my experience.)


I fourth what the others have said as well. Learning a little grammar would help, focusing more on mnemonics, as well as things getting easier over time. To reiterate that last point a little bit, one thing that’s important to understand during the early levels is that while you’re learning kanji and vocab, you’re also learning HOW to learn kanji and vocab.

I’m assuming you aren’t coming from a Chinese background and that kanji characters are entirely foreign to you. With that said, it truly will get easier the more time you spend because you’ll start to get an intuition for the characters. Once you get used to the mere process of learning kanji, the actual learning part becomes much smoother.

It sounds like your serious about your studies and are motivated to learn, which is all you need to drive you forward. Remember that consistency is king. Slow and steady wins the race, as I like to say.

We’re happy to have you on the forums so I hope you’ll stick around! Best of luck in your studies, cheers!


I’ve always struggled remembering vocab (I assume that’s what you’re struggling with).

The only way through it, for me, was to realise that it’s ok to get it wrong. Over time I will learn the word, and I will get used to how it’s pronounced without needing a mnemonic.


For as long as I’ve done this, I’ve felt that I had less trouble retaining vocabulary than new kanji - though I’ve recently started looking up whatever I’ve put on the plate in the morning halfway before the vocab round at noon, so my data’s kinda limited on that.

Unless rendaku rears its ugly head. Can’t wait for my burn review to come up next week and for me to start dropping the ball because I couldn’t quite recall whether it’s da/ta or hi/bi or whathaveyou.

1 Like

You’re probably being thrown by the distinction between Onyomi and Kunyomi. It helped me a lot to get some historical context behind just why most kanji have two different readings. The article that really helped me put it together is here: Onyomi and Kunyomi in Kanji: What’s the Difference?

There’s a system to it – like how する verbs almost always take the Onyomi reading – but you need to absorb more to be able to appreciate the system. That simply takes time.

Also remember that failing a review is part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss an answer. You’re supposed to miss them, especially when you are first learning them. When you fail, take the time to notice when you fail, and try to get it the next time. It will come eventually. Promise.

The only way you fail this process is if you don’t show up and do your reviews every day.

1 Like

There’s an argument for learning kanji before you tackle grammar: namely, that it makes reading easier and opens up the underlying meanings of vocabulary in ways that simple memorization could never do.

I’m not saying it’s better to do it this way – just that it’s a chicken-and-egg problem that doesn’t really have one clear unambiguous solution.


I came to WK maybe 10 days after starting to learn Japanese, with pretty much just hiragana, katakana and a few useless days with a textbook. I found I could memorise the names of the radicals without any effort, the meanings of the kanji with only a bit of effort, but the readings…

I spent levels 1-3 struggling to remember the sounds of each Kanji, was it し う ゆ, or し う ゆ, etc. Then levels 4-6 trying to remember if this kanji was しゅう or しょう, and now whether in this word it’s じょう or ば.

IIRC, the vocab on level one has quite a lot of difficult readings in it ひとり, ふたつ, ください, and so on, which makes it quite tricky to start with.

Anyway, for me, concentrating on the mnemonics is key, about 75% provided & 25% where I have a more effective personalized one (my Aunt Sue makes an excellent end of level boss). You get better at remembering them over time, you start to shortcut them - Bird, oh it’s Mrs Chou again - and then you just remember the reading.

It’s still hard work, I still have to spend proper time learning each new kanji + reading, and there are still days when I get 30% of the reviews wrong, and nothing new I learned that morning seems to have stuck, and my wall of shame has 出 on it from level two.


This might sound dumb but I found vocab not as difficult because I have already spent years watching anime. Because of this I had some basic vocab built up passively in my mind. I don’t need to remember the correct reading because I’ve heard it spoken out before from say like an anime. I think it might be helpful for you to immerse yourself in some Japanese media like movies, anime, games, etc. Don’t think of it as memorizing readings, think of it as learning a new word.


Something to try to unconsciously register:

Pink is the Kanji meaning, Purple is Vocab

I know, maybe not all that helpful but if you focus on the reading for the vocab, try to keep it compartmentalized if you can.

When it comes to remembering them, read the mnemonic. Every time you get it wrong, read it. I find this works for me on some of my leeches (those things that just never seem to stick no matter how many times you see them). There are still some that just don’t stick and so I end up focusing on those when I have down time and between review sessions for the items.

Another option is, write it down. On the really stubborn words I’ve met, I have found this to help. Since WK doesn’t give stroke order you may not get that right and it may not look right, but the process of actually writing it down should push your brain by telling it, “yes, this REALLY IS important.”

Either way, don’t give up. You stepped up the first step which takes courage and while the course to the top may feel a million miles ahead, you are going to get there if you stick to this.

And of course, it is also possible WaniKani just won’t work for your learning method in which case hopefully there will be a tool that does work for you. I think WK should work for most people but I accept there are some that it may just not stick for.

If you become demotivated or need more advice though, stop back here. Everyone has been super helpful in the 6 months I’ve been around!


I also didn’t have a background in Japanese language when I started. I began WaniKani about 2 days after I started learning hiragana.

I support what some have said before me - let yourself make mistakes. The more WK throws these words at you the more you get familiar with them. The good thing about vocab in WK is it doesn’t affect when you level up, so you can take as much time on it and as many repeats as you need for it to sink in.

Things I’ve done that are, personally, helpful:

  • During lessons, I play the audio of the reading repeatedly. If I get it wrong on the review, I play it again (available if you expand “More Info” after getting it wrong). Overtime, when I look at the vocab and try to guess what the reading is, something in my head will tell me that nope, that doesn’t sound right. The audio/reading is stored somewhere in my subconscious and all I need to do is recall. This is especially true for “special” unique readings.

  • I didn’t/don’t really pay attention if on’yomi or kun’yomi is being used. I remember the vocabulary as is. All these rules will have exemptions anyway and it would drive me crazy to remember each one. Down the line you’ll be able to get a grasp of the system and you’ll be able to guess some.

  • This might not be applicable now if you’re on level 1, but keep a cap on your Apprentice items. More apprentice = more words you’ve not gotten right enough times yet. If a particular set of items are hard for me I pause on doing new lessons until I get them a couple of times right in a row.

Keep at it! Good luck :slight_smile:


Yeah, in the beginning everything just sounds like a random collection of syllables. But the more vocab you see, the more you get a feel for the sounds and learning new vocab becomes easier!
In your quest for a new language, you’ll encounter many hurdles, some small, some bigger. But know that you can take all of them if you just keep at it!


yeah its been the same for me. A lot of the time wanikani will introduce me to a new word and im just thinking “hold up ive definitely heard this before” and then a little later i realize i did from anime and from then on it sticks a lot easier

A lot of people have already given a lot of good advice, so I’m just going to throw in some words of encouragement. :slight_smile:

I can relate. I started September 27th and part way through Level 2, I got frustrated, felt lost, and reset to level 1 on October 6th. I’m doing far better now, and learning is smoother three weeks after that reset. (About to be level 4.) Stick with it and I know you’ll go far. A very friendly @KyokaJiro shared a quote with me the other day:

But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

Remember one thing: Wanikani is “gamified learning” but that doesn’t mean you’re competing to be the best/quickest/most accurate/etc. The gamified part makes your habit building far easier in my opinion, but everyone is going to have their own pace.

jprspereira’s Ultimate Guide is jam packed with a ton of useful information, and should you choose to venture down the very deep rabbit hole of userscripts, the Self-Study Quiz lets you study without affecting your SRS timings. If you add the additional filters script that is on the same page, you can do leech training, which targets the items you keep getting wrong.

Best of luck, and remember that we’re always here to help! :slight_smile:


I agree with this. I don’t think there’s any one way to go about this, so do what you feel is most comfortable. I’m studying the Genki Japanese grammar book, and I’ve been glossing over the lessons trying to get a basic idea of sentence structure and whatnot. I haven’t been able to reinforce my knowledge through the examples and exercises since I don’t know enough kanji, but I plan on going through the book again in the future, properly at that time, using my (hopefully sufficient) kanji knowledge.

this is another good point, especially about the “special” readings, I’ve found that I’m able to figure out most of the time whether I have the correct reading or not, simply by pronouncing it myself. Although I don’t always get it right, I often at least recognise that I have the wrong reading. This just comes with practice and experience, once you begin to get a proper “feel” of the language

Vocabulary is always the hardest. Someone earlier told you it would probably help if you were more familiar with the language before beginning with WaniKani. Yes, that’s true. However, it also sort of defeats the purpose of WaniKani. The purpose of the vocabulary section isn’t to teach you vocabulary (although that’s a nice bonus), the purpose is to familiarise you with the alternative readings of the kanji. So honestly, there’s no getting around it. It’s supposed to be difficult.

My take on it:

  1. As you go on, you will begin to notice rules for readings that often apply. This will help tremendously.
  2. The SRS really works. Stick with it, and try and keep doing your reviews regularly. You’ll find yourself eventually instinctively being drawn to a particular reading when you try and recall.
  3. Assuming you’re learning Japanese as a hobby or for personal growth rather than with a particular end goal that requires you to learn at pace, then don’t worry! Take your time! It’s a lifelong journey and there is no exam creeping up on you. Don’t overload yourself.
  4. Really try and make your brain absorb the mnemonics. And if the mnemonics that are provided don’t work for you, make your own up. And when you’re learning them try and engage your senses - hearing, smelling, touching, etc. It will absolutely help you store the readings.

An extra 5) My advice is that you need to find another resource to learn grammar whilst you use WaniKani to learn the kanji. There’s no getting around it. You need the grammar if you want to read even the most basic of texts. And if you’re able to read basic texts and you’re able to experience the fruits of your labour (although that will be a while off still) it makes it all feel much more worthwhile.