Beginner frustration

Hi guys, newbie to WaniKani here. Apologies in advance if I’m repeating the words of others before me!

A little background: I have a decent amount of experience in language learning (French), mnemonics, and the use of SRS (Anki). I’m running into a couple of frustrations early on.

The main thing, in a nutshell, is WaniKani asking me to learn things that can easily get confused. E.g., the kanji for “enter” versus “to enter” as vocabulary (I think I’ve got that right, although I’m still somewhat fuzzy on exactly how kanji/vocabulary coexist). It’s very easy to confuse mnemonics for things like this, so in the past, I’ve tended to ensure I don’t learn similar words/concepts together; I’ll wait until I have one firmly learned, then learn the other. I don’t have this option with WaniKani, and I’m getting caught in a sea of “three” versus “three things”, or using one kanji reading for one vocab word and another for another, and so on. I found this particularly surprising given Tofugo recommends you only learn one Kanji reading at a time.

Am I missing something, or is this an unavoidable issue when using WaniKani?


I am not a big fan of using scripts, however there is one I can’t live without: The Override Script. It adds a button to your reviews so you can click on it whenever you failed a review and you don’t agree with the result. For example, if you mistype something you can use it and it’s as if you didn’t do the mistake.

You will also encounter a lot of vocabulary that you won’t necessarily need in everyday’s life(just there for practice) and the script can help you with that. There are some words that I will never use in my whole life, so whenever I struggle with them I ignore them(only a few exceptions).

I suggest you check this thread: Visual Guide on How To Install A Userscript

Bon courage, j’espère que t’es bon en français aussi. Le japonais c’est extrêmement dur!


Hey OP,

Yup, that’s what makes Japanese such a difficult language. There are both “Onyomi” (Chinese origin) and “Kunyomi” (Japanese origin) readings for each kanji, so discerning which to use can be tricky with no prior background with the language. Typically, when the kanji stands alone as a verb or noun, a kunyomi reading is used. Onyomi readings are typically used when multiple kanji combine to form compound nouns (these are called jukugo). Of course, this is not always the case but a good starting point.

There can be multiple kunyomi and onyomi readings for each kanji, so as annoying as it sounds, you really just have to learn the context to use the correct reading.

As far as your “enter” versus “to enter” example, WaniKani shows whether it is looking for a kanji reading, radical, or vocab word based on the background color. If it’s blue, it’s a radical. If it’s pink, it’s a kanji reading. If it’s purple, it is a vocab word and will be an application of the kanji readings you have learned. So “enter” would have a pink background, while “to enter” would have a purple background, and you can adjust your answer accordingly.

Hope this helps.


Thanks for the reply guys!

I’m not sure I explained my thinking well enough. Let’s take the kanji “enter” versus the vocabulary “to enter”. At the moment I have a mnemonic for each, both of which are unavoidably related to the concept of “entering”.

If it were me, say building my own deck in Anki, I would avoid learning these two concepts at the same time like the plague. I might say learn the kanji first, then come back around to the vocab once the kanji was firmly lodged in my head. That way, the likelihood of getting my mnemonics confused would be much reduced.

Using WaniKani, I can see myself ‘wasting’ a lot of time confusing mnemonics, when I don’t think it’s necessary. It seems inefficient. But I’m possibly (probably!) missing something.

Does that make sense?

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I’m a Wani/Kani beginner as well, and the one reading for one vocab and another for another one is something I’ve definitely been having issues with. However, some of the other confusion can be helped by doing more Japanese study outside Wani/Kani via textbooks, web sites, etc. For example, I know 入る is going to be “to enter” rather than just “enter” because the fact that it’s kanji+る says “verb”. Knowing the counting numbers and some item counters gives “three” (三), “three things” (三つ), and “three days” (三日) obviously different meanings, and the readings for numbers of things and days are going to be in early lessons. I think doing some lesson study can also help give a feel for the different ways kanji are used in the writing system, and let you guess when on/kun readings are going to be more likely. Good luck, and I hope things get easier!


Ah, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, once you answer a kanji reading correctly enough, it’ll start teaching you with that kanji’s applied vocab words whether you want to learn them or not.

Answering vocab words correctly does not affect kanji level progression, so you could always ignore them until you are ready and focus on the radicals and kanji readings (skip the purple slides). Not the most efficient method though :confused:

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Apologies in advance if you know any/all of the below; I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the above, so just trying to cover bases.

Kanji are the building blocks for vocabulary (in writing). At some point ages ago, Japanese as a language didn’t exactly have a writing system, so it borrowed kanji from Chinese and adapted them to fit their language.

Think of them first as symbols with meaning(s). In the simplest way they’re used, multiple kanji combine to make a word. For instance, the kanji 大 means big, and the kanji 人 means person. Put them together and you get 大人 (big person) which means adult. It doesn’t always work this way, but it’s the most intuitive way they’re used.

Sometimes individual kanji can be a word on their own, for example 一 is both a kanji and a word. It’s not exactly the same, but think of it as how in English, ‘a’ is both a letter of the alphabet and also a word on its own.

Sometimes it’s not just kanji in a word – you’ll have one or more kanji with some hiragana attached. This is generally because kanji are a Chinese construct, and Chinese grammar is quite different from Japanese. For instance, Chinese doesn’t really have verb conjugation, but Japanese does. This is why verbs in Japanese have hiragana at the end – so we can conjugate them (a concept which doesn’t really exist in Chinese).

I hope that makes sense and I apologise if I patronised you in any way. Hopefully this cleared up your confusion.

It might benefit you to do some grammar lessons or reading around the Japanese language? Just going off the example you used above, once you know what verbs are like in Japanese, it would be quite natural to learn ‘enter’ (入) and ‘to enter’ (入る) together; you wouldn’t really need a mnemonic to identify them.


… it could be learning the readings that’s the issue. In which case I would still recommend doing some reading around the language to see how and when the different readings (kunyomi and onyomi) of kanji are used. There are good guides, but as is always the case with languages, no hard rules.


Um yeahhh, I mean I see what you’re saying, but the kanji readings are just going to be abstract memorization points until you have something to hang them on. Your memory will become saturated with too many disconnected things. The vocabulary helps get you speaking actual words sooner, which helps the motivation. But most importantly, if you can’t remember the sound for A, your mind can make the connection - oh, A as in apple.

As for the verb/noun distinction in the vocabulary, I recommend you don’t use the override script in the case you describe. That’s because you don’t have the difference ironed out in your head yet. Only use the override script when you fat finger it or put a “same thing” type answer. (And beginners are least qualified to decide if it’s the same thing).


I like to say the kanji is a concept, the vocab is a word


in these cases, i highly recommend slowing down above all else – that is, spending more time on each item as opposed to just trying to get it right quickly. go slower and more deliberately in your lessons and reviews in order to try to distinguish them better in your mind.

wanikani presents a number of these sorts of difficulties early on, and i’d like to think that it does this to help you develop good study skills to prepare you for later. remember, you are going to have lots of synonyms and different readings no matter how you approach learning!

at least, for me, it helped with that. once i was able to mentally separate things out to efficiently learn them, the later parts were much easier because i already had the techniques down. as a simple example, i had trouble confusing radicals and kanji and vocab early on (i think everyone does!), but over time my brain managed to come up with “buckets” to categorize them into, and it became less of a problem, even as the kanji, radicals, and vocab became far more complex!

wanikani does quite a lot of this – it (seemingly deliberately) teaches in a way that encourages you to learn a certain mode of thinking, a mode that will make your life easier. often this mode is not something that can be fully expressed in words! so the easiest way to teach it to language learners is to help them discover it themselves as they learn. it’s important to accept that part of learning is letting yourself build these intuitions and mental pathways, intuitions that you have to build yourself because nobody can fully explain them to you.

Of course, there are still many useful cues that can be explained straightforwardly, like “verbs end in u sounds”, “if it has a hiragana it probably uses the kunyomi reading”, and so on.


Verbs always have hiragana. Problem solved? I’m a bit confused how to confuse those two since the other one has the ru-ending (which indicates it’s a verb), and the other one uses the onyomi reading.

I think this is a problem that will quickly go away when you have a basic understanding of the grammar.


This edit quote feels like you read the future :smiley: It does look a bit confusing like that.


It’s my secret superpower :wink:

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I think he means the difference in readings.
Hairu vs nyuu

you explained this quite well, nice!

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The kanjis are just blocks to learning the vocab. OP seems to have a different approach to learning than me but having the Kanji and then vocab immediately after helps me to remember the kanji meaning/reading. It’s like learning an English syllable like “ight” and then learning some words that have it (night, sight). You learn the quirky pronunciation of “ight”, but then you need to read some words that use it to cement it in your head.

Anyway, OP, it’s like this the whole way through. It does take a while to get into the groove of it and not mix up when Wanikani is asking for Kanji or reading.


I feel your pain. Lots of good advice above–hard to add to all that goodness. I’d say give it a try for a few levels and see if it starts to make more sense to you. But also, let me suggest you read the first few sections of “Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese”–at least up to the section on Kanji, for now. That has some great background on kanji as well as hiragana and katakana. It elaborates on many of the points people are bringing up here.

Also, about みっつ (three things): on no account should you jump ahead in any book on Japanese to the section on counting things. You have been warned.


Following up kanji with the related vocab reinforces the kanji, especially since the kanji process only focuses on one of potentially several readings. If you learned “enter” and then waited your preferred amount of time (weeks, months?) before learning “to enter,” you’ll have forgotten the readings for “enter.” Getting to guru in the kanji and then starting the vocab helps you remember both readings and when they are used, which will be necessary later on when you learn more vocab that, say, uses “enter” and a kanji from a later level.

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I hear you. Crosstalk between related, similar concepts can be a killer when doing SRS studies. You can see my lamenting this here. My concerns are not quite as difficult as yours, but there’s a few tips there that might be useful for you. I come to WaniKani after having done Remembering the Kanji years ago using Anki. In it, you learn what kanji mean without readings or vocab. Kanji aren’t words, they’re concepts. And they don’t always map directly to one (or several) English words. Think about English prefixes and suffixes. They’re groups of letters that clue you into a concept when building the word, but aren’t generally words themselves.

Unfortunately, the concepts represented by the Kanji also don’t map to single pronunciations. Unlike an English prefix (like, post-, for example), there isn’t just one way to say them because they’re concepts borrowed from Chinese. So the kanji readings stem from retrofitting them to Japanese words.

WK tries to separate learning the kanji with a single sample reading from learning vocabulary that use that kanji. But it’s only a few days to Guru a kanji, if you’re keeping up with your reviews and add lessons as soon as they show up. Note that the first levels are sped up so after you finish those, it isn’t as bad. And a few levels after that, you’ll be busy with reviews and won’t be adding lessons the moment they become available either, which will also help.

Good luck!

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So I just ran into a good reason NOT to split up similar ones to different times: I didn’t even realize 低 and 底 were different. It was asking me one for a while and I kept getting it right with てい, and then I must have put that for 底, been wrong, and just adapted. But now I’m RE-doing a bunch of real old ones, and suddenly I KNOW it’s そこ but that’s not right. Yep, two different kanji.

Not quite the same as readings, but same concept I think.

Guess I should have kept up the writing practice.

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