Beginner frustration

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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It goes both ways though. For example, some people might easily get 階段 and 段階 or 会社 and 社会 mixed up. But since I already knew 階段 and 会社 really well I never had any problem learning and remembering 段階 and 社会 in WaniKani.

I think it might actually be better to learn one thing really well on its own first and then learn the second thing later while focusing on the differences with the first. That might help avoid the situation you described, which I’ve also had problems with.


I get your struggle. My mind totally blew up in levels 2 and 3, and let us not talk about level 4. It is important to remember the mnemonics well until you either memorize the kanji or vocab, or until you cab at least recall it pretty well after some moments. The key to not mixing things up is that, after all.
And always remember that you don’t necessarily have to wait for the reviews to show up. You can always go over whatever you’ve just learned and sort your ideas out. I’ve recently discovered this by myself… and now I almost never mess up my reviews. This allows me to complete levels on a average of 7 days.
Of course, if you deem yourself unable to go faster, slow down to your liking. You can always do your lessons in halves, or the like.
Keep up!

But wouldn’t that imply the person could not read hiragana?

I’m so sorry I’m just trying to smite this god damn beginner list thingo please don’t yell at me


The check list will go away when you reach level 2! Still, everything on there ia really useful stuff, so it is not any time wasted. Welcome to the community!


Are you studying Japanese alongside doing WK? Although I’m L3, I’ve been a user of WK for long time and had to reset when I left my reviews idle for too long.

I’ve been studying Japanese formally for a year now, and coming back to WK with knowledge of simple grammar and vocabulary makes WK make much more sense to me, and so I can distinguish between vocab in WK a lot easier.

E.g: 分ける and 分かる.

I know わかります means to understand, with 分 reading as わ, so 分かる means to understand, which must mean 分ける must mean to separate. (I know this is not directly the same as your enter/to enter example)

A tip that might also help you distinguish is to be active in recognising what they’re asking for.

E.g.: The slide is pink, so this is for the kanji only, which means they’re (generally) asking for the on’yomi reading.

All verbs end in a う sound, so that means they’re asking for the kun’yomi reading.

Make sure you definitely understand the difference between on’yomi and kun’yomi reading, because for the longest time, I didn’t get it, but when I finally read up on it, it clicked I could make better sense of what WK was asking


Wow – thank you everyone for your responses. I’m blown away by the depth of support!

I get the feeling you guys welcome (or at least benevolently tolerate) alternative thinking, so here goes…

In saying the below I’m going to assume that we can all agree that kanji readings are abstract until applied. In other words, knowing the three most common readings for 大 doesn’t actually achieve anything until you start learning associated vocabulary. And learning said readings at the same time, in the abstract and using mnemonics, can be something of a nightmare (especially when you run into issues I’ve been having in terms of mnemonics overlapping with one another).

So, what if you learned kanji and vocabulary independently of each other in a process that encourages readings to be learned implicitly and only when needed?

Let’s say you work on learning the most popular kanji meanings (i.e., not readings), using associated radicals and mnemonics as necessary. You also start learning the most common words – by which I mean you recall the English meaning from the Japanese hiragana (not the kanji) or vice versa, depending upon personal preference. So, you’re learning to read kanji symbols, and to speak (or understand spoken) vocabulary, but you are not directly learning to read the meaning of vocabulary written using kanji (i.e., without furigana). In other words, you’re not thinking consciously about kanji readings.

I believe that by doing the above, in time you might implicitly learn the readings for many kanji without explicitly learning them. For example, if you knew that “big” in Japanese was たい, and “great” was たいした, you’d probably be able to guess that the ‘kanji vocab’ 大した meant “great” without having to actually learn the reading, per se. And if there were any gaps, you could fill them in as necessary (i.e., if you spotted a kanji vocab word that you didn’t recognise but ‘should’, on the basis that you know the kanji within and the vocab word itself).

I know one argument against the above will be that you don’t get the ‘help’ from learning similar concepts at the same time, but I personally consider that a double-edged sword, in terms of mnemonics getting mixed up. I also believe that your ability to learn any given concept should ideally stand up in isolation, without needing ‘help’ from other associated concepts. Finally, this approach would cut out the ‘arbitrary’ learning of readings, only requiring you to directly learn them when it’s proven you haven’t absorbed them indirectly through your studies.

I hope that makes sense!


Not sure whether I understand what you mean exactly, so I’ll try to recap.

Your suggestion is to learn kanji as concepts first and foremost (like the radicals, meaning only). At the same time you learn vocabulary by reading only, or with furigana attached. And over time you will come to naturally associate readings with kanji?

If my understanding was wrong I guess you can disregard the following points:

Most textbooks seem to be using this approach. Always using furigana in the books, writing words in kana, even if the kanji might often be used in text elsewhere (or even teaching from romaji, so you don’t see any kanji at all). Of course, their primary aim is to teach grammar and vocab, mostly aimed towards conversation. Not kanji in isolation.

Kanji and English do not map 1-to-1. Also the meaning of a vocab might not be the sum of its component kanji. 寿司 is an example. longevity+director=sushi?

Lastly, if you want to read books or emails, the news, or twitter even, often there will be little to no furigana to go off of. Using WK method you learn to read 2000+ of common kanji very quickly. Learning that 大 is often pronounced as だい will allow you to quickly recognize a word you previously learned by sound, or be able to pronounce a new word. Or the other way around, somebody says a word and quickly being able to associate an on’yomi compound with certain kanji will help a lot, too.


When I started trying to wrap my head around Kanji I was thinking along your ideas. But soon I realized why this isn’t the way to go. As impossible as it might seem in the beginning, reading (and studying) with Kanji and their readings is much more easier than plain Hiragana.
Now that I know some Kanji and start to read Japanese manga and books, I’m often confused which word is used when it is presented only in Hirgana.

For example: there was a book club where we read a childrens book (Kitty detectives) and many words were written in Hiragana only. Sometimes I had a hard time deciding which word this could be because “kou” (for example) is the reading of so many Kanji. If they had printed the Kanji (with Furigana) instead of Hirgana only, I would immediatly know which word to look up if I didn’t know it.
Sometimes I didn’t even recognize words that I already know because it wasn’t showing the Kanji but Hiragana (reading) and only after looking it up, I knew what was written there.

Does that make sense? :sweat_smile:

You just have to push through the first levels and try to understand the concept of Kanji. It definitely will make more sense later.


Your understanding is spot-on :slight_smile:

I appreciate that the initial method I’m advocating means that you sometimes (often probably) won’t be able to read kanji vocab that you would know if you heard it. My thinking would be to fill in the gaps when necessary (and only when necessary), by learning kanji vocab as needed when those situations arise (i.e., when you know how a word is said but not how it is presented in kanji form).

Regarding your specific vocab example of 寿司 and as a corollary to the above, you’re right that there’d be no way of knowing what that means even if you knew how it was said, as there is no ‘hint’ in the form of appended kana). I would however consider learning something like that a natural extension of learning the kanji (i.e., I’d treat it like another item of kanji to learn).

To recap, rather than learning everything at once, I’m suggesting doing the following concurrently:

  1. Learn the common kanji meanings
  2. Learn to recall or recognise spoken vocabulary

And then carry out the following as necessary (i.e., when you encounter kanji vocab relating to a word you already understand when spoken but do not understand as written):

  1. Learn kanji readings within the context of specific words

I don’t recall whether you have started grammar learning yet, but it might be helpful to you to start that sooner rather than later. When learning grammar you’ll mostly learn vocab through point 2 you made. Maybe not necessarily spoken, but you can ignore the kanji and just learn the words without paying attention to knowing how the kanji work together to get to the meaning. Then you just use them a lot and learn to recognize them on sound/reading.

Treat learning kanji as a kind of separate thing. For example, you’ll probably learn いす as chair early on in studying grammar, but you’ll only get the relevant kanji 椅 until level 46, while you learn 子 very early on. You don’t need to learn every kanji for every word you come across right away. I think most learners use both methods if they’re using WK, or else you’d be skipping a lot of basic vocab, just because the kanji is complicated.


Also, doesn’t WK mostly do this? they give you one (or sometimes 2) readings for a kanji, and then a bunch more in the context of vocab.


I gotta take WK’s side on this one. The system enforces this strictly because it’s important to the language itself.

入 isn’t a word by itself, but it represents the idea of “enter”. When you see this sign on a door, you know it’s the entry door, not because there is a word on the door but because the kanji on the door represents the idea of “entry”. Similar to how a picture of a man on a door lets you know the door is to the men’s restroom, even though the word “Men’s” isn’t written on the door.

入る, however, is a word. It’s a verb. In English, we say “to enter”.

So, to me, the inclusion of the word “to” in your answer when you’re shown the flashcard “入る” is important to understanding the language. And it’s just as important not to include the word “to” when you see the flashcard “入”.

Of course, further complicated by words like “入れる” but I won’t go there.