Beginner frustration

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.


I agree, definitely don’t think WK order or method is anything other than perfect (Maybe a bit exaggerated, but still).

Sounds to me like they would prefer going for RTK? learning just to recognize kanji and a basic meaning, which is fine, and widely used.
But personally, that method sounds more like a complemment to going to class or maybe if for some reason you can’t use WK, if WK is an option, I’d definitely recommend learning all at once

If you are familiar with Anki, and memorization techniques the approach you are suggesting may work for you in terms of learning kanji and vocabulary faster but not necessarily better. But hey everybody is different and what may not work for me may work for you. I know someone who memorized over 1000 kanjis quickly but he is not able to speak and his reading is more guessing in English than anything else. He still needs to work on grammar and understanding the language. I prefer WK’s approach as it feels much closer to the natural progression you go through when immersing yourself into the Japanese language and the logic of the language which is important. It may not be the fastest way to learn Kanji but it does a good job in taking you there and you’ll end up learning each kanji in depth in terms of their uses and readings. Kanji is not as simple as 1 kanji - 1 concept. In my opinion learning Kanji = learning the vocab associated with that Kanji. Still, only 2 years to learn most of the kanjis and related vocab is quite fast. That’s way above the average speed for foreigners living in Japan.

I agree with most of the suggestions given to you in the threads, particularly the ones related to Japanese grammar. Kanji reading is just one aspect of learning Japanese and I find it important to get a sense of how the language works, particularly at the beginning. The Enter example is a perfect, basic example of how knowing grammar can help you understand the logic and make mnemonics irrelevant.

I speak Spanish, English and French and I have to say that I have found Japanese to be a different beast altogether so be careful extrapolating from western languages to Japanese. The problem is that you’ll probably only understand what I mean once you get into the language.

So, to recap, your suggestion may work for you as I know it has worked for others but keep in mind that you really don’t know yet what you are getting into and thus I would keep an open mind about the best way to go about it.


The pink kanji characters are what it means in a vacuum. It is not an actual word. It is teaching you the meaning of the symbol.

The purple tinted kanji is when the kanji is a vocabulary word.

Thanks again everyone for your comments. I’m going to keep plugging away at WaniKani and wait for the fog to clear :wink:

1 Like

The method you mention sounds a lot like Remembering The Kanji (RTK), and a lot of people do like that approach. You only learn to recognize the kanji using an English concept, and the most diligent people can learn to distinguish the whole joyo kanji set in a few months. The biggest benefit I’ve seen with this is that you quickly feel familiar with the kanji and have distinct names for each, like learning 2000 faces. Now when you go to look at native Japanese text, it feels familiar, you are able to parse words and even glean some of the meaning. This is a big deal towards getting comprehensible input into your studies. There’s a concept of n+1 in language learning where it’s easy to learn just one more thing on top of what you’ve already learned. Learning a Kanji’s meaning, readings, and vocabulary all at once can be difficult because now you’ve got 5 different elements you’re juggling. If you learned all the kanji concepts in one go with RTK, then learning kanji vocab later will feel a lot easier because it’s just one more thing.

The big drawback I see with this method is that you spend a LOT of time studying up front without getting to the Japanese. It takes a certain kind of person to have the dedication to do this. To do RTK in three months, you need to be learning more than 20 kanji every single day. This is about as fast as I’ve ever seen someone do it online, and at the end you are just at the start of your journey into vocab. Many people won’t go that fast, and spend six months or more. It can feel dry, unrewarding, and a lot of people lose the discipline to finish.

Wanikani’s approach gamifies learning with the levels and vocab so that you feel like you’re frequently hitting milestones. It kind of does the n+1 thing because you spend a couple days learning a radical concept, then a couple days only doing a kanji meaning and a general reading, then a couple days with vocab. The vocab reinforces the meaning and reading you learned with the kanji, which reinforces the radicals, you’ll be spending a couple weeks frequently looking at the same kanjis. I usually have started to forget the mnemonics by this point in the exposure. You’ll cover 80% of kanji used online by level 22. 80% of fiction books by level 30. So in 6 months of doing Wanikani at max speed of a level a week, you’re understanding the majority of what you come across, pronouncing standalone words, and able to accurately guess a lot of compound words. For a lot of people, it feels more fulling to approach the language this way.

I won’t say either method is bad, they are both effective and the ultimate goal is to be able to start reading native text. I’ve thought about going through RTK after WK, just to help solidify the differences between visually similar kanji. But I’m doing my best just to keep up with the WK lessons right now. Either way, the best study is the study you actually do.


I’d argue the method you describe is the main way people learn Japanese, rather than an alternative. Why? Because it’s how Japanese children learn Japanese, after all. First they learn to speak and understand the language, only adding kana and then kanji as they go. And like all children, they learn some kanji and their readings through osmosis in a world filled with kanji. Classroom study fills in the gaps that exposure didn’t cover.

Ok, so that’s an extreme version of your method. Your method is more similar to what I did, which is do RTK before WK, learning just the concepts. I didn’t do pure RTK, though. I was learning grammar and select vocabulary at the same time. So very similar to what you describe. Whenever I hit a kanji I already knew from vocab in RTK or vice versa, it was a hugely satisfying feeling of the gears locking into place in my head.

But I think the most important thing for you to do is to do some basic grammar study to understand how the language works. Once you understand how the language conjugates, what particles are and how kana are used in written Japanese, you won’t have as many issues with the overlaps you’re facing now. You will see how the language works.

There are some big benefits to WK’s approach, IMO. First, by quickly taking the kanji you’ve learned and applying them to vocab, you have a reason to learn and retain those concepts. And knowledge which is useful gets remembered better. Second, vocabulary practice feeds back into the kanji, helping refine your understanding of the concept it covers. Since there isn’t a 1-to-1 mapping to English words for the kanji concepts, learning them just through English words is a pretty imprecise method of understanding their meaning. Learning them in natural Japanese contexts helps refine your understanding.

Of course, there will still be problems. There always is with Japanese. I’d personally prefer doing away with readings for the kanji entirely. Learn readings only in the context of vocabulary. That would keep the purity of the kanji conceptual abstraction, since only in context do they have readings. But I can see why WK does it the way they do. So :shrug:

1 Like

And it takes 10-20 years. Let’s not forget that part of the “learn like a baby” theory. I mean sure, that works; it’s probably the most effective method. But most adults want to do it faster than that, hence efficiency methods like SRS.