Confused about readings

Hello, just want to say I started WaniKani about a week ago and am loving it. But I’m having some confusion now that I’m on the reading part of things.

I always lookup the hiragana too try and hear a native speaker pronounce the kanji reading I’m learning, but I always hit a strange snag when looking up the kani and see a inconsistency between WK and google results.

I will use 上 as an example.
This video below says how to pronounce “Above” in Japanese, but it’s nothing like じょう, the video says “うえ”

Or even these pages for translation do not have the WK reading:

This seems to happen more often than not, and I just wonder if I’m missing something about the language that is confusing me here?

One more question I have is regarding the readings. When I first learned 人, it was にん, but now that I’m the actual kanji readings, it is ひと. Is this an On’yomi And Kun’yomi thing? And if so, how do I know when to use one or the other when speaking?

Thank you.

Thank you in advance.


There are like 3 ways to read most kanji.

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Typically kanji has two types of readings, chinese one and japanese one. While 上 うえ is one reading, another is じょう

The first one is kunyomi, the second onyomi. The second kind is typically used when using kanji together to form a new word.

Just read up on onyomi and kunyomi, is probably the easiest way.


Thank you for your explanation, I will do more search into onyomi and kunyomi.


This article from Tofugu (the company that made WaniKani) will hopefully clear up your confusion.


We have a quick explanation of it here: On’yomi and Kun’yomi Readings | WaniKani Knowledge

And a longer version here: Onyomi vs. Kunyomi: What's the Difference?

The short answer, as many have said, is that you typically learn the on’yomi first with WaniKani. Learning the kun’yomi tends to come later with vocabulary, as it does with 上: WaniKani / Vocabulary / 上


First, it’s important to remember the difference between kanji, which are not words, and vocabulary, which are words.

As others have said, most Kanji have at least* 2 readings: on’yomi and kun’yomi. Wani Kani teaches you the reading you will encounter most often, first. This is often an* on’yomi reading, which is the way the kanji will most often be read in jukugo. Jukugo are words created by combining several kanji into one word. You can think of jukugo like compound words.

Some words have only one Kanji. When you look up a Kanji, you are usually actually looking up the vocabulary word that uses only that one Kanji. Kanji usually use a* kun’yomi in these words.

上 is a kanji that generally means “up” or “above.”
It has over a dozen different pronunciations:

上 is the word “up”. It is pronounced うえ。

*Some kanji have a dozen or so readings. A kanji can have up to 3 different on’yomi readings, and sometimes several kun’ yomi readings, as well.


I just wanted to say that, while this might sound confusing, this is one of the things that WaniKani helps to simplify. Like others have said, WK teaches you the most common reading first, so that you don’t have to worry about all of the different readings at once. If there are other readings, then you will learn them later in context with vocab. So try not to worry too much about the different readings for now, just know that they exist. And if you want to look up pronunciation, you can look it up for the vocab instead of individual kanji.

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This isn’t helpful for your question, I just want to sympathise. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks and have discovered I’m best doing it in private because, apart from wanting to read the words out loud, I also feel the need to swear every time I realise something is pronounced differently - after I’ve managed to learn the on’yomi and kun’yomi readings, it then changes depending on where it’s positioned, or changes just (as far as I can make out) for no apparent reason. It does help that WaniKani divides things into pink, blue and purple sections, as I’m just trying to memorise things by rote at the moment - I’ve given up looking for logic :). Good luck, though, it is still IMHO fun

Hi Aspect. Tagging on to most of the comments already written, WaniKani will eventually teach you the うえ reading when they teach you how to say ”above” as a vocab word later in lesson 1. You will get used to this pattern as you get deeper into lessons.

You learn in this order:
First: Radicals (blue) - English word to associate with radicals and remember Kanji.
Second: Kanji (pink) - usually the onyomi reading is taught, and will be how you say the word in a Jukugo word. Thats what じょう is in the case of the 上 kanji.
Third: Vocab (purple) - Teaching you how to use that kanji in various vocab uses. When you see the above Kanji alone or with other hiragana characters, it will read as one its kunyomi readings, one of which is うえ.

Wanikani will explain if its a onyomi or kunyomi reading in the description section of the vocab word. Hope that helps!


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