Dealing with leech vocab

Hey folks:

Working on level 6, I’m dealing with my first official severe frustration with what I’ve learned are referred to as “Leeches”. Specifically, the ones I’m dealing with right now are things involving 日 and 月. Like 何日、何月、毎月、毎日, etc etc! Like I know the meanings, but is it nichi, is it jitsu? Is it getsu, is it gatsu, or is it tsuki?!

I realize there are some leech threads that have discussed this concept, but I was hoping to get some first-hand discussion going on how people have had success squashing things like this, because it’s driving me crazy! What are some strategies people have used to remember these sorts of things? Should I be looking at my apprentice vocab and just self-study and really try to drill them into my brain, or what?

Would love to hear any advice to keep me on this super fun wanikani train!


I personally use this leech training script

I used to have a lot of trouble with my leeches, but since I have been using this it’s getting much, much better. Not only does it help train your leeches, but you also get very similar vocab and kanji, in case you are confusing those. Definitely recommended.


Will try this one, thanks!

1 Like

After toying with that script a bit, I’ve realized that perhaps my definition of “Leech” is off. While that gave me insight on a few I’ve messed up in the past, the issues I’m having right now are ones that are recent and I’ve never guru’d. (because I screw them up like 50% of the time due to the aforementioned issues). I guess perhaps that’s not what you’d consider a leech, but maybe I just don’t know the lingo around here well enough yet…ha!

1 Like

Well, for 月 specifically, there are hard rules.

It’s only ever つき if it’s the word ‘moon’.

It’s only ever がつ when used to refer to the months of the year: January is いちがつ, February is にがつ, etc.

Otherwise, it’s げつ!

To give you a more general answer… You’ve already done the first step of identifying a particular ‘group’ that gives you difficulty.

I tend to search the problem kanji and look for any patterns I can utilise (and I write those patterns down in the notes section to reinforce my memory). If there’s no pattern or I need more help, I try to look for something I can use, like a mnemonic. For example, I use ninja and djinn to differentiate between the にん and じん readings of 人, and incorporate that into mnemonics for any words using that kanji.

I don’t drill them, but identifying the problem is half the battle; that’s why I try to quickly look over wrong answers after a review session to identify any actual problems. Creating some kind of crutch for yourself is the other half.


Thanks for the reply, great information! To reply to this quoted part specifically, though, what you are saying is actually what I initially thought, but in the case of this particular level I’m working on, it’s not always true! :frowning: Which is what’s causing my confusion. For example, in the case of 毎月 (every month), まいがつ is not considered correct but both まいげつ and まいつき are valid. On the other hand, for 何月 (What month), the answer is なんがつ . For 来月 and 今月, though, げつ is the correct reading. So as much as I’d like to make sense of the hard rules you are referring to, these particular situations seem to be exceptions I guess?

(Sorry, to be clear I am not at all trying to correct you, as you are clearly far more experienced than I am! Just trying to make some sense of this)

Thanks again!

1 Like

So unfortunately, I would say this is similar to looking at the word “read” and figuring out if it should be the past tense “red” or the present tense “reed”. (I know it’s not exactly the same but I think it’s close enough for you to understand what I’m getting at).

This is something that you’re just going to have to learn case by case. Tricks and general rules can be nice, but there will always be exceptions such as the ones you pointed out.

You could maybe try grouping vocab by their pronunciation to help you remember. If you have a list of vocab that use がつ, one for げつ, and one for つき (which will admittedly be quite small) perhaps those associations could help you remember them better?

Or perhaps that is just way too much work and doing that for every time something like this comes up will be a nightmare. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I hope something I said is slightly useful, good luck!

1 Like

Perhaps you could try learning those vocab words by sound, rather than by kanji. So instead of trying to “sound out” the words by their kanji’s individual readings, learn the entire word apart from the kanji. For example, I never have struggled with 毎日 because before ever learning the kanji, I already knew the word まいにち because I picked it up watching anime. So, when I see the word written, and recognize this is the word “every day” I simply just know that “every day” in japanese is まいにち.

Put another way, the problem is you are trying to piece together the reading from the kanji, but the the kanji can have different readings and so they can be easy to mix up when you learn several similarly written words at once. So instead of learning the words by their writing, learn them by their sound.

As far as げつ and がつ, these are even harder because not only is the writing the same, but even the sound is similar. I struggle with those too, but have found that with enough repetition, it just starts to either sound right or sound off. So, for those, practice them many times out loud. Make sure you practice them correctly, every time. So, don’t use your memory yet. Just make sure you hear them many times correctly, until your brain recognizes what sounds right and what doesn’t.

As @Radish8 already pointed out, mnemonics can really help. I also found that picturing ninja’s in the story helps me to distinguish にん and じん readings, which were sometimes tricky before.

Perhaps for 何月 you can remember that the なん and the がつ both have the あ sound. As far as 来月 and 今月, the principle that @Radish8 gave you is correct. They aren’t referring to a named month as in June or August; they are more general as in this coming month or this month. Hence, the げつ.

Hope that helps! The struggle is real!


Ah, my initial explanation was not quite clear, sorry. You use がつ if you are referring to a specific, named month, rather than the general concept of months / period of time. 何月 is asking about a specific, named month, hence がつ.

毎月 is not referring to a named month - you’re just saying something like “every month I go to the park”. Therefore it’s げつ. Same with the others - this month, last month, etc. In these cases, we’re talking in relatives. Does that work for you?

(for the sake of your brain / answering these reviews, I would just ignore まいつき :stuck_out_tongue: )


Thanks for the clarification, this does help!

And thanks @ZoomlionX2 & @Iyaonas as well! I like the idea of memorizing by sound, I’m going to see if I can utilize this concept. I guess one of the downsides of going to Wanikani from only minimal experience is that I don’t already know many of these vocab words.

Since I’m still early on, I’m trying to develop better habits for memorization to make my future easier, as I am trying to remain committed to being successful with this program.

Thanks for the help folks!


Sometimes the answer is, there’s nothing faster than “just keep failing them until your mind automatically guesses right from exposure.” WK will recycle your weak ones more often and eventually you’ll just stop getting them wrong, even if you can’t recognize a theme or rule.

That doesn’t work when you get a giant stack of hundreds, because you just can’t see them all fast enough. But I think WK does a good job of putting a few, but not too many of those tricky ones in each level so no extra emergency measures should be required. But it is a good reason why doing the review when they’re due, not accumulating them by procrastination, is essential.

The leech trainer script, etc. are good for the stubborn ones, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it until they’re way behind, like many levels and you still can’t get them. It’s frustrating, but don’t think of missing it on a review as “failing a test”, think of it as “marking that one for more practice.”


@ctmf thanks, that helps! Perhaps I just need to stop getting mad when I get stuff wrong, haha.

and thanks again everyone, this has been valuable info. Love hearing about people’s personal experiences. This community is too much fun!

1 Like

Learning to be okay with making mistakes can be the hardest challenges of all, especially if learning new things usually comes easy or if (like me) it’s been a while since you’ve taken on something as huge as learning a new language. Mistakes are what help us really learn, even if they are frustrating in the moment.


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.