Do we learn pronunication?


I came here from tofugu. After learning Hiragana I followed the next recommended step which was to learn Kanji. I read this guide: Learn Kanji with Radicals and Mnemonics: The Definitive Guide

and I am wondering why pronunciation is no longer mentioned. Is it eventually taught? Why isn’t it taught right away?

I understand that there are different readings, but I would still like to know the pronunciation of the reading that I am learning.

Thank you.

I’m not sure I understand your question. If you’ve learned hiragana already, doesn’t that mean you’d know how to pronounce other words once learning their readings? Pronunciation of hiragana in Japanese (in general) doesn’t change based on the word like letters in English do.


Are you talking about radicals? Radicals are components of kanji and don’t have readings. From the article:

The kanji is 町, which means “town.” As you can see in the image above, 町 is made up of two radicals:

  1. 田 (rice paddy)
  2. 丁 (street)

The kanji 町 has a reading, but since 田 and 丁 are used as components of 町 here, they don’t have readings. (Technically they are also kanji, but that isn’t relevant right now.) WaniKani teaches you radicals first, then kanji, and it’ll teach you the reading with the kanji.


Pronunciation isn’t given for radicals or kanji. Once you start learning vocabulary (Level 2), it will provide audio pronunciation.


All vocab items have associated sound files for native pronunciations recorded by professional native voice actors.

So… yes, you can learn the pronunciation for any given word that is taught.

But WaniKani does not teach “pronunciation” as a broad concept in Japanese. You won’t learn any of the details of it, you’ll just be shown examples of correct pronunciation for the words that are taught.


Like others, I’m slightly confused by the question.

If you mean the “pronunciation” component of certain kanji (radicals that often signal a certain reading), no–Wanikani does not specifically identify those. However, you’ll likely pick up on patterns on your own.

If you mean pronunciation of Japanese in general … WK assumes you already have hiragana/katakana and their associated sound libraries down. After that, Japanese is a “what you see is what you get” language. The whole thing is made up of approximately fifty syllabic sounds that never vary in pronunciation. (They do vary in stress depending on the compound and dialect, so paying attention to that at high levels of speaking can help as a learner, but unlike other languages, this never affects meaning–just naturalness to the ears of a native speaker.) If you want to drill down on correct pitch-accent, there are audio files for each item.

If you need more instructions about Japanese’s sound library in general (including its handful of sounds not present in English), for that you’ll need outside resources–but you should have the gist of it down as you learn kana and before starting WK.

What WK does is teach you all major readings for each kanji, by providing them in kana. If you try out the trial levels, you can probably better let us know what aspects you’re wondering about.


Well, they do vary in some ways that prompt topics now and then (nasal g, for instance), but they don’t vary nearly as much as the relationship between spelling and pronunciation in English.


I had to peel my own fingers away from the keyboard to avoid adding that note, and also that incorrect stress sometimes can affect meaning (based on what emphasis a native speaker is expecting on words with multiple homophones).

But not in ways that become major issues.


Yeah, it’s minor compared to other things.

And things like the context-based pronunciation of は and へ rarely cause people issues.


Thank you very much for the quick replies.
I will try and rephrase the question.

Over the past 4 days I have learned about 20 radicals here on WK.

One of them was: 大

My question is: does 大 have a sound associated with it?

When I plug it into it gives me (as one example): おお- (I’m not sure what that last little dash indicates. Maybe it’s a prefix only?)

After seeing that on, I assume it has a sound. Something like “Oo”.

So long story short, will we learn on WK how to pronounce 大?

Will we learn how to pronounce non radicals?

When I see 漢 will I learn how to pronounce that or just know that it means “traintrack” (I know this isn’t correct, I just copied and pasted a random character.)

Thank you again for the replies. I hope this was more clear. I am enjoying this learning process.

-a total noob


Once you get to learning kanji (these would be the pink items), they will introduce both meaning and a reading/pronunciation. Then when you get to vocab that use these kanji, there will be sound files for each reading of the vocabulary.

In the example you provided, 大 is indeed a kanji itself (a level 1 kanji, so you should be learning it as well as some of its associated vocabulary soon), and has a couple possible readings associated with it (you will learn these with the vocab terms). おお would be the kunyomi reading (don’t remember what this is?) for 大, and the little dash in おお- would indicate would indicate that the kanji is used as a prefix , or part of some okurigana vocab such as (おお)きい (big, adjective).


It seems like you might be a little confused about the difference between a radical and a kanji.

Radials are components that make up kanji. 大 is one of them. It is a component in several kanji, including 大, 犬, 太, etc. Radicals do not have pronunciations. Wanikani uses radicals as building blocks to make it easier to learn kanji.

Kanji, however, do have pronunciations. For example the kanji 大 has several, depending on the word it appears in. You’ll start to learn them when you unlock kanji and vocab lessons.


Isn’t a radical technically Kanji?
But I do definitely know what a radical is, I see the example all of the time about how radicals are like letters and combining them forms a word.

However, thank you very much, my question has been answered.

I now have a new question though, why aren’t the pronunciations for radicals taught? Or do they really have no pronunciation with them because maybe they just aren’t used by themselves really?

I find this really interesting, thank you again.

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Some radicals are also kanjis, but other aren’t. Radicals do not have pronunciation. They however do have names, but most of Wanikani’s radical are, either renamed to make it fit better or are invented. I think there a thread to see the differences between Wanikani’s radical names and the official ones


Yes, radicals don’t really have pronunciations because they are not really full kanji, just building blocks.

Some radicals can make kanji when used by themselves. 大 is one of these. But this isn’t always the case - for example, the radical for drop is never found on its own.

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Radical: A single part of a kanji and has no pronunciation and does not effect the meaning of the kanji

Kanji: A symbol used as part of a word. One kanji can be pronounced multiple different ways and
contains one or more radicals. The kanji more often than not affects the meaning of the word.

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You answered your own question. Radicals are usually not used by themselves. You are getting confused because of the specific Big 大 radical which is also used in the Big 大 Kanji

Take a look at this Kanji: 倒 (Overthrow)

Its composed of these radicals: イ Leader + 至 Mole (which itself is composed by trash + dirt) +刂 Knife.

You already know hiragana so this should make sense:

Only by combining them you get the actual Kanji Overthrow , the pronunciation would be: とう (tou) in On’yomi and たお (tao) in Kun’yomi

You are also not going to use this Kanji by itself, it needs to be part of a vocabulary, for example: “To Knock Over” = 倒す (taosu)

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Very interesting. This is more clear to me now. Thank you to everyone for the help, I appreciate it!


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