Handy tip on how to discern long and short vowels

Hey together. I’ve been using WK for quite some time now. And I usually come up with my own mnemonics as they tend to work better for me. I noticed that lots of people have problems with discerning long and short vowels, and since this was never really a problem for me due to the way that I’m constructing my mnemonics, I thought I’d share my trick in case it helps someone.

The trick I’m using is visualization. In order to discern しゅ from しゅう, for example, I imagine a very tiny shoe vs. an incredibly oversized shoe. Exaggerating helps a lot. Examples from Lvl 10:
集 - しゅう: I’m literally running up trees to chase all the turkeys that have escaped. I need to catch 'em all, collect them all and bring them back. Afterwards, I’m shoving all the turkeys I collected into a huge shoe. It’s so huge that I can shove in as many as I want and it never gets full.
習 - しゅう: White feathers are all over my textbooks, between every single page, and prevent me from learning properly. I pack them all into a huge shoe I keep for storing feathers. Now they are stored away neatly, although probably twice as much could fit into it.
終 - しゅう: A single thread lays in the winterly snow, lacking any strength to move forward. This is the end, it’s reached the end of its lifespan. The thread sighs, realizing its misery, when suddenly it is brutally smashed by a giant shoe, finishing it off for real.
酒 - しゅ: You want to get really drunk tonight. The tsunami of alcohol rushing toward you to seems to be a gift sent from heaven. You realize that you want to take as much as you can, but the only thing you have with you is a tiny shoe. The wave crashes over your head and everything is flooded with alcohol. Now you’re standing there, waist-deep in alcohol, trying to save as much as you can by scooping it with your tiny shoe. Doesn’t work too well.

Now if I know that a kanji is read しゅう or しゅ and I want to remember which version it is, I’ll just have to recall if the object I used to remember the reading was tiny or huge. Since it’s so visual, it tends to stick with your memory really well. You can of course apply this to all of WK’s own mnemonics as well.

Hope it helps you!


Well… in this example I just use the mnemonics teached by Wanikani:

  • List item しゅう:shoe
  • List item しゅ:shute

It seems we are both close to the same level, it works for me to remember the key word teached by the system and creating my own story with it.

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That’s of course one way of doing it, but some of WK’s mnemonics just really don’t stick with me (chute is one of them, and the fact that it’s written like ちゅ doesn’t make it better …)
I think that’s mostly a problem for non-native English speakers, since chute is just that kind of word that you come across so rarely that chances are you’ve never even heard of it before starting WK (Project Gutenberg lists it as #19130 in terms of frequency … which is pretty pretty rare). I’ve encountered this problem with several words taught by WK. Another Example is じょう / じょ: I just can’t get “Jourm” and “Jo-Anne” mnemonics to stick with me (I find it hard to visualize names), so I always have to come up with my own. Which is why I use “journal” for both and discern them by the (visual) size of the journal: tiny or huge.

Do you say じょurnal?

Haha, bad example on my part, sorry :grin:. As I said, I’m no native speaker, so I used to pronounce it /ˈdʒɔːnl/ instead of /ˈdʒɜːnl/ in the past. Still, I find it way easier to visualize than mere names, and since I already mapped it to じょ(う) in my head, the actual pronunciation poses no real problem (the way it is written works well enough for me: Journal ↔ じょ(う) = jou).

Edit: I noticed WaniKani does this a lot as well, e.g. “gun” is used to remember ぐん, “bun” to remember ぶん, “dawn” to remember だん, etc.

I have problems with the spellings like しゅ vs しゅう, I associate my mnemonics with something that requires a pair.
終(しゅう) has two U’s because you wear two pairs of shoes.
習(しゅう)has two U’s because you are wearing feathers on both of your shoes.
住所(じゅうしょ)It’s two U’s because people want to live with a significant other in their dream house (so two people at the address)

I associate 所/しょ with TV “show” (specially Cheers because it’s the place “where everybody knows your name”).
Anything that’s read as しょう is a “circus show” because it’s more grand/over-the-top and requires an extra vowel (imagine a ringleader yelling out “Welcome to the SHOWWWW!”)


Haha, I love this! :grin:

Btw, discerning and remembering long and short vowels gets easier over time. You just kinda remember, that one was short and one was long

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