Having trouble learning new kanji

Hey everyone!

I recently reached level 8 and I got to the point that most kanji from Lessons are new for me. I do my usual routine - checking the kanji itself, the radicals, the readings and try to memorize/associate the kanji and reading with a word.

But when I go to the test, I basically forget everything. I can barely remember the readings and meanings. I just learned a couple of kanji where I got all of them wrong and had to keep them in mind one by one to finish the Lesson.

During reviews, I usually get them wrong as well (normally the readings) a few times before starting to get right answers in the first try.

Is this a common problem? And if you have any tips, please share them with me!

  1. The easiest way is reading a lot of native material, but you need to have at least basic grammar knowledge in order for that to be comprehensible, so it depends on whether or not you already learn grammar outside Wanikani.

  2. Use mnemonics. If Wanikani mnemonics don’t work, try using others like KanjiDamage, or make your own mnemonics.

  3. Use Self-Study Quiz Script to drill all the lessons outside review time.

For me, it’s reading a lot of native material that works the best, but your mileage may vary of course.


looks like you need to spend more time on the lessons. maybe you need to find your way to remember? some people write, some make their own mnemonics… maybe you just need extra time and/or do small lesson batches daily.

i recommend this script if you’re on PC


it helps associate the radicals and readings from one kanji to the other.

i reset from level 40 because my brain was just not absorbing anymore but i think at level 8, you should still be ok with new material.

maybe you were used to lessons being reviews of material you mostly knew and you’ve not adapted your pace and time spent to the fact most of it is new now. take it slow and take it easu. good luck.

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Damn, i just looked at KanjiDamage and the mnemonics are just… I’m dying… :joy:

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Yeah, it’s sometimes borderline crazy it makes remembering kanji much easier, and it’s shorter too compared to Wanikani mnemonics.

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This happened to me A LOT at the start - less so now as often the new kanji are ones I’ll know from vocabulary I’ve come across elsewhere through reading etc.

I think one of the things that WK doesn’t really emphasise is how often the reading comes from a sound or phonetic component, and often kanji with that component will have the same reading. It’s not a hard and fast rule - I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules with kanji - but it definitely helps me take a reasonable guess at what the reading is.

Obviously I then quite often forget what the meaning is, but hey, it’s half the battle.


mnemonics will become harder to remember, that’s why you forget, you will have to create menomics for those new kanji that dont stick to your mind.

I dont know if this is fortunately or unfortunately, but it is helping me since hell levels.

Also, if you have time, use self study quiz for ‘recent lessons’ option, it will help to remember them.

Hey I’m on level 8 too! One more kanji to pass before I clear this one. My reviews are always pretty bad at first. My approach is to make a text document and add every new kanji / vocab / radical as I go through the lessons, and after doing a review I remove every one I got right. I also try to group similar ones together, and put the especially tricky ones near the top. Usually within a week my review scores are acceptable and after about two weeks I’ve learned most of them pretty well. If there are any I constantly mess up or find myself guessing at, I try to look at the example sentences more or look up additional info from other sources to get more familiar with the kanji / word.

There is a bit of a memory hack when it comes to remembering things which I realized way way back, but isn’t always so easy to execute.

When you purposely try to memorize things your loading those things into short term memory. Whether they go into mid and long term memory from there varies. If you keep them in short term memory by memorizing and then recalling too often, they will stay there.

The trick is to let things soak in. Don’t memorize them, absorb them. That way they may go in faster and stay in your memory longer :slight_smile: .


I can completely relate to that. It was one of the reasons why I did a reset.
Now it works pretty well for me I think.

  1. I remind myself that slow and steady wins the race. Learning Japanese (or any language) is a life long thing so there is no need to rush. If I don’t do new lessons for a day or two nothing bad is going to happen. If I feel like they don’t stick at all over time then I change the lessons size to 3 lessons.
  2. I try to find a mnemonic that works for me, so if Wanikani isn’t working (which it mostly isn’t but I can ignore that most of the times) then I look at KanjiDamage mnemonics or I make up my own.
  3. I write them down. For me this is extremely helpful especially if I write down similar Kanji next to each other to really notice the differences. Some Kanji that looked nearly the same suddenly look quite different. I know this doesn’t work for everyone though.
  4. I add them to a Kitsun Deck to study them separately (Any other SRS method or the Self study quiz works too). I know some people say that this is not good for Wanikanis SRS and the retention and all. But my approach is the more often you see a Kanji the easier it becomes to memorize. Besides if it really doesn’t work then Wanikanis SRS just doesn’t work for me anyway. I realized that I need a review after about 2 hours after the lesson and not after 4. The 4 hours in Wanikanis SRS just don’t work for me. So I use a Kitsun Deck where I change the SRS Intervalls so that they fit me. The first intervals there are 2 and 6 hours and in Wanikani there are 4 and 8 hours. Together that works quite well but that also means that I don’t always do my new lessons in the morning as I can’t make a break that early.
  5. I think reading also helps but I’m not at a level where I can comfortably read a lot of stuff especially not with N3 and higher Kanji so this is not my go to approach.

Hey guys, thanks for the help!

The scripts are super helpful and I could study the new kanji a bit more instead of just waiting for reviews.
I’ll have to start reading more. Graded Readers is too easy, but children’s books have too much vocabulary to the point that I have to be constantly looking up words in the dictionary (and a couple of informal speech that is really hard to find info about)

It gets easier btw.
Once you know a list of kanji readings that come up time and time again, you can suddenly start to connect stories in your head, kinda like a mental palace. And once you know a few hundred kanji, your general kanji-image recognition ability will get much better and it won’t be as big of a problem as before. Around levels 10-15 it’s hard because it’s still quite new but your workload increases a bit, but power through them and you’ll be better off.

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This. The more you learn, the easier it gets to pick up. It felt awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, it just flows. Just plow through and you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

I think we all have been there at some point, but that’s what the repetition is for. If you don’t know them at the start, you definitely WILL remember them if you just keep at it. I saw some people writing about scripts or already having some grammatical knowledge - sure, it does make it more convenient, but it definitely isn’t necessary ( I did have neither when I started, too) These things helped me:

  • Use mnemonics: either the ones on wanikani or your own, some people also talked about them, so I’ll keep it short, but the more connections you have the easier it is

  • The pronounciation of kanji often depends on the radicals used: When you get to know a few more, it makes it definitely easier, since you can sometimes even guess the pronounciation :slight_smile:

  • Even if it’s hard to remember the kanji alone, once you reach “guru” and learn some vocabularies along with it, it is way easier to remember them, since you see how they are used together with examples

  • Write them down, if you want. Knowing how to write them makes you know how to read them, too.

Just note that the only goal is to remember them, not get them right everytime. The kanji you get wrong all the time are actually the ones you remember the most sooner or later.


For me new kanji also take a while to get through. There are always gonna be some that are easier or harder to grasp than others.

After some days I’ve seen enough to handle it. Then with vocab the number of shaky ones reduce down further.

Even still there some nasty leeches in the system and I think after I’m done with lessons, I’ll have freed up some time to look at them more carefully with selfstudy script.

I don’t think it necessarily gets easier, but give it a few more levels and you’ve had build some experience. Then it becomes a source to draw from. You’ve been there before at that point, so you know you can do it again. That’s really what makes it easier to internalize and trust the srs.

For me, yes. But for me, I’ve accepted it as part of my process. Getting stuff wrong for me over and over helps it stick. For me, just cause I get something wrong doesn’t mean I’m a failure. One’s a simple action, the other is a state of being.

When I first get the lesson, get them fairly right in the review. Then I go away and try them again, and most of them I get wrong. And I kick myself for getting them wrong and then do it again. And I get them wrong again. I start to remember either the hiragana or the meaning and just keep going. Some I get better with, and others I get them wrong again. But the more I get wrong the more it sticks with me. It usually takes me about a week and a bit to get all of the Kani committed to memory. I’ve gotten to lvl 10, and just accept that it’s a part of my process. This being said, I find the radicals easier to remember, because I’m only remembering 1 thing, and the vocab easier to remember, because they are readout, and I kinda press the voice over and over again to connect the sound with the vocab, and I know the kanji. I’m averaging a lvl a little over 2 weeks-ish.

For me, in this process, I’ve found I absolutely have to be okay and be at peace with making mistakes. ALOT of mistakes. Almost daily. So I’m like meh 仕方がない


Above all, it is totally NORMAL to struggle to remember new kanji the first time you see them!

In my strong opinion you’re kinda missing the main point of any SRS: lots of frequent repetition for items you find difficult and less frequent repetition for items you find easy.

There’s short term memory and long term memory. If your goal is to be able to read Japanese, long term memory is more important, and it depends far less on mnemonics and other tricks and more on sheer repetition. The goal is to eventually recognize items instantly and effortlessly without any tricks.

I often get new kanji incorrect two or three times during lessons and sometimes even for the next several days of reviews. Within a few days, you’ll start remembering your mnemonics and answer correctly more often. Even later you’ll recognize them without relying on mnemonics.

So my advice is to not worry about struggling with lessons. JUST. DO. YOUR. REVIEWS. EVERY. DAY.

If reviews start to become too difficult or your queue becomes too large, slow down on doing lessons.

But lessons are supposed to be difficult. It’s NOT necessary to get your lesson queue down to zero every day, but you REALLY want to get your review queue to zero at least once every single day, and the only way for the SRS to know you’ve found something difficult is if you answer incorrectly, so never feel bad about it — that’s what you’re paying for!



I guess I was just scared since, for most of the time, I was going through kanji that I had already known. I’m doing one lesson (5 items) a day whenever my review stack drops below 50 now to not be overwhelmed by new stuff, and doing my reviews every day of course!


Probably not very helpful, but I got one of the Kanji れんしゅうbooks and write each kanji out and the readings next to it but take my time while I’m writing it all out. That seems to help when I get to a level where I’m struggling to remember!

I’ve definitely hit a number of walls like that in my two years on WK. While there are many good strategies suggested in this thread, my personal advice is ‘don’t always trust your own judgement’ when it comes to your learning - repetition often means you will start remembering things without being consciously aware of it.

It can be helpful to slow down or stop lessons entirely if you feel like you’re hitting a wall. It’s important not to feel overwhelmed, because that’ll increase your chances of giving up. And dogged persistence can have surprising results!