How do you deal with the real stubborn ones you continually confuse?

Hi everyone,

I am on level 16 right now. I am finding that I simply cannot find a way to consistently remember the differences between some pairs of words that have similar looking kanji, pronunciations, or meanings. There are some words and kanji that I have been struggling with for almost a year now, and I am still consistently confusing them. Does anyone have any tips for cracking out of the cycle with the ones that trip you up? I find that once some of the ones that I continually screw up on are always falling back to acquaintance, the SRS process doesn’t really seem to help anymore with learning them. What other tools do you recommend for these ones? Thanks!!

Mark a synonym and call it a day. If you haven’t figured them out now, you probably won’t until you see them in context when you’re reading.


to this day I have many leeches from early levels, and little by little now I create my own mnemonic to differentiate them.

I am taking my time and eventually I hope I can finally memorize without making mistakes.


It’s definitely tough, and it’s definitely something that everyone can relate to. Lately 叔, 淑, and 寂 have been absolutely kicking my butt.

I’ve had a few things work for me:

  1. Kanji: Come up with a mnemonic specifically targeting the difference between the characters

  2. Vocab: Encounter it in the wild and use that sentence/word to cement which is which

  3. Radicals: Mark as correct and move on, I’m not here to learn WK’s radical names

What are some of the pairs that you’re having trouble with? It’s likely that someone has had issues with the same pairs before and can give you a hand :slight_smile:


I don’t deal with them. They don’t get any extra attention.

  1. Between textbook work, listening, reading, recall, grammar, etc., there are plenty of better ways to spend my time. I can’t afford to keep wasting time on ~50 leeches.

  2. By focusing on the above methods, leeches will show up in context, which aids greatly in memorization. 具合 used to be a leech until I saw it once in context.

So, I just ignore them, and they work themselves out eventually.


You can either use scripts to do some extra cramming to help the leeches move up the SRS-ladder - or just ignore these items for now. Especially early on (up to lv 30-ish or so), that’s a possibility - especially if they aren’t that many to begin with.

But, as you get more and more items from each level that turns out to be harder to memorize than the rest, trying to get rid of them is understandable and what I tried to do myself.

You can defo make a dent in the amount of items that jump between Guru and Apprentice and clog up reviews if you want to. For tips, check out my study blog where I’ve got a list in the OP post with scripts that help (and just checking out posts for more methods I’ve tried over the years).

You can have small tricks you use to difference them even if you usually can’t tell them apart.

In the end, it’s more information that you have to remember, but if it’s either that or not knowing them.

For 栄光 and 光栄, I remembered that the one that starts with a consonant sound in Japanese, starts with a vowel sound in English, and vice-versa.

光栄 honor
栄光 glory

Stuff like that.


For me using the words in sentence context was a solid way to remember them. Sometimes just recognizing them wouldn’t give enough of a stimulus for them to stay in my memory.

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For Kana and pronunciation, hopefully I’ll hear them one day; but if that’s unreliable – indeed, mnemonics. I might create or revise mnemonics sometimes. The point isn’t a strong mnemonic or not, but rather “just works”. and there is that audio UserScript

For meaning, just read more about the vocabulary and example sentences. Maybe go deep into vocabulary explanations (Google? A good dictionary?). Still, nothing really replaces real experience. User synonyms or cheating, if need be.

For Kanji usage, maybe mnemonics. Actually, sometimes the default Kanji meaning isn’t enough – there are sometimes multiple Kanji meanings. Kanji can be looked up too. (Goo, Weblio, Wiktionary)

About SRS and flashcards, there is an option to do flashcards without SRS, e.g. Self-Study.

I may add to Anki, if it’s about meaning. Anki has Reset progress and Set due date. Also with more freedom in adding explanations and context sentences. Yomichan works in WaniKani website.

When I have two kanji that I keep mistaking, I write them down side by side on a little paper and stare at them for a while. I’ll try to put that paper in a place that I see often.

I also do that same trick for general leeches, the kanji that I can never seem to get right, I draw them again and put them where I’m sure to think about it often.

Lately I’ve been struggling with 科 and 料. I have not failed it since writing them down.


If it helps, this one has the 米 radical, rice, food, ingredients.


It is what I ended up coming up with yea.
My issue come from the fact that “Grain” and “Rice” are so close to each other conceptually.
When I learned 科 I already knew the word 料理 and assumed it was that first part. Wrong knowledge but it got stuck in my head for a long time.
I’m good nowadays :smiley:

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Sometimes it helps to come up with an alternative mnemonic, because that’s what’s not sticking. Or, one specifically meant to differentiate them if I’m mixing two up. Synonyms help for some, too–I often find that it’s the English word they chose that I’m not remembering even though I know conceptually what the kanji means, and choosing a word I use more often to manually add as a synonym helps.

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Question: … about seeing them in context.
What do you use for that ? I got “Common Japanese Collocations” by Kakuko Shoji which is word pairings that are regularly used. Not quite idioms; more “he gets so carried away” i.e. natural language about uh…hair, visit, chair… no index but grouped by topic so just kinda random to find the word you’re actually looking for … getting in some extra reading practice meanwhile.
I’m considering “Japanese Core Words & Phrases: Things You Can’t Find in a Dictionary.” And there are plenty of sample phrases & sentences in the Furigana J-E dictionary.

So, are these the kinds of sources you folks in the WK community use to find the ‘slug/leech’ in context? Any sites?

There’s this userscript [Userscript]: Anime Context Sentences which takes information from this website also allows you to search specific words through their database and get a list of anime/manga/novels that contain that word. I’ve usually searched through that list of media for something that seems familiar to me and then tried to find the use of that word in context. Unfortunately jpdb doesn’t make this easy for you since for multi-episode series, the site won’t let you search for which episode the word was used in so you have to check each episode’s list individually.

Though for actual memorization, the best effects will come from finding the word completely organically while you’re reading. Which is just dumb luck I guess but the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon will strike you much more than you’d expect if you read as much as you can

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I don’t look for it in context, I just read manga/books/etc and see what I come across. So if I happen to come across a word when I’m reading, obviously I needed to know it for that material. But if it never comes up when I’m reading, I didn’t really need it at that moment so I’m ok with it being a leech.