How do you manage pronunciation with wanikanis Mnemonics as non-native English speaker?

That question might sound weird to anyone not speaking german so let me elaborate:
I found pronunciation between Japanese and German pretty similar and never had any issues with mapping the sounds between the languages. Eg. bi sounds the same in both languages while in english its mostly pronounced like bye. English in its pronunciation is also famously inconsistent.
I hit 3rd level a few weeks ago and its getting more and more frustrating and confusing for me with the pronunciation hints wanikani gives me as its… suited for english speakers.

Example with 了 (りょう) which has the “row” as hint. Well my head processes it as ro, because thats how it is written. Well it’s still bearable, just think a y in it. but then there is “knife” for 内 (ない), “jewels” for 十 (じゅう) or “hack” for 白 (はく).
I end up completely confused between the languages and frustrated with Wanikani. Am I the only one with that issue? How do you deal with it if you have it as well?


For what it’s worth, sometimes they’re a stretch for native English speakers too. The latter ones you mentioned are fine-ish, but there’s certainly no y sound in “row.” There’s just not a lot of りょう in English… maybe a word like embryo? Brioche (which is basically French anyway heh)? So sometimes it’s more about mapping a sound to a concept even if the word they chose doesn’t really work that well.

It’s unfortunate you lose some of the benefit of WK this way, and it’s more work, but you may have to make some mnemonics on your own, at least for the ones that don’t work for you. Some people opt to do that anyway and find they remember better. Otherwise I think all you can do is try to train yourself to associate those sounds better. Over time you’ll find that the on-yomi pronunciations repeat over and over for different kanji so that can strengthen the ease of recall for those, but the kunyomi mnemonics can be very weird, sometimes the vowels trip me up even if I remember their suggested mnemonic.


Agreeing with @Daisoujou - as a native English speaker, I don’t use all of them either. If it sounds like something in German, just go with that instead. I make my own up all the time. For example, I don’t even know what the story or mnemonics are for try, which I just learned the other day, but it’s pronounced “shi”, so I just remembered it by remembering “She tries.” Obviously still an English thing, but I’m just saying you can make up your own stuff that sticks in your brain :slight_smile:


Some of the hints are pretty bad, but I use that anger to remember it more easily.


The Mnemonics are great, in the beginning, and really helped me get started, as an English speaker. However, one important lesson Wanikani has taught me after finishing it, is that you cannot rely on it as a crutch for very long. You need to learn the vocabulary, not just how to read the Kanji. Treat them as you would learning vocab in another romantic language. One example is it will use “shit” for things such as しと and した, making that Mnemonic unreliable. When you reach level 60 the level up email says its time to leave, you will eventually need to let go of the crutch that is Wanikanis best feature, memorizing mnemonics. Japanese is crazy and beautiful, but just because a word uses a kanji, doesn’t mean it uses a reading you have ever heard of.

1 Like

Yes, I think this is the main thing to learning readings and really get them intuitive: knowing how they’re used in actual words. My main focus of the lessons were always on the example words. But, the mnemonics help too, but just not always as intended. I also struggled with them due to not being a native English speaker. But, many of them do work, so it’s a take what you can and then create your own ways of memorizing the items.

I’m a native German speaker too. Whatever you do, try to be consistent. I used to make mixed mnemonics - some in english, some in german. That led to confusion when I could still remember the little made up story but I couldn’t remember whether I used german or english in that particular case. So for example, I could remember that the mnemonic featured a bag but I didn’t know if the reading was ば for “bag” or さ for “Sack”.
If your brain works anything like mine, decide on one language and try to use that one primarily for your mnemonics. But exceptions are fine if you’re certain that you’re going to be able to remember them.

Edit: For me it helps to pronounce it weirdly in my head. I would imagine someone singing “row row row your boat” pronouncing it like りょう. That sounds silly but it has worked pretty well so far. Same for “knife”. Imagine someone saying it with a heavy german accent… “Naif”


I try to avoid English mnemonics that use similar ‘sounds’ instead of the correct syllable letters because I rush to type the mnemonic spelling and not the sound.

Once you get a little more progress, it’s best to relate the Japanese word spelling to other similarly spelled words in Japanese. That way there is no chance of misspelling or pronunciation confusion.

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