How to actually remember things?

I’ve been working according to the ‘trust the SRS’ philosophy, and am almost level 4 after starting about 19 days ago.

Problem I’m having is it seems like more than 60% of what I Guru, I end up getting wrong when it eventually comes up in the stack again. I’ve seen some people mention hitting this once things get to Enlightened and such, but I hit it immediately, I only seem to remember anything if it’s in my apprentice queue, unless it’s a pure jukugo and I can just recall the on’yomis.

My review % are getting slight worse over time too, it’s around 75-82%, admittedly with a lot of stupid mistakes(mistaking hand for fur because it’s been so long since hand came up in review that I wasn’t expecting it).

I do pretty well with the mnemonics for the most part, but it’s often part and parcel, I see the reading or meaning after I get it wrong and recall the mnemonic then, rather than the other way around.

I’m just not sure what I can be doing to improve beyond continuing to interact with the system as I have been. I don’t feel far enough to be able to try reading Japanese between reviews, and I don’t feel like I understand SRS method well enough to productively modify the process with userscripts.

For what it’s worth, I’ve never studied anything in my life until Japanese, I don’t even know what ‘studying’ is really, no picture of what that would be/entails. I got through school on what other people insist is photographic memory(though I never felt like I had this).


How do you handle lessons? Do you just skim through in a few seconds and jump right into reviews?

Do you repeat the mnemonic out loud? Do you try to read the example sentences? Do you practice writing new kanji a few times to get a feel for their shape? Those are all things people do to strengthen the lesson impact.


Definitely second Leebo’s suggestion to spend more time on the lessons. I circle through them repeatedly until I can recall them all before progressing to the quiz.

I’d also encourage you to look at the items you got wrong after every review session. Revisit the item page, refresh your memory, perhaps come up with your own mnemonic if you think it necessary. Once you get further in you might want to compare with other items if you’re getting muddled between different words.

You don’t want to spend ages every single time on every single wrong answer, but skimming through and identifying which were stupid mistakes you wouldn’t necessarily make again versus those where you need to take another look is helpful when you have the time.

Also consider thinking for a second more before submitting your answers. If you recall the mnemonic afterwards then you might be plunging in too quickly, when giving your brain a second more might help it to solidify the links.


For lessons I only skim if I see that say, a vocab is the same as the kanji for both reading and meaning, or if it’s a pure jukugo with no tricks in the reading. These are the things I don’t have trouble with.

For everything else I try reading the mnemonic out loud, and also reading out the radicals(for kanji) or kanji(for vocab) that I see so I associate the combination of lines with everything else.(i.e. middle old is secondhand, a two-headed person is in heaven, etc.)

Right now an example of my current enemy is the vocab around Exit. I Guru’d them a bit ago and now when they re-emerge I get で or だ readings mixed up(出口 and 出すfor example). The on’yomi is しゅつ so I get totally lost on the distinction. As before, I remember the mnemonic immediately the moment I see the reading, but I can’t recall it at all when I’m trying to answer. Same for things like ‘ten days’ coming up again, which uses an exceptional reading.

I would try to force yourself to do some recall in the lessons, rather than just absorbing information. So cover up the meaning on your screen and scroll through the words trying to remember them (and say them out loud). Forcing recall is a much stronger way of committing something to memory than passively looking at it, however long you spend doing so.


I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t distinguish. My short term memory is basically perfect, I can’t tell the difference between recalling and reading if it’s something I just read a few minutes ago.

It’s the same problem after I get something wrong in reviews, I now have a chance to read it, so of course even if the retry sits until the end of a long stack, I still literally just read it so I have perfect recall no matter what.

How long should I be spending on reviews and lessons? Again, I’ve never studied anything before so this is like learning an alien ritual from an alien who doesn’t realize I am an alien to them. To me, one processes the material(questions or otherwise) and moves on, if there is a delay what is the source and magnitude? How do I know I’ve fulfilled the terms of the delay?

Not trying to be difficult, it just seems like concepts I have no exposure to are being invoked.

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How often do you do reviews? Knowing that might help us suggest techniques.


No one learns the same way, so no one can give you a method that will certainly work. You’re going to have to do some experimenting with what method works best to you.

You say you do well with remembering the mnemonics, but that you only think of them after getting items wrong. How fast do you do your reviews?

Yes, the ultimate goal is to recognise kanji quickly in order to read, but if you’re alien to not only kanji, but to the concept of trying to learn something that doesn’t come natural, there’s a good chance that you have to slow down until your brain adapts.

The brain can learn to learn. :slight_smile: When I started, I had a really tough time with getting down kanji that I would be able to learn very quickly now that I’m used to learning kanji.

Something that really helped me a lot was naming the radicals to myself. If I would try to answer what the kanji is at a glance, I would likely be confusing it with another one. But if I took a few seconds to list the radicals used in the kanji, that would trigger the recollection of the mnemonic, since the mnemonic is just a story that ties all the used radicals together.

And lastly: patience. Cut yourself some slack. That it’s not going swimmingly doesn’t mean you’re not getting anywhere. You’re someone that, in terms of studying, has gotten by through walking, and now you have to run for the first time. It’ll take some build-up to actually get proficient at that. You’ll stumble a few times, and this difficulty is the studying equivalent of muscle-ache. But you have to keep doing it to build up that stamina.

Good luck finding the method that works best for you!


Oh, I see :thinking: so which review stage do you think that starts to fall off?

Kind of interesting, honestly. Sounds like your brain isn’t having to do any work to recall in the first instance, so it doesn’t really forge particularly strong links, so then once it drops out of your short-term memory it’s very gone.

Perhaps in that case you really do need to think longer before answering a particular review. When facing something you can’t quite remember, try your hardest to remember it rather than immediately failing the review - or is the issue that you think you remember the right answer, and you’re just getting things incorrect? Edit - yes, what Omun said!


It is also possible that once you get to the point where you can start using the language to a greater extent (reading, speaking etc) things will start sticking better since they’ll be tied to some sort of context, and not just be random words out of nowhere.

Just as an example, a long time ago I spoke to a HelloTalk friend, and on the subject of Tokyo Ghoul she said the word さべつ.

I didn’t know what it was, so she explained that it meant discrimination. べつ was a word I had learned from WK but forgotten. Now ever since that conversation I’ve remembered it :slight_smile:


Hah, funny you should mention that word. Once in Japanese class my teacher asked (in Japanese) does anyone know what the word for treating others differently on some irrelevant basis is? I had just learned it a few days ago on WK so I shouted 差別! loud :smiley: Now I also never forget that word.

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Is that actually a thing to do at a low level? At the moment I mainly see them as a curiosity since they usually contain a ton of vocabulary I don’t know - which means trying to understand them doesn’t do much for me (as I have no idea which exact part of the sentence corresponds to which part of the english translation), and I can’t even read it aloud properly because I don’t know where words end.


Honestly I think you’re worrying too much. I think it was exactly the same for me around your level. I just review a card again whenever I get it wrong and that’s pretty much it. Making good progress! Just keep on doing your thing

Yes, I would say “trying” to read them is a thing at every level. Also, WaniKani level doesn’t necessarily correspond to Japanese level directly. Some people come here having studied for a bit but knowing few kanji. It’s possible people need to use a dictionary or something like Rikai-chan while they read the sentences, but ignoring them wouldn’t be a benefit in any case.


I have this problem every time I rush lessons. I’ve found slowing down and really focusing on each individual lesson helps extremely when it comes to long term memory recall. This includes reading the mnemonics multiple times and really making an effort to imagine what the mnemonic is portraying.
I’ve found that doing reviews in small (<20) batches and waiting for the first review of that batch before going on to the next batch helps.

It also really helps to take the same amount of time with a review item when you miss it, which will ideally help reduce the amount of leeches.

It’s obviously possible I just don’t understand what you mean with what you said in your post, but have actually you tried going through(and testing yourself on) them an extra time before the quiz anyway? Or if that doesn’t help, maybe waiting a few minutes after reading through all the lessons and then testing yourself before doing the quiz?

Just saying that since I personally still find that it helps a tiny bit, even if I easily can remember everything short term without doing so.

And unrelated to that, but don’t forget to learn grammar too if you aren’t already, so you can start trying to read stuff in the future. Just a friendly reminder since some people get kind of obsessed with wanikani and end up putting off the grammar until really late

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For me it’s more content, more brain connections, and sometimes the sample sentences act as additional mnemonics for me (i.e. I remember the goofy sample sentence, and thereby the meaning). Sometimes I’m exposed to a new Kanji which I won’t remember yet, but will be a little more familiar when WK introduces it later.

This exposure builds a stronger and stronger net of interrelationships, on top of other (casual) study I have done on the web and just reading anything Japanese around me. If you haven’t already @sazaland, maybe incorporating another layer of exposure to Kanji (I know this green owl for instance.)

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