How to make the difference between Vocab + Kanji easier?

I have been using Wanikani for a while now.
But the Kanji/Vocab difference always messes me up.

I learn the meaning of the pink background… I know it… and then BAM! comes purple. And it is something totally different.

I know why, the difference between Kun’yomi and On’yomi but I am noticing I can’t handle it very well.

Anyone has any tips/same problem? :smiley:

I don’t think you have the differentiation quite right… Pink does not mean on’yomi and purple does not mean kun’yomi.

Pink: What is the reading (could be either on or kun) that WK overlords have decided is the most “common” reading for this KANJI

Purple: What is the reading of this WORD (granted the word could be just one Kanji). This just so happens to often by the kun’yomi for single Kanji words, but even that is not guaranteed. This is a WORD not a Kanji.

If you still have issues, then just take your time I guess. Eventually you should get quicker at knowing what the system is asking you.


Yeah, exceptions to the kunyomi/onyomi guidelines abound. Within the first few levels, you’ll learn vocab such as 本, 天, 王, 円, 文, 市, 半, 分, 用, 字, and probably more.

These are all taught as single-kanji vocab, and they all use the onyomi.

Not trying to discourage you, but I feel that this piece of advice is often particularly misleading to new learners.

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I did not say that. I ment that the writing in the vocab can be different than the kanji I learned because the one could use kun’yomi and the other on’yomi. But I find it hard to remember both sets of meanings and to switch between those.

And I was wondering if there were others who find it confusing that a single kanji is written one way and the same kanji in a vocab has a total different way of being written :).

It’s not that it’s “written one way” as a kanji and “a total different way” as vocab. It’s just that they only teach one reading in the lesson, so as to not overwhelm.

I do agree that it presents a learning curve, but WK’s decisions about which readings to teach in which order are just their choices, and not an inherent property of the kanji.

Most kanji have at least one kunyomi and at least one onyomi, so it’s just a given when you learn a kanji that most of the time you still have more to learn about it.

Ye I find it quite confusing still. I read the textfugu explanation. So I get why but I find it hard to remember the totally different way of writing it when it is part of a vocab.

I should just learn both (on and kun) but it is still a bit overwhelming. Also… I would probably write the wrong one all the time. And WaniKani will hate me :stuck_out_tongue:

This is why they give us mnemonics for the readings as well as the meaning.

They do… but most of the mnemonics are so offtarget / hard to remember that they slip away. At least… for me. I am sure they work amazingly for a lot of people :smiley:

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Thanks for your answer :). I think I wrote my question wrong. I know that the colors don’t mean what kind of reading WaniKani is looking for. I just find it confusing that I learn one way of writing and then the vocab uses the other reading, that I did not learn yet ^^. I am sure it will learn I was just wondering if others had the same feeling and if they had tips :).

Oh yeah, the level 3 me can definitely relate to this. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed by vocab with a reading different than the one taught in the kanji lesson.

But I assure you, it gets easier with time. Keep practicing and your brain will become better at making the connections.

One thing I can say is, do focus on mnemonics. It’s the most important feature of WK. Also, if something just doesn’t stick, make up your own mnemonic! I for once was completely uninterested in those “Hard Gay” stories from early levels and swapped all せい mnemonics for Beyonce. Whatever works for you!


That is really good advice. Nice one… Beyonce. Would never have thought of that! ^^

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I agree with what has been said so far, but a piece of encouragement: it gets much better! I used to have the same problem, but:

  1. The SRS helps eventually, just take your time and do your reviews.
  2. After a few levels you start getting the hang of it - the mnemonics become more helpful as you get used to them and they sometimes interconnect (I love the whole Charlie Sheen plot, for example), and you start getting a feel for when you should just use the reading you’ve learnt with the kanji for a vocab, and when you need to remember another one. It just gets easier. For me it started getting much easier around level 6-7.

So my main point is… practice! And take your time. It won’t be this confusing forever (but other confusions will surely appear :face_with_raised_eyebrow: ).


Yeah, as others have said, make your own mnemonics if the provided ones don’t work for you. And it’s totally normal to get some things wrong. You’ll get it eventually :slightly_smiling_face:

Also, others may disagree, but in the beginning, I don’t think it’s necessary to memorize which readings are kun and which are on. (Which, after re-reading your initial post, it doesn’t sound like you are trying to do anyway.)

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Indeed I am not. I did leave a row in my my two notebooks to later write down if it is a Kun or On reading.
(I made seperate notebooks for Radicals, Kanji and Vocab. To at least write them a few times.) But for now I am just trying (and failing hard) to remember all the new vocab :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, and the mental image is extra strong if you imagine her dramatically singing “Say my name, say my name…” :wink:


Really? I would have this image in my head.



Fair enough :joy:

[Just to clarify, that “Say my name” part was just to reinforce that she stands for せい rather than べい or something]

Just keep going. At some point the differentiation will become natural to you. No way around it.

Makes sense :D!