How to make the difference between Vocab + Kanji easier?

If your trouble is that the (pink) kanji has one reading, but the (purple) vocabulary word has another, like 中 being Chuu in the first case and Naka in the other, well then, welcome to Japanese!

But if your trouble is that you enter the wrong reading in the pink or purple screen because you automatically enter one reading before stopping to think enough about it, well then, welcome to WaniKani!

For the second problem, the only good advice is just slow down and get into a mindful space, say what you typed out loud before entering, and anyway don’t worry too much about such mistakes at the beginning. It may take awhile, but you’ll overcome this obstacle.


This is indeed the problem. I will learn to work with it. All just a tad overwhelming. I already though myself to take more time during reviews (because I also had the second problem). This has improved my correct % greatly.


I studied Japanese for (more than) several years before joining WaniKani, but it didn’t really click until I started WK, that kanji by themselves are merely building blocks to actual words in Japanese. Some words are just one kanji, but many are compounds with more than one kanji, or one kanji and some hiragana.

So in WaniKani, it’s best to think of the kanji (pink background) as potential words or word parts, rather than as complete words. In some cases in WK, you’ll see that the kanji and vocab have the same meaning and the same reading, but in other cases they will be different (think of the difference between the English letter A and the English word A – notice how they are pronounced differently?).

This does reflect actual Japanese usage, though I’m not sure if Japanese people make the distinction between kanji and vocabulary words in quite the same way as is taught here.


Imagine yourself looking at a single kanji. It’s part of a bigger kanji word that you don’t know yet. What general meaning/connotation does this particular kanji have, and can you guess what sound it might make in this word? This is what PINK kanji reviews are asking you. They are word parts.

Imagine yourself reading a sentence. Pick out a single, whole word from it and identify its meaning and sound. This is what PURPLE vocab reviews are asking you. They are whole words.

In most cases, when a single word has 2 or more kanji, they will use their On’yomi readings. Similarly, when a word has ひらがな at the end of it, you can almost always expect Kun’yomi readings.

I would highly recommend using a script to display your answers in カタカナ for On’yomi readings and ひらがな for Kun’yomi readings. A lot of people might say it’s not important whether something is On or Kun, but this is a fantastic way to absorb the distinction passively through no extra time or effort.

If you haven’t already started using scripts, download a script manager for your browser here:
You can download the On/Kun script here:

For more scripts, check here:


Thanks, I bookmarked your post. I am a tad confused by your explanation of the script, but I am sure it will be clear when I start using it. Thanks a bunch!

Katakana (カタカナ) is commonly used for foreign words, and Hiragana (ひらがな) is mostly used for native Japanese words.

On’yomi readings are Chinese, therefore foreign, hence you will often see On’yomi readings in カタカナ.

The script just forces your Japanese typing to be Hiragana for native readings and Katakana for Chinese readings to help you distinguish which reading is being used for each answer.

Just to be clear for him, this is a dictionary convention, nothing to do with Japanese you’ll see in the real world.


Is it strictly a dictionary convention, or are they only displayed in Katakana when presented explicitly as an On’yomi reading, which is usually only ever in dictionaries?

Do I understand correctly that this is a tool to get more used to when I am using Kun’yomi and On’yomi? Since On’yomi readings are “stolen” from china? :slight_smile:

And I do not mean like Loan words. I know they were brought to japan with the spread of religion and have been in use for centuries ^^.

I mean… furigana is almost always hiragana, and if a word is Sino-Japanese, but rarely written in kanji, it will still often be written in hiragana. So, I can’t really think of a case where onyomis are going to appear in katakana in real text that isn’t about linguistics discussing readings.

Every time you read a kanji, you are using its Kun’yomi or On’yomi. The script would just show you which one you are typing when you answer.

Here’s an example:力%20%23kanji

When 力 is in a PINK review, your answer would display itself as リョク because that is the reading most commonly used when it’s in a word with other kanji. (What Wanikani deems “the most common” reading is by no means official, but it’s usually pretty reliable in my experience.)

When 力 is in a PURPLE review, it’s a whole word all by itself, and it uses its Kun’yomi so you would see ちから as your answer.

What does that script do with mixed readings? Does it it display your answer as ばショ for 場所? What about exceptional readings, like for 大人? おとな is a native word, but it’s not categorized as kunyomi.

It’s all just hiragana for those readings, but you pick up on the patterns so quickly and those types of words are so rare that it doesn’t even matter.

So, it’s actually sending mixed messages about what is on and kun…

Also, I don’t really think it’s fair to say those kinds of words are rare. 台所, 番組, 切符, 時計, 鳥肉, 本屋… it’s very easy to think of them, and those are all beginner words.

Hardly. If you see katakana, you know it’s On’yomi. There’s no ambiguity in the kanji reviews because they’re all isolated. You see the patterns in the reading usages quickly and easily, so even when those exceptional readings come along it’s pretty easy to distinguish them as exceptions.

The little ambiguity in your examples is a small price to pay, especially considering that the alternative is leaving all readings ambiguous.

The script is only relevant when reviewing kanji. For vocab, it always displays hiragana and doesn’t change your input. So the fact that in a vocab review it displays ちから as the reading for 力 has nothing to do with that being the kun’yomi. Which also solves the problem of mixed readings / exceptional readings for vocab.

At the time of this post, I’m only a meager Level 1.
But I suspect this is kind of genius. Looking forward to getting to the stage where it all magically comes together.

1 Like

Especially since you’re just starting, the most important thing is to make Japanese into a daily habit. Show up for reviews every single day, at multiple times per day if you can manage to, because the smaller you keep your review batches, the more manageable everything becomes. If you keep it up for 2-3 weeks straight, you’re likely to settle into a routine.

If you haven’t already, make sure you download this: [Userscript]: WaniKani Ultimate Timeline

The preview image makes it look complicated, but all you have to do is install it to know when your reviews are coming up. The first few levels feel notoriously slow, but they’re also free :ok_hand:

If you’ve got an iPhone, you can do reviews with an app called Tsurukame. Using a keyboard on a computer is still much faster, but it’s nice to be able to do reviews anywhere you go :+1:

My advice would be to take any particularly troublesome kanji and come up with your own mnemonics whenever they pop up in vocabulary. I have a lot of trouble with 日 because it’s so darn common and has so many darn different readings, so I make up my own mnemonic every time it comes up in a vocab word. For instance, for 毎日 I use a mnemonic about how I read my Nietzsche every day. Reading: まいにち, meaning: every day, boom. Gone are my days of typing something like まいじつ and hoping for the best. Making your own mnemonics for a lot of vocab takes a lot of time, but it will get things to stick much better.

Also you can type in the wrong reading for any kanji (as long as what you typed was one of the readings) and it won’t mark you wrong immediately. WK will just say “hey, that’s this reading, we’re looking for this other reading” and let you try again. Having said that, however, vocabulary words have only one reading, so you better get it right the first time or こういち and Hard Gay will fly over to wherever you are and scold you.