How to tell when WaniKani wants the On'yomi or Kun'yomi reading?

Hi all.
Still fairly new to wani kani. I’ve been enjoying it so far, but I’m having trouble figuring out what reading wani kani wants from me. Is there a specific way to tell the difference when being asked? I’ll will put the On’yomi reading, which I have correct, but it will want the Kun’yomi and not tell me.
Any help would be awesome thanks guys.

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When it’s got a pink background, it’s testing you on the kanji, and it generally wants the on’yomi, but it’ll let you try again if you get the wrong one.

When it’s got a purple background, it’s testing you on the vocabulary, so it wants the reading for how that vocabulary item is read when you encounter it in the real world. When it’s a single stand-alone kanji, that typically means kun’yomi. It won’t let you try again if you get it wrong.


Adding to this, it doesn’t hurt knowing multiple readings… I usually just type the first reading that comes to mind and if wanikani complains, I’ll type another reading.

If that’s insufficient for you, userscripts to the rescue!!! This userscript tells you which reading (on or kum yomi) wanikani wants to know

For more userscript goodness, checkout the The New And Improved List Of API and Third Party Apps thats a mouthful

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Gotcha!! Thank you so much for the response. I guess I am a little muddy on the difference between “Kanji” and “Vocab” would you mind clearing up the difference or point me in a direction that can?

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You can think of Kanji as the name of the letter. Like in English, you say it was called the letter “TEE”, but the pronunciation (the Vocabulary) would be the sound “T”.


That’s a good question, and essential to know! This very topic has been discussed in this thread as well, with loads of good explanations. Take a look!

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Kanji - most of the time on’yomi, but there are exceptions when WK will teach you the kun’yomi for a kanji.

Vocabulary, Solo kanji? kun’yomi. Solo kanji with kana hanging off? kun’yomi. Compound kanji? on’yomi. Compound kanji with kana hanging off? on’yomi.

There are exceptions for every single rule, but that’s gets 80 to 90 percent. There’s a user script that, for kanji reviews, will display what WK expects. I think it’s kind of helpful without being a cheat.

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Kanji is just a character. You can think of it has having a meaning, but that’s only a convenient artifact. It has no real meaning until it’s used in a vocabulary word (vocab). Kanji characters can have an infuriatingly large number of different ways to say them (readings).

Vocabulary is kanji in use. An actual word that has meaning. A vocabulary word may be a single kanji 東 (east), or a number of kanji strung together. 図書館 (library). Or any number of kanji with kana attached, 美しい、集中する

Hope that helps.

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Kanji and vocab lessons could be compared to base/root words and actual words in english

Root words are words that have a meaning and, by adding a suffix/prefix, you can create new words for it.

Some root words can be used stand alone, just like how some kanji can be used stand alone in vocabulary (and often have the same meaning as the ones you learn in the kanji section). “Phobia” can be used by itself, just like 今 can be found alone.

When you add extra stuff to these base words, you get new stuff. Japanese vocabulary can be a little wilder since you can stitch entire words together, vs english only allowing specific suffixes and prefixes, but the concept is the same.

By adding agora- to phobia, you get “agoraphobia”. And by putting 日 to 今, you get 今日

tl;dr: “kanji” lessons are only base words. “Vocab” lessons are actual words used, which can be the same as base words or not

lol, you chose a compound word who’s reading is one of those infuriating exceptions. In this case it’s so common that it’s relatively easy to remember, but just in those two kanji we could have, ひ、じつ、にち、こん、いま、and likely others that aren’t on the tip of my fingers at present, but put those two together in that order and you get きょう. Which isn’t even close to any other reading of either of those alone.

That is what you have to look forward to when learning Japanese. :slight_smile:

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Hey, english itself has plenty of infuriating exceptions too lol. Learning it was such a mess sometimes because of pronounciations.

Not being critical, or making comparisons. I just thought it an entertaining example.

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And just to be clear… the reading they ask for in the kanji lessons is just the one they feel is the most useful to teach you first. Kanji don’t have any “single correct reading”. So don’t think of it like “kanji reading” and “vocab reading” as if they are actually concepts that have distinct readings. Kanji have many readings, and vocab usually only have one. But of course, when they ask you for a kanji reading they are trying not to overwhelm you and just want the one they taught you in the lesson.

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This is awesome, thank you!!

Gotcha, thank you for clearing that up!

Thank you for the thorough response! Makes a lot more sense now, thanks so much :slight_smile:

Ahh that makes sense! Thank you so much! ありがとうございます!!

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