I am new and (somewhat) helpless

I think it’s definitely okay and somewhat normal to feel frustrated early on, especially because you’re new to WK and its method of learning (even if you’re not new to Japanese). I know you said you used Duolingo but didn’t love it. Maybe a good way to get the kanji to stick better for you would be finding another good grammar source and doing some vocab + grammar studies in parallel with WK. This will allow you to learn some new words and how they’re used, which will serve as examples for usage of kanji.

For example, in WK I recently learned the kanji 濯 for wash. I’m not really using the mnemonic for this kanji because I already know a vocabulary word that it’s in, which is 洗濯. Already knowing that word and how it’s used made it much easier to learn and remember that kanji because I had an existing frame of reference for it.

In addition, have you done any vocab lessons so far in WK? I ask because the vocab words provided here are intended to really help you solidify the reading and meaning of a kanji, and I think that could help you out too. (I realize I just mentioned learning grammar/vocab outside of WK too, but I think it can be useful to learn from multiple sources, WK being one.)

Hopefully that made some sense. My overall point is that exposing yourself to more Japanese via additional grammar/vocab studies can better familiarize you with the language, its words, its sounds, and its patterns. You can gain a better intuition for the usage of kanji and when they’re pronounced one way or another, as well as things like phonetic components. I think all of those things would be beneficial to you and would combine to make your WK kanji studies a little easier.


This. This is how I do it.

Uh… did it.


I second the idea of drilling vocab for a while because maybe if you get words into your head, those can act as anchors to help the kanji hook into your brain. You need some sort of anchor point; mnemonics is not the only way. :slight_smile:


Thank you for all the replies! :slight_smile:

That is of course what I am hoping for! Thank you for encouraging me to just stick with it! That’s exactly what I am doing for the moment - sticking with it and hoping that the Kanji start sticking, too. :wink:

Thta is actually something we did big time in university - not just did I do it for Kanji tests by myself (usually writing a Kanji over and over) but we had also a mandatory class where we actually learned how to write Kanji with traditional brush and ink. So I did get writing practice before and it didn’t help much, but as a purely visual learner (I actually often turn the Duolingo sound off because it just distracts me) I do agree that it does help at least a bit.

I didn’t do any WK vocab lesson yet because, well, I can’t. I just double-checked and everything is still locked. My next review is in 6 hours, maybe it unlocks afterwards? I do look forward to that because it might indeed help me. Looking at what I will unlock, I actually don’t know a lot of these words so that will be a bunch of new stuff, too, but I agree that it might really help me with the Kanji.

I will also definitely check into other sources besides WK. I didn’t have the time yet to check the long resources list, but definitely will see if I find something better than Duolingo. If not, I will also stick with that one just to get something done, especially since I heard now that they’re redoing their Japanese course to include more Kanji (and hopefully more grammar

So yes, thank you again for all your replies! They encourage me a great deal to just stick with it, wait for things unlocking and me progressing and just seeing how things develop on my way to level 3! :smiley:


One thing I have found helpful is to review all your critical condition kanji before you start your session. Don’t try and go too fast with your lessons when you start a new level, if they start piling up you know you’re going to slow. You can make your own mnemonics as simple as you can, anything that links the concepts in a way familiar to you.


With regards to the mnemonics, I tend to re-write them in my head. What I mean by that is, I’ll read whatever the ridiculous story is, and then I’ll give myself a mental summary instead of trying to remember the entire thing. If I tried to do that, I’d be there all day. I take the most ridiculous aspects of the mnemonic and focus on that. I typically will try to find a way to shorten the whole thing into a single phrase or brief sentence. This helps tremendously. Occasionally I will also make my own mnemonic because the one WaniKani gives me is too ambiguous or I know it isn’t going to stick in my mind.

That being said, you should resist the urge to make brand new mnemonics too often, because one of the things WK does is it uses the same mnemonics over and over. For example, Sei is often “Saber” Ta is “Taco” etc. There are recurring characters such as Koichi and Mrs. Chou the street woman. Over time, you’ll find that the mnemonics with these repeating and consistent themes get very easy to remember.

Your brain will adjust. Things will become easier. It’s my personal opinion that the hardest part of learning kanji happens at the very beginning. After that, you’d be surprised how much you adapt.

Don’t give up! If you need help, the community is always here for you.


Oh I actually didn’t do that on purpose! :confused: I figured that if I do that I would obviously answer correctly because it would be in my short-time memory then, but not reflect if I really know the kanji. It might get back into non-critical that way, but it seems like cheating. Especially since I am very good at remembering things for a short while and then forgetting them again. Somehow it seems smarter to just start the review and if I don’t know the Kanji, well, tough luck. That way it does stay in critical for longer, yes, but it also means I get forced to redo it more often until it will hopefully one day stick in my brain. What’s the point of getting it out of apprentice without really knowing it, after all?
Or do I understand the system wrong?

I tried doing that, too (like with the mnemonics for 九 which were about cookies and cucumbers or something and I was like “Why not cucumber-cookies? Why so unneededly complicated and cookies made from cucumbers seem pretty ridiculous to me”)!
Still, some mnemonics are just…not good? Thinking about 七 and the like, which was something so not-good I already forgot it again, but thankfully Duolingo taught me how to read that one already. But making my own mnemonics is something I am bad at since, well, I never learn(ed) with them, really.

It is definitely good to know that some characters will be reoccurring. Maybe that will help me indeed somewhat; I love reading novels and write myself and so, I tend to get pretty attached to recurring characters, so that might actually be really good for me!

So it seems that for now, the best thing is just to keep going! My brain adjusting would be really great; I like WKs approach and it would be awesome if it would end up working for me!


I don’t do what GLT suggested. I’m not saying its wrong, it’s just not what I’m doing.

Like you, I have a lot of free time. And I’m often waiting for new lessons to be available. When I started wanikani I was upset that I couldn’t do sessions more frequently but since I’ve just put faith into the algorithm because I’ve seen results.

When it comes to mnemonics, they don’t always make sense and many of them are a stretch.
I remember when I was learning the mnemoic for 矢 (arrow) it somehow associated itself with the Yankees. I thought, ‘Yankees? YANKEES!?!?! This has nothing to do with arrows!’ That anger I felt caused me to instantly memorize that kanji!
So sometimes, the silly/funny ones work really well!


You’re right, some of the mnemonics aren’t great. Most of the time, the bad ones are the kind of sound/meaning combinations that are almost impossible to work with. You can tell that they tried really hard to make them all work, but some just don’t. I ran into one recently that actually really annoyed me. It was for the kun’yomi reading of 声. The mnemonic to remember the reading was the word “coy” which sounds exactly like こい, but the actual reading is こえ. It caused me to get that one wrong a couple of times because I kept thinking of the real pronunciation of the word instead of the bastardized version which required me to remember to intentionally mispronounce it to get the mnemonic correct. I can only imagine how that must be for someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language.

Here’s a fun tip about 七: It’s going to use the kun’yomi reading (なな) for like 90% of vocabulary in the next few levels that use it, even in jukugo words. Same for 四. These kinds of specific exceptions happen all the time and they can become frustrating.

You spend all that time learning all those on’yomi readings when you first see the kanji, then vocabulary shows up and brings new kun’yomi readings you’ve never seen before. It gets better, but at first it may throw you for a loop. 日 and 生 have about a million different readings, so it’s really fun trying to remember which one to use for a given word. :stuck_out_tongue:

If you get things wrong, just trust the system. It’s gonna force you to get it all right eventually, so don’t sweat it. You will learn even if it needs a little extra hammering to get it in there.


Sheba, I think you have the right idea. If anything, I’d recommend taking a look at what you got wrong immediately after you finish a review session. That way you get extra practice without shortcutting the SRS


I’m German too and started WK two weeks ago. Certain things really get to me like short vs long sounds, し vs じ, some English mnemonics (cheek etc), obviously also the 2+ readings. I often have low review percentages of 50%, 68% etc. but decided to trust the process for a little while and see where it takes me.

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I usually don’t like mnemonics and find them super unhelpful in studying generally. Why bother to take the time to learn extra stuff? However in the case of WaniKani I find them essential and it is one of the best things about the entire program. I’ve tried to learn to read Japanese various times over the years but in spite of investing a huge amount of time I couldn’t get the Kanji to stick past about 200 of them until finding WaniKani. One thing to keep in mind is the same mnemonics get used over and over again. Once you’re familiar with them, this is especially helpful for remembering words/syllables that are similar to each other. Like Jourm the big farm hand (used for jou) versus Jo, a female (used for jo). So while the mnemonics seem kinda crazy at first, as you continue, the mnemonics become kinda like your familiar companions that you see again and again. With time it gets easier to remember them. And at least for me, the mnemonics and radicals are the only way to distinguish between Kanji that is otherwise near identical. For some words I don’t find them helpful, but most of the time I find it useful to take the time to learn the mnemonics. Plus, you don’t have to remember them forever, just until the word is familiar enough to you that you know what it means without thinking about it. Plus, I wouldn’t worry about getting things wrong. I am actually fascinated with the WKstats that show how many times I’ve gotten answers wrong. I’ve currently gotten either reading or meaning wrong 1768 times! That is why I love WaniKani - it keeps track of all of the right and wrong for me and keeps repeating the ones I get wrong. Over and over until I stop getting them wrong. For me, the number of times I’ve gotten things wrong is what shows me just how valuable WaniKani is.


So I just unlocked vocabulary. Did fifteen words (have 13 left). It was a nightmare. It’s tossing new readings at me left and right and quite frankly, all this does is confuse me. Like, in university I learned that 一 is read as いち. Okay, good, can’t get more simple than that for the beginning. Here, I first get taught the radical means “ground”, then I get taught the Kanji (and yes, I have gotten even that wrong because I didn’t check in the reviews enough if it wanted the radical meaning or the kanji meaning). And now I get also taught ひとつ as a vocab and seriously this is so confusing, just teach me all readings at once and don’t toss different stuff in different categories at me because this way I will never remember. If it just asks me one reading for a kanji (even if it teaches two, like for 力), you better believe I will only ever remember one - the one I will enter as solution. :confused:

And yes I got every single vocabulary lesson quiz question wrong. Some even three times. I stopped with this now because this is just madness. Like yes, I like the words because I didn’t know most of them but teach me all the readings before teaching me vocabs please… Like this it’s all over the place and my brain cannot handle one single radical/kanji as three different things in three different sections which also look pretty identical tbh, I know I should watch the colors better and read more clearly if it’s vocabulary/radical/kanji but somehow my brain is busy enough trying to remember what I am supposed to answer and doesn’t notice…

I honestly start to doubt that I can do it this way; I need to learn all readings at once to be able to associate them with a kanji tbh… the fact that I (as said before) don’t even really need the readings as I only want to be able to read Japanese since I will never need to speak doesn’t exactly help.

I am running into this a lot with the vocabulary now. I was (in the lesson pop-quiz) able to recall the mnemonic since I read it like 20 seconds ago, but already got the reading wrong because the mnemonic is not exactly helping there. I got “みっつ” wrong three times because I did the mnemonic (“Just remember that there are three of you, and they’re all saying “me me me me me” to try and prove that they’re the real you”), you better believe I wrote “みつ” every single time.

Glad to hear someone approves of that! I was honestly a bit surprised by the suggestion to check right before the test as that seemed pretty bad for the SRS to me.

Yay, someone else from Germany! :smiley: And well, you are doing a whole lot better than me. 50% sounds like a dream to me! I do also struggle with some English mnemonics. The “she cheated” one for 七 will likely never stick. I just had to look it up to write it down here…

That honestly sounds a lot like me - lots of time invested but only a few Kanji sticking - though I must say Jourm pretty much breaks me. I can remember Jo (only had her in 女 so far), but “Jourm” is such an obscure name that so far he isn’t sticking with me at all and I keep getting the reading wrong because of that. Maybe that’s the language/country barrier, tbh, I never heard that name before in my life and it seems to affect me.

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Plus, you don’t have to remember them forever, just until the word is familiar enough to you that you know what it means without thinking about it.

Oh, I have very little problem with the meanings, it’s the readings that are the issue. So far I think I had like almost all meanings down first try. Well, level one meanings are not especially hard, to be fair, but I do feel like the mnemonics work for them pretty okay. The readings, on the other hand? Not so much. As in… at all. :confused: For example, since I mentioned it above: 上, meanings correct: 100%. Readings correct…a whole lot less (71%).


I think using wanikani is a skill you have to develop. You only just started, keep doing reviews, getting things wrong is THE way to learn them!

(what I mean to say is, hang in there, because you’ll get better and better at studying with mnemonics!)


The you need a Big Gun to shoot arrows really stick with me tho.

And for the Ya reading I didn’t need any mnemonics since it’s the only time I’ve seen that lecture yet.

You should always check the color of your screen before answering.

Blue = radical
Pink = Kanji
Purple = Vocabulary

With time you will easily differentiate which readings are kunyomi and onyomi.


Ganz viele mnemonics kann ich mir auch nicht merken. Aber ich würde mir da nicht allzu grosse Sorgen machen. Manchmal helfen sie, manchmal überhaupt nicht. Vielleicht hilft es dir, eigene Eselsbrücken zu machen? Nur schon dir etwas selbst zu überlegen und aufzuschreiben, hilft vermutlich, dass du’s dir besser merken kannst. Aber im Endeffekt kannst du die Wörter auch einfach auswendig lernen. Ich benutze für Französisch auch keine Eselsbrücken und es geht trotzdem. Ich hab auch schon von vielen Leuten hier gehört, dass sie die Mnemonics nie benutzt haben und einen sehr hohen Level haben. Wenn dir ein Wort dann überhaupt nicht bleibt, kannst du dir ja trotzdem nochmal den Mnemonic anschauen.

Ausserdem, das haben auch schon viele erwähnt, muss man sich auch einfach an Wanikani gewöhnen. Ich hatte anfangs auch Mühe mit den vielen Readings, Mnemonics, Radicals etc., aber je länger man dran bleibt (und schön regelmässig :smile:), desto einfacher wird’s. Ist fast wie Fahrradfahren :’)

Ich hoffe, du bleibst dran und wünsch dir viel Erfolg beim Lernen!!


I try, I try! Just saying that it really seems needlessly complicated to me. Wish it would ask me for all readings so that I would remember them all…

That’s true (I guess) but… I am colorblind. Wanna see how the home screen looks to me (maybe?). I used a colorblindness simulator to simulate Protanopia: Link since embedding seemingly doesn’t work.

Of course I cannot tell how accurate it is (I used the coblis simulator, though, which is usually known to be pretty good), but all I can tell you is that all the color hues are really, really similiar to me.
So…that means I have to read. :stuck_out_tongue: Which I should do anyway… because I mixed up “reading” and “meaning” before, too. But yeah I think I just speed too much through things and need to slow down.

Darf man hier einfach in Deutsch schreiben? Das finde ich toll, bin ich gar nicht dran gewöhnt (kenne nur Foren, wo die Mods alles verstehen wollen und Englisch Pflicht ist)!

Aber ja, ich finde das System hier bisher irgendwie sehr umständlich. Man bekommt nicht alle Lesungen auf einmal, dann die ganzen Extra-Sachen wie Mnemonics, die ich auch noch lernen soll… das scheint alles so viel komplizierter als sich vor ein Kanji-Buch wie in der Uni zu setzen, wo man Vokabeln und alle Lesungen direkt neben dem Kanji stehen hat. Wahrscheinlich bin ich wirklich noch immer zu sehr daran gewöhnt, alles auf einen Blick zu haben.

Ich werde auf jeden Fall dranbleiben. Obs so wirklich meins ist weiß ich noch nicht wirklich, aber das wird man sehen, wenn man wirklich “drin” ist, denke ich. Im Moment bin ich mit den Lesungen meiner 15 Vokabeln schon gut überfordert.:sweat_smile:

Fühlt sich ziemlich merkwürdig an, in den WaniKani-Foren Deutsch zu schreiben, aber jetzt wollte ich auch mal :smiley:
Wahrscheinlich hat es schon der ein oder andere gesagt, aber du musst die Mnemonics nicht lernen wenn du nicht willst. Ich hab bisher noch kein einziges benutzt und es klappt super für mich :stuck_out_tongue:
Probier aus was für dich am besten funktioniert.


Oh… I didn’t think about that, maybe they could add a colorblind mode for the web to help with that in the future.

That last part is true, I also speed up too much when doing reviews and then I make stupid mistakes. For me every time I review something I try to remember both things, meaning and reading even if it’s just asking me the reading so I have a few seconds to remember all the mnemonics, the little story etc and make sure I write it correctly.

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