I have no clue what I'm doing

I know I am supposed to get to lv 60. I know that I am learning kanji, and vocabulary. I know that these are symbols and they make up words/phrases. I know people say that it’s a good idea to start trying to read material in Japanese at around lv. 6. I have no clue what/when/which reading is appropriate given whatever situation - Kun’yomi, on’yomi…Konami??

In short, I know - nothing. Yet, I know something, because I know hiragana and katakana, and somehow I reached lv. 4 by learning some kanji and vocabulary. Did I really learn anything? I don’t know. I feel absolutely lost. I feel that there is a wanikani life hack to make all of this make sense: What is it? I have no clue what I am doing, or what is going on.

How am I supposed to study this in a way that I can truly understand what is happening? Do I just keep pushing through the levels and then have an "ah-ha’ moment naturally - then I can magically read at a 1st grade level?

Do I do all new lesson when they appear? I typically do. Do I need to strive for an certain percentage when doing reviews? Is this real life…? Is this forever??? Am I doing well if my apprentice count is around 100 like everyone says in other posts?? Sorry if this is a ramble, but I’m confused to the point where I don’t think I really even know what proper question to ask, or if there is one, and if there is, what it is…So yeah.

Any feedback would be helpful, thanks in advance


Hi, you really need a textbook or some classes. Wanikani is supposed to be in addition to other studies.
Just doing WK without learning grammar will not get you very far.
The most popular textbook is the “Genki” series, but there are many others to choose from.


In order to read Japanese you need to know several things:

  • Kanji
  • Words (vocabulary)
  • Grammar

Some people learn a lot of kanji and words before learning grammar. Some learn grammar (and with it some kanji and words, but not a lot) before really focusing on kanji and words. Others do them at the same time. Based on your current confusion and/or concerns, I think you might benefit from getting a nice grammar textbook like Genki or Japanese From Zero and starting with that before using WaniKani. Grammar textbooks lay a nice foundation in Japanese which should hopefully make it clearer what you need to learn and why.


It does click eventually, especially once you start to get more into vocab words made of multiple kanji. That’s when you’ll really see the difference between the kunyomi and onyomi.
I also really struggled at the start deciding how to approach studying. When I just started out, I was mostly using apps like WK, memrise etc. because they’re guided and I didn’t have to think much.
If you want to start reading real materials, just look at ‘beginner’ level texts/manga etc. At this point they will probably look like gibberish to you; I remember trying to read Yotubato way back when vol.1 was the beginner book club. It didn’t go great lol.
I think you should do all your lessons at once, or quick as you can, so you grind out those early levels and start getting to the real fun stuff, where will you start seeing the things you learn showing up print.
Maybe try using the Tae Kim guide as well, I found it very helpful starting out to re-wire my brain for Japanese. Not related to learning Kanji or vocab as much but it could help you start to think in JP.


That is definitely reassuring. Kanji in general is pretty overwhelming, but I am planning on joining the beginner book club at level 6.

For others that have replied, I started studying from zero in January, and I’m using Wanikani with genki 1, duolingo, and rosetta stone.

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it might help, as it did for me, to remember that kanji aren’t the same as words. Learning a kanji is like learning a single letter in another language, like “L” or “ç.” Don’t stress too much about whether a specific reading is on’yomi or kun’yomi, because you’ll find both in both kanji and vocabulary lessons anyways. Like other people said, this will be easier when more jukugo words show up in your vocab, but what I tend to do is think “oh, this is a word on its own” during vocab reviews, and for kanji I try to think “oh, this is a part of ____ vocab word I learned.”

i actually burst out laughing thank you for this


Just gonna hop in here and suggest swapping out Duolingo for LingoDeer.


Oh second this, LingoDeer is so much better. I also prefer the mascot.


It looks like you need to read this. You need some background on what is onyomi and kunyomi and this is it.

Knowing which to use when is tricky because there is no reliable rule to follow. Well there are some rules, like if there are hiragana in the word or if it is a word with a single kanji it is often kunyomi. The lessons usually explain these rules. But there are so many exceptions. There is nothing to understand. Trying to figure out whether you should use on or kun adds a layer of complication. Most people end up just learning the reading that goes with the word without worrying about whether it is on or kun because this is what works best.

Most people don’t. Some do but they are outliers. Doing lessons generates reviews because every lesson you take becomes reviews afterwards. Doing all the lessons in one go makes a lot of reviews. It doesn’t matter much in the early levels but as you progress the workload will pile up. This is why most people spread out their lessons over time.

Keeping the apprentice count below 100 is a guideline about when to take lessons. Below 100 it is OK to take lessons. Above 100 it is best to hold off lessons until it is back under 100. The logic is that most reviews comes from apprentice items. If you have a lot of them you have a lot of reviews coming up. Keeping this count low is a trick to keep the review workload at a manageable level. It is not an indication of how good you do. So if you see your apprentice count around 100 it just means it is OK to take lessons.

Yes you did. You don’t feel like having learned something because you start to measure how much there is to learn. Japanese is a tough language for westerners. Learning it is a long journey because there is so much to learn. You had a good start but it is still only the beginning. You have to be persistent. Don’t feel depressed when you see the journey is long. Just consistently learn a bit everyday and things will become easier over time.


I’m a little confused by the question. You’re here because you want to learn how to read kanji, right?


Agree with this too.

I don’t know where it’s written to start reading at level 6. I’m at level 6 and I seriously will not be able to read Japanese books yet. I can try maybe, but with my assessment of my current (very limited) abilities, I know it will just frustrate me. I thought I got from a WK guide to start reading little simple amounts at level 10 - going to quote this answer from a previous post:

I know your/our progress seem like small in the grand scheme of things, but man for me it’s already huge! Imagine not knowing these things 2 months ago! If you really want to learn Japanese, keep at it, enjoy the ride, all these little things you know will pile up and will click, eventually, but not without investing more time and energy.



But in seriousness, I think it will get easier as you push through, but like others, I do recommend additional study material. It’s easier to learn a kanji for a word you already know, and you get that “Oh! Thats the kanji for ___!” moment, rather than learning a bunch of new kanjis and new words at once, which can get overwhelming if you’re just starting out.
Good luck!


Don’t worry. I think most of us have no clue what we’re doing when we start.

I used to rush my way through the lessons, but that backfired on me when I got to the higher levels. The 100+ reviews made me lose interest and I’d stop several times. I’d log in again and have several hundreds of reviews. So I would advice to pace yourself if anything else. If you think you’re having too many reviews, just lay off the lessons for a little while.

When it comes to the vocabulary on Wanikani, most words aren’t commonly used in Japan (at least spoken language) so I would consider them good, even necessary, to remember the readings, but I wouldn’t spend all my energy trying to remember them.

When I started studying I couldn’t wait until I was good enough to read a book. With my phone’s dictionary at hand I would start reading the manga of my favorite anime. I knew the story, so any scenes I couldn’t yet quite follow could be filled with information from the anime. And what’s even better, the reading to the kanji was written next to it in hiragana. If you’re not into anime, you could start with books for elementary school children. I think reading really helps getting a feeling for the language.

Good luck and have fun studying!


First up, it’s great that you reached otu to the community to ask all these questions even though you were super confused, good on you : )
Partly, you’re jsut at the beginning. the readings in teh right situation is mainly somethign you’ll learn over time and with mroe exposure. you’re in the forested foothills of the mountain right now, and so looking at the mountian is kind of overwhelming since you can only see the tip, and have the word of mouth from other people’s journeys.
I’d start with, don’t worry too much about meeting these deadlines of things liek startign reading aroudn level 6, and grammar around level 10 etc. Ultimately, everyone learns differently, and these are at their strongest, recommendations. They won’t work for everyone.
Another thign with reading is that, for even many grade 0 readers you need some basic grammar. without that, the hiragan on teh kanji, and the kanji order, won’t make sense, even if you’re level 60. Wanikani doesnt; teach grammar, only kanji, but there are many resources out there for grammar (check out the ultimate additional resource list)
Don’t worry that you don’t know everything or remember everythign perfectly, that’s what hte SRS is for. it will brign the things you get wrong back sooner, and the things you get right back later so it gets stuck in yoru head properly.
I’d recommend JP’s guide, which i’ve also linked below, it’ll explain soem of your questions abotu SRS and remembering and lessons and stuff. In general, most people dont; do new lessons as soon as they appear, Your review percentage isnt; super important, as in there’s nto magical number that if you get less than then you ‘fail’ wanikani, that’s not how this works. Again, it’s different for everyone. Same for apprentice count. generally it’s recommended to keep it aroudn 100 to manage reviews level, btu soem people have more, soem people have less, t depends on how fast they can/want to go, the time they have and many more things. It’s soemthign that people work out along the way.
I wouldn;t say there’s an ah-ha moment that’s that sudden a jump, but there are points where things do fall into place like, the first time you remember a reading/meaning without the mnemonic, or when that grammar lesson finally sinks in and that sentence makes sense, or when you see two kanji and their combined meaning just clicks, small things like that that build up to increase your knowledge.
I hope some of that helped : )

Also, Since it’s your first time posting (and the links will help you alot too):
\textcolor{MediumPurple}{\huge \textsf{Hi}} {\huge \textsf{@_Karate}} \textcolor{MediumPurple}{\huge \textsf{!}}


It’s great to have you here!

If you haven’t already check out the Forum Guidelines and the Wanikani User Guide .
There’s also tonnes of things on the forums to help you on your way such as The guide, The Ultimate resource list, and API and Third Party Apps.

If you have any questions, check out this thread; but if this doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to create a thread like you’re done here, or email The Wanikani staff.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you around!


You can’t really learn Japanese from Wanikani alone. The main functionality of this service is kanji reading and vocabulary.

You need a strong vocabulary and a good grasp of (at least) basic grammar in order to read anything. In the beginning, reading will be very time-consuming and not particularly smooth. That’s normal. However, I would say this:

Level 6 in WaniKani is not really enough to start unless you have a lot of other supplemental vocabulary from elsewhere.

The thing about WaniKani is that kanji are presented to you in gradually increasing stroke complexity – not the complexity of the meaning or with any particular consideration for everyday usefulness. This is why you learn 才 at level 2 and 歳 at level 46, even though they have the same meaning/reading. The early levels simply don’t provide you with enough common words to read much of anything. You learn a lot of counters, spatial/relative words, a few specific adjectives, and some random nouns. It’s not useless, but it’s nowhere near a functioning vocabulary. I’ve seen a lot of recommendations for when to start reading kanji-heavy material, and I highly recommend nothing less than level 10, and that’s IF you have supplemental learning in addition such as Japanese courses, a tutor, or disciplined self-study.

Some concepts you should pay close attention to on WaniKani itself are jukugo words (which you can often guess the reading of if you know how that works) and rendaku.

Even when you start reading, you can absolutely expect to stop mid-sentence and look up a strange word. Knowing how to look up words by radicals is also useful, because copy/paste may not be possible in every situation, and furigana are a luxury you can never count on.

Stick with it, supplement your learning, and realize that you’re not a failure if you can’t read/understand things. It takes years to gain functional usage of Japanese.


If it’s any consolation _Karate I feel your pain. This morning I felt smug as I was remembering the kun’yomi and it was actually asking for the on’yomi. I didn’t know how I was supposed to know this, but maybe it was the colour of the background?! Pff I don’t know. Maybe WK could be a tiny bit more helpful about that sort of thing. But maybe figuring it out organically helps anyway.

But whatever sticks is a revelation when I see it in the wild of real books or subtitles.

I have picked out a zero-grade reader from this lot, they’re free. I’m reading the one about colours and flowers (because I like plants and flowers, not anime).

Maybe you would find one of those motivating to work through?


Wanikani doesn’t separate its kanji/vocabulary on Onyomi/kunyomi basis. while there might be some general onyomi for this, kunyomi for this, it isn;t consistant becuase that’s not it’s primary function. It’s aim is to teach you readings that are commonly found for the kanji in the wild - in compounds, and on their own. It doesn;t help that there are often multiple of both onyomi and kumyomi readings for any given character. Knowing which readign is which, especially at teh beginning, is mroe of a trivia knowledge thing than a necessary thing.
You’ll tend to find that as you move forward and progress through wanikani different readings will feel ‘right’ in certian situations. 三人(さんにん) feels more right than (さん)(じん), and (さん)(ひと) sounds clunky and straight up incorrect. You’ll find a similar thing happens with rendaku when you encounter that too. After a while, especially if you listen to/speak it a bit, some ways of saying compounds will flow and others will seem clunky and you’ll be able to feel if it is more likely to rendaku.
I knwo it;s annoyign hearing people say you’ll feel it, or you’ll get used to it, i like to know rules for when things are like they are, but this is something that jsut takes time and exposure.

this book was my biggest acchievment in reading, when i finally learnt the grammar to go with the kanji in it, and i could finally read a book abotu how tulips are red on my own without being like こ. れ. what kanji is that for any why is it there?where’s the desu ive been told about that should be on teh sentences? (hot tip: do more than one grammar lesson before you start reading random books)

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I am so with you! Like you, I’m using Genki and Duolingo (get ready to leave but having a hard time letting go of that streak, hahaha). But I totally feel the same way. From what I’ve read on many forums, just keep going and things should start to make more sense the more you see stuff and expose yourself to Japanese. If anything, we are in this together!

Thank you Midnight Doragon! That really is encouraging. I think I already see what you mean about the rendaku. And I have faith that your prediction about Onyomi/kunyomi will come true as well :slight_smile: but I won’t lie, my brain is having to work especially hard to remember which way round they are at the moment, I always seem to put in some weird hybrid of the two!
I’m doing a bit of grammar too as you say, but that’s for weekends because it requires a different sort of concentration to the WaniKani (which I can do in spare moments at work).
Thank you for your support.

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First of all, thank you to everyone that took the time to post a reply, I definitely appreciate it. @Houndstooth and @uchunchu I have never heard of LingoDeer before this, I am excited to check it out. @prouleau Thank you for the in-depth reply this was very helpful, I know I’m in it for the long haul, so looking at things like a marathon instead of a sprint is a good philosophy. The journey of 10,000 tacos, starts with eating one taco…or something. @Midnight_Doragon I think that resource list may be a travel guide list instead? It is still awesome, but I didn’t see a learning resource list. Honestly, I feel like there are often times too many resources vs. what are the best resources, which I’m sure is relative to the user. I do a lot of rosetta stone, but it mainly focuses on the て form, which is good for the present progressive tense, but I find not ultimately not the most realistic, but I’m rambling again.

I’ll try out LingoDeer this week, and maybe substitute it for duolingo if it suits me, I’d ultimately just like to work with 3 resources. Sticking with Wanikani for sure, and probably the Genki text for sure, so LingoDeer would make three. What are y’all’s top three resources, you like best?

Thanks again to everyone that replied! I’m going to do this thing! Hopefully…I think!

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