I just discovered a technique that has instantly improved my reading and retention

So there I was, wading through my reviews feeling like things weren’t going so well (I might make a post about my experience when I’ve done level 10), when I suddenly had an idea.

I’m here to learn to read Japanese, so if that’s the bit I’m having trouble with, that’s a bit of a problem. When I read English, I don’t need to think about what I’m reading, I just know it. (I also hear it in my head as well.) Why don’t I try doing that with Japanese?

Obviously easier said than done, but just the act of trying has already started making reading easier. Every time I see a Kanji, no matter whether I’m meant to write the reading or the meaning, the first thing I do is say the reading (or just mouth it) as soon as I possiblly can. Sometimes I get the wrong one, sometimes I just like, get it wrong entirely, but the majority of the time I can get it within a second or so if I just let my brain do the heavy lifting.

There are some cons of course;

  1. Sometimes I don’t realise it wants the meaning and I just go ahead and write the reading, resetting my progress on a Kanji I wasn’t even having trouble with
  2. Well, that’s kinda it.

I feel this is probably something everyone should try as it probably gets your brain treating Japanese as a language rather than probably a thing that can be translated into Probably english. 多分。

Anyway thanks for coming to my TedTalk bye.

P.S. I might have got Monkey Pawed here. I’m now starting to struggle with the meanings.


I’ve been doing this as well since I’ve started. Though I’m still in the early stages (and often outsource study using jisho whilst reading), it’s been helping me a lot. Especially making kanji into their own rhythm. An example being: 入力 I just say nyu-u-ryy-oku, even if that’s not how it’s exactly pronounced. It helps a lot with the “odd” or stretched out kanji I’m not yet used to.

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That’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning. I don’t know if my 95% reading accuracy and 89% meaning accuracy are related to that though.


I highly recommend using the Reorder script’s 1x1 mode to always give you the Reading first, immediately followed by the Meaning. This eliminates your ‘cons’, and makes your reviews go a lot faster.

And you don’t have to use any other features of Reorder to get the benefits of 1x1.

Doing reading-then-meaning consistently has two benefits:

  • The human brain is fantastic at remembering consistent sequences.
  • By doing ‘reading’ first, you are helping your brain think first in Japanese. If you do the meaning first, you end up translating in your head rather than just immediately recalling the Japanese. (What people call the ‘meaning’ is actually just the ‘English reading’).

[edit: ] And if you are having problems with the meaning, I recommend using Self Study Quiz (also with reading-then-meaning) right after lessons (or before it advances beyond the first Apprentice level) to strongly reinforce the reading-then-meaning. If you can make time, practice until you can recite all of your current level items without hesitation.


I second this recommendation. In the Additional Filters script there is a filter that selects the recent lessons. Install this script and the filter will be available in Self Study Quiz. Use it to be quizzed on your lessons.

That’s very close to how you spell things out loud in Japanese, so I think it’s probably still a good practice. Once you improve more, it’ll be easier to say the words like they’re pronounced instead. :slight_smile:


Hm, I wish there was some kind of study or whatever on this. I had this enabled until I reset. Now I get whichever at random. I don’t think I really end up “translating” when I see the meaning first, as I usually try to recall both when the item shows up anyway. And then the same for when it shows up again since it’s split instead of back to back. So it’s another repetition which might help with keeping it in the brain.

Now that I keep track of my accuracy % I could give the reading/meaning back to back another try and see how it plays out. :thinking: I could also try Reading before meaning (but still split) but that probably wont change a lot from how it’s now.

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Even if you keep them split, try reciting reading-then-meaning. Then you’ll get 2x the practice, and you’ll still be taking advantage of sequence memorization. The only down side is having to be careful about which review question is being asked (reading or meaning), and the slight increase in mistakes that that causes. (But people are usually already making those errors if not using 1x1).

There are no direct studies about that technique, as far as I know, but there are plenty of studies that lend support to the principles behind the method.


I disagree. I think always doing the reading first makes your brain more likely to cheat on the meaning. You want more variation to make sure you’re actually learning stuff, not less.

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What do you mean by “cheat” on the meaning?


Also, when learning / reviewing, spam the J key and shadow the audio until you feel you nailed it.


The other way to play around with (along with @rfindley advice) would be using double check script. sometimes you could write an answer that is essentially correct, but happens to be unlisted in answers/synonyms list and here we are a mistake even though the answer was technically just fine.


Leaning it in a particular context or part of a rote sequence and not being able to recall it in isolation.

Well, the goal of learning vocabulary is to recall reading and meaning together.

You’re right about needing to avoid context dependencies when you won’t always encounter it that way in the real world… such as memorizing sequences of vocabulary when studying a single WK level. But I can’t think of a case in normal language use where you would want to recall reading and meaning separately.


I think most users underestimate how much of a difference this can really make. You need to check what the item is half as often, and you never have to check whether it’s reading or meaning. Being able to enter both reading and meaning in rapid succession saves so much time and effort


I use 1x1 mode with Reading>Meaning order, but turned off sorting by type and level (the first I just don’t see much sense in outside of lessons, the second can be a bit harmful in a sense “I know this word is supposed to be lower level so it’s likely gonna be this”). So far it works okay for me, but then again I’m lvl 12 so I don’t have as much of a workload as there is at 30+, so I can’t really say how it affects accuracy in a long-time perspective.


Well, not using the 1x1 mode actually makes you recall the word twice in a single review, no? Or at least that’s how I approach it (I always try to go through both when I see a kanji regardless) so that might make it more likely to stick, compared to the 1x1 mode? I can do about ~100-140 reviews/hour still, but that goes down significantly for early apprentice words. I am also just lvl6 right now, so this might change!

I’m surprised there is no setting in wanikani (or even the default setting) to always review reading-meaning pairs.

Using the reorder script has made wanikani about 2x as useful to me, because it cuts down my review times by 50% if not more. This means I can allocate half of my study time to something else like reading or grammar.