I'm starting to look for new sources of learning

I use an application called Busuu which teaches in a similar way to rosetta stone, but also has different methods like “Learn by reading manga” and such.
Most of what I read though is actually on product packaging or promotional materials in stores haha.

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I get that a lot.

I don’t think I’m aiming to become a professor on japanese linguistics, yet, but I do think that’s the way my brain works.
From reading these replies it seems that my frustration might be more rooted in a lack of word/pattern recognition because of my lack of use of the language itself.

I think I’ll start looking into other resources, especially those provided in some replies, to build better bridges.

Thanks for your reply.

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Thank you for your sources, and to Jonapedia as well.
I get that it’s confusing, but trying to remember “A person puts a lid on their cross after they graduate” and mnemonics like that has always felt a little silly for me and I guess I got a bit fed up.
I’ve ordered a copy of the book you mention, thanks again.


I’ve definitely had times where I’ll hear a new word and realize that the sound in it is the same as the sound in another vocabulary word I know, because they both wind up using the same kanji (which often turns out to be because the kanji has a meaning connected to both words). So there’s definitely a lot of pattern-spotting to be done as you’re exposed to a greater variety of kanji and vocabulary.

To be fair, I sometimes don’t follow the entirety of the mnemonic if there’s parts of it that just don’t work for me. And like many other folks here I’ll occasionally just make up my own, too. Sometimes the mnemonic WK provides just doesn’t work personally, and there’s something else (maybe linked to the ‘meaning’ of the kanji, maybe not) that works better. Don’t be afraid to adjust to find what works for you. Although to be honest you’re already doing that, so I suppose that’s moot advice.

But anyway, here’s hoping that one of the suggestions folks have made winds up working for you!


I think most people just don’t use the mnemonics so much, or after a certain point, but then it does become simple memorization.

I would say that is probably the #1 thing to help get the kanji actually remembered in a useful way – more context around where it appears and how it is actually used.

Sometimes it helps to check resources like jisho.org for more compound words using that kanji (I also like https://eow.alc.co.jp/ for example sentences with good English translations), and put those in the custom “Notes” section for the kanji for yourself. Also definitely start trying to expose yourself to more natural Japanese! Either via textbooks or something like NHK Easy News, or Satori Reader.

One nice thing about WaniKani and the reason I continue to use it even though like @Ayara012 I also studied Japanese via formal classes at college level is because WK accompanies each kanji with relevant vocabulary that cover at least the most common readings for it, which it what really helps to cement them for me. I still find myself having to dictionaries if I ever need to know how to write a kanji but I am so much more confident reading than I was before I started using WaniKani, and I attribute most of that to WK as before I had studied Japanese for many years without any such system and it never really worked.

As an alternative resource, if you want more/different mnemonics, or kanji presented in a more “bottom up” structural order, maybe check out “Remembering the Kanji” and/or associated community site https://kanji.koohii.com/ (you don’t need the RTK book to use this site, but most of the mnemonics do reference the ones from that book) or my personal favorite kanjidamage.com (WARNING: many mnemonics very crude). However, neither of these are based much more on historical etymology than WK.

I’d also echo the recommendations for the Keisei Semantic-Phonetic Composition script, as well as @pm215’s recommendation of Henshall’s Complete Guide to Japanese Kanji if you really do want the original etymology and think that would help you.


Reorder your lessons so that you are doing vocabulary as it unlocks by guru’ing associated kanji within the level and you will take longer to level up, but the pile of vocabulary on the level up event will be much smaller.

I’ll pile on. A great script that helps show relationships between kanji.

Guilty. Hangs head in shame…

Satori Reader is expensive, but really, really, really well done. If you can afford the $9 a month and have Minna 1/2 grammar level, I think it’s well worth it when you’ve reached the 20s. Especially the voice acting for listening practice.

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Very much this. My classes in college did me a lot of good, don’t get me wrong, but studying kanji and vocabulary in an isolated “memorize this vocabulary reading and meaning with no further context” really did not work for me. The only things that stuck were the words I used CONSTANTLY, like 勉強. But with WK I’ve noticed that I seem to remember the words better (because I can think my way through the radical/kanji/vocab meaning pyramid) and I have a much better time guessing the reading/meaning of vocabulary that I don’t know but that uses kanji I recognize.

(Like when I saw 消火器 at my apartment. Extinguish-fire-container. しょうかき. If I had only memorized, say 消しゴム without the context that 消 means to extinguish/erase/disappear, I might not have understood without a dictionary, because in English “eraser” and “fire extinguisher” don’t use the same root word.) Okay like I would’ve gotten that it was a fire extinguisher given that it’s bright red and covered in safety signs and whatnot but I could actually READ it and see how the kanji formed the word, okay.

So I do think that better context for seeing the vocabulary in the wild might be helpful for you, OP. Not just because more exposure will help with memorization, but also because seeing the kanji and vocabulary in context may help to solidify the sense of what they really mean, nuance and all, without having to rely on English translations that may not be 100% direct. Plus, it can be very satisfying to have that moment of “Wait, I know what that says!” God knows its good for my motivation levels. Personally, I do this through reading manga and my daily life because like, how else do I read signs at the grocery store but you’ll have to find the style that works for you.

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Speaking as someone who has actually used the official drill books that school children use to learn kanji, they aren’t much different than WK other than that they focus more on brute force memorization, some mnemonics, and “official” radicals. Good luck memorizing thing by the radicals 3 water and sideways box BTW. Some of my Japanese friends also like the way that WK explains things, even though they don’t follow the historical etymology. BTW, most Japanese people probably don’t know the official etymology either.

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